About the Museum
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.
The Longhouse Design
In a modern building designed to evoke the Great Iroquois Longhouses, visitors are introduced to another world view. The Museum is shaped as such to recall the traditional Iroquois elm bark longhouses found in this area 400 years ago. A long and lofty longhouse with ingenious smoke holes in its roof, is interpreted by architect, C. Treat Arnold as a modern skylight over the Main Gallery. Grey shakes on the exterior suggest slabs of elm bark.
The Museum's open porches suggest that additions are possible. Iroquois longhouses expanded to be over 300 feet long at times. The open mezzanine recalls the upper level of bunks and storage.
The outdoor amphitheater has a special floor constructed for Iroquois social dancing. The amphitheater is used for storytelling, talks, and various performing arts.
The Children's area, located on the ground floor of the Museum, welcomes young people with their parents or teachers. The main exhibit in the Children's Area is a fun and
kid-friendly extension of our Feature Exhibition on the main floor of the Museum.
Descending the stairs, visitors are reminded of the Iroquois Creation Story, when Sky Woman fell from a hole in the Sky World and was carried on the wings of water birds to the back of the great turtle. The Iroquois relationship to the natural world is emphasized in our live turtle pond.
Visitors are encouraged to examine the rattles and waterdrums or identify furs. There are a variety of independent exploration exercises such as Find-a-Word and Museum Quizzes as well as coloring pages that can be created and taken home.
The Museum offers a 45-acre Nature Park with both short and long trails open for exploration. There are guided and self-guided tours. In the Nature Park 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 medicines and herbs gifted by the Creator.
The Park consists of fields and woods, with a feeder stream winding its way down to Cobleskill Creek, which flows along the entire southeast corner of the park. Sometime in the last century, a huge stone dam was built across the stream, but one of those "once in a century" storms took out the center of the dam, leaving mute but dramatic testimony to the power of the surrounding watershed. Today the stream is classified as a trout stream by DEC, but trout have yet to be discovered. Other fish, frogs, crayfish, green heron, kingfisher, and a rare visiting beaver have been noted.
The park is a fine spot for birding. Deer and racoon are plentiful, as though the site has become an island of safety for them. The woods has a strong group of shagbark hickory trees, with many venerable and stately hemlocks. A few dignified maples are engaged in their silent struggle against "Maple Decline," and the Park's many ash trees are trying desperately to survive the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer.
In the Nature Park are two 19th century log homes moved from Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, and rebuilt by a Mohawk construction company. The homes were used as residences well into this century.