Today I am writing from Washington D.C. It was a late-minute decision, but at the recommendation of two professors and Oren Lyons himself, it was something I could not pass up.
The National Museum of the American Indian includes George Heye’s anthropological and Joseph Keppler’s personal collection on various Haudenosaunee item “including both objects of aesthetic importance and everyday items.” Additionally, and the most important to my work as of this moment, is the “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations” exhibit. Oren had mentioned this collection, citing it as a fine representation of wampum treaties and their significance, as well as being aware of the influence Haudenosaunee culture had upon our nation’s founding. The exhibit’s own page can be found here. I am extremely lucky to be able to see this exhibition at this moment in my research. Richard Hill, in Indian Roots of American Democracy, has a compelling statement on the role of museums in modern Native American Studies. He explained, “museums are not ancient institutions … As museums redefine their roles and their directions, they have been moving away from being custodians of ‘artifacts’ of dead cultures and becoming supporters of living ones.” This exhibit, and museum as a whole, is dedicated to expanding public knowledge on a cultures that resided here before us and are still alive despite much of post-contact non-Native intention. Furthermore, as Haudenosaunee scholars will tell you, these treaties that were crafted are still alive themselves; it is an arrangement that past and modern American politicians tend to ignore.
Looking into this exhibit, I am becoming more and more excited to visit and experience the work Smithsonian has done. For now, though, I will try to make good on my promise yesterday and share what pictures I was able to take:
Here, Tadodaho Sid Hill is giving his Thanksgiving Address at Onondaga Lake. It was a coordinated event on “National Sacred Places Prayer Day.” Suzan Harjo, who coincidentally wrote the book Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations, held a similar event in Washington D.C. The event was made to honor places venerated in American Indian traditions: Onondaga Lake and Ganondagan being the two Haudenosaunee locales specifically. Not pictured is Oren Lyons, who appeared later in the address. He gave his own speech after Tadodaho Sid Hill’s was finished. As I mentioned yesterday, it was extremely moving. When Oren speaks, you begin to understand why he is so valued in the Native community; he is well-spoken, truthful, and easy to understand. I was actually so caught up in speaking with him, that I forgot to take a picture. I am hoping to visit him Monday or Tuesday.
I, uh, am sorry about this picture. As you can tell, I should stick to writing rather than photography. Be that as it may, this is Tom Porter giving his own Thanksgiving Address. It was at a benefit event for Kanatsiohareke Mohawk community. During the speech, Tom explained the importance and significance of saying Thanksgiving everyday. Or, rather, it was as he put it “that which you say before issues of importance.” It was rather moving, as Tom told us to “pile” that which we are thankful and become aware of it all. Then, as tradition states, you give this address to the Creator for making it all happen. Tom then went on to tell stories of his great-grandfather and grandmother, which was met with several bits of laughter and more than a couple moments of deep reflection by the crowd. Mr. Porter had a certain way of drawing in the crowd and delivering his point extremely easily. I had the chance to speak to him alone prior to the address and we exchanged contact information. I am hoping to set up an interview with him on Monday.
Unfortunately, that is all I have prepared. I apologize for these last few days not featuring in-depth scholastic work, but now more than ever, I have been thrown into the research and cultural process of working alongside Haudenosaunee. Plus it was a six hour drive down here and I am just getting set up. I hope to present a lot more in the next few days after getting more interviews in and settling in back home.
All the best,
Hill, Richard. “Oral Memory of the Haudenosaunee: Views of the Two Row Wampum”. Indian Roots of American Democracy. Edited by José Barreiro. Ithaca: Akwe:kon Press, Cornell University, 1992. 149-165.
National Museum of the American Indian. “Collections”. Smithsonian. Accessed on June 20, 2015. http://nmai.si.edu/explore/collections/
—. “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations”. Smithsonian. Accessed on June 20, 2015. http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=934