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Mission Statement

The Museum of the American Indian uplifts, supports, and makes visible the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas by offering authentic educational programs and cultural resources to Marin and the greater Bay Area.

Our Vision and Background 

Nestled within the heart of Miwok Park, the Living Cultural Center of the American Indian in Novato, California, stands as a beacon of reverence for Native American lifeways. For over half a century, our center has been dedicated to celebrating and preserving Indigenous cultures, shifting away from the notion of a static museum and towards a dynamic cultural hub. Here, we strive not to merely display artifacts but to honor the living traditions and contemporary contributions of Indigenous communities.

Our core mission revolves around fostering learning and dialogue, not only among scholars and visitors but also within Indigenous communities themselves. We serve as a nexus for cultural exchange, where knowledge flows freely between generations and across borders. Our programs transcend the confines of traditional education, offering immersive experiences that immerse participants in the vibrant tapestry of Indigenous cultures.

One of our primary endeavors is our educational outreach, which extends beyond classroom walls to engage students from diverse backgrounds. We eschew rote learning in favor of experiential education, providing hands-on workshops, interactive storytelling sessions, and opportunities for students to connect directly with Indigenous elders and knowledge holders. By doing so, we not only meet the educational standards of the State of California but also cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation for Indigenous perspectives.

In addition to our educational initiatives, we curate a diverse array of events and exhibitions that showcase the resilience and creativity of Indigenous peoples. From traditional arts and crafts to contemporary expressions of Indigenous identity, our programs offer a multifaceted exploration of Indigenous culture.

Through film screenings, poetry readings, and communal gatherings such as our annual Trade Feast, we create spaces for cultural exchange and celebration, inviting visitors to partake in the richness of Indigenous heritage.

As we look to the future, our vision is one of continual growth and evolution, guided by the principles of respect, relationship, reciprocity, and responsibility. We envision the Museum of the American Indian as a living cultural center and hub, as a living testament to the enduring vitality of Indigenous cultures. Together, we strive to build a more inclusive and equitable society, where the voices and experiences of Indigenous peoples are valued and uplifted.

Our History

In the 1960s, the development of Miwok Park unearthed vast archaeological objects linked to the original stewards of the land, the Coast Miwok people. It was during this time that the Kiwanians, a group from the Novato High School Archaeology Club, embarked on an excavation and study of the site. Recognizing the significance of the items, sacred objects and human remains discovered in the area, they advocated for the establishment of a sanctuary to respectfully house these ceremonial items. In 1967, through their efforts, the structure that would become the museum was acquired for a symbolic $1 and relocated from downtown Novato to its current location within Miwok Park.

Over the years, the purpose of the museum has undergone a profound transformation. From a mere repository for sacred objects, it has blossomed into a vibrant living cultural center. It is now guided by the Coast Miwok people, who have reclaimed their rightful place as stewards of their own narratives. Today, the Coast Miwok community takes the lead in curating exhibits and sharing their stories with authenticity and integrity, rooted in principles of truth and healing.

Central to the museum's mission is the sharing of traditional knowledge, which extends beyond the confines of its walls to encompass the sprawling expanse of the 38-acre Miwok Park. Here, nature itself becomes a sacred exhibition, offering visitors a tangible connection to the ancestral lands of the Coast Miwok people. Through guided walks, interpretive signage, and interactive experiences, the museum invites visitors of all ages to deepen their understanding of Coast Miwok culture and the natural world that sustains it.

In this holistic approach to cultural education, the museum serves as a bridge between past and present, and hope for the future, offering a window into the rich tapestry of Native American and Indigenous art and culture. By fostering appreciation for the diversity and beauty of Indigenous heritage, the museum strives to cultivate a sense of reverence and respect for the land and its original inhabitants. In doing so, it honors the enduring legacy of the Coast Miwok people and their continued contributions to the tapestry of human experience.

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