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Lifestyles over 50

Museum of Indian Culture—Delaware on the Little Lehigh

Oct 10, 2023 03:39PM ● By Alan Allegra
Do you know what Wolf, Turkey, and Turtle have in common? Did you know that the Lenape (also known as Delaware) were the First Peoples who lived in the Lehigh Valley over 13,000 years ago? Are you aware that some Native Americans helped win World War II without firing a shot? Have you met Molly of Denali? If you answer “No” to any of these questions, then you probably haven’t visited the Museum of Indian Culture in Allentown, PA.

Do you have local places on your list that you have heard of, of which you’ve said, “I’ve gotta go there sometime”? The Museum of Indian Culture was one of those places for me. Our “Rediscover the Lehigh Valley” initiative was my cue to make the trip.

You have probably seen ads for the Roasting Ears of Corn festival at the museum every summer. This is your chance to see Native American culture “in action.” It brings together members of various tribes with their unique music and dancing, clothing, arts and crafts, artifacts, stories, food, joy, and more.

The museum proper houses a wide variety of items, including stone tool collections, ceramics, carvings, photographs, weapons, beadwork, and basketry from Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere. Their collections range from Southwestern Hupa baskets to Aztec ceremonial clothing from Mexico to stone tools from a Lenape-Delaware rock shelter site in Pennsylvania. It also houses, so to speak, enthusiastic, knowledgeable volunteers who can answer questions and fill in any blanks in your knowledge of local Indian life.

The Clair A. Carbonell Research Library is over 3,000 books strong. It is the largest library collection in Pennsylvania solely dedicated to Native American studies. The collection includes both contemporary and historical non-fiction books, pamphlets, and photography about various tribes throughout the Western Hemisphere. There is information on subjects including food, plants and herbs, archaeology, regional American history, treaties, arts and crafts, and language, as well as contemporary Native American fiction, folklore, and children’s books.

Outside the museum building winds the Lenape Trail at the Little Lehigh Parkway. By the way, “Lehigh” is derived from the German “Lecha,” which comes from the Native American term “Uchauwekink,” meaning, “where there are forks.” They probably did not mean silverware. It offers a quiet walk along Little Lehigh Creek, where you can join birds, deer and other wildlife, bikers, hikers, and fishers enjoying nature. It is also where you will meet Molly of Denali, the animated Alaska Native girl of PBS fame. Using signs along the trail combined with the modern technology of QR codes, Molly provides an educational, fun interactive experience of Native American life.

Coming from a small town whose motto once was, “Once There Was Indians All Over This Place,” with street names including “Ramapo,” “Apache,” “Lenni Lenape,” “Powhatan,” “Minsi,” “Arapaho,” and others, I learned to appreciate the reality and contributions of Native Americans by spending a few hours at the Museum of Indian Culture. I also found peace in the sounds of blue jays screaming for rain, mockingbirds mocking birds, bluebirds calling for happiness, the squeaky wheel of a bicycle, and the friendly nod of fellow walkers.

2825 Fish Hatchery Rd., Allentown, PA 18103 | [email protected] | 610-797-2121
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