Tag Archives: John Tantaquidgeon

Tantaquidgeon Museum Grand Re-Opening

story & photos
by Jessica Warzeniak

On June 18th, something special happened in Uncasville. The Mohegan Tribe held a ceremony and blessing to celebrate the re-opening and renovation of the Tantaquidgeon Museum – the oldest Native-run museum in the United States. The Museum provides a home for artifacts and objects of cultural significance for the Mohegans and other Native American tribes.

The ceremony began with John Henry Clark, Chairman, Council of Elders, greeting visitors, and Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum, Chairman, Mohegan Tribe, blessing the museum. “It is another great day at Mohegan,” said Bruce. “There are so many families at one place celebrating this moment. All of our hearts are in the same place.”

Chris “Painted Turtle” Harris plays the drums as vistors gather in a clearing next to the museum where a ceremonial fire is built. Visitors and Tribal members add tobacco to the fire and offer prayers for the muuem.

“This is an extraordinary day for the Mohegan Tribe, rechristening the oldest museum run by Natives,” said Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, Mohegan Medicine Woman, “Everyone should tell their own history.”

At the height of the Great Depression, a Mohegan Indian, named John Tantaquidgeon decided to build a dream. Although blind in one eye and on crutches, he and his children, Gladys and Harold, found the Tantaquidgeon Indian Musuem on September 29, 1931.

“Father and brother Harold built the little stone original museum that was begun in 1930 and completed and opened in 1931,” said Dr. Gladys Iola Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan Medicine Woman. “The purpose of this little stone room was to house our collection of various artifacts that had been made and used by our people and were scattered about our living quarters here and there so that not only our own people could enjoy them but others as well.”

Throughout the 20th Century, Gladys and her brother Harold hosted groups from CT and all over the world who came to explore Mohegan history. Visitors came to experience the beauty of Native America. Generations of local school children learned about America’s First Peoples, firsthand. Featuring eastern woodland Indian artifacts, the museum’s mission is to showcase objects from an Indian perspective.

The museum, located at 1819 Norwich-New London Turnpike (Rt. 32), Uncasville, is open Wednesdays through Saturdays through October, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 860.848.0594 or visit www.mohegan.nsn.us.

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