Founding of Indian Village

Cornell's Role in Founding the "Indian Village" at the New York State Fair


Archival Essay Written by late Dr. Earl Bates, Doctor of Obstetrics, Ethnologist, Archeologist, Horticulturalist, and the Director of the Cornell Indian Extension Service at the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University (1920-1960):

"Under the Act of 1830, the President (to protect surrounded Indians in the Western plains was from White molesters) was given the right to declare any area in the several states, ‘executive order reservations.’ Franklin Roosevelt, who had been made a blood brother and dedicated the large ceremonial pipe, while Governor have the next Fall, while visiting the Fair as President, a handful of Indian Village earth to Chief Andrew Gibson, designated as custodian for the Six Nations, since the Indian Village was in this territory as head of the Onondaga Nation and thus passed what Judge John R.T. Reeves, head of the Legal Division, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs designated as an ‘EASEMENT TITLE’ to the Six Nation’s Agricultural Society to be theirs, as long as they conduct an Indian Fair on the land. Three years later, the Six Nations have permission to erect the new 4H Building on that portion of the Village used as their LaCrosse Field. This game, a feature for three Fairs, was felt too dangerous for spectators without a costly fence.  ****The Six Nation’s Agricultural Society now in 1958 own the area known as the Indian Village from the Iron fence, to the 4HBuilding, and from the front to the Trooper’s barracks; with buildings and equipment furnished by State, Federal, and their own funds, to a value of $42,000, according to budget estimate 1954.

When the Legislature passed the empowering $10,000 to set up Indian Extension work, the various Indian Councils set up their own committees to create the Reservation programs. Since these Committees of Councilors came to Cornell for Farms and Home Week, and since similar White Reservation groupings like the Thomas Indian School councilors were part of the board for the State Indian Orphanage, the word, “Board” seems to have been used by the Indians to designate those Cornell Councilors who selected the “short course” students, arranged demonstrations, etc. without any legalistic action except as designated by their Councils, these became known as the CORNELL INDIAN BOARDS. It was this group that created the Indian Village at the State Fair grounds and they became “Department M” with their own Superintendent and control.

During the Depression, under Franklin Roosevelt, an Indian W.O.A. was set up and Indian Workers of W.P.A. and C.C.C. at Onondaga Reservation lacked projects, so an enlarged mound and village came into existence. To provide a main building and using the clause, ‘to promote farming, homemaking and useful trades’ under the Federal (Canandaigua) Treaty, with the help of James W. Wadsworth and others, Doctor Bates obtained an allotment of $28,500 Federal funds for the Village expansion. Lumber and cement were purchased, buy things came to a sudden halt when someone in the Budget Office at Washington held up the funds on the grounds that Federal funds could not be spent on land owned by the States.

Conferences were held and with the advice of the University attorneys, the Six Nation’s Agricultural Society, modeled on our County Agricultural Society (sponsors of our County Fairs) came into existence to own and operate the Indian Village."


Erl Bates papers, #21-24-790. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.