Community Spotlight: Ganondagan State Historic Site
10/28/2022 · Newsroom Highlight
November is Native American Heritage month in the United States, a time to recognize and honor the culture, heritage, history, and contributions of Indigenous peoples. To celebrate, we’re reflecting on our partnership with Friends of Ganondagan, a not-for-profit organization created in 1989 as a private educational partner to the Ganondagan State Historic Site, located near our headquarters in Victor, New York.
Ganondagan State Historic Site is the original site of a 17th century Seneca town that existed there more than 350 years ago. Now a National Historic Landmark, it’s the only New York State Historic Site dedicated to Native Americans, in particular the Seneca and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people, and the only Seneca town developed and interpreted in the United States. Spanning 569 acres, Ganondagan provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the culture and history of the Seneca people.
“Wegmans has stepped forward over the years when others really wouldn’t because they didn’t know much about us,” said Friends of Ganondagan Program Director Jeanette Jemison (Mohawk). “They were one of our first corporate members, and they’ve been involved for decades.”
Our partnership with Ganondagan has included donations for on-site events, cooking demonstrations by our chefs at festivals, funds for larger scale projects such as building new facilities on the property, and more.
“When we first met with the Friends of Ganondagan, we recognized the importance of the work they were doing,” said Wegmans Community Relations Manager Linda Lovejoy. “The site is deep in history, and they provide visitors with a unique educational opportunity to learn about Native Americans, both historically and in the present.”
Ganondagan has permanent options for visitors to experience year-round and hosts seasonal events as well. The Seneca Art and Culture Center is an interpretive facility, telling the story of the Seneca and Haudenosaunee contributions to art, culture, and society for more than 2,000 years to the present day. Visitors can browse changing exhibits in the gallery, watch the Iroquois Creation Story Film in the Orientation Theater, visit the gift shop, or attend special events in the auditorium.
Outside the center, illustrated signs on three marked hiking trails teach visitors about the significance of plant life to the Seneca, and about Haudenosaunee customs and beliefs. The Trail of Peace details bits of Seneca history and oral tradition. The Earth is Our Mother Trail identifies plants and explains their uses for the Seneca. The Granary Trail relives a day in July 1687 through journal entries from the Denonville campaign, when a large French army led by the Governor of Canada attacked and destroyed Ganondagan.
Also on the grounds is the Seneca Bark Longhouse, open from May through October. Built in 1998, the Longhouse is fully furnished with material culture reflecting a typical Seneca family from the late 1600s, complete with reproductions of 17th century Seneca objects and colonial-era trade goods.
The Indigenous Music & Arts Festival, held every summer, showcases Haudenosaunee and Indigenous cultures through dance, music, storytelling, authentic traditional art demonstrations, a Native American Arts Market, food, and more. Thousands of people visit Ganondagan each year for the festival, which includes a family discovery tent sponsored by Wegmans.
“The festival is an opportunity for people to learn in a fun way,” said Jemison. “Wegmans has helped to keep this festival going. The discovery tent is an educational area for families. Starting at a young age, kids get a chance to learn about Seneca culture by doing hands on activities.”
Ganondagan doesn’t shut down for the winter season. Upcoming events include the Canandaigua Treaty Commemoration on November 11, the Native American Winter Arts Festival and Hodinöhsö:ni’ Art Show on December 3, and the Native American Winter Games on February 18, 2023. More information about Ganondagan State Historic Site can be found on their website at ganondagan.org.