Top Ways To Celebrate Native American History And Culture In Connecticut

November 5, 2012 6:00 AM

One of the realistic dioramas at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

Traveling across Connecticut, you are constantly reminded of the Native American historical roots of the area, which was once home to at least 17 tribes. Names such as Hammononassett Beach, Niantic River, Tunxis State Forest, Housatonic River, Naugatuck and Cos Cob are all examples. The state name itself, “Quinnetukut,” is of Native American origin coming from the Mohegan word meaning “beside the long tidal river.” Even this election season is a reminder, as one of the nationally known election polls used to report candidate races is the Quinnipiac University Poll. The Quinnipiac tribe resided along the “long water land” located between Milford and Madison, Connecticut.

November is Native American Heritage Month and is both a reminder of who lived on the land before Europeans got here and an opportunity to better understand those people and their history. Here are a few ways to celebrate and honor this heritage.

Attend An Event:

November 10 – Honoring of Nations Veterans Powwow (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Discover the traditional artwork, song and dance of Native American artists as they honor the nations and elders. The event will be held at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum (address below).

November 10 – Acorns for Everyone! (12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Andrew Dobos and Deneen Bernier of Three Red Trees School of Natural Living show you how to identify oak trees and make treats using flour processed from acorns. Then you get to sample pancakes and chocolate chip cookies made from acorn flour. This event will be held at the Institute for American Indian Studies (address below).

November 17 – Guided Tour of Doll Exhibit (2 p.m.)
Go on a 30-minute guided tour to the new exhibit, “Neetôpáwees: Dolls as Ambassadors of Native Culture,” at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. This event is limited to 20 participants. Pre-register by November 16 by calling (800) 411-9671.

November 18 – 7th Annual Native American Archaeology Roundtable “Commerce Native American Style: Trade, Gift Exchange & the Spiritual” (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Local archaeologists, Native American leaders and collegiate professors of Native American studies will give an afternoon of presentations and panel discussions about Native Americans’ trade amongst each other and with European settlers. This event will be at the IAIS.

November 23-24 – Celebrating the Harvest Days (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Enjoy this two-day celebration of the good harvest, “wunnekeepunumooôk,” with Native cooking demonstrations, stories of Thanksgivings past, crafts, activities, silent auction, tours and more. The event will be held at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

November 24 – A Time for Storytelling (1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
Native American storyteller Janis “Four Hearts Whispering” Us shares entertaining and heartfelt stories that teach life lessons to young participants. A break for crafts and snacks is included. This event is at the IAIS.

November 28 – Full-Moon Hikes in Pequot Country (7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.)
Explore Pequot Country with Senior Researcher Dr. Jason Mancini and Candyce Testa (Pequot) at the boat launch on River Road in Mystic, Connecticut. Discover the lives of the Native American whalers and gain insight into the Pequot War. This event is limited to 30 participants, ages 10 and older. Pre-register by November 23 by calling (800) 411-9671.

Visit A Museum:

Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS)
38 Curtis Road
Washington, CT 06793
(860) 868-0518

Visit the museum to see seven exhibits including a 10,000-year journey of Connecticut’s Native American peoples, an Algonkian Village, a children’s discovery room, a simulated archaeological excavation site, nature trails and a garden. The museum uses a combination of storytelling, music, archaeology, history and nature to teach visitors, mainly focusing on the Algonkian peoples who make up the northeast’s many native groups.

Related: Top Bizarre Statues Or Public Art In Hartford

Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
110 Pequot Trail
Mashantucket, CT 06338
(800) 411-9671

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is one of the most impressive museums dedicated to Native American history and culture in the country. The $193.4 million “tribally owned-and-operated complex” includes 308,000 square feet of exhibits, dioramas, films, videos, interactive programs, archaeological collections, art and traditional crafts which capture the culture and lives of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and surrounding tribes. One of the most impressive exhibits is the life-size diorama of the Pequot village where visitors can explore and learn about what life was like centuries ago. The 185-foot stone and glass observation tower provides an eagle’s-eye view of the surrounding hills and nearby Foxwoods casino, which no doubt, helped to fund the museum. Annual visitor attendance averages around 250,000.

Connecticut Historical Society
1 Elizabeth St.
Hartford, CT 06105
(860) 236-5621

Established in 1825, CHS has a terrific, one-of-a-kind exhibit entitled ”Making Connecticut” that explores the origins of the state from as far back as the 1630s. According to the exhibit, roughly 68 percent of the population (about 8,410) were Native American during these times. Artifacts include a war club, gathering basket, stone arrows, tools and a canoe made from a tree that you can board.

Related: Top Literary Landmarks In Connecticut

Edward Main is a freelance writer covering all things Connecticut. His work can be found on

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