As part of a multi-year collaboration between MED and the Flying Deer Nature Center of New Lebanon, fourth-grade students learned about Native American history and culture and explored their relationship with the natural world by building a traditional longhouse on the MED campus.
Last school year, our then-fourth graders built the structure’s frame out of saplings. For the second phase of building this year, our current fourth graders began sheathing the building with bark to make the walls and roof. Flying Deer program director Devin Franklin and Etaoqua Mahicanu of the Mahican Nations at New Schodack showed the students how to use wooden togs and cordage to attach the bark sheathing to the frame.
The Mahican are an Eastern Algonquian Native American tribe who were the predominant people of our area prior to the arrival of European settlers. Etaoqua explained that Mahicans call a longhouse of this style, with its rounded ends, a wigwam and that wigwams were traditionally built in a variety of sizes and lengths, depending on their intended use as either living quarters or storage buildings. Etaoqua also shared some of her people’s customs and traditions, not only in a historical context, but as they exist today.
This ongoing program began in 2015 at MED and is sponsored by the Chatham Education Foundation of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.