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Iroquois Indian Museum: Art as a Window into Iroquois Culture and History

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The Iroquois Indian Museum, Longhouse design.
The Iroquois Indian Museum, Longhouse design.
Courtesy of Iroquois Indian Museum

The Iroquois Indian Museum is dedicated to helping visitors understand Iroquois culture through various art forms. Art has acted as a window into culture throughout history. Whether seeing Iroquois art in person or virtually, there is a lot to be learned.

Located in Howes Cave, NY the museum welcomes visitors of all ages and backgrounds to experience the art of Iroquois culture, support Iroquois artists, and celebrate diversity.

Since closing to the public, the museum has worked to provide Iroquois art and culture through online methods. Check out past exhibits on the website and look through the permanent collection, watch out for the upcoming 2020 feature exhibition Identity/Identify, and shop the online Iroquois Art Market for dozens of hand-made items like jewelry, dreamcatchers, pottery, and more.

Stephanie Shultes, Director of Iroquois Indian Museum, talked about the significance of the 2020 feature exhibition Identity/Identify. “This thought-provoking exhibit will present individual and collaborative artistic responses from across Iroquois country that speak to who is considered Haudenosaunee and what constitutes membership. Identity/Identify explores how these definitions and designations determine access to tribal and federal resources, rights, residency options, and other components of cultural and community participation.” A virtual exhibit will be hosted in October and the exhibition will be extended through 2021.

Aside from virtual offerings, there is an outdoor banner exhibit which is now open to the public called Tonto, Teepee’s and Totem Poles: Considering Native American Stereotypes in the 21st Century.

The museum also has a 45-acre nature park with both short and long trails to go exploring. The trails and outdoor exhibits are open and free to all during daylight hours.

Perhaps one of the best ways to learn about Iroquois culture is through the online program Learning Longhouse. Meet the Haudenosaunee, or “People of the Longhouse”. The Haudenosaunee are comprised of the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, & Tuscarora). Learn about the history of all Six Nations along with clans, Iroquois beliefs, language, oral tradition, education, material culture, sensitive issues that we should all be aware of, and much more.

Despite our computers acting as venues these days, the public can still engage with artists directly. “Many Iroquois artists have been posting on Facebook with virtual art markets and have been participating in virtual events. Four of the museum’s Facebook Live Mini-Lessons will feature demonstrations from Iroquois artists”, says Shultes.

Beginning July 8 and continuing for eight Wednesdays in July & August there will be Facebook Live Mini Lessons that feature various Iroquois artists. These mini lessons go live at noon.

Coming in the fall, there will be a series of virtual tours on the website. Be sure to check the calendar of events for more information.

The museum has been offering continuous support to Iroquois artists during these troubling times and there are ways the public can give their support to the museum and artists as well.

Shultes invites the public to join the museum by becoming a member, purchase from the online shop, sponsor a personalized tile that will be mounted in the outdoor covered amphitheater or buy a ticket for a virtual raffle . The virtual raffle features a winner’s choice of six prizes for four weekly drawings.

When visiting the museum outdoors, please keep social distancing and safety in mind.

Outdoor exhibit
Outdoor Exhibit
Courtesy of Iroquois Indian Museum