Preserving and Honoring Heritage: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

By NAT Staff

The museum's architect and project designer were Canadian Douglas Cardinal (Blackfoot). Its design architects were GBQC Architects of Philadelphia and architect Johnpaul Jones (Cherokee/Choctaw). (Photo Credit:

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)  is a diverse and multifaceted cultural and educational enterprise and a visible component of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum complex. The NMAI represents the world's most expansive collections, 825,000 in all, including Native artifacts, objects, photographs, archives, and media covering the entire Western Hemisphere, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.

The museum operates three facilities -- the National Mall location offers exhibition galleries and spaces for performances, lectures and symposia, research, and education. The George Gustav Heye Center in New York City houses exhibitions, research, educational activities, and performing arts programs. The Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland, houses various collections and administers the conservation, repatriation, and digital imaging programs. The NMAI's off-site outreach efforts, often referred to as the "fourth museum," include websites, traveling exhibitions, and community programs.

Origins and Background

George Gustav Heye (1874-1957) Photo Credit: Photographer Unknown

The NMAI’s holdings have their foundation in the collections of the former Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation of New York City, assembled largely by George Gustav Heye. From his first acquisition, the 1897 purchase of a Navajo hide shirt in Arizona, Heye’s collecting quickly expanded into archaeological material. By 1903, he was buying large archaeological pieces from around the hemisphere, and by 1906, he had accumulated more than 10,000 objects. Based in New York, Heye bought collections and documentary photographs, sponsored exhibitions, and journeyed on expeditions collecting items himself. In 1904, he initiated a collections catalog on 3- by 5-inch cards, marking the beginnings of his dream to create his museum.

With his mother’s support, Heye funded excavations and by 1908, his New York apartment and a nearby warehouse were filled to the brim.

In 1916, with the collection totaling 58,000 objects, Heye was offered a building site at 155th and Broadway in a new complex of cultural organizations. Sponsored by affluent friends, the first, private Museum of the American Indian was built. Heye deeded his entire collection to it, endowed the museum, and was named Director for Life. The museum’s opening—delayed by WWI—occurred in 1922 and was described by Heye as, “a museum for the collection, preservation, study, and exhibition of all things connected with the anthropology of the aboriginal people of the North, Central, and South Americas, and containing objects of artistic, historic, literary, and scientific interest.”

Heye on expedition, circa 1905 (Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian)

After the museum’s opening, Heye built a professional staff and continued collecting aggressively, and by 1929, he had accumulated over 163,000 objects. Heye continued to build the collections, albeit more slowly, until his death in 1957, at which point they numbered over 225,000 catalog numbers representing 700,000 individual items. These represent approximately 85 percent of the NMAI’s current object holdings.

Beyond the importance of any single part of the collection, the NMAI collections as a whole have their own significance and relevance to diverse constituencies. George Heye’s original collection, created between 1897 and 1957, still stands as a remarkable testament: his collecting proclivities and attitudes toward Native peoples, represented by one of the largest personal collections ever amassed.

Samples of George Heye Collections

Buffalo Dance, Circa. 1930

Sacred Arrow for Offerings, Circa. 1935

Boy holding a very large Kwakiutl mask, Museum of the American Indian, circa 1920

Shaman’s Drum, Circa. 1930

Man’s Moccasins, Circa: 1880

Heye collected extensively from 1910 to 1930, after most museums’ collecting from American Indians had slowed. He was not a trained anthropologist, art historian, or academician of any type and, beyond his interest in anthropology, had few disciplinary inclinations. However, one of his primary motives was to amass the most complete and encompassing collection possible, including what has been described as both “the mundane and the supreme.” The hemispheric depth and diversity of the collections, and their lack of any strong disciplinary focus, make them—perhaps ironically—a notable resource for the study of Native life and material culture for scholars in anthropology, archaeology, history, and art history.

Three years after Heye’s death, in 1960, Fredrick J. Dockstader, who had joined the staff in 1955, became the Museum of the American Indian’s Executive Director. Following trends begun during Heye’s lifetime, Dockstader acquired significant materials that represented the blending of Native and non-Native worlds, including works made for sale but still representing traditional cultural values. Through purchases and exchanges, Dockstader also acquired important ethnographic and archaeological pieces, reorganized the exhibits, and published a series of books on the collections.

The Transition

When Heyes’ Museum of the American Indian, in 1989, was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution and the newly-created National Museum of the American Indian, it was met with criticism. Following a Cheyenne Chief’s tour of the exhibits, there were letters of complaint about the amount of human remains (totaling 35,000 persons) and sacred burial artifacts being held for public display. The Native American community argued that the bones were taken by grave robbers as prizes and showpieces for private collectors, and should be returned to tribes for reburial on sacred lands or reservations. In late 1989, the Smithsonian signed an agreement with tribes to return the skeletal remains to the home tribe’s elders to be resettled in new burials. Following that spirit, Congress passed the legendary Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1990.

Late Senator Daniel Inouye, who helped sponsor NAGPRA, saw the Repatriation Act as a win for many. In turn, he lobbied Congress to create a “monument to Native peoples” and expressed, “…it was sad reality that in a Washington, D.C., there was never established a monument to Native peoples.”

Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) was credited in rallying legislators to establish the museum.

Inouye sought to change this by introducing a bill in September of 1988 that allowed the Smithsonian to share the resources of New York's Museum of the American Indian, as well as make space for a “National Museum of the American Indian”. Patricia Zell, Senator Inouye’s staff director and chief counsel, remembered: “When it came time…to really focus on a ‘place’ for the museum [Inouye] literally looked down from his hideaway office balcony in the U.S. Capitol, saying, ‘What’s that blank spot down there?’ And we said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘The one between the U.S. Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.’

By Public Law 101-185 established on November 28, 1989 by the 101st Congress, Inouye’s bill was passed to establish the National Museum of the American Indian within the Smithsonian. Total funding was $199 million, with an additional $20 million reserved for special exhibits, public programs, and opening events.

On September 21, 2004, twenty-five thousand Native Americans representing over five hundred Indigenous nations gathered in Washington D.C. for the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. It was celebrated with a six-day festival of music, dance, and storytelling.

Andrew Old Elk, Crow, passes in front of the museum at the grand opening. The building was constructed of golden-colored Kasota limestone in a curvilinear shape designed to evoke natural rock formations shaped by wind and water over thousands of years. (Photo Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

Cheyenne chiefs gather with thousands on the National Mall. (Photo Credit: National Museum of the American Indian)

Members from the White Mountain Apache Tribe dance in celebration. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant Brian Boisvert, U.S. Public Domain Archives.)

NMAI’s achievements include the opening of the George Gustav Heye Center in New York in 1994 and the NMAI building on the National Mall in 2004; construction of the NMAI’s Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland, in 1999; and the subsequent move of the collections from the “Research Branch” in the Bronx, which gave them the home they deserved.

George Gustav Heye Center, New York City

The Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland. The CRC serves as a hub for the museum's technology, information resources, and Web development.

The national museum was designed with Native input and cultural considerations. As a public institution that holds part of the Smithsonian’s National Collections, the NMAI takes its role seriously, especially in terms of providing stewardship—dutiful care of what essentially belongs to others—for objects that represent collective Native heritage. In preparation for the collections’ move from New York, tribal representatives reviewed regional collections to provide guidance on appropriate preparation of the collections, their transport, and segregation of sensitive materials and special handling.

Ten Pieces Showcased at the National Mall Location

Photo Courtesy of the Conciliotto Family

The enhanced exhibit features a video surround, immersing visitors in the history of the Oneida Indian Nation. Photo Credit: National Museum of the American Indian

Exhibit from northwest Coast of North America (Photo Credit: USA Today)

Teepees at the National Museum of the American Indian, SW, Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Unknown)

Photo Courtesy of the Conciliotto Family

A canoe on display

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr

Artist: Preston Singletary, Tlingit (Photo Credit: Mr. Singletary)

NMAI is deeply committed to Native American research as new discoveries can happen any time. To achieve this end, the museum’s curators, researchers, and scholars engage in dialogues with and solicit the expertise of cultural authorities and academic specialists. Focal points for the museum’s research and scholarship program include: giving greater breadth and perspective to themes that guide the museum’s exhibitions, publications, and public programs; increasing and making widely available knowledge about the museum’s collections; providing electronic access for researchers, teachers, and the public via networked technologies and other online tools; and addressing important historical and contemporary issues affecting Native Americans.

The NMAI publishes a quarterly full-color publication, American Indian, to members. Educators and students also have access to an online portal of information and lessons through the Native Knowledge 360° website.

NMAI is also involved in repatriation, where human remains and cultural items are returned to lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations. Law requires the Smithsonian to return, upon request, Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to culturally affiliated federally recognized Indian tribes.

By sharing the wealth of Native American history and heritage, the work of the National Museum of the American Indian will continue. And, the cultural contributions and impassioned commitment of George Gustav Heye will positively impact millions for generations to come.

Homepage Photo Credit: Andrew Weiss

(Editor’s Note)

To continue the mission and growth of NMAI, funding is necessary. Sales of memberships for persons/groups and scheduled monthly donations can be donated through the Wellspring Society, or directly through the museum.

OP-ED: Reject Stigma to Improve Mental Health

By Dr. Julio Rojas

Photo Credit: Citizen Potawatomi Nation Behavioral Health Services

People who suffer from addiction or mental illness often hear statements fueled by stigma. They commonly hear messages from friends and family such as “Why don’t you just stop using drugs?” “You were raised better than this!” and “Why don’t you just snap out of your depression?”

Stigma is a toxic force that causes harm at a physical, psychological and spiritual level. It results in an individual feeling shamed or disgraced because of society’s messages about what is normal, acceptable and appropriate.

Some examples of stigma are the belief that individuals who struggle with addiction are weak, and those who suffer from depression are simply too lazy to change.

These messages are rooted in society’s belief system about the need for personal control and will-power to overcome things. The messages are also rooted in a lack of information about brain disorders – which is what addiction and mental illness are -- and how these conditions affect one’s thinking, emotions, behaviors and relationships. To combat such a powerful and destructive force, we must ask ourselves questions such as:

  • What beliefs or attitudes do I hold toward individuals with mental illness or substance abuse, and why? Would I be willing to learn more about a particular disorder that my friend or family member has?
  • Are people in recovery taking the opportunity to eliminate stigma among friends and family? Do we attempt to normalize that it is healthy and wise to seek help?
  • If someone you love is struggling with addiction and/or mental illness, consider asking your loved one about something they are interested in or excited about, or a goal they have. Many parents who have lost their children to addiction regret spending so much time worrying, harping on, and focused on the illness, at the expense of knowing their child more deeply.

If you feel stigma is preventing you from seeking help, consider that you have internalized and believe what the dominant culture says about your worth and value as a human being.

You are unwell; you are not bad. You deserve treatment to live your best possible life.

The good news is that treatment works, there are many paths to wellness, and your health and well-being is the most important thing you have.

About the Author

Dr. Julio Rojas is a licensed health service psychologist and drug and alcohol counselor, who works at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Behavioral Health Services.

About Citizen Potawatomi Nation Behavioral Health Services

The Behavior Health Services Team of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation hopes to of service by providing quality care for the emotional and mental well-being of their patients. Enrolled tribal members who can provide proof of residency are eligible to receive professional services.

How to See Auras: A Step-By-Step Guide

By Scarlet Grace


Today I’m going to write about one of the most useful and coveted skills: how to see auras. This is the first thing I usually teach people who are curious about magic and anything metaphysical but want to experience something first-hand that will truly impress them.

There are many reasons why seeing auras is at the top of my list. First of all, learning how to see auras is something that most (if not all) people can do with minimum training and effort. Second, it isn’t a skill you need anyone else’s help to develop. You can easily practice how to see auras by practicing seeing your own aura around your hand first, before moving on to your pets or other people.

I personally believe that we probably all see auras all the time, we are just used to tuning the information out, the way a big part of stimuli from our environment is tuned out by our brain because it’s deemed non-important.


In addition to that, while seeing auras isn’t exactly a vital skill for magic –in fact I know many really successful magicians who have never seen an aura in their life- the way you need to focus (or more accurately, un-focus) your eyes to see an aura is the same type of gaze you need to scry successfully, as well as see spirits with your physical eyes. Not only that, but I have noticed that the more someone trains in seeing auras, the easiest it is for them to see spirits in their environment when they aren’t even trying.

Last but not least, it isn’t very difficult to accomplish. You can learn how to see auras pretty fast! So, as you can see, there are way too many benefits one gets from something that doesn’t take longer than a few minutes of daily practice.

The following exercise is an easy way to see auras for beginners and more advanced practitioners alike.


  1. Pick a room with dim, soft lighting. Not totally dark because you’ll probably have a difficult time seeing aura in total darkness at first, but not very bright either because, again, it will probably be more difficult for you. Later, when you are able to easily see your own aura easily, you can start practicing in different conditions, but for now a room with soft light would be best.
  2. Pick a plain background (a white wall is a good choice).
  3. Hold your hand out (about arm’s length) against the background, with your fingers spread out.
  4. Now look at your hand, but don’t focus on any spot on the hand. Instead, focus on the area between two fingers. After a minute or two, you’ll start seeing a kind of wispy mist surrounding your fingers. At this point, you’ll be tempted to focus on it to get a better look at it. Don’t. If you focus on it, it will disappear and you’ll have to start all over again. Continue focusing on the area between the two fingers. You will probably blink at some point and what you were seeing will disappear. Don’t worry; this is normal and you will gradually stop having this problem as you practice because you’ll get used to this type of gaze and the whole process will go faster.
  5. Depending on your natural ability, you may see this turn into a mist that surrounds your whole hand, you may see it turn into a color, or you may not get much more at all. If you don’t see much more than what originally appeared that’s ok; with a few days of practice, you’ll get better at it and colors will start appearing. If you keep practicing, eventually you will be able to see different layers of colors extending quite a distance from your hand.

When you get the hang of it and you have also practiced the above exercise in different conditions, try seeing the aura around someone’s body.

Have them stand against a plain background and focus on a spot above their shoulder. If you don’t have someone to help you practice then you can use your image in the mirror for practice, again focusing on a spot above your shoulder. If you have pets then you can try to see their aura too. It is generally easier to see an aura at first around someone who isn’t moving (because the movement will probably make you lose your focus or look at them directly instead) but if you keep practicing for an extended period of time (maybe a few months) you’ll be able to easily see any person’s aura within a few seconds.

When you feel ready, try using the same type of gaze to look not at a person or animal, but at an open space in nature. This can be at a park, the woods or even your garden if you have one. You may be surprised to see some of the spirits you share your garden with for the first time! If this surprises you or frightens you, remember: they were there all along; you were the one who couldn’t see them all this time!

About the Author

scarlet grace 

Scarlet Grace is a manifestation coach with over two decades of experience in conscious, deliberate manifestation and twelve years of studying magic, sorcery and working with spirits. Currently, her focus is on helping people use manifesting tools and the teachings of Neville Goddard to manifest a life beyond one’s wildest dreams.

Vancouver-Area Church Uses Christian, Indigenous Traditions

vancouver area chaplains

The Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) _ The Rev. Joe Scheeler thinks Christian and Native American spiritual journeys aren't so different from one another, nor are they incompatible.

``The closer you look, the more alike we are,'' he said.

God. The creator.

Hymnals. Native songs with drums and flutes.

Holy communion. Sacred pipe ceremonies.

Confession. Sweat lodges.

Scheeler, 67, is the vicar at All Saints Episcopal Church, a west Hazel Dell church that blends Christian and Native American traditions in its services. Scheeler belongs to the Lenape tribe. His family's ``ancestral stew'' also inlucdes Ojibwe, Cree, Northern Cheyenne and Assiniboine tribes, in addition to being Irish, French and German. All Saints has families that are Mohawk, Yakama and Nez Pearce.

Every Sunday Scheeler plays his flute and there are some Native American prayers, including an Onondaga gathering prayer:

Today we have gathered, and when we look upon the faces around us, we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people. Now our minds are one.

On Good Friday, a holiday commemorating Jesus' crucifixion that's typically marked by penance, the church held a ceremony involving smudging and burning bundles of sage alongside traditional drum songs to ``release burdens.'' It's analogous to asking for forgiveness from sin.

``Much like in the Christian or the Buddhist or the Hindu traditions, those ceremonies are meant to be shared and meant to be used _ because at the end of the day, they're simply tools,'' Scheeler said. ``They're simply tools to connect: to connect us, to connect us to the creator as we have an understanding of the creator. So, whatever tool works for someone to do that, by all means that's the one we should do.''


Reverend Scheeler playing flute at the World Labyrinth Walk Celebration

Scheeler was ordained in 2002 in the Diocese of Montana specifically to launch a First Nations ministry at St. Peters Cathedral in Helena, Montana. People were skeptical at first. The ministry met at a community center rather than the cathedral, and it was identified as a society rather than a church.

``The concept of church never really existed in native culture,'' Scheeler said.

Tribes rarely use the word God either. There's typically a term in their native tongue that translates to creator. However, the First Nations spiritual journey relies heavily on ceremonies and traditions to recharge that spiritual connection, much like Christianity.

``The true compatibility between Christianity and the First Nation spiritual walk is both look at the imminence of God or the sacred spirit. God is here. God is now. God is around us. God wraps us,'' Scheeler said. ``The elders say that we walk through a sacred mist of the creator all the time. . The spirit world is intimately close and associated to us. As we get better and better at recognizing that, we're able to connect more and more with God, with the spirit world _ however you choose to call it.''

The Episcopal diocese is interested in reaching out and finding the similarities among the two traditions. It's a kinder and more correct approach, Scheeler said, than the church's history of boarding schools and wiping culture and language. Missionaries didn't recognize Native American traditions as legitimately spiritual or religious.

``All the pieces of society that the First Nations people relied on, the church took those away,'' Scheeler said.


Sheryl Haase, 66, is part Tsimshian, a Pacific Northwest Coastal tribe primarily in British Columbia and Alaska. As she learns more about her Native American roots, she's also on the path to becoming a deacon at All Saints. Her late father was half Native American and half Greek and didn't feel he belonged in either culture.

``I'm having to learn about it now that he's gone,'' Haase said.

Helping her on her journey is the Talking Day Society, a ministry of All Saints that focuses on the healing powers of native music.


Members of the Traveling Day Society 

``What we've found is that urban native populations that have been removed from their ancestral lands for generations have sometimes been distanced from their own cultures, as well. And so, they are hungry to reconnect with some of their own cultural traditions,'' Scheeler said.

Some Talking Day Society members belong to the church; others do not. Some are Native American, like Haase, but most are not. Lots of non-native people are drawn to these spiritual traditions, which can be viewed as hijacking Native American culture.

So long as they're done with respect and honor, Scheeler said, ``the spirit elders who are renowned say no one owns sacred ceremonies'' and that they're meant to be shared.

Suzanne Philbrook has been a member of All Saints since 1986 and is part of the Traveling Day Society. Although she's not Native American, the 72-year-old, whose father was an Episcopal priest, grew up going to an Episcopal church on the Windy River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The experience, she said, ``lived with me'' and now she enjoys playing her buffalo skin drum for the Traveling Day Society.

They've gone to community events and Episcopal conventions, but the small group primarily plays at funerals, hospices and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, where Scheeler is an associate chaplain.


Clare Imel playing her Twin Grandmother Flute

Music is shown to decrease pain and heart rate, said Heather Keller, music-thanatologist at Legacy, and it supports relief and decreases fear of dying. It helps people let go.

``The idea is to accompany people and their families as far as we can,'' said Keller, who plays the harp during her palliative rounds at the hospital.

The Traveling Day Society performs in the hospital's healing garden on the first Monday of every month. It's supposed to recognize the births and deaths that happen every month, the circle of life. A lot of the songs are contemplative songs about healing or traveling, and the big, energetic native drums are absent.

``This place is sort of like a spiritual airport'' in that people are coming and going, Scheeler said.


In a world that's hungry for spiritual connectedness, there's a lot of joy and richness in the First Nations traditions, he said. The Traveling Day Society doesn't evangelize when it is out in public, and it's not meant to be a device to hook people into coming into church. It's about spiritual care.

For its audience, Scheeler said, it's simple: ``The flutes are amazing. They just unwind your spring.''


Information from: The Columbian,

Chaplains offer spiritual guidance to police force in Iowa

Sioux City Journal

Police chaplains serve as best friends and supporters of law enforcement.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – Before being the spiritual pedestals for Sioux City Police Officers to lean on, chaplains Maj. Von Vandiver and Rev. Dan Rupp were in different lines of work.

Vandiver, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, was a computer consultant before he and his wife, Linda, became ministers and led the Salvation Army of Siouxland.

“It was a natural disaster that got me to change. My wife was an insurance adjuster, and, in 1993, there was a flood in the Missouri River that devastated St. Louis,'' Vandiver, 59, said. “We got busy helping to respond to the flood. I was in Arnold, Missouri, and I will never forget this, this guy came in and he was totally destroyed by the flood. I talked to him and gave him a cup of water and a hot dog. I just sensed God saying to me, `You could do this the rest of your life.' I thought, `Wow, I think you are right.'''

Rupp, 51, a Sioux City Catholic priest, heard a similar voice early in his life but didn't listen until after he graduated Iowa State University with a degree in electrical engineering.

“When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a priest but that was gone by second grade. I didn't know what I wanted to be, but not a priest. Then in high school, a little call was there but I didn't want anything to do with it,'' said Rupp, a Cherokee, Iowa, native. “I finally graduated college, and in college, you are always thinking about next year, next semester, next week. Then finally you sit down and you work. And I asked, `Could I see myself retiring as an engineer, yeah, I suppose I could. I liked my job, I enjoyed my work, good money. But should I retire as an engineer? Oh boy, no. Then the thought of being a priest came back, and I thought here I go again. But I realized, it is not a curse, it is a blessing. I was just uncooperative for a while.''

As Sioux City Police chaplains, Vandiver and Rupp are always on-call to tend to the needs of the members of the department, from personal struggles at home to job-related incidents, the Sioux City Journal reported .

“This can be anything from the death or serious injury of an officer to a traumatic incident or major call for service that would result in a critical incident debrief,'' Police Chief Rex Mueller said. “We rely on them for a lot of the same duties that a church would rely on a pastor. The fact that our chaplains are willing to take on this task for no compensation is a testament to their leadership and desire to help others.''

Vandiver has been a department chaplain since 2014. Rupp filled a recent opening, succeeding the Rev. Michael Erpelding, a Catholic priest, in October after Erpelding was reassigned to parishes outside Sioux City.

Von and Linda Vandiver have been leading the Salvation Army of Siouxland since 2008. He was offered the chaplain position after his involvement in an emergency preparedness group with the police department.

“I call it a ministry of presence,'' Vandiver said. “I've met most of the officers through a training class or whatever, they know I'm here. It's not somebody saying, ‘Go talk to the chaplain, now' or anything like that. I'm just going to be there if they need me.''

Rupp is a cleric for the Mater Dei Parish in Sioux City that includes the Immaculate Conception Parish and the Nativity Parish. He got in contact with the department through his hair stylist, whose husband in on the force.

“I have a great respect for our police officers,'' said Rupp, who noted he has not yet counseled an officer. “I'm happy to help any way I can.''

Vandiver said the most prominent occurrence his job was needed was with the unexpected death of natural causes of Sgt. Jay Fleckenstein in April 2015.

“The department took it hard, a 39-year-old just went home after work and just drops dead. That was tough for them,'' Vandiver recalled. “But in a strange way, I like doing funerals. As a minister, people are not really interested in spiritual things, but when you are confronted with death ... particularly an unexpected one _ I think people want to know is there a heaven, and not just, ‘Is this it?' I like, in a perverse way, to comfort them during those times.''

Both chaplains said the best way to strengthen a person in need is through listening.

“I always tell them, I don't give advice unless they specifically ask for that. I'm here to listen,'' Vandiver said.

“Of course, listen, listen, listen, is the most important thing'' Rupp interjected.

Vandiver continued, “(police officers) are a very closed group of people, they trust other officers and it's hard for them to share anything with somebody outside the organization. So I am just here to listen.''

The chaplains earn a badge and a jacket for their contribution to the department (even though Rupp hasn't received one yet, he laughed).

Mueller applauded their devotion to helping the department.

“Police officers deal with people in crisis and see horrible things on a daily basis. Having some spiritual guidance and leadership inside the police department is extremely important,'' the police chief said. “This gives our officers and staff a place to turn to when dealing with the many stresses that come with police work. Because of what is expected of us as we carry out our duties, we sometimes fail to appropriately deal with all of the trauma we experience. Since our chaplains are familiar to our officers, it can help open those lines of communication.''

Information from Sioux City Journal

Photos courtesy Upstart Productions