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TUESDAY

Hard by the back gate of the Carlisle Barracks, near the old thrift store and the gas station, is a postage-stamp cemetery surrounded by a waist-high iron fence. The graves are in precise rows, the tombstones uniform and plain, as if a little swath of Arlington had been transplanted to Central Pennsylvania. In the ’70s, I and a busful of other fourth-graders learned that these were the bodies of all the little Indian children who had died at the Carlisle Indian School—dug up and reburied in a more orderly, acceptable fashion. How times have changed. Now the Smithsonian, opening the last of our National Mall’s museums (pictured)—made of rough limestone and designed to resemble erosion-carved cliffs—has taken pains to announce that all exhibitions within are presented “from a Native viewpoint.” What could be more correct than the titles of the three major opening exhibitions—”Our Universes,” “Our Peoples,” “Our Lives”? The ecumenical plural says it all. Tuesday marks the beginning of the museum’s six-day First Americans Festival, with concerts of Native American music on five stages; a food court with indigenous food; dancing; storytelling; and crafts from the artisans of North, Central, and South America. Altogether, more than 300 participants from more than 50 tribes will be on hand to celebrate the cultures that only a generation ago were in danger of being organized into extinction. Be proud to be pluralistic when the dedication ceremony begins at noon, after the Native Nations Procession, on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 3rd Street on the National Mall. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Caroline Schweiter)