Native American Collection

Native American Gallery at Fruitlands Museum

Our Native American collection includes over 1000 objects divided between New England, the Plains, Southwest, and Northwest Coast culture areas. Standing outside the Native American Museum, look out over the Nashua River valley and imagine what life was like here thousands of years ago.  We collaborate with Native Americans from all across the country to interpret the Native American past and present.

The Story... 

 For centuries, Native Americans inhabited the Nashaway Valley, hunting and gathering in its woods and fishing in the river.  Across the valley on Mt. Wachusett, Algonquin Chief King Philip summoned other Algonquin chiefs to form a confederation against the encroaching English colonists. When you visit, you will see King Phillip's War Club and learn more about King Phillip's War which took place in southern New England in 1676.

The Native American Gallery contains two exhibits inside the building, and a longhouse, dugout canoe and three sisters garden outside the building.

One Thousand Generations

This exhibit tells the history of Native Americans in southern New England. Developed with generous support of the Wampanoag and Nipmuck communities of Massachusetts. The display of the ancient past tries to blend the view an archaeologist has of the past 10,000 years with the way some Native people think about the past. Other exhibit sections describe the effects of colonization on Natives in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries: epidemics killed thousands, broken treaties led them to distrust the settlers, and forced enculturation like John Eliot’s ‘praying towns’ tore them away from their traditional beliefs and homelands.

Objects and Meaning:  Multiple Perspectives on Native American Art and Culture

Do objects hold meaning, or does the meaning only lie in the interpretation of the observer?

This exhibit was designed as a collaborative interpretive effort to present Native American culture for several points of view: the Native perspective, the art dealer and the anthropologist.  Filled with ethnographic materials from all across North America, the exhibit is organized into three regional cultural areas:  Plains, Southwest, and Northwest Coast.

Visit and Discover... 


The Longhouse

- Visit our Native American longhouse outside the Native American Gallery.  The longhouse is used to teach children and families about the way Natives lived in harmony with nature and the changing seasons.

For thousands of years, Native people in this area would have lived in houses made with tree bark, saplings and other plants. We made this longhouse using traditional tools to gather locally available building materials.

Ask about having your next group trip or birthday party in the Longhouse!

-  Test your skills as a hunter by learning to throw at traditional atl'atl.

-  Learn about the rich spiritual culture of Native people, and how their lives were fundamentally interwoven with nature, especially birds and animals.

- See exquisite regalia and learn about the symbolic, ritualistic and artistic importance of these Native American garments.

More Resources... 


As an experiment, we invited visitors to help us make a dugout canoe - using stone tools and fire! This hands-on exhibit takes you step by step through the process. Watch the video segment below to learn all about this Fruitlands Museum experimental archaeology project.

Read an article on the how we created the Dugout Canoe.


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