Darlene Kascak

OCCUPATION: Education Coordinator at the Institute for American Indian Studies Museum


We visited the Institute for Indian American Studies Museum & Research Center in Washington for a fascinating tour and discussion with Darlene Kascak about her work as an educator and the 10,000-year history of American Indian Tribes.

Tell us about your work here at the museum.

I am the Education and Visitor Services Coordinator. We conduct improvisational tours through the museum exhibits, which involve one-on-one conversation for a customized experience. As a descendant of the Schaghticoke Tribe, my passion is story telling and sharing the rich history of the American Indian Peoples. Our realistic exhibits tell the 10,000 year long story of Connecticut’s Native American Peoples from the distant past to their lives and culture today. We are delighted to welcome and inspire visitors from all over the world.

I especially love sparking the imagination of young people as they discover how Native Americans lived and evolved over the centuries. Our storytelling and educational programs help young people to become more open and empathetic to different cultures.

Tell us something we may not know about the Museum.

Our collection includes over 6,000 ethnographic items from post-European contact and over 300,000 archaeological artifacts, representing hundreds of Native American societies throughout the western Hemisphere. These artifacts range in age from over 12,000 years to the 20th century.

What makes Washington a special place to you?

Washington is a very strong and caring community. In fact, the museum was founded by Edmund “Ned” Swigart in 1975. He was an instructor at the Gunnery School and archaeology enthusiast who was passionate about preserving and sharing the heritage and culture of the northeastern American Indians. He organized volunteer digs, which uncovered many important artifacts right here in Washington and became the foundation of the museum’s collections.

The natural environment is so special in Washington. Being surrounded by nature provides so many opportunities to stop, listen and learn from nature. The peace and serenity is all around, from hiking trails in the preserves to observing the flora and fauna around town. People here are quite in tune with nature and organizations such as Steep Rock Association and the Washington Environmental Council provide leadership for conserving our natural surroundings.


“I love being able to share the community life and spirituality of Native American tribes.”


  • Discovering the trails around our museum
  • Hiking in the preserves and state parks
  • Enjoying the scenic roads that crisscross the town


  • The replicated 16th century Algonkian village at the end of the museum’s trails.
  • Our museum’s replica of an Algonkian Sachem’s wigwam or Chief’s house, filled with original and replicated artifacts


  • Full moon hikes and wild edibles hikes on the museum’s trails
  • The Shepaug River, central to our area’s native American tribes


  • Holiday in the Depot
  • Our Green Corn Festival in August
  • Our Maple Sugaring Festival in March

To learn more, visit IAIS Museum.