Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Absence of the Anacostan Natives of DC from the National Museum of the American Indian

After the talk I gave on Oct 8 at the Anacostia Library about the Anacostan history in DC, the subject came up of why this topic isn't included in the materials offered by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) here in DC.
The 1st letter in this blog was addressed to Kevin Gover, Director of the NMAI.
It seemed like a good time for a follow-up.
Here's the letter sent on 10/15/18:

                                                                                                       sent by US Mail & email
Kevin Gover, Director
National Museum of the American Indian
Washington, DC
October 15, 2018

Re: The Absence of the Anacostan Natives of DC from the National Museum of the American Indian

Dear Kevin Gover,

In my previous letter to you in 2016 (copy attached), I briefly explained how my time in Melbourne, AU has sensitized me to the issue of acknowledging the Native people who came before us. In Melbourne, each public meeting begins with mention of the indigenous people who originally occupied the land in the city. The Melbourne city website devotes an entire section to their indigenous people.

At that time I had collected some documents and maps that showed an Anacostan/Nacotchtank village once existed in the area around Garfield Park, SE. Since that time I have collected more extensive information on the history of the Anacostan Natives who once farmed, quarried and buried their dead on the land that is now Washington, DC. I have collected and offered those materials online as a website, a blog, and in a full referenced article citing the resources I've identified (see links at end).

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but unfortunately, I have not been able to find any mention of the Anacostan Natives of DC in your National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). To the best of my knowledge, currently there is no public display that acknowledges the past existence of Anacostan villages, their quarries or burial sites. Can we initiate a future display for DC-Area Native Americans?

I understand your challenge in presenting the extensive history of the American Indian to the public. However, the absence of a telling of the story of the Natives of DC stands in sharp contrast to the excellent detail in which the story of the Manahatta Indians is told on your website: “Manahatta to Manhattan, Native Americans in Lower Manhattan” (

The current NMAI exhibit “Return to a Native Place: Algonquin Peoples of the Chesapeake,” which sits outside the elevators on the second floor of the museum, would be expected to include the Anacostans, who were the Algonquins native to DC and nearby Maryland. As is shown in the picture below, the exhibit's discussion of the Piscataway Algonquins who lived along the Potomac does not even include the part of the Potomac that reaches Washington.

Picataway wall 750.jpg

Washington, DC is currently celebrating the “Year of the Anacostia.” There has not been a great deal of public recognition of the Anacostan Natives who gave the river it's name. Of all the many public groups to overlook the history of these Native People, it's extremely sad that the NMAI is currently included. There is still time to rectify this oversight. I will be happy to contribute my time to work with your staff to help acknowledge the Anacostan Natives who previously lived on the land of this city for thousands of years.

I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you, or a staff member to review the options for a display or on-line acknowledgement of DC-Area Native Americans.

Sincerely yours,
Armand Lione, Ph.D.
533 4th St. SE, DC, 20003


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