“Leaving 67 of the friendliest people in the Adirondacks (plus a couple of soreheads)” reads the sign at the northern end of Onchiota. Just who exactly those soreheads are, no one seems quite sure, but to meet the first variety, stop into the one-of-a-kind Six Nations Indian Museum (Buck Pond Campsite Rd., 518/891-2299, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun. July–Sept., adults $4, children $2).
From the outside, the museum looks much like an ordinary house. But move inside and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a kaleidoscopic array of pictographs, paintings, basketwork, beadwork, quillwork, pottery, canoes, masks, drums, and lacrosse sticks—all very, very neatly arranged to cover virtually every square inch of wall and peaked wooden ceiling.
The museum is the creation of one man, Ray Fadden, a Mohawk who drew most of the elaborate pictographs himself. The works tell traditional Iroquois tales.
Fadden, who spent much of his life as a schoolteacher, began fighting for the preservation of Iroquois culture as early as the 1940s. Back then hardly anyone listened, but Fadden never faltered and eventually was instrumental in the founding of numerous Iroquois heritage programs. Many of his former students are now major leaders in the Mohawk Nation.
The museum is now run by Fadden’s son and daughter-in-law. Visitors are warmly greeted at the door and conducted on personalized tours. To reach Onchiota from Paul Smiths, take Route 86 east to County Roads 31 or 30 north (not to be confused with state Route 30, which leads to Malone). The museum is in the hamlet’s center and is easy to find.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition