The Iroquois Indian Museum, located in Howes Cave, New York, uses a bear in its logo and imagery as a symbol of good medicine. Since its founding in 1981, the museum has hosted many contemporary artists of the Six Nations communities, as well as annual celebrations of Haudenosaunee culture. With 35 years of exhibitions to its credit, the museum celebrates its history with “35 Years of Iroquois Art: A Retrospective,” showing through September 30.
Chartered as a non-profit educational museum by the state of New York, the museum’s “focus is on Iroquois history, culture and archaeology,” said director Stephanie Schultes. “We tend to highlight contemporary Iroquois art and artists.” With a long history of outreach to the majority of the Iroquois communities in the United States and Canada, the museum also hosts annual cultural celebrations that feature dance and storytelling.
“For the Iroquois artists, it’s really to promote their work,” Schultes said about the museum’s mission. “We feel that we’re a good area for them to show what they do. People may know Southwest art, but not necessarily know what Native people are doing in the Northeast.”
Scultes said that other areas of the museum’s mission include financial support through art sales, collection purchases and cross-cultural education. “Iroquois people are not just in the past—longhouses and leather clothing,” she said.
“[Iroquois are] contemporary people who use computers and iPhones, but who also have a distinct culture and teach about that culture through their art.”
In addition to the permanent and rotating exhibits, the museum has a children’s level, a 45-acre nature park. The design of the museum pays tribute to the traditional longhouse.
The exhibition “gives people a really good overall view of the kinds of Iroquois artwork that is being produced,” said Schultes. “It’s not specifically one topic. You can see a lot of different topics that are addressed in the artwork and the symbols that are used. It’s a really good teaching tool, because it covers a lot of the area that we’ve gone over every year for the last 35 years.”
The retrospective addresses issues such as stereotyping in Onondaga artist Zenja Hyde’s painting “Red Devil Savage.” Other pieces in the exhibit also give respect to various aspects of Iroquois culture, such as moose antler carvings of the “Three Sisters”—corn, beans and squash—by Mohawk sculptor Stan Hill.
Other major upcoming events include the annual Iroquois Indian Festival on September 3-4, featuring the Sky Dancers from Six Nations Reserve in Ontario; Onondaga storyteller Perry Ground; and the Akwesasne Women Singers. The art exhibition following the retrospective is “A Soldier’s Heart, a Sister’s Hands: Haudenosaunee Women Veterans,” showing October 8-November 27.
More information about both the museum and the exhibition can be found atwww.iroquoismuseum.org.
Iroquois Indian Museum
324 Caverns Road
Howes Cave, NY 12092
Tel: (518) 296-8949
Follow ICTMN Correspondent Brian Daffron on Twitter @briandaffron.