The Four Directions

The Four Directions

Pause and Listen

Four directions and the North

Four directions and the North

Looking Through the Museum

Looking Through the Museum

About

The four directions and the Northern Cardinal Direction marker.

The Four Directions and the North

An Audio Transcript

Nearly every culture on earth has a concept of the cardinal directions: north, east, south, and west. The confluence of the Four Directions is the center point, which represents balance. Many indigenous religious beliefs and practices encourage human beings to find balance in life with regard to the Four Directions.

Design consultant JohnPaul Jones is Cherokee and Chocktaw.

"We needed something on the outside to signify those cardinal points and…that's where we decided to use the stones from the far west which would be Hawai'i, the far north, and the far south which would be from the south tip of South America, and then the east would be from the East Coast, and that's where those four stones came from…" You probably probably can't see it, but the small rock that marks the northern direction is behind you. You can see the rock most clearly in the fall and winter; it is obscured by foliage in the late spring and summer.

The northern rock is the oldest on the Museum site. It is 3.9 billion years old. The original home of this rock was in the oldest known deposit of stone on earth, located in Canada's Northwest Territories. The Tlicho, or Dogrib, Community sponsored the stone's selection for the Museum's site. The 1,600-pound stone was lifted into the air by helicopter and then flown to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. From there, it was placed on a flatbed truck and made the long drive to Washington, D.C. The Dogrib Community blessed this rock, as did the other communities that contributed rocks to the Museum. This rock represents the North and all the Native people to the north of this museum site.

John B. Zoe is a member of the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council.

"Well, I guess the rock has seen probably a lot more than anyone can describe. You wouldn't find an older rock any where in the world. It only comes from one area that's known so far. Lots of memories in that rock for sure."

Looking through the Museum

An Audio Transcript

If you could look right through the Museum, you'd see the southern Cardinal direction marker rock.

John Paul Jones.

"The whole place is laid out on the cardinal directions as it should be and it's laid out on the equinoxes and solstices. And it's laid out on up and down. So there's a number of directions that're very important to have connections with and that will never go away. We will always have those connections no matter how we migrate we will have those connections."