Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tomaquag Museum

This past Sunday my son's Neighboring Faiths class from our Unitarian Church took a trip to the Tomaquag Indian Museum.
I had no idea this museum was here despite it only being 15 minutes from our home.
I didn't really know what to expect but really enjoyed myself.
The kids are asked to focus on the spiritual part of the Native Culture and bring they have learned into their own faith journeys. This year we will also be visiting a Catholic Church and Buddhist Temple. Last year, they visited a Baptist Church, a Catholic Church and a few other places. It really provides the kids with a glimpse into other faith traditions.
Patrick, who celebrated his 13th birthday yesterday,
stands by the museum sign. The day that we went to visit, the museum was celebrating their Cranberry Thanksgiving Festival. There was great ceremony and thanks given to the Creator for the gift of the cranberry.
When we arrived, the kids had time to shop at the display tables of handmade items.
I loved this dream catcher.

The displays were set up in their school. More on that later.

These ear rings were all hand beaded and some were made with porcupine quills. The kids also learned about Sweet grass that is used in ceremonies and basket making.

Some hand painted tapestries in the museum.
Sage and sweet grass is used most often for ceremonial purposes.

We could not use flash photography in the museum and some of these pictures came out quite dark. This hand made acorn basket caught my eye. It was so intricate.

These baskets with decorated with porcupine quills.
The designs on top were so detailed and must have taken much time to complete.

Patrick loved the collection of arrowheads. Years ago his grandfather gave him a collection of arrowheads that he had collected as a boy in the woods of Maine.

This display was behind glass so there is some glare.
Some of these are arrowheads and some are tools for cutting.

The sacred drum made of buckskin was beautiful.

We learned about the first Indians that came to Rhode Island and their first established church. The storyteller told us that even though it was an Indian church they were not allowed to use their Native languages during services.

What is it about old photos that captures me so? This is a picture of the inside of the church in the early 1800's. The storyteller told us that the doors to each side of the pulpit were used as lookout doors. Services would be held in their Native Language but if someone approached from the path, the two lookouts would signal the congregation and the entire church would start to sing a hymn in English so as not to be discovered.
Notice the wood stove and pipe in the center of the church too.

This Canoe was entirely handmade out of birchbark.
The underside even had a patch that was handsewn on and repaired with tree sap.

This is an Indian Wedding dress from the 1800's. The colors are still vibrant and all of the beads are handcarved and made of wood. The dress is made of buckskin.

Gorgeous beautiful baskets made of sweetgrass. We learned that they used these baskets for storage of food, blankets , grain and even sweetgrass.

Patrick was amazed at how different baby carriers were. The flat board design made it easy for the baby to be carried on the mothers back over long distances.

Some ceremonial items in the display case.

The woman on the left in the white shirt is named Sunflower. She was an elder and was our storyteller. The ceremony starting with Sunflower speaking about how family is so important to the Indian culture. There are no nursing homes or foster care-they take care of all of their family. Then they proceeded with a smudging using sage. There is information here about smudging:
The smudging included every person from the audience. Unfortunately, because of the rain we had to have the smudging inside and there was lots of smoke and.......we set off the fire alarms and ended up here:
Outside in a circle to continue until the fire alarms were shut off . Our hosts said a prayer thanking the Creator for the Cranberries and for friends who visit and followed the prayer with some drumming.

While we were outside we explored a replica a Native camp. This is an actual boat that the kids carved out and burned. Yes, it does float.

Then they showed us how they put together their camps using branches and twigs to make sturdy structures. These would be covered in buckskin, pine boughs and birch bark to make them water tight and nice and warm.

This Native dress was covered in hard carved Abalone shells.

The Museum also had a Native American School on the grounds that taught grades 1-8. We were able to explore the classroom and it was quite amazing to see how
they taught the children about their culture.
The school was mostly a one room schoolhouse style and was very fun to explore.
The School was called Nuweetooun School and I learned that it means, "Our School Home."
I also loved the barrel that collects rainwater for their garden. During the fire alarm we were able to explore their garden and saw that the kids planted pumpkins, corn, beans and cabbage. There was also a patch of sweetgrass planted.
We had a great day and wonderful learning experience.

1 comment:

Erica said...

What and AMAZING place to visit! Wow, very neat, love all the pictures :)