Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Yes! It's a house made of bark.

By Laura Ayers, Education Associate

It’s my second season giving tours of the Mohawk Indian Bark House at the Fenimore Art Museum, and I still get a kick out of visitors’ reactions to the experience. There is something for everyone to learn and explore in the Bark House: fishing equipment, European trade goods, powder horns, beaver pelts, bear skin, lacrosse sticks, quillwork bags, and clothing. Visitors enjoy going inside and learning what life was like for the Mohawk in the 1750s. Sitting on the beds, looking up at the smoke holes, someone always asks me: “What about when it rains?” They are often shocked to learn that while rain comes in the smoke holes, the Mohawk would have left them open, unless it was absolutely storming out. Many visitors are also surprised to learn that the bark roof doesn’t leak, even during a thunderstorm.

Inside, visitors get a glimpse of Mohawk life during a tumultuous time. They learn how Europeans changed Native American traditions – for better and for worse - and how the Mohawk interacted with their new neighbors. Feeling a beaver pelt gives new insight on the importance of this trade item, while the bark canoes show traditional Native American craftsmanship.

But one thing that gets everyone excited is the invitation to explore on their own. To handle the objects, guess what their purposes are, and how they are made are all unique experiences we offer the visitors. From corn husk shoes to bows and arrows, each visitor explores Native American culture, gaining a new understanding of Mohawk life near Lake Otsego.

Come inside the Bark House! We have daily summer tours at 11 am, 1:30 pm, and 4 pm.

Photos by Zachary Winnie

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin