Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Akwesasne Cultural Center Museum - Part 1

I left the farm and drove to Hogansburg, New York one cold morning. I wanted to take a second look at the Akwesasne (Mohawk) Museum at the Cultural Center. I knew I'd crossed into the reservation when I began seeing giant signs advertising cigarettes at cheap prices. I parked behind the cultural center and entered the museum:

There were signs which explained the exhibits, though I never saw any people. I learned here the story of the creation of the world. Sky woman fell from the sky and waterbirds helped her to land safely onto the turtle's back. A lacrosse player assisted the Sky woman as she fell. The native songs, dances and games help connect the people to the sky world:

Akwesasne Mohawk basket makers pound Black Ash logs to make splint, which is then soaked and the fibers scraped off by hand with a knife. Hand tools are used to split the splint into thinner layers and to cut it into the needed widths. Weaving is only one part of the process and is alternated with drying time, after which the weaves are packed tightly:

Baskets are also woven of Sweetgrass, though it wasn't always clear which were Black Ash and which were Sweetgrass. I suspected that many were a combination:

I remembered from a previous visit that this small basket was called, for obvious reasons, a strawberry basket:

Lacrosse is considered a medicine game which was first played in the Sky World and is now a bridge between earth and sky, a game to lift human spirits and to entertain the Creator:

Carving bone and antler is an ancient Iroquois tradition. This contemporary piece was done by Stan Hill, a Mohawk from the Six Nations territory near Toronto, Ontario:

Baby carriers, also called cradleboards, were individually decorated and came in a wide variety of designs:

The photo below this cradleboard shows how they were used:

Baskets were used for gathering and carrying food and medicine as the people gave thanks for their environment, the natural world:

This very large basket was striking:

There was a wide variety of baskets, expertly and artistically made. I took photos of only a few of them but there were many more to see at the museum. I'll post Part 2 tomorrow:

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