The National Museum of the American Indian stands out more than some of the other museums on the National Mall due to its unique architecture. Native American architect Douglas Cardinal developed the initial concept to mirror a wind-sculpted rock formation. When you visit, take a moment to soak in the unique building, fountains, and artifacts placed outside.
What’s on Display at the Museum of the American Indian
This museum does an exceptional job of organizing the exhibits in a way that pulls from American history often covered in a classroom and blending it with stories that often go overlooked. Our understanding of forgotten American stories is growing all the time. This museum highlights this growing knowledge in an engaging and powerful way. Here are a few of the exhibits you’ll find during your visit.
Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations (until January 17, 2028): This exhibit is especially powerful because it presents both the perspectives of the growing United States and the native people during the development of treaties throughout our history. While it is sometimes easy to think of Native Americans as one group, they were individual tribes with their own identities. Wondering through the walls of different treaties illustrates how a very young but strongly united new country was able to slowly take land from the individual tribes.
Americans (ongoing): When you first enter this hall, you are greeted by images of Native Americans from pop culture – used in both powerful and demeaning ways throughout history. The exhibit highlights how influential these images, depictions, and use of icons have been a part of our national identity since before the US existed. However, what makes this exhibit stand out are the separate rooms highlighting the truth from widely known, but frequently misunderstood, historical events, including the story of Pocahontas, the Trail of Tears, and the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake (ongoing): This smaller exhibit showcases the Native peoples that still live in the DC region today. Explore maps, photos, and artifacts from the 1600s to today from the Nanticoke, Powhatan, and Piscataway tribes.
Museum Shop and Mitsitam Cafe: Your visit to the museum does not end with the main exhibits upstairs. On the lower levels, you can find a highly awarded cafe and an extensive gift shop. Most restaurants near the National Mall are a little out of the way of the museums. However, the Mitsitam Cafe has some of the best and most unique options that allow you to further your experience. The menu is divided into different regions. Dishes represent the many native tribes that inhabited the North American continent. Note: The cafe is closed for renovations until late spring 2024.
Do I Need Tickets?
No. Timed tickets are not required at the National Museum of the American Indian.
When is the Museum of the American Indian Open?
The museum is open every day except December 25 from 10 am to 5:30 pm. This museum is not as well known as some of the larger museums like the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of American History. This is a great stop for slightly fewer crowds.
That said, all of the museums on the National Mall can get crowded in the afternoons. This is especially during high tourist season including summer and Cherry Blossom week. Your best chance for the fewest crowds is in the morning (before 1 pm) or in the off-season.
This museum has fewer exhibits than some of the other museums. Allow about 1 to 2 hours to fully immerse yourself in the two larger exhibits: Nation to Nation and Americans.
While you can walk to the Museum of the American Indian from the Smithsonian stop (15 minutes), Federal Center is only a 5-minute walk. Both the Smithsonian and Federal Center stops serve the blue, orange, and silver lines.
L’Enfant Plaza is also a short walk away and serves the orange, blue, silver, green, and yellow lines. Look for the north exit to Maryland Ave and 7th St SW. This is a large station with multiple exits.