The Garvies Point Museum & Preserve chooses November, National Native American Heritage Month, to honor the indigenous people who first settled Long Island with a traditional Native American Feast day.
"We're not sure when it first started," says museum director Veronica Natale of the museum event, only that it was "sometime in the 1980s." After more than 30 annual celebrations, it's become a tradition in its own right.
ABOUT THE SITE
With dozens of volunteers, lots of activities and demonstrations, and typically 1,500 to 2,000 visitors, the weekend before Thanksgiving is a calendar highlight for the Glen Cove museum that focuses on history, geology and preserving a pristine slice of Long Island. The museum was founded in 1967 when Nassau County purchased land once belonging to Dr. Thomas Garvie. Its rare deposits of clay, dense geological riches and archaeological sites that yielded important artifacts from the earliest Long Island inhabitants made the property the perfect place to establish a museum.
"The [Native American] site on the preserve was from the Woodland times, around the 1600s," Natale says. The exhibits in the museum and at the feast represent that era as well as earlier times. "In the main exhibit hall we have the geology of Long Island since the glaciers, and how Long Island was formed." There's a collection of fossils, gems and minerals. And while history is long, life on Long Island has been around even longer. "The main part of the exhibit hall is Native American culture. We have artifacts and dioramas that take you through time," she explains. They go back to prehistoric days, some 13,000 years.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The museum offers great ways to open minds and spark imaginations, while the feast makes it fun (and filling) to learn. Popcorn and popcorn-squash soup is prepared over open fires, and ancient methods of working with tools are taught by professional and amateur historians. Visitors can try Stone Age drills, or see how far they can advance the carving of a wooden dugout canoe, begun at last year's feast. It's slow going, since all that's used are flames to burn the wood and shells to scrape away the ash and embers, just as was done about 1,000 years ago.
A popular activity is learning to throw a spear while using a tool called an atlatl. "You hold this atlatl, and you put the spear onto it. It makes the spear go much farther. This was for getting food," Natale says, with a laugh. "You didn't want to get too close to a large woolly mammoth."
Among the surprising treasures at the museum are bones, teeth and tusks from mastodons and mammoths which once roamed areas of New York. It's astonishing to see them and realize that their remnants are not just in history books, but embedded in the earth below.
Native American groups left their stamp on Long Island, too, through the names of villages and hamlets, like Nissequogue, Sagaponack, Manhasset, and Setauket. Many of their descendants still live on Long Island?
As we think of turkeys and pies, the staff at the museum hopes visitors will discover a way to connect to the past, learn about the present, and protect the future of Long Island. Says Natale, "It's important for people to learn who came before them, whether it's their own or a different culture . . . People should know what's around, so that it can be preserved from generation to generation."
2018 Native American Feast
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17-18 at Garvies Point Museum & Preserve, 50 Barry Dr., Glen Cove
INFO 516-571-8010, garviespointmuseum.com
ADMISSION $8 ($5 ages 5-12)