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Adirondack Explorer

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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
Onchiota.

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.”

 

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