The Iroquois Indian Museum
Schoharie County has a wonderful resource for those folks interested in Native American history and culture: the Iroquois Indian Museum, located on Caverns Road in Howes Cave, about 17 miles from Sharon Springs, near the famous tourist attraction Howe Caverns. Founded in 1981 and formerly at the Old Stone Fort Complex in Schoharie, the museum moved to its present location in 1992. The museum’s website (http://www.iroquoismuseum.org) has the following description:
“The Iroquois Indian Museum is an educational institution dedicated to fostering understanding of Iroquois culture using Iroquois art as a window to that culture. The Museum is a venue for promoting Iroquois art and artists, and a meeting place for all peoples to celebrate Iroquois culture and diversity. As an anthropological institution, it is informed by research on archaeology, history, and the common creative spirit of modern artists and craftspeople.”
For those of you who wish to brush up on Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) history, please see our earlier blog on the Six Nations of the Iroquois confederacy. We’ve also written blogs on two historical figures, Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant) and Kateri Tekakwitha, both Mohawk.
The Iroquois Indian Museum brings Haudenosaunee history and culture alive. The building itself is in the shape of a traditional longhouse. The museum’s holdings include an extensive archeological collection of Schoharie County artifacts as well as the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Iroquois arts. The Children’s Iroquois Museum on the ground floor offers an interactive space for children. The Museum Gift Shop has arts, crafts, and educational materials for adults and children. Visitors have access to a nearby picnic area. Also near the main building is found the Iroquois Performing Arts Amphitheater, used for Iroquois traditional and modern dancing and other performances, as well as educational talks and demonstrations.
Another attraction on the museum grounds is the 45-acre Nature Park. The park has marked trails through woods and fields and along a river and a stream. Visitors can view wildlife, including birds, deer, raccoon, beaver, woodchucks, and squirrels, as well as wild plants and flowers important to Native survival. The museum has had a special relationship with faculty and students of SUNY Cobleskill who have been involved in studies of the park’s ecology.
As the website states:
“In the Nature Park of forty-five acres visitors are introduced to the Iroquois view of nature – Our Mother the Earth, our Elder Brother the Sun, our Grandfathers the Thunderers, our Three Sisters (Corn, Beans, and Squash), the earth as Turtle Island, the nine clan animals, the four beings who are the winds, our Grandmother Moon, Morning Star, the Seven Dancers, and the Little People who control the medicine and herbs given by the Creator.”
The Nature Park also has two refurbished Iroquois log houses from the mid-19th century, relocated from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario.
A great time to visit the museum is Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend (August 30 and 31st) for the 33rd Annual Iroquois Indian Festival. Iroquois artists from New York, Ontario, and Quebec participate in an Art Market, where both traditional and contemporary works will be showcased. The Children’s Tent will feature arts and crafts activities such as beadwork and cornhusk doll making. The Sky Dancers from Six Nations Reserve in Ontario will perform traditional Iroquois social dances. Wildlife rehabilitator Kelly Martin will discuss wildlife conservation and present a variety of wild animals, including birds of prey. The Museum’s archeology department will give demonstrations on flintknapping and other traditional technologies and will help visitors identify their archeological finds. Native foods will be served.
We are fortunate that such an institution as the Iroquois Indian Museum Festival exists in the ancestral Haudenosaunee homeland, and that it hosts the informative and inspirational annual festival. Come enjoy all that it has to offer!
The History Boys are
Chris Campbell has made his permanent home in Cherry Valley, NY. The Campbell family dates back to 1739 in this town, situated about eight miles from Sharon Springs. Some family members were captured by Tories and Iroquois allies in the Cherry Valley Massacre of 1778 during the American Revolution and taken to Canada, released two years later in Albany as part of a prisoner exchange. Chris is a rare book and map collector and has had a lifelong interest in history, especially relating to upstate New York and colonial land patents. He was the founder and first chairman of the Cherry Valley Planning Board and has worked as a surveyor and realtor as well as a researcher for the Otsego County map department. His hobbies include Ham radio.
Carl Waldman, also living in Cherry Valley, is a former archivist for the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. He is he author of a number of reference books published by Facts On File, including Atlas of the North American Indian and Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, both originally published in the 1980s and both in their third editions. He is the co-author of Encyclopedia of Exploration (2005) and Encyclopedia of European Peoples (2006). Carl has also done screenwriting about Native Americans, including an episode of Miami Vice entitled “Indian Wars” and the Legend of Two-Path, a drama about the Native American side of Raleigh’s Lost Colony, shown at Festival Park on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His hobbies include music and he works with young people in the Performance and Production Workshops at the Cherry Valley Old School.