Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tantaquidgeon Museum

Name: Tantaquidgeon Museum
Tribe: Mohegan
Location: 1819 Norwich-New London Turnpike, Uncasville, CT 06382
Type: Museum, Replica Village, Historic Building
Visiting Info: Open April - November, Tues - Friday: 10am - 3pm; Admission is free.
Contact: Website, telephone (860) 848-0594

"It's hard to hate someone who you know a lot about." - motto of Gladys and Harold Tantaquidgeon.

The Tantaquidgeon Museum is the oldest Native-owned and operated museum in the United States. It was founded in 1931 by Gladys, Harold, and John Tantaquidgeon, descendants of the famed chief Uncas of the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.

The Tantaquidgeons were leaders within their tribe, and Gladys in particular was raised from an early age to be a tribal herbalist and culture-keeper. She later became an anthropologist, social worker, author, educator, and Native arts and culture advocate. As her bio on the Mohegan tribal website shows, she was inspiring and influential, both as a woman and a Native American, both within her tribe and the US federal government.

Father and brother Harold built the little stone original museum that was begun in 1930 and completed and opened in 1931. 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. Father was disabled at the time, and he had to use a cane, and he was blind in one eye. But according to what my brother said, I guess he handled every one of the granite fieldstones used in the construction of that building. When it was finally completed members of the community and other Mohegans brought in things to put on display. From the beginning, Tantaquidgeon Museum was to be the place where we keep Mohegan treasures. - Gladys Tantaquidgeon (quoted from the Mohegan Tribe website bio)

Today, the museum houses the tribe's collection of Mohegan art and artifacts as well as Gladys' collection of artifacts from the other tribes she worked with around the country over the course of her career. There is also a small village with Mohegan longhouse and roundhouse replicas outside behind the main museum building. Admission is free.

Visitors may also want to see the Mohegan Congregationalist Church just down Church Lane past the museum. Built in 1831 on Mohegan land and renovated from 1997-2002 by the tribe, the church still functions as an active Congregationalist community as well as a tribal gathering place. Services are held every Sunday morning at 9:30 am.


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