Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

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Time Flies By at the Iroquois Indian Museum

Wednesday August 10, 2016                                                              Most Recent Posts:
Glimmerglass State Park                                                                   Exploring Glimmerglass
Cooperstown, New York                                                                  Moving to Glimmerglass – Fun on the Way





In our first two days at Glimmerglass State Park we hiked both of the trails so it’s time to kayak the waters and explore outside the park.  Today is Wednesday, David has to get a blood draw.  For that, we drive to Cobbleskill 28 miles away.  Near there is the Iroquois Indian Museum so we head over there for a short visit which turns into all day.

We arrive 5 minutes after it opens at 10am and leave 20 minutes after it closes at 5:00.  We do have a tendency to overdoers syndrome but the museum is just excellent and they have trails too.

You can’t miss it standing proudly on a knoll.  It is shaped like an Iroquois long house.  That’s David in the easy to spot red shirt.  Notice the turtle art on the outside wall, the flower gardens in front of the long house, the vegetable garden on the hillside and the circular building in the back right.  That is the festival area.


I love the cutaway for the entrance with the hint of the woven frame of the original long houses.  Before we go inside, I check out the garden where the Three Sisters, corn, beans and squash are growing.





The museum is beautiful inside.  It is a combination of the history of the Schoharie Mowhawk people and beautiful artwork created by members of the 6 tribes making up the Haudenosaunee People.  The bottom floor is an outstanding children’s area.

The history and art work are woven through the exhibits. 


They have artifacts from this area and every time period in which the people resided here over the past 14000 years.

This amazingly intact beautiful birchbark canoe on the ceiling is an exception. It is from New Brunswick Canada circa 1901. Everything else appears to be very local.



There are numerous arrowheads and pieces of pottern showing the same designs used by the People here in pottery and beadwork today.


There are ancestoral crafts such as this beadwork purse from 1860 and these child’s moccasins from 1900.




The carvings are some of my favorite pieces.  This otter from the early 18th Century is obviously carved from an antler.



This contemporary piece also from antler is in the same spirit.  The detail in these carvings is astounding. 



Other contemporary art works that are favorites of mine are this soapstone carving of the Haudenosaunee Creation story of sky woman being saved from falling and carried down by a swan safely to the back of turtle from which came our Earth, Turtle Island.


I am especially a fan of the pottery work of Tammy Tarbell.

Some of her works are nearly life size.   Her detail is outstanding.  As I walk up to her figures they appear to be alive.


Buckskin fringe and beeds are woven into the sculpture.



This is the full size clay sculpture of a Seneca woman. Every part of her is pottery other than the beaded fringe and the feathers in her hand. 


The one is called Clay Woman. She of course is inside the vase. I wonder if that is Tarbell’s self portrait as a clay artist



This tree of peace on a turtle’s back is carved from a Moose antler.  Just marvelous!




On the wall are  paintings done in England around 1710 when the Mohawk Chief and some braves were taken there, I assume willingly since they returned. They were dressed by the photographer apparently.  I wonder what they thought of all of this.  How amazing it must have seemed to them.  I do find it thrilling to be able to look at paintings of these two men from over 300 years ago and see their faces.  Put jeans and a t-shirt on either one of them and they look like the guy next door.





The museum has several audio visual installations where you can sit and learn about the Haudenosaunee now as well as other topics pertaining to the tribes.



We do make it down one side of the main room before lunch.  There is just so much to see and absorb.  It is all so interesting.



As we turn the corner to the other side of the museum we see double doors leading to the deck.  The museum is a two level bulding built into the side of the hill.  The level we entered on is the upper level in the back.  The deck has benches for relaxing and down the stairs are picnic tables.  Perfect for lunch.




We return through the double doors and start up the other side of the museum.  David is tired and needs a nap so he goes out to the car, puts the seat back and takes a rest.

While he is sleeping, I decide to wait for him before doing the rest of the main floor exhibits.  I go downstairs to the children’s section.


At the bottom of the stairs on the left are geese flying over a pond with a large turtle sculpture in the middle and real turtles swimming around in the pond.


The older kids and me love to watch them but the younger ones have to be restrained from trying to grab them.




I love the varied patterns of their shells.



An escape attempt.


Behind the turtles in the corner is this great weaving activity with a wooden frame and a basket of ribbons.  This is how it looked when I first got there.



There were two young girls and their dad trying out every activity.  First Animal Clan twister, then an activity I couldn’t see from where I was and finally they made it over to the basket weaving, took all the ribbons off and did a much better job of it.  I didn’t take their pictures except from afar because I didn’t want to embarrass them.





You can learn how to identify the various spear points with these giant wooden replicas and the key on the wall just at a little person’s height.



There was much more to see and do in this really terrific children’s museum but David comes back so we go back upstairs to finish the grown up section.

Some of the highlights here are the art works of course and the case on Indian Stereotypes.  As a culture, we are not very sensitive to how insulting some of the things we have done are, including the movie Pocahontas.





Next to that thought provoking exibit was another of prints based on the Haudenosaunee Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving to all beings.  These panels are absolutely beautiful.  Not sure why nearly all the ones I pick out to include individually are blue but, they are.




Every night………..she watches over the arrival of her children………We give thanks to Grandmother Moon.



In the night……..their sparkle guides us home……We give thanks to the stars.
Every morning……….He brings light and warmth…….We give thanks to Elder Brother Sun.


There are multiple panels enumerating water’s gifts to the people.  These are just two of them.

Every day……….it quenches our thirst……..We give thanks to the Waters.
In Winter………..it replenishes the lakes.       We give thanks to the Waters.


Too many beautiful art works to illuminate.



This corner audio video shows the entertainment artists among the Iroquois including Joanne Shenandoah, Pura Fe, Robbie Robertson, and Charlie Hill as well as artists from other tribes.  There are clips from their performances as well as from numerous Native American Films and other films in which Native Americans have acted.  This area alone could take at least an hour or more.  I watched for a long time and it never repeated itself.





We’ve come full circle around the museum and we want to be able to walk at least one of the trails so it’s time to leave.  But these maps I think are very telling.


This map is of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) Ancestral Lands “before contact”


This map shows where they are today. 



Outside, the trail takes us by two log cabins used by the People when, after contact, they moved away from the long houses.

The first one is directly behind the museum.  The second at the trailhead.



From there we move onto the wooded trail which is a nature trail at first, identifying trees and plants including poison ivy.  I’ve always wondered why few nature trails identify it since not everyone knows what it looks like and they should.  The red is David ahead of me.



The trail takes us over and by streams and up high with a view of the river.




Near the end it takes us out of the forest and into a meadow with mountain views.





The parking lot is empty and the museum closed when we return from the trail.  I could easily spend another day at the Iroquois Indian Museum.  I don’t think it is only ancestral guilt I feel.  I admire these people, their spirituality, their tenacity and their artistry. I take every opportunity I can to support their endeavors and learn more about them.  I hope you will too.



Gary Sundown’s hand tinted photograph really says it all. After 500 years of Massacres, Exile, Reservations, Broken Treaties, Boarding Schools, Smallpox Blankets, Poisoned Rations, Religious Persecution, Alcohol, Hazardous Waste and government Sponsored Genocide, they are still here.  Pretty amazing!


And as if the gift of the museum being right in our path wasn’t enough, on the way home the sun set in front of the fog filling in the valley.   What a great day!!



  1. The museum is fascinating, and you've photographed it beautifully. I can see why it would end up taking a day.

  2. Beautifully done! I have always been interested in the music from the Haudenosaunee, and think I still have a CD somewhere of music sung by women of the People. Joanie Shenandoah is one name I recall as having such a beautiful voice.

  3. Wow, this is wonderful. I really enjoyed learning about the Navaho Nation when we were out west. The "Indian Market" was going on when we were in Santa Fe. It's been held since 1922, and there were 900 vendors. I was in arts and crafts overload by #450 because there were SO many beautiful items, and all were certified as made by Native Americans. It really would take one 3 days to take it all in, and one could spend lots of money quickly. I restrained as much as possible because it was our first day of vacation, but I'm definitely going back. I did think it was interesting that it's still called the "Indian" Fair. I do believe that the name would have been changed had it been held on the east coast. :-)

    Thank you for these beautiful pictures. Love them!

  4. I am especially gratified by your appreciation of an alternate culture. We 'whites' should have been more understanding of native peoples instead of robbing them of what was rightfully theirs to begin with. Having been brought up in the center of the Seneca Nation I have had, from the time I was a small boy, an appreciation of the people who were there first.


  5. What a wonderful museum! I'm so glad that there are nice tributes to these people.

  6. So many amazing pieces, I can see spending a couple days there. Wish I knew about it before we re-routed north, I would definitely have made the drive to see it!! I love the Creation carving and Clay Woman. The children's museum looks exceptional. Thank you so much for including such a great variety. I've put it at the top of the list for next time.

  7. A great museum with so much marvelous art. Seems it could take several days to fully appreciate. I too carry shame from my ancestors treatment of the First People.

  8. When I'm at home I sometimes catch the "Antique Road Show". I am amazed when someone brings in a piece of Native American pottery that they found or just had in the family for many years only to find out it's worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    My Mother would sometimes cry when she spoke of how we treated Native American's and she instilled in us, at a very early age, how wrong we were, and how we should always have empathy for their difficult lives caused by the greed of those who had no right to their land.

    Your tour was great, as always. I love pottery, myself. I'm taking Susan down through New Mexico so I'm sure we'll see quite a bit of it. Rich and I had decided, in 2003, that we were going to collect a piece of Native American pottery each trip we made west. Unfortunately, we only collected one piece. He picked it out, and it's one of my most prized possessions.

    Thanks for sharing, Sherry. Hi to David.

  9. Great day and wonderful tour!! All your photos are beautiful, but your last two photos are my absolute favorites:o))

  10. What a fabulous museum—definitely one that we would love to visit. We share your admiration and interest in Native American culture, and have spent a lot of time exploring and learning about the Native Peoples of the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. I teach the Jr. Rangers about the Salish tribes during our summers on Lopez Island, and our home is filled with art created by Native artisans. We even have a few pieces in our trailer. :-) I look forward to our travels on the East coast and learning about the Native cultures there. Thanks so much for sharing the beauty you discover.


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