The annual Native American Dance & Music Festival was held at Ganondagan last weekend, and the Democrat and Chroniclecovered the story (“Ganondagan Festival helps pass along Iroquois culture,” July 23, 2017). One of the Mohawk dancers at the festival expressed the opinion that anthropologists consider the Iroquois to have disappeared a long time ago.
The truth is quite the opposite. Anthropology is the study of the human being, and anthropologists probably appreciate the contemporary presence of native cultures in our society more than other people do. Their contribution to preserving Iroquois tradition goes back to the 1840s, when Rochesterian Lewis Henry Morgan (considered the father of anthropology) teamed with Tonawanda Seneca Ely Parker to document Iroquois culture, which did seem at that time to be on the wane do to overwhelming westward European American expansion across New York and the rest of the country.
The Parker-Morgan partnership and successive efforts of other anthropologists to the present have actually been a key element in revitalizing Iroquois culture, including the establishment of Ganondagan State Historic Site. This location of a major 17th-century Seneca Iroquois town is the only place in the New York State parks system dedicated entirely to a Native American educational focus. It was made possible through anthropological research in a collaboration of native scholars with historians and archaeologists.
The traditional handmade outfits worn today by Hodinöhsö:niˊ(Iroquois) dancers are patterned after examples documented and meticulously preserved by anthropologists in museum environments. So, too, are the beautiful silver brooches, earrings, and other jewelry…