Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Before Hudson

Before Hudson: 8,000 Years of Native American History and Culture, a conference and exhibit from Historic Huguenot Street, will shine a light on the people who were here to greet explorer Henry Hudson and the Europeans that followed him to settle the region. The exhibit is based on recent archaeological finds at Historic Huguenot Street that have helped broaden the understanding of Native American presence on the site.  Many of these discoveries were made by the Archaeological Field School conducted during summers at Historic Huguenot Street since 1998.     

The exhibit opens on Friday, April 24 at 6 p.m. in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center on Huguenot Street in New Paltz. The opening is free and open to the public. The exhibit will be available for viewing through the end of the year. Daily schedules and other information can be found by calling 845-255-1660 or visiting www.huguenotstreet.org.
The exhibit will be accompanied by a conference of the same name on Friday, May 1 and Saturday, May 2 that will bring together leading experts in the history and culture of the Lenni Lenape, including Dr. Robert Grumet, an acknowledged expert who is currently with the McNeill Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
Here is some background on the exhibit from Historic Huguenot Street:

The native inhabitants of this area have been known by many names. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, small groups of Native Americans occupied the area around what is now New Paltz. The Waoranecks and Warranawankongs are the bands most associated with Ulster County. The Dutch came to call these people collectively the Esopus.  They were members of the Delaware Nation that encompassed most of present-day Delaware, New Jersey, southeastern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, and a small part of southwestern Connecticut. The Delaware Indians are also referred to as the Lenape or Lenni Lenape.  Another term, Munsee, refers to the language used in the northern areas occupied by the Delaware Nation.
Susan Stessin-Cohn, Archives Specialist at Historic Huguenot Street, is the driving force behind Before Hudson.  This is not the first time that Stessin-Cohn has led the organization into a new area of exploration and discovery.  She is also the curator of the popular Missing Chapter online exhibit that explores the lives and history of African-Americans in the Mid Hudson Valley.  For Stessin-Cohen, both projects are part of a mission to better understand the French-speaking Huguenots who founded New Paltz in the context of the other peoples who were part of their lives.

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