A Mohawk Iroquois Village
at the New York State Museum

Where to Go
Entering the Native Peoples of New York hall turn left at the mastodont exhibit and follow the corridor around to the right until you see the life-size reconstructed Longhouse. Stand at the bottom of the stairs looking up at the Longhouse.

What to See
Look at the life-size statue of the man who is up on the house. Question what he is doing, how he got up there, what he might do next, and if anyone else would be around to help him or if he would be working alone to build the house.

NYS Standards
Social Studies 1.2 – Historic information at a specific time in New York history (1600)

Where to Go 
Go up the stairs and enter the Longhouse, gently touching the outside of the house as you enter.

What to See
Gently touch* the poles that make up the structure of the house and the lashings strips. These are made of strips of bark and would be wet when the house was being built. Look up and see the strips that the man is using to hold the house together.

NYS Standards
Social Studies 4.1 – Economics, Use of natural resources
Social Studies 3.1 – Geography, Physical settings
*Although most things in the Museum’s exhibits are not to be touched, the poles, lashings, and bark that make up the Longhouse are accessible and can be touched. Students should be reminded to be gentle when touching these parts of the exhibit.

Where to Go
Go all the way into the house to the Wisdom of the Elders life group. There is an audio tape presentation of the grandmother telling 3 stories to her family.

What to See
Listen to one of the stories. Iroquois history and culture is taught by the elders through storytelling.

NYS Standards
English Language Arts 3.1 Listening for critical analysis, Family History/Memories, Oral transmission of history
Social Studies 1.3 cultural comparison/contrast

Where to Go 
Go back out and sit on the lower seating platforms in the Longhouse.                   

What to See
The basic structure of the longhouse was wooden poles cut from trees and lashed together with strips of bark. The framework was then covered over with large sheets of bark.

The inside of the longhouse was divided into sections each with its own fire and smoke-hole along with sleeping and storage areas.                            

NYS Standards
Social Studies 3.1 – Geography, the world in spatial terms - Spatial relationships and human systems

Where to Go 
Artifacts of the Iroquois Longhouse c. 1450-1600 cases outside the Longhouse contain household items that were found by archaeologists. Objects like these were reproduced to furnish the Wisdom of the Elders life group and Three Sisters/Growing Field exhibits.                   

What to See
Large cooking pots were needed to prepare food for the many people living in the longhouse. Decorations on the pots show that the people took time to make even every-day objects special. Size, shape and decoration can help archaeologists date the pots, because these changed over time.                             

NYS Standards
Social Studies 4.1 – Economics, Use of natural resources, size, and degree of technology
Social Studies 1.2 – Historic information on a specific time in New York history (1600)

Where to Go 
Go past the Longhouse to the Three Sisters/Growing Field, a life-size reconstructed field where the crops of corn/maize, beans, and squash are being tended by the women of the village. http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/Iroquois  Village/sistersone.html                   

What to See
The crops (corn/maize, beans, and squash) are planted in mounds with the squash spreading out on the ground and the beans climbing up the corn/maize stalks. This practice allowed the natural properties of the plants to work together.                              

NYS Standards
Social Studies 4.1 Economics, Use of natural resources, Resources, size, degree of technology, Division of labor

Where to Go 
Turn around and see the life-size reconstruction of a section of the palisade wall that would have encircled the village.                   

What to See
The palisade is a double wall made of tall poles that are held together with smaller branches. The space between the two walls would have been filled with branches and stones.                             

NYS Standards
Social Studies 3.1 – Geography, the world in spatial terms - Spatial relationships and human systems

Where to Go 
Go down the stairs by the Longhouse to the Village Model. This is a miniature model of an entire Mohawk Iroquois village as it is being built (1600).                   

What to See
Hilltop site
Palisade wall for protection
Large size population                              

NYS Standards
Social Studies 3.1 – Geography, Physical settings, How people live in different regions, The world in spatial terms

Please note that all of the web links in this document were active at the time it was written. However, we cannot guarantee that links will remain functional indefinitely.

Skills Goals
Students visiting the exhibition may:
identify the materials used to make Iroquois Longhouses
 classify the natural materials used for tools and household objects
 compare the Iroquois Longhouse to other houses of the time (the Algonkian wigwam located in New York Hall) and/or to houses today

Content Goals
From this exhibit students may:
 learn how Iroquois people built houses out of wood
and bark
 listen to traditional Iroquois stories
 view the spatial patterns of Iroquois villages and
farm fields
 learn about Iroquois farming methods

Some Information Available on the New York State Museum’s Web Site

A Mohawk Iroquois Village: An Exhibit at the New York State Museum
Extensive background information about this exhibit, along with photographs can be found on the New York State Museum’s web site at: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/
 These three exhibits depict life in a Mohawk Iroquois village about 1600, before European influence greatly changed Iroquois culture. Exhibit photos include a scale model of an Iroquois village, part of a full sized longhouse with furnishings, and an agricultural field. This web site presents scenes from these dioramas and explanatory text on Iroquois longhouses, village life and agriculture.
Links within the site include:
Iroquois Village http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/villageone.html  Photographic prints with text
The Three Sisters http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/sistersone.html  A guide to an Iroquois agricultural field diorama
Iroquois Longhouse http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/constructionone.html A description of a longhouse: construction, interior layout and tools
Building a Longhouse Model http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/buildingmodel.html Plans and materials
A Mohawk Iroquois Village circa 1600 http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/slideonea.html A 20 slide set with annotations
Some Iroquois Artifacts http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/slidetwoa.html A 20 slide set with annotations
Eyewitness Accounts http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/accounts.html
Original descriptions of Iroquois longhouses by early European explorers

The Lewis Henry Morgan Collection 
Photographs and information from The Lewis Henry Morgan Collection at the New York State Museum - mid-nineteenth century Iroquois materials collected by Morgan between 1849 and 1850 can be reached at: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/morgan/

The Governor’s Collection of Contemporary Native American Crafts
 The Governor’s Collection is a collaborative effort between the New York State Museum and Native American communities to create a collection of contemporary crafts representing the living culture and thriving art of Native Peoples of New York. Recent acquisitions may be viewed at: http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/govcollect

Current Research
• Information about the current research on the historic and prehistoric archaeology of New York that is being conducted by the New York State Museum’s Anthropological Survey can be reached at: http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/research/anthropology

You May Also Want to Visit Some of These Additional Web Sites
[These sites are not affiliated with and not endorsed by the New York State Museum.]

• The Haudenosaunee Home Page http: //www.sixnations.org
• Artisans and Craftworkers of the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne
• The Oneida Nation http://www.oneida-nation.net/
• The Onondaga Nation School http: //www.onondaganationschool.org/
• The Seneca Nation http://www.sni.org/
• Peace 4 Turtle Island, a site dedicated to providing culturally sensitive and
accurate information about the Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) people,  http: //www.peace4turtleisland.org/

Bibliography for Teachers
To evaluate children’s books for anti-Indian bias when presenting
Native American history to young children:

Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children
Author: Slapin, Beverly and Seale, Doris  

This book includes a compilation of work from a Native American perspective presented by parents, educators, poets, and writers. More than 100 critical reviews of children’s books by and about Indian peoples are discussed. It is an excellent source for anyone interested in presenting non-biased material about indigenous people to children.  
Publisher & Date: Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale, 1998
Age-Appropriateness: Preschool - Grade 8
This book is available at the New York State Library and may also be available at your local or school library.

Fluffs and Feathers: An Exhibit on the Symbols of Indianness – A Resource Guide
Author: Doxtator, Deborah

This book offers an important introduction to the way First Nations and Native Americans are portrayed in popular culture. Written by Mohawk scholar Deborah Doxtator, Fluffs and Feathers details the ways in which Native People have been categorized, displayed, portrayed, and exploited by Western culture and advertising. Fluffs and Feathers offers a sample of the range of images used to portray “Indians­ in historical and contemporary North American society. The ideas of Indianness, the use of Indians as a cultural resource, the portrayal of Indians in movies and literature, and the depiction of Indians in history texts are all areas for analysis. The use and impact of these symbols on contemporary Native and non-native cultures are detailed. This book is available at the New York State Library and may also be available at your local or school library. It is also available for purchase at http://www.goodminds.com/american/aframe.htm

An extensive bibliography for teachers, Native Americans: Stereotype vs. Reality, is available on line from the Smithsonian Institution at http: //www.si.edu/resource/faq/nmai/naster.htm

Pre-Visit Suggestions

Discussion ideas:
Land Use – have students describe how we use the environment and compare that to the way the Iroquois of c.1600 used the same environment. For example, compare and contrast how sites are selected when choosing land for building settlements, for farming, for land ownership differences, or for communication between settlements.
What do people need to survive – make a list of objects we use every day. Compare and contrast these with objects used by the Iroquois of c.1600. Think about the similarities and differences between how we and the Iroquois of c.1600 solve the basic human needs of food, clothing, housing, transportation, and tools. Also, think about what materials were used to make tools – today we have many steel tools – and about the proliferation of specialized tools today.
Home Life – discuss differences between living in your family home and living as a member of a communal longhouse. Have students think about their own homes, especially their bedrooms. Discuss the concepts of privacy, property, family, discipline, competition and recreation. These questions might be posed after a discussion of typical Iroquois domestic architecture the longhouse and its internal organization of space, compared with the variety of dwelling kinds known in our culture mobile homes, apartments, houses – and their internal organization into spaces having specific functions. You might want to compare this to the one room log cabin on the “American Frontier” in 1800.

Activity ideas:
Archaeology – make a list of each object in one waste basket at home. If all of this were buried for 500 years what would survive? How would an archaeologist interpret these objects? Also, would the archaeologist be able to identify the individual[s] who owned these objects? Would these objects be sufficient for the archaeologist to identify the language and culture of the persons to whom these objects belonged? And would these objects in themselves be sufficient to reconstruct the “entire culture?” What information is missing? What information would be needed: more artifacts, more written records, some or more visual records? If you can excavate a 2 meter square in your school yard, list everything you find and explain, using the suggestions listed previously, what you can learn about your school yard by studying these materials.
Drama – Create a play about an Iroquois story.
Cooking – list foods that would have been available to the Iroquois, such as corn/maize, beans, squash, berries, fish, and deer meat. See how many of these same foods are available in your local market. Make a class treat using the foods that you find.

Post-Visit Suggestions

Discussion ideas:
Cultural differences – compare the way “Indians” are usually shown on TV with what you have learned about the way the Iroquois people of c.1600 actually lived. Have there been any recent TV programs or recent movies in which you feel that Indians have been more accurately (or inaccurately) represented and why do you think so?
Geography – Iroquois villages of c.1600 were usually located on top of a hill. What are the advantages of such a location and what are the challenges in choosing a hill-top location. Why do you think early European visitors described them as “castles?” Think about where British and European castles are usually built – in low spots, on plains, or on hills and mountains, and why?
Society – compare the Iroquois of c.1600 (food, clothing, houses, games, stories) to people that lived in other places at the same time. Think about the functions of clothing – physical and/or social comfort; think about specialized clothing for specific jobs or specific social contexts. There is a good opportunity here to compare the more or less egalitarian character of an early 17th century Iroquois village – that is reflected in the relative homogeneity in clothing and housing – with the heterogeneity of clothing [peasants, tradesmen, clergy, nobility, etc.] and architecture in a British or European “rural” community of the same time period.

Activity ideas:
Architecture – build a model longhouse. Directions can be found at: http: //www.nysm.nysed.gov/IroquoisVillage/buildingmodel.html
Crafts – have students make things that would have been found in an Iroquois village of c.1600 (clay pot, cornhusk doll, moccasins). Have the students discuss whether or not they thought each Iroquois man and woman made all of the stuff they needed and used. Could there have been specialists? Why would this be a good thing for everybody?
Recreation – research and then play an Iroquois game. You can look for resources in your school or local library or explore the information available about the game of lacrosse at this web site (This site is not affiliated with and not endorsed by the New York State Museum):
http: //www.peace4turtleisland.

During Your Visit

Attached is a Venn Diagram that you can print for your students to use at the Museum. They can use it to organize note-taking during the visit. Please remember to provide the students with a hard surface to write on (for example, a clipboard). Leaning on the labels or the exhibit surfaces can cause damage to the exhibit.

While you are at the Museum you may want to visit our Algonkian Wigwam. Students can compare and contrast what they see in the Wigwam exhibit with what they see in the Longhouse exhibit.

Also attached is an Observation Recording Sheet that you can print for your students to use with The Three Sisters exhibit. Please remember to provide the students with a hard surface to write on (for example, a clipboard). Leaning on the labels or the exhibit surfaces can cause damage to the exhibit. Using this sheet, students will focus on featured objects to make observations about the exhibit.

The following information may be useful to you in helping your students with this activity.
The object to be identified is part of the lower jawbone of a white tailed deer. The bone attached to the label is a replica, not a real bone. The jawbone was used to scrape the fresh corn/maize from the cob. The man using the object in the exhibit is leaning against a burned tree trunk. Fire was used to clear the trees to make a space for the growing fields. The stumps that were left behind were planted around and were used as back rests by the workers when sitting. The man also needs a bowl to hold the corn/maize kernels. The bowl he is using is made from a gourd. Gourds were another crop grown in the field. Information about the other activities in the exhibit can be found in the computer interactive.

Observation Recording Sheet for The Three Sisters exhibit


Go to The Three Sisters exhibit and find the object attached to the label on the right side of the exhibit.
Look at the object (you can touch it!), sketch it and answer the questions. You will find information in the label text.


What is the object made of?
What is the object used for in this exhibit?


What is behind the person using the object?
In addition to the object, what else does the person need to do the job they are doing?


What is the person is doing.?