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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Thanksgiving in America / Native American Music / National Museum of the American Indian in Washington - 2003-11-26

Broadcast: November 28, 2003



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a VOA Special English program about music and American life. And we answer your questions.


This is Doug Johnson. This week, we answer a question about the observance of Thanksgiving in America. And we play Native American music performed by Joanne Shenandoah. But first – a progress report on a new museum being built in Washington, D.C., to honor the first people of this land.

American Indian Museum


November is Native American History Month in the United States. So this is a good time to tell about progress on the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Shep O’Neal has our report.


The new museum is to open in September of two-thousand-four. Visitors will learn about the native peoples of North, Central and South America -- about their lives, languages, history and arts.

Members of these living cultures played an important part in creating the new museum. They helped decide what will be shown to the public and how it will be shown. The National Museum of the American Indian will have objects from the past and the present. Native people will provide explanations about the meaning and importance. Research will also take place.

Indian leaders say building the museum in the center of the nation’s capital represents a kind of cultural justice. It is considered a sign of cooperation between people whose ancestors came to these shores and the people who were already here.

The museum is on the National Mall, just across from the Capitol building where Congress meets. It is also across from the VOA headquarters, and the National Air and Space Museum.

Native influence can be seen in the shape of the museum. Golden limestone walls form waves around the building. It all seems to flow as if formed by wind and water. Glass windows provide light and a connection between inside and out.

The museum will have areas where Native Americans present pictures, songs and other materials to tell about their past and present. It will also have two theaters: one for live performances, the other to show a film that explains the museum.

The building will be surrounded by trees and a grassy area. Native American crops will grow there. Water will flow in and around huge rocks, and continue to a small lake. The rocks are to show respect for ancient things.

The new museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian officials are planning special opening celebrations and programs. The Web site for the National Museum of the American Indian is w-w-w dot n-m-a-i dot s-i dot e-d-u. Again, w-w-w dot n-m-a-i dot s-i dot e-d-u.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from India and Nigeria. Sampath Kumar and Okezie Okoro both ask about Thanksgiving Day. This American holiday is observed on the last Thursday in November.

As the name suggests, it is a day to give thanks. Millions of families and friends gather for a traditional meal on Thanksgiving. It usually includes turkey, sweet potatoes, squash, corn, cranberries and pumpkin pie. Many of the same foods from the autumn harvest were eaten on the first Thanksgiving centuries ago.

Settlers from England called Pilgrims are believed to have held the first Thanksgiving meal in North America in sixteen-twenty-one. They had arrived in what is now the northeastern United States a year earlier. More than half their number died from disease or lack of food.

Those who survived held a day of thanksgiving. They thanked God for protecting them. They also thanked the Native Americans who lived in the area. These Indians were part of the Wampanoag tribe.

The Wampanoags helped save the Pilgrims by showing them how to fish and plant crops. The Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving for about three days. About ninety Indians joined the celebration. They ate deer, ducks, geese, turkeys and pumpkins. The two groups also made a peace and friendship agreement. This gave the Pilgrims an area to build their town.

This friendship, though, was not for long. More English settlers came to America. They did not need the help of the Indians. Many settlers forgot about the help the Indians had provided. Within a few years, the two sides were at war. Many of the Wampanoags were killed in battle or died from diseases that arrived with the Europeans.

NAMA/Joanne Shenandoah


The Native American Music Association held its sixth yearly awards ceremony earlier this month. One of the winners this year is American Indian song writer and recording artist Joanne Shenandoah. More from Faith Lapidus.


Joanne Shenandoah is a member of the Oneida Nation, a tribe in New York state. She is known for mixing traditional songs of her people with modern folk music. Here is an Oneida song called “She Carries the Sky.”


Joanne Shenandoah has performed with many artists across North America and in Europe. She has performed at Earth Day celebrations and other events. Here she sings a song from the Lakota Indians of the Great Plains. It is called “Creator’s Song.”


This year she won a Native American Music Award for her record album “Peace and Power: The Best of Joanne Shenandoah.” We leave you with the title song.



This is Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach. The producer was Paul Thompson. And our engineer was Audrius Regis.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC and will join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.