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This summer, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival returns to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with a tribute to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

Titled “Indigenous Voices of the Americas: Celebrating the National Museum of the American Indian,” this year’s festival promises cultural celebrations, artistic expression, and community connections. 

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The festival, a tradition spanning decades, is set against the backdrop of significant historical milestones. Notably, it marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the NMAI, an institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the diverse heritage of Indigenous peoples. 

As well, 2024 commemorates a century since the Indian Citizenship Act granted Native Americans dual citizenship and voting rights, although constrained by discriminatory laws until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Scheduled from June 26 to July 1, the festival invites visitors to immerse themselves in a myriad of activities from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, with select evenings featuring live music until 7 p.m. on the Four Directions Stage. Programming will revolve around four primary themes: relevance, resistance, representation, and reclamation.

This initiative, presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the NMAI, and the National Park Service, aims to honor both traditional and contemporary Indigenous expressions, fostering a platform for dialogue on cultural equity and social justice. 

Central to the festival’s ethos is the acknowledgment of the NMAI’s pivotal role in the preservation of Native histories and cultures. Established by the National Museum of the American Indian Act in 1989, the museum has housed a vast collection of artifacts and leading efforts in repatriation with tribal nations. 

NMAI’s journey includes milestones like the opening of the George Gustav Heye Center in 1994 and the Cultural Resource Center in 1999, culminating in the iconic museum on the National Mall in 2004. 

"Indigenous Voices of the Americas" will feature diverse Indigenous groups—from Alaska to Chile—showcasing their traditions through dance, music, culinary arts, visual arts, and storytelling.

A narrative stage will provide a platform for Native voices to share their perspectives, aiming to bridge cultural divides and enrich the understanding of Indigenous heritage among attendees.

The festival extends beyond the outdoor venue, inviting visitors to explore the NMAI’s exhibitions, including the newly opened "Unbound," which highlights narrative art from the Great Plains.

Additionally, the museum’s café offers a culinary journey with Indigenous-inspired dishes, enhancing the immersive experience of cultural exchange.

Throughout the event, Indigenous artists, chefs, musicians, and storytellers will not only showcase their ancestral traditions but also engage in discussions on themes like Relevance, Resistance, Representation, and Reclamation. 

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