MOHAWK - Discovering the Valley of the Crystals Copyright 2002
Chapter 18 - Recreation
Sightseeing / Auto Tours
Not all discovery trips are made on foot or in a canoe. Many are made by driving the highways and byways of the Mohawk Valley. In the KUYAHOORA book I provided road tours of West Canada Valley, noting interesting places along the way. I plan to do the same in the Mohawk Valley book. To begin the process of gathering information for the final version of the book, I've created this section of the Book-In-Progress.
Worth A Visit will highlight places to visit in the Mohawk Valley and like the rest of this Book-In-Progress, order and organization will sometimes seem haphazard. That's because some of my discovery trips are not made in geographical order. They are made because they tie in with on-going research or simply because going there seemed like a good idea at the time.
Usually my wife, Gert accompanies me on these trips. She much prefers a comfortable ride in an air-conditioned car to the heat and bugs of a hike or canoeing trip. I suspect some of you feel the same. Indeed, sometimes I feel the same.
Noteworthy Indian Museum Van Hornseville Fish Hatchery Schenectady Stockade District Auriesville Shrine Rome Fish Hatchery Peebles Island Johnson Hall & Johnstown Fort Johnson Schoharie The Noses Cohoes Falls Little Falls / Moss Island
Discovery: Noteworthy Indian Museum
July 11, 2000 Rain showers
Bryant Miller told me about the Noteworthy Indian Museum when I interviewed him at his home in Fort Hunter a couple of years ago. At the time Bryant was 81 years old and still an avid student of the history of the Mohawk Indians. When I asked him how I could learn the location of the many Mohawk village sites, he suggested the Indian Museum in Amsterdam. I recently visited the museum and was very impressed.
Gert and I arrived at the museum when it opened at 11 a.m. and were met at the door by Ed Bancroft. Ed is a local schoolteacher and "card carrying Archaeologist" who volunteers to greet visitors and conduct tours once a week. Ed provided a brief introduction to the museum, told us to look around and that he would be available to answer questions.
This Mohawk Hunter and Map of Village Sites in the Central Mohawk Valley are just a couple of the many displays in the Noteworthy Indian Museum.
Although we didn't stay more than an hour, it was enough time to appreciate that this museum is a treasure of information for anyone interested in the history of the earliest inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley and the Mohawk Indian Nation. I was especially impressed with the life size diorama of a Mohawk Hunter and with the map of the location of the many Indian village sites in the central area of the Mohawk Valley. I was elated to learn that this map was based on information gathered by Dean Snow. I've read a number of Dean's books and correspond with him often regarding the early history of the Mohawk Valley.
I plan to return to the museum in the near future to continue my research on the Mohawk Indians and to gather more information about the fascinating history of the museum itself. If you have the opportunity visit the museum this summer, please do so because it's closed the rest of the year.
The Noteworthy Indian Museum is located right in Amsterdam just east of Route 30 on Route 67, on the corner of Prospect and Church Streets. You will most likely see the stone building (with sign) that houses the museum before you see the street signs. Route 5 and 5S intersect Route 30, and Amsterdam's Exit 27 of the NYS Thruway is only a mile from the museum. Except for the slightly confusing intersections in Amsterdam it's easy to find.
For more information about the museum and a map to its location, take a look at the museum's website at http://www.greatturtle.net/index.html
Follow the path of this discovery trip by clicking on Mohawk Valley Maps: by Maptech.
Type Amsterdam, select New York, press GO! Select Amsterdam.
Discovery: Auriesville Shrine -
In the 1630s the People of the Place of the Crystals were in turmoil. After two decades of acquiring wealth and power through trading alliances with the Dutch at Fort Orange (Albany), they were ravaged by an unbelievably deadly enemy. An enemy brought to their valley by the children of Dutch settlers. Smallpox!
This disease wreaked havoc on the Mohawk Nation with a series of epidemics that killed 60 percent of their population. Disease-ravaged villages were abandoned, families torn apart, new villages built and new families created from surviving adults and children. The once populous nation of over 7,000 living in four large villages was reduced to less than 3,000 living in three smaller villages.
Despite the loss of hundreds of warriors, the Mohawks continued to guard the eastern door of the Iroquois Federation, and attack their Mohican neighbors to the East and the Algonquins and French in the St. Lawrence Valley. Their fierceness in battle and cruelty to captors was legendary.
During one of their forays into the St. Lawrence Valley in the 1640s, a band of Mohawks captured Jesuit priest Isaac Joques and Jesuit brother, Renè Goupil, and brought them to the village of Ossernenon in the Mohawk Valley. They were subjected to tortures and mutilations that included having their fingernails pulled out and fingers bitten off. Despite such treatment these Jesuits continued to administer the word of God to the Mohawk people.
This painting at the Museum at Auriesville Shrine depicts Mohawk warriors torturing Jesuit Priest Isaac Joques by pulling out his fingernails and cutting off his fingers with their teeth.
On Sept 29, 1642 Rene Goupil was tomahawked to death. With the help of the Dutch at Fort Orange, Issac Joques escaped and returned to France. His devotion to converting the Mohawks was so great that he returned to Ossernenon a few years later accompanied by Jesuit lay missioner, John LaLande. Joques and LaLande were blamed for a recent epidemic and killed on October 18 and 19 respectively.
In recognition of their supreme sacrifice, the National Shrine of the North American Martyrs was initiated in 1885. A wooden cross and a tiny chapel were erected on 10 acres of land that was thought to be the sight of the Mohawk Village where Joques, Goupil and LaLande were killed. Recent archaeological evidence indicates that the 1640s village of Ossernenon was actually in another location in this general area.
In addition to the Martyrs, the life of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks, is also celebrated at the Shrine. Kateri was born in 1656 in the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, the daughter of a Christian Algonquin mother and a non-Christian Mohawk Chief. Her parents died during a smallpox epidemic when she was four years old.
Kateri and relatives who survived the epidemic moved to the village of Caughnawaga (now Fonda) on the north side of the river where, in 1667, she was introduced to Catholicism. In 1676, at age 20, she was baptized and devoted the remainder of her very short life to teaching prayers to children and helping the sick and aged. She died on April 17th, 1680 at 24 years of age. On January 3, 1943, she was declared Venerable by Pope Pius XII, and Beautified by Pope John Paul II on June 30, 1980. It is expected that Kateri Tekakwitha will be declared a Saint in the very near future.
Today the Auriesville Shrine consists of some 600 acres of land, buildings and facilities located on a hilltop overlooking the Mohawk Valley.
July 23, 2001, Hot, Humid, Sunny.
Gert and I arrived at the Auriesville Shrine late Monday morning after a pleasant drive down Route 5S through the villages of Fort Plain, Canajoharie and Fultonville. We stopped at the large parking lot off Noeltner Road to take some photographs of the entrance to the Shrine. It was already hot and muggy, so we drove onto the grounds and parked in a shaded spot not far from the Kateri Center.
Crosses, trees and flowers abound at Auriesville Shrine.
Even on this hot and humid day it was comfortable walking along flower-lined paths under stately hardwoods and evergreens. For some two hours we followed shaded walkways to discover, among many other points of interest, Kateri Center, an Open Air Chapel, a Museum, the Stations of the Cross and the Coliseum.
The Coliseum is a huge round building that can seat thousands of people, so it seemed almost empty when we walked in during the conclusion of a late morning mass. In the center are four altars facing outward. Only one altar was being used at the time, but it was easy to imagine all four altars serving thousands of people celebrating a special religious holiday or pilgrimage.
We left that afternoon with a new appreciation for Auriesville Shrine and its unique role in the history of the Mohawk Valley.
Auriesville Shrine is located 3.5 miles east of Fultonville, and 5 miles west of Amsterdam on Route 5S.
For more information see:
Follow the path of this discovery trip by clicking on Mohawk Valley Maps: by Maptech.
Type Auriesville Shrine, select New York, press GO!
Return to Mohawk Valley Book-In-Progress Index