Friday, June 15, 2018

Bark Basket Workshop June 24

Native Americans have created baskets for centuries. In fact, archeologists believe that baskets making is one of the oldest known crafts in the world.  If you have always wanted to learn how to create a Native American bark basket, join the workshop conducted by Jennifer Lee of Pequot and Narragansett ancestry on June 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Institute of American Indian Studies located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington, Connecticut. 



About Native American Baskets

Native American baskets range from very simple to very elaborate and the art of basket making was passed down from generation to generation among Native American Indian mothers to their daughters.  

Ash trinket mokok with collar 


The first step in bark basket making was the harvesting of pine, ash or birch bark in the spring.  The bark was then folded into the shape of a container and sewn together with spruce root and rimmed with Arrowwood or Red Osier Dogwood.  Bark baskets made by Eastern Woodland Indians were used for cooking, gathering berries, hauling water, storing food, as cradleboards and even for burying the dead.  

About the Workshop


Jennifer Lee is an 18th-century re-enactor and material culture presenter that offers a variety of programs including bark basket making demonstrations and workshops.  She portrays an Algonkian woman of the 1750 era. Lee is also a teller of history and traditional stories. "I want my programs to dispel old stereotypes and increase awareness of present-day Native Americans."

White Pine bark mokok with poinsettia appliqué 


Participants in this workshop will learn about the lore and tradition of basket making while creating their very own bark basket.  Lee will guide participants through the process of creating a bark basket using white pine bark, spruce root, and willow. Participants can choose from three different basket designs and are sure to treasure their creation at the end of the day.



To participate in this workshop, please pre-register by calling (860) 868-0518 or emailing general@iaismuseum.org to reserve your spot.  The cost of this workshop ranges from $50 to $60 depending on the basket that you choose to make.  Please note that prepayment is required.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Solstice, Strawberries and Summer @ American Indian Archeological Institute

Celebrating the longest day of the year during Summer Solstice has gone on for centuries, and some of the most interesting celebrations and rituals are those practiced by Native Americans.  This year Summer Solstice occurs on June 21 and the Institute of American Indian Studies in Washington Connecticut is planning to celebrate this celestial event with an easy walk, stories, and strawberries.



On Thursday, June 21, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. get ready for an evening of fun, stories and strawberries with the staff of the American Indian Archeological Institute in Washington Connecticut. Participants on this adventure will learn about the significance of the summer solstice in various cultures and how it has been celebrated around the world.

The word solstice comes from the Latin words for sun and to stop because, on this particular day, the sun appears to pause in the sky when it reaches its northernmost point from the equator.  As you stroll along the forest path, you will learn about the many interesting rituals and celebrations that are practiced by Native Americans.  The "medicine wheel," for example, is considered to be a celestial observatory built hundreds of years ago by the Plains Indians to indicate where the sun rose and set on the summer solstice; while the Pueblo Indians created a solar marking site at Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon.  In Connecticut, according to the New England Historical Society, there are 62 ancient stone structures that are oriented to the stars and planets.




The Summer Solstice Walk concludes in a 17th-century authentic replica of the Institute's Algonkian Village.  The perfect conclusion to the walk is to sit by the fire and listen to the stories that have come down to us from the ages as the shadows fall around the surrounding wigwams.  A special strawberry treat will be served.  As one of the first fruits of summer, Native Americans believe that strawberries represent life and good health.


The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Medicinal Monday - Sweet Strawberries

In America, our "official" one day of gratitude is celebrated in November at Thanksgiving. Native Americans, however, have a tradition of routinely giving thanks more than once a year, especially to the plants and animals that provide sustenance and medicine in their lives.  In Connecticut, June is strawberry season and this fruit has a long and interesting history in Native American culture. Strawberries have been used as medicine, in cuisine, and ceremonially.  In Native Culture, they represent life and good health.  To fete the strawberry,  the Institute for American Indian Studies is hosting the Strawberry Moon Festival on June 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a delicious celebration not to be missed!


About Strawberry Plants

Early wild strawberries are believed to be much like today's wild strawberries that are sweeter and smaller than today's cultivated varieties that we see in the stores.



Wild strawberry plants are made up of several short thin vines that creep out from a central underground root. White flowers emerge in the spring and as the temperature gets warmer they turn into green or white berries that eventually ripen into a bright red color in early summer.  Because of their small size, they were not always popular as a cultivated crop, although, many times you can find them in a three sisters garden.  Strawberry plants were easily found in meadows and open woodland and prefer cool, moist climates.

Medicinal and Culinary Uses

Strawberries are a popular food item for many tribes and even play a ceremonial role.  To the Mohawks, the strawberry was the first berry food to appear and the plant was gathered and eaten as a blood purifier.  In California, the Pom hold special Strawberry Festivals and  Dances representing the renewal of life.  To the Iroquois, strawberries are symbols of thanksgiving and blessings, the Cherokees believe the strawberry is associated with love and happiness and they consider it good luck to have strawberries in the house.  To the Navajo tribe, the strawberry is considered one of the sacred life medicines.



The most common medicinal use of strawberries was as a treatment for burns and sores. The leaves were dried and applied to a burn as a healing remedy.  For sores, the leaves were ground up and mixed with a fatty substance (perhaps deer fat) and applied. The roots were chewed to help clean teeth and to help inflamed gums.  Tea made from the leaves was brewed and drank to alleviate stomach issues. This plant was even used in infant care, the leaves would be dried and ground into a powder then applied to the unhealed navel area.
In their cuisine, Native Americans often ate both fresh and dried wild strawberries. They were mixed with cornmeal and baked into a strawberry bread, that can be considered as a forerunner of strawberry shortcake.  Strawberries were also blended with animal fat and used as an energy bar. Excess berries never went to waste, they were harvested, sun-dried and stored for winter.  Strawberries were added to soups, bread and used as flavorings in meat dishes. 




The sweet juicy nature of strawberries made them perfect for beverages like the strawberry moon tea that was made with mashed strawberries mixed with cold water and sassafras tea.

Did you know


Wild berries are very sweet and have a unique aroma

The name strawberry is an English term that refers to the erratic way the plant grew and strayed from the central root.

European folklore holds that if two people share a double berry they are bound to fall in love.

Medieval stonemasons carved strawberries on cathedrals to symbolize perfection.

For additional information http://www.goodfoodworld.com/2012/11/the-wild-strawberry-a-sacred-purifier/


The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Medicinal Monday - Lady Slippers

The Lady Slipper is a wild orchid that is native to North America.  Native Americans had many interesting uses for this delicate pink, white or yellow flower that even inspired a folktale.



Native American Folktale

 According to an Ojibwa Legend, a village was decimated by a dreaded disease that even killed the medicine man.  To deal with this crisis the chief asked his messenger to go to a nearby village to ask for medicine. This trip was very difficult especially in the winter without moccasins.  The messenger fell ill before he was able to go.  The messenger's wife, Koo-Koo Lee decided to go fetch the medicine instead in order to save the life of her husband and those members of her village that had been struck with this illness. 

 On her journey, Koo-Koo- Lee was impervious to the sharp ice and snow.  Upon her return, the men and women of her village found her lying in the snow with swollen feet, and with the medicine in her bundle.  They carried her into the lodge and wrapped her feet in thick warm deer skins. For her devotion to her people, she was named Wah-on-nay. On her death, her foot wrappings became little flowers of yellow, called by some Wah-on-nay moccasin, and by others as the Koo-Koo- Lee moccasin.  Today, we call these flowers Lady Slippers.



About Lady Slippers

Most lady slippers bloom from May to July and are usually found in Connecticut in wet woods, among sphagnum ferns,  as well as in bogs and shady swamps.  The plant only grows from six to fifteen inches high and is usually pink in color.  Occasionally, this plant has a white or yellow flower which is considered rare.  The yellow lady slipper is classified as a species of special concern by the Connecticut Botanical Society.  

It takes many years for this hardy little plant to grow and develop into a mature plant.  Like all orchid species, they depend on symbiosis to grow and thrive. In the case of the Lady Slipper, they extract a fungus found in the soil that passes on nourishment that enables this plant to grow and survive. When it is mature, the fungus extracts nutrients from the roots of the Lady Slipper.  If left undisturbed, Lady Slippers will propagate and live for many years.



Medicinal Uses

The Cherokee made an infusion of the roots of the lady slipper plant for neuralgia pain as well as for spasms and fits.  An infusion of roots was also used to treat colds and the flu. The Iroquois used a decoction taken as a blood medicine for fever.  The Chippewa used the roots of the yellow lady slipper as a poultice to treat inflammation.  The Algonquin used an infusion of the roots of the pink lady slipper to treat stomach aches.



Did you Know...

If you pick a Lady Slipper it will not rejuvenate.  This plant has less than a 5% transplant rate of success.

Some species of Lady Slippers are categorized as endangered in New England.

Regulations regarding picking Lady Slippers vary from state to state but in general, picking these precious flowers is discouraged.


The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.


The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Strawberry Moon Festival June 16

For millennia, Native American tribes tracked the change of seasons by following the lunar full moon cycle and named each full moon for the attributes of the season. June's full moon was called the "Strawberry Moon" because of the red berries that began to ripen in early summer.  Eventually, Colonial Americans adopted Native American names for the full moon and incorporated them into the modern calendar that is used today.




It is difficult for most of us to resist a perfectly ripe strawberry; which is one of the most popular fruits in the world. There are ten varieties of strawberries that differ in flavor, size, and texture and yet all of them have the same heart shape and leafy green cap. To fete the strawberry,  that has a long history in Native Culture, the Institute for American Indian Studies is hosting the Strawberry Moon Festival on June 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a delicious celebration not to be missed!

The Institute has organized games, food, and stories that honor the importance of this fruit to Native American culture.  Strawberries have been used for centuries as medicine, in cuisine, and ceremonially by Native Americans and represent life and good health.  



At the Strawberry Moon Festival, visitors of all ages will enjoy traditional Native American Music, and stories told by a traditional Native American Storyteller that teach the importance of giving thanks to the bounty of the Earth. A highlight of this event will be samplings of complimentary food such as strawberry tea and strawberry bread made from locally grown fruit.  Special activities for children are planned from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.



The cost of this event is $10 for adults, $8 for Seniors, $6 for children and is free of charge for members of the Institute.

A Native American Story About the Strawberry

In the beginning, there was the first man and first woman, they lived together and were very happy. Eventually, they began to quarrel and the woman left the man and started off toward the Sun land (Nundagunyi) in the east.  The man followed her, but she kept on going, never looking back.  The Creator pitied the man and asked him if he was still angry with the woman, he said no and asked the Creator to help him win her back. 




The Creator caused a beautiful patch of huckleberries to spring up on the path in front of the woman, but she did not stop.  Farther on, the Creator put a clump of blackberries on her path, which she did not acknowledge. Other fruits and trees were placed in front of her to no avail.  Then she came upon the first known patch of ripe red strawberries. She stopped and tasted a strawberry, and then another. As she began to pick the strawberries and put them in her basket she thought of her the first man, and looking west, began to miss him.

No longer upset, she packed her basket with strawberries and started for home.   The first man met the first woman on the path, his heart soared when he saw her smiling and heard her singing.  He wanted to tell her how much he missed her.   Smiling she put her hand to his lips and placed a strawberry in his mouth. Silently, the first man gave thanks to the Creator for this wonderful gift of fruit that brought the first woman back to him.  Hand in hand they returned to the village, eating strawberries along the way.

This tale is of Cherokee origin.


The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.


The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Free Admission to IAIS on Open House Day June 9, 2018!

Connecticut Open House Day is an annual event scheduled the second Saturday of June, where cultural organizations and tourism attractions throughout the state open their doors to invite folks to discover – and rediscover  Connecticut's museums.  One of the best ways to celebrate Open House Day is at the Institute of American Indian Studies located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut.  Best of all, on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. visitors will get in free!




If you want to learn about archeology and native cultures past and present, this is the place to visit.  A special highlight of the Open House Day at the Institute will be the traditional flute music played by Allan Madahbee, Ojibway artist, and musician.   In Native American culture, the flute is deeply rooted in Eastern Woodland Indian traditions as well as in the culture of indigenous peoples of the Americas.  The sound of the flute is hauntingly beautiful and unforgettable. The gift shop is also offering an interesting selection of these rare handmade flutes crafted by Madahbee.




The Collections at IAIS are divided into two categories, Ethnographic and Archaeological. Both categories of the collection are used for exhibition, research, and study. 




The Ethnographic Collection contains over 6,000 cultural items and represents indigenous communities throughout the Western Hemisphere. Ethnographic items generally date to the near (Post-European contact) past. The objects were collected, purchased, bartered from or gifted by indigenous owners to others, and often passed down as heirlooms by indigenous and non-indigenous families. These objects represent the diverse history and continued presence of Native American societies, many of whom still dwell on the homelands of their ancestors and maintain their cultural traditions today.




The Archaeological collection features over 300,000 artifacts representing over 1,300 New England Native American archaeological sites. Archaeological items are mostly from below-ground archaeological sites. Some, however, were disturbed from their original location and brought to the surface either by natural causes or human activity. The vast majority of these are nonperishable items such as stone tools and clay pottery fragments. Most of the perishable materials used in the past are rarely found due to the acidic soils and temperate climate of the Northeast. 

The archaeological collections in the care of the IAIS span over 12,000 years of indigenous history, including objects from the oldest known site in Connecticut: the Templeton site (6LF21) in Washington. 

The IAIS holds overall the largest collection of artifacts from Western Connecticut anywhere in the state. This collection spans from the earliest known occupation to the colonial and Federalist periods of Euro-American history and holds enormous historical significance. The majority of the sites where these artifacts were retrieved have been destroyed by urban development, river erosion, sea level rise or other factors. The only remains of the culture and activities from these sites are the items in this collection.





The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Medicinal Monday - Feverfew

It is hard to figure out exactly how  Native Americans determined which plants might have medicinal benefits.  It is widely believed that they used a trial and error method.  Feverfew has been used for centuries by Native Americans for their medicinal and ornamental value.


About Feverfew


Feverfew tansy is native to southeastern Europe and is now common in North America (including Connecticut) and Australia.  American Feverfew is found in glades, upland prairies, rocky open woods, forest openings, ledges, pastures, and roadsides.

Feverfew is a perennial that grows to two or three feet in height and produces lovely clusters of yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom amid feathery leaves.  This plant flowers May - September.  It is a close relative of chamomile and is sometimes confused with this herb. The difference is that medicinal oils are found in the flowers of chamomile while the therapeutic ingredients of feverfew are found in the leaves.

Feverfew is rich in vitamins and minerals especially niacin and thiamin, chromium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and selenium.



Medicinal and Culinary Use


Some Native American tribes pounded the feathery leaves of this plant into a poultice and used it to treat burns.  The ashes of the leaves of feverfew were also used to treat the sores on the back of a horse. 

 Additionally, Native Americans used feverfew to heal wounds, deal with cramps and to achieve a meditative state.  Many healing practices and spiritual ceremonies are earth-based honoring and respectful of Father Sky, Mother Earth, Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon.




Did you Know


The name feverfew is derived from the Latin term febrifugia which means to "drive out fevers."

Dioscorides, an ancient Greek doctor used this plant to speed the birth process.

In the 1700s, American clergyman, Cotton Mather recommended chewing feverfew to ease tooth pain.

In the 1980s a study in Britain demonstrated that feverfew was effective in treating migraine headaches and helped to reduce the number and severity of these attacks.

The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.

The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.