The Cayuga Museum holds an extensive collection of Native American artifacts. In the past, these objects have not always been displayed or interpreted in a respectful way. Some objects should not have even been on public display. In 2012, the museum returned 21 objects of spiritual significance to the Onondaga Nation. These included 19 masks and 2 wampum belts. To show their appreciation, Tony Gonyea, an Onondaga faithkeeper, made a replica wampum belt for the museum to display.
A Native American exhibit has been the most requested exhibit from our visitors. To ensure that the proper care and cultural context are utilized in the creation of an exhibit focusing on local Native American history, the Cayuga Museum plans to invite representatives from Ganondagan State Historic Site and the Iroquois Indian Museum to work with us and our collections directly and advise us on how we can best display objects to ensure they represent a broad, respectful, and dignified look at the history of local native people. It is our hope that, by going through this cultural advisory training, our staff will be best prepared to create an exhibit that successfully engages audiences with a fully fleshed out concept of local native histories and culture, not the repeated narratives borne from the white colonialism that has historically driven museum interpretation of native collections.