Dakota confrontation, Indian museum are part of an evolving dialogueCultural discourse is alive and well in America. Native Americans in South Dakota last Saturday confronted re-enactors of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The Indians made the simple point that the arrival of the white man presaged the demise of their cultures.

On Tuesday, The National Museum of the American Indian opened on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C. Tribes across the nation were consulted on the design of this building and the story it tells.

A cardinal intention of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial is to engage Indian tribes in the event. No one who knows the reality of Native American history can be surprised at the confrontation that took place in South Dakota.

A nation that acknowledges its past is healthier than one that denies or hides its own history. The discourse over the impact of Lewis and Clark and the white migration that followed them is useful. The opening of the new museum is especially full of meaning.

The history of the dominant white culture's treatment of the native American culture is not pretty. Moreover, history never comes to some final ending point. It is an ever-evolving and unfolding discussion. The genius of America has been its ability to acknowledge new realities and accommodate them. Without free speech and a free exchange of ideas, this is not possible.