Dave Fadden’s favorite place: His family’s museum

A photo inside the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota. Photo by Mike Lynch

If you read every card and map and studied each artifact covering nearly every square inch of the Six Nations Indian Museum, it would take you days to complete—at least a day for each of the four rooms (someone did it over two days once, Dave Fadden said). Look up to the ceiling and there’s more: maps, feathers, drums, and artwork.

The challenge for the museum is finding a place to add anything more. “We’re grappling with adding on without losing the sense or essence of the place it is,” Fadden said.
The museum has two thousand visitors from July through Labor Day.

It was built in 1954 with two rooms to house Ray Fadden’s collection of artifacts and his beading, which includes a seventy-five-foot-long belt telling the story of the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy. Two additional rooms were added later, creating what looks like a traditional longhouse, and the museum was passed down to Dave’s father, John Fadden, an art teacher.

“It’s a lifetime collection,” Dave Fadden said.

Dave’s grandfather chose the Adirondacks for the museum because he was born four miles from its current location and was given the land by his father. Before the museum, Ray Faddem started an organization called the Akwesasne Mohawk Counsellors and made the headquarters at a camp near where the museum is today. Three years after opening the museum in 1954, Ray moved to

In the early 2000s, John Fadden retired and passed the museum on to Dave. It is now in its sixty-third year of operation.

In the off-season, Dave works at the Native North American Traveling College teaching and producing publications and children’s books.

“They give me time off to come here and keep this going,” he said.

Earlier in his career, Fadden did graphic design work for the National Museum of the American Indian, but he said “it doesn’t have the spirit this place has.”


About Tracy Ormsbee

Tracy Ormsbee is publisher of the Adirondack Explorer. When she’s not working – and it’s not black fly season – you can find her outdoors hiking, running, paddle boarding or reading a book on an Adirondack chair somewhere.

Reader Interactions


  1. Ronald Blackington says

    Hello, Dave Back in 1991 I had the privilege of doing research on Iroquoian cosmology, to use the academic phrase. Among the places I visited were Akwesasne and your family’s museum. Your father, whose work l knew from his published work, including his art, was at the museum. He even told the story of how the Creator gave the gifts of healing to the Bear clan. I also spoke by phone with your grandfather, whose books I knew and used. Lots of good memories. Since that time I have shared many Iroquois stories with my students. Joseph Bruchac ‘s Skunny Wundy stories were among the favorites. I am so glad your work continues the tradition. On my lap right now is TRADITIONAL TEACHINGS, which was prepared by the North American Indian Traveling College in 1984. Thank you for continuing your family’s work. I am thinking of find other stories and preparing them for publication, aimed at middle school students. Any ideas of where to look? Take care, and say hello and thanks to your father. Ron Blackington

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