(Senate - October 01, 2004)

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[Pages S10260-S10261]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. President, I speak about the Smithsonian's new 
Museum of the American Indian. In June 1989, when I was still a Member 
of the House of Representatives, I cosponsored legislation to establish 
the National Museum of the American Indian within the Smithsonian 
Institution. The 15-year odyssey for this museum has presented us with 
more than just items behind glass. This museum tells the story of North 
and South Americas' native peoples. It shows their journey through time 
and gives optimism for the future.
  First, I thank all those who have been involved since this process 
began so many years ago, in particular, Senators Inouye and Campbell, 
the original sponsors of this bill. The efforts of

[[Page S10261]]

thousands of people, both Native and non-native, are reflected in the 
magnificent structure commemorating the lives of the first Americans. I 
also thank the thousands of participants who have come from all over 
the Western Hemisphere to be a part of this historic museum opening, 
especially those Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota peoples who have made the 
journey from the Great Plains and particularly South Dakota. Those that 
have made the trip have shared with us the richness and beauty of their 
  I recently had the opportunity to tour the museum, and I am so proud 
to see the Native people of South Dakota represented in the museum. I 
am particularly contented to see that the exhibits are displayed in a 
manner where the tribes are able to see their story from their own 
point of view. This museum will forever grace the national mall in our 
Nation's Capitol from the serenity gardens created to surround the 
museum to the heart of the building's Potomac gathering place. It will 
take its visitors through time by allowing native people to tell their 
own story.
  I also take this opportunity to speak of the future. With the ever 
changing roles of the United States government and Indian Tribes, it is 
imperative we constantly examine paths that strengthen that 
relationship. In regards to this relationship, I often hear of the 
tribal sovereignty and the obligations of the United States Government 
and its treaty and trust responsibilities. With health care in Indian 
Country funded at 50 percent its necessary levels and schools that are 
decades past their usefulness, I think that we need to take a serious 
look at these responsibilities. We need to do more to combat the 
deplorable conditions that many of our native peoples are subjected, 
and to develop a plan to alleviate these hardships.
  Forever, this museum will grace our national mall. With this new 
beginning and its reflections of the past, we must now look to the 
future, the future of Indian country.