Auburn Museums EventAuburn, NY (April 12, 2023) – Join the Cayuga Museum of History and Art and the Schweinfurth Art Center May 5 and 6, 2023, for a weekend of activities surrounding Haudenosaunee history, including a demonstration of the Smoke Dance and a free workshop examining the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, a searchable database of the school’s documents, history, and resources.

The weekend begins with a demonstration of the Haudenosaunee Smoke Dance by Chris Thomas (Onondaga, Beaver Clan) and his Smoke Dancers during First Friday festivities from 5 to 7:30 on May 5. The dance will be performed on the lawn behind the Cayuga Museum, weather permitting, or in the Carriage House Theater.

Highlighted by lightening footwork that seems to float on air, the Smoke Dance is a traditional social dance of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, a confederated alliance of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations. Thomas is one of this generation’s most celebrated smoke dancers.

Saturday’s workshop, to be held 2 to 4 p.m. in the Carriage House Theater behind the Cayuga Museum, will address the forced assimilation of more than 10,000 Native American children at the industrial boarding school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, that became the model for over 500 Indian boarding schools across the U.S. and Canada

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS) is a major site of memory for Native American Nations across the country. Carlisle founder Capt. Henry Richard Pratt convinced Congress that schools like his should be established to assimilate and “civilize” Indian children. The impact and legacy of Carlisle and the Indian boarding school movement is an important part of American history that warrants continued exploration, interrogation, and dissemination.

This presentation will introduce the history of the CIIS through the stories of three children enrolled at Carlisle who were featured in the Lost Ones: Long Journey Home documentary. An interactive slide show will be tailored to Haudenosaunee nations and communities in the region, with an introduction to the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center (

This website provides Native communities and scholars with a comprehensive searchable database of Carlisle Indian School resources, by bringing together the school records housed at the U.S. National Archives as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs papers, with a variety of resources that are physically preserved in various locations around the country. Together these materials tell the story of the school and students who were sent there. The resource center represents an effort to aid the teaching and research process about the Carlisle Indian School and Indian boarding schools and American education in general.

This program is the last in a series of grant-funded workshops intended to guide descendants of CIIS students, Native communities, and scholars in the use of these digital resources to both aid in teaching and researching about CIIS, and to increase knowledge and understanding of the school and its complex legacy. The program also tells the stories of the many thousands of Native and Indigenous students sent to Carlisle. Individualized hands-on instruction will be available at the close of the presentation. In addition, artwork related to CIIS will be displayed.

The Carriage House Theater is located at 203 Genesee Street behind the Cayuga Museum and Schweinfurth Art Center. Parking is available in the lots adjacent to the Theater on the grounds of both museums. Both the dance demonstration and workshop are free and open to the public.

Support for this program is provided by Dickinson College, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts. The Carlisle Indian Industrial School Workshop in Auburn is jointly hosted by the Cayuga Museum of History and Art and Schweinfurth Art Center.

Note to editors

The image shown above and a document with cutline information as well as an image and video of Chris Thomas dancing can be downloaded from the following Dropbox folder:  

About the Schweinfurth

The Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center is a multi-arts center that opened in 1981 thanks to a bequest from Auburn-born architect Julius Schweinfurth. The art center's programs include more than a dozen exhibitions each year and educational programs for children and adults, which feature local, national, and international artists. For more information, link to

About the Cayuga Museum

The Cayuga Museum of History & Art engages the community to appreciate local history, promotes the arts, and educates individuals about the invention of sound on film through a campus of three historic buildings: the 1836 Greek Revival Willard-Case Mansion, the Case Research Laboratory, and the Carriage House Theater, a multi-use performance venue. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion features many original details, including a stained glass window designed by the Tiffany Glass Co. For more information, link to



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