At the Institute for American Indian Studies, we take great pride in our exhibits and continually strive to ensure that they are accurate, informative, and engaging. Our exhibits cover a broad range of topics, with both indoor display galleries, and outdoor experiences.
Drawing upon the most current research available and the talents of experienced educators and designers, the exhibits at IAIS are simply unforgettable. IAIS houses the following permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, as well as temporary exhibits.
Due to the sensitive nature of many of the artifacts in our collection, flash photography is strictly prohibited within the museum building. Visitors are welcome to take photographs, but flash must be turned off while inside the museum building. Thank you for your cooperation!
Quinnetukut: Our Homeland, Our Story
Our core exhibition follows the 10,000 year long story of Connecticut’s Native American Peoples from the distant past to their lives and culture today. Presented in chronological order, Quinnetukut takes visitors from a time at the end of the Ice Age, when humans were first venturing into the area that we now call Connecticut all the way to today.
Replicated Algonkian Village
The Algonkian peoples—composed of over one hundred distinct groups and communities, sharing a common language family and similar lifeways—have traditionally inhabited much of the eastern United States and Canada. The replicated village at IAIS depicts the features common to an Algonkian village of 350 to 1000 years ago, including a Sachem’s House, bark-covered wigwams, and a Three Sisters garden.
We Are Still Here: Communities, Social Change, and Cultural Endurance
Native American Communities and their Cultural Traditions have been a part of the North American landscape for thousands of years. From the far north in Alaska to the southeastern shores of Florida, indigenous tribal Homelands covered the continent prior to European colonialism.
The Homelands contained sophisticated societies with complex technologies and belief systems that enabled them to live successfully in their diverse physical environments. When Europeans appeared on First Nations’ lands bearing trade items of iron, glass and other materials foreign to indigenous cultures, tribal members incorporated the new items into their traditional economies to increase their efficiency and enhance their standard of living.
Many of these ancient Native American communities have continued to this day. These contemporary indigenous societies experienced many changes since their first meeting with Euro-Americans. All cultures are organic entities, and change is a constant within them. For example, Anglo-Americans no longer wear Pilgrim hats, drive Model T Fords, or dance the Charleston.
Modern indigenous tribal communities continue to honor their histories and ancestral leaders and practice their social traditions, while participating in the greater American society as citizens, which they were granted in 1924. Contemporary Native American artists mirror the cultural integrations and transformations occurring within their respective societies. Traditional crafts and artwork often incorporate contemporary themes and images into their time-honored constructs.
This exhibit bridges the past and the present through presentation of artifacts, images, and themes that demonstrate the connections and continuity of early colonial and modern tribal lifestyles across North America.
Nebizun: Water Is Life Temporary Exhibit
Artwork: Water is Life by Francine Poitras Jones. Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe.
Exhibit Opens Saturday, November 19, runs through April 2023
Nebizun is the Abenaki word for medicine and the root word Nebi is the Abenaki word for water. Nebizun: Water is Life is a travelling exhibit that will be visiting IAIS beginning in November. This powerful exhibit brings together artwork by Abenaki artists of the Champlain Valley and Connecticut River Valley regions to illustrate the Abenaki relationship to water, their awareness of water as a fundamental element necessary for all life, and their concern that pollution of water can change our traditional lifeways and the health of all beings.
A gallery talk with Exhibit Curator and founding Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association Vera Longtoe Sheehan (Elnu Abenaki) will be scheduled in the coming months. An educator, artist, and activist who has lectured and exhibited her artwork both nationally and internationally, Vera serves as an Executive Board Member for the Vermont Humanities Council, on the Vermont Arts Council’s IDEA Committee, and is a core member of the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont. She formerly worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Her curatorial work reflects her deep knowledge of Indigenous history and culture in the northeast.
The Children’s Discovery Room is an exhibit designed specifically for kids. An interactive space, the Discovery Room provides a fun and stimulating learning experience, showing visitors what life would have been like for them had they been a Native American living in the Woodlands 600 years ago.
Adelphena Logan Education Room
The Adelphena Logan Education Room is an indoor re-creation of an Algonkian Sachem’s or Chief’s house. This “elongated wigwam,” contains both original and replicated artifacts, as well as a detailed mural depicting everyday life in a Northeastern village before the arrival of Europeans. This exhibit allows visitors to experience the everyday challenges and joys of Native American life.
Adelphena “Del” Logan was a guiding light and spirit who nurtured IAIS from the beginning, through building construction and the early years of operation. Del often taught at IAIS and whenever IAIS needed her expert wisdom and support, she was always present both in person and in spirit. Del passed over on July 31, 1978 and the Sachem’s house education room is dedicated in her memory. Inside are many of the precious objects which were her or her family’s personal possessions she donated to IAIS as well as items she made specifically for IAIS, to be used in teaching visitors about Native American culture and ways of life, carrying on her legacy.
IAIS has several leisurely nature trails winding through our 15 acre property, all leading to the replicated Algonkian village. Each trail features plant and tree identification signs, revealing traditional Native American uses for their natural world.
Healing Plants Garden
For generations, Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands gathered wild plants; leaves; roots; flowers; and fruits, not only for food, but for medicine as well. Many modern pharmaceuticals are based upon the same ingredients found in herbs and plants that have been used by Native Americans for centuries. Our Healing Plants Garden contains many of the plants traditionally gathered in the wild by Native Northeastern peoples and features descriptions of the different uses thereof.