When the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of the American Indian were unveiled earlier this month in Washington, D.C., the ceremony was skipped by Douglas Cardinal, the native American who was the project’s original designer.

When the swooping limestone curves of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of the American Indian were unveiled earlier this month in Washington, D.C., the ceremony was skipped by Douglas Cardinal, the native American who was the project’s original designer.

Cardinal, a Blackfeet Indian who lives in Canada, was hired in 1993, but was fired by the Smithsonian after Cardinal alleged he was losing money on the project. He says he is owed $1 million; the Smithsonian said Cardinal was paid for work done up until the time they parted ways.

About two months prior to the opening ceremony, representatives from the Smithsonian offered to fly Cardinal in for the event. Cardinal is 70, and has said he is still considering legal action. He also said work has been difficult for him to find after the dispute.

“It’s very difficult. I put so much of my life into it,” Cardinal told reporters, after his decision not to attend. “But I have every faith in the American public and the American system. I just hoped the story would have come out sooner.”