First Peoples

Ongoing Exhibition
South Hall

Indigenous people (Native Americans) have lived in what is now New York for at least 13,000 years. Learn about the long and continuous presence of Indigenous people, from the Ice Age to the present through a piece of contemporary artwork, dioramas, and archaeology artifacts, as well as a life-size reconstructed longhouse. This exhibit conveys the changing lifeways of Indigenous peoples from small family/kin-based groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled agriculturalists living in large villages housing hundreds to thousands of people. 


Mohawk Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Longhouse at the New York State Museum

Mohawk Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Longhouse

Step through the village palisade and enter a reconstructed kanonhsésne (longhouse) to understand what life might have been like for Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) peoples shortly before European colonization. Inside the kanonhsésne (longhouse), replica artifacts and clothing illustrate sixteenth century Haudenosaunee material culture, while an audio recording by Delia Cook (Akwesasne Mohawk) tells a wintertime story. 

»  Learn more about the NYSM's reconstructed kanonhsésne (longhouse) and how to build your own replica!

Indigenous Peoples Dioramas

Based on archaeological site excavations by the New York State Museum, three detailed dioramas highlight changes in Native American lifeways and society across the New York region. These interpretive scenes include (1) Ice Age hunters in the Hudson Valley, 13-12,000 years ago, (2) Holocene hunter-gatherers in the Finger Lakes at 2500 BC, and (3) Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) farmers in the Mohawk Valley, circa 1600 A.D. 

Mohawk Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Village

400 years ago, Haudenosaunee villages were often located on hilltops for natural defense. This minutely detailed model illustrates the construction of the defensive palisade and longhouses that sheltered the village, and the nearby fields of corn, beans, and squash that sustained these peoples.

» Discover more about the Haudenosaunee Village Model

Contemporary Native American Art Collection

The artistry of Native People of New York—represented in the Contemporary Native American Art Collection—celebrates living cultures deeply rooted in tradition. Expressions of adaptation, innovation, community, and belief are represented in a rich variety of forms that help tell the story of Native People today.

» Learn more about the Contemporary Native American Art Collection