New Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center/Seneca-Iroquois National Museum Exhibit: “Women of Influence: Each Block a Story”
Submitted by Joe Stahlman
On July 17th, 2021, at the Heritage Day event, the Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center/Seneca-Iroquois National Museum will unveil a quilt project initiated and sponsored by the Native Roots Artists Guild. The quilt, titled “Women of Influence: Each Block a Story”, has the work of 47 women from six Native nations (Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Tuscarora and Metis) and seven territories. Each artist designed, sewed and beaded their block in honor of an influential Native woman in their lives.
The quilt square were done in the style of regalia leggings, with designs and colors inspired by a collection of flat beadwork at the Peabody Essex Museum created by Dorothy Blacksnake Jimerson and Lena Snow. Two of Dorothy’s grandchildren, Debbie Hoag and Penny Minner, are contributors to the quilt.
The women held weekly work sessions where they beaded and quilted their blocks, discussed their honorees, and assisted each other when needed. One of the project coordinators, Marissa Manitowabi, recalls: “We were laughing and crying as we shared stories about our honorees while we worked, so that intention of celebrating these individuals was truly a part of the whole process.”
This quilt represents the ongoing act of healing and how communities can come together and be uplifted by the strength and love of individual women. It is also the result of several months of work to gather the stories and photos about the honorees. Bradley Jimerson from Seneca Media and Communications, spent considerable time recreating the quilt into a webpage in which visitors can view the artist, see her honoree, and hear her story. People from all over can now navigate through this interactive webpage at senecamuseum.org (under the Exhibits tab, click “Women of Influence: Each Block a Story”). The stories shared on the website add great depth to the physical attraction.
The quilt began in 2017, guided by the words of Norma Jacobs who set the tone for the project as a way to spend time together beading and sharing stories on the resiliency of women in their communities. In September of 2018 the quilt was completed in time for the Seneca Nation Fall Festival where it was awarded “Best in Show”. It went on to travel to the Mohawk Nation Akwesasne Territory, Six Nations of the Grand River territory and was exhibited at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts in January of 2019. In October of 2019, the Iroquois Indian Museum exhibited the quilt along with a kiosk that shared the stories of the participants, which was made possible by a Humanities of New York grant.
When the Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center/Seneca-Iroquois National Museum learned about the quilt, the participants, and their honorees, we wanted to share with our local communities the powerful message created through these acts of love. So, if you didn’t see the quilt during its tour around Turtle Island, please make time for it’s unveiling on Heritage Day (July 17th). The quilt and its story will be on exhibit at the Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center/Seneca-Iroquois National Museum for the remainder of 2021.
Seneca Nation participants include: Alyssa Franklin, Alyssa Schmidt, Anna Mae Printup, Darlene Miller, Debbie Hoag, Holly John, Janine Gates, Joanne Williams, Johnna “Jonie” Crouse, Julie Marie Lay, Lesley Zurek, Lori Seneca, Marissa Manitowabi, Markie John, Mary Jacobs, Penelope Minner, Roberta Jones, Samantha Jacobs, Susanne Sanford, Terri John, Valerie Printup-Nosie, and Wendy Bray. We have a full list of participants on the webpage.