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Longhouse Exhibit

One of the most liked permanent exhibits at the Hancock House is that of the “Long House.” The development of this installation was inspired by Ticonderoga’s “Indian Pageant,” an annual production of scripted dramas depicting Indian Life. It was staged in a Forest Theater, once the location of an early Indian campsite. It was a palisade amphitheater surrounding the stage and setting area.

Indian Pagent Booklet front cover

Indian Pagent Booklet front cover

The “Pageant” initially began in 1931 as a simple gathering of several local individuals sitting around a campfire roasting corn and telling stories about Indian life. As interest grew and scripts were written the producers had locals dress up in Indian costumes and silently sit around the amphitheater performing such activities as shelling and grinding corn, basket, pottery, moccasins, canoes, weapons and tool making while others acted out the drama.

There were six dramas that played in rotation. The first was “Feast of the Green Corn” followed by the “Birth of the Long House”, which tells the story of the founding of the League of the Iroquois (or Five Nations). “Sir William Johnson and the Mohawks” depicts the effects of Sir William’s cultivated friendship with the Iroquois and the decisive part that this played in the struggled between the English and the French. “The Conspiracy of Pontiac” tells the story of Pontiac, a western Indian who visited the Iroquois in his attempt to form an alliance among all Indians and to drive the white man into the sea. “Scenes From the Life of Red Jacket”  reflects the impact of Christianity upon the Iroquois. Finally, “The Last of the Seneca’s”  is the sad tale of the manner in which the land of the Iroquois was taken from them.

Indian Pagent Booklet theater

Indian Pagent Booklet theater

Initially local talent were used to produce each of these plays. In the late 1940s “real” Indians were introduced to the programs to provide authenticity, by demonstrating traditional dance and songs of the Iroquois.

The thirty-year run began as a simple celebration of thanksgiving performed by a close group of friends and evolved to a much more elaborate staged program with a large cast of local citizens and Indians from nearby Indian Reservations that drew at times over 4,000 visitors to the “Pageant.” It ended in 1961.

Our exhibit, in a much smaller scale, represents a portion of a Long House and its contents. Visitors have the ability to enter the “house” and readily see and touch various types of tool implements used for farming, hunting and fishing, fire starters, furs, and dried vegetables – all the items necessary to sustain life.

A must see during your visit to the Hancock House. Located in the Exhibit Room, 2nd floor.

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