Ganondagan’s Seneca Art & Culture Center Honors Women As Sacred Creators

Amy Blum / Natasha Smoke Santiago, Mohawk, displays a cast of her belly, and Michelle Schenandoah stands with mom Diane to show the importance of the exhibit at Ganondagan’s Seneca Art & Culture Center that honors women as sacred creators.

Vincent Schilling

Exhibit At Ganondagan’s Seneca Art & Culture Center Honors Women As Sacred Creators

‘Hodinöhsö:ni’ Women: From the Time of Creation’ exhibit celebrates guidance, wisdom, healing, joy, sustenance, hope, peace and love to the world

The newest exhibit at Ganondagan State Historic Site is open to the public. According to the site staff, the exhibit, titled “Hodinöhsö:ni’ Women: From the Time of Creation,” examines the many ways in which Hodinöhsö:ni’ women have acted as positive forces in our world, and demonstrates how, from the time of Creation to the present, Hodinöhsö:ni’ women continue to provide guidance, wisdom, healing, joy, sustenance, hope, peace and love to the world.

“There is a strong connection between the American suffrage movement and the Hodinöhsö:ni’,” said Seneca Art & Culture Center Curator and Interpretive Programs Assistant Michael Galban. “Using Hodinöhsö:ni’ art, both historic and contemporary, this exhibit outlines the

reasons why Hodinöhsö:ni’ people—and particularly Hodinöhsö:ni’ women—have had an impact on the way we, as modern people, regard access to justice and find balance.”

Amy Blum /Seneca Moccasins by Samantha Jacobs, Turtle Clan, made from deerskin are decorated to represent the dancing Sky Woman who moved along the great sea turtle’s back.

​The exhibit, which opened in March, 2018, the first new addition since the opening of the Seneca Art & Culture Center in 2015. The exhibit touches on five important moments in time when Hodinöhsö:ni’ women have had a major impact.

These moments, as described by the organizers, are exhibited as follows:

Women in Creation

David Mitchell /Two men observe with respect at the Women in Creation and Mother of Nations exhibit.

​According to the Hodinöhsö:ni’ creation story, women are the pathway to unfolding life here on Mother Earth. These feminine elements continue to inspire Hodinöhsö:ni’ artists with the power and beauty of their message.

Jigöhsahsë’ – The Mother of Nations

Long ago, Jigöhsahsë’ lived along the “warriors path” between the Seneca and their direct western neighbors the Kahkwa, the Erie and the Petun. The first person to embrace the Peacemaker’s message, Jigöhsahsë’ was instrumental in the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Akino’ënh – “Our Mothers”

At the time of Ganondagan (17th century), and throughout the colonial period, Hodinöhsö:ni’ women have guided and sustained their people as leaders in agriculture, maternity, spirituality and government.

Euro-American vs Haudenosaunee rights

Sisters in Spirit

Leaders like Matilda Joselyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony had direct and personal contact with Hodinöhsö:ni’ women which had a significant positive impact on their fight for equality. Largely ignored and untold, history has recorded the impact that Hodinöhsö:ni’ women and culture had on the minds of these leaders of the Women’s Rights movement in the United States, but indirectly.

Walking in Two Worlds

Seven powerful examples of contemporary Hodinöhsö:ni’ women are featured here, demonstrating how they have chosen to make a difference in our world.

Amy Blum /Natasha Smoke Santiago with her belly cast. Santiago, Mohawk Turtle Clan, cast her own belly during pregnancy and used the mold as a canvas to portray the Iroquois creation story to include the image of Sky Woman.

​It’s an honor to be included among the stories of our Hodinöhsö:ni’ women,” said Michelle Schenandoah (Oneida, Wolf Clan), an inspirational writer, speaker, thought leader and one of the seven women featured in the “Walking in Two Worlds” section of the exhibit. “Taking time to learn what it means to be a lifegiver from our Hodinöhsö:ni’ point of view; is the sacred role of being of a woman—which the United States omitted in the formation of its government that is based on our Hodinöhsö:ni’ life ways.”

Amy Blum /Michelle Schenandoah with mom Diane at the exhibit.

​The exhibit will be open for regular hours 9 am to 4:30 pm, and then will follow regular Seneca Art & Culture Center hours, Tuesdays through Sundays.

The exhibit designer is Johnson/Hehr Associates and exhibit fabricator is Hadley Exhibits.

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