- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FRISCO, N.C. (AP) - Ronnie Francisco pointed to the ground just before entering the outdoor village area of the Frisco Native American Museum.

There she once found a snapping turtle laying its eggs - a great sign. In the creation story among some tribes, the Earth rests on the back of a turtle.

“Right here is where you cross into the past,” said Francisco, assistant director of the nonprofit museum. “Native life is alive here.”

The museum sits along North Carolina 12 about five miles south of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. For 30 years, it’s drawn large crowds on rainy summer days to see its collection of arrowheads, pottery, war clubs, mounted animal heads and military hats worn by Native Americans.

Stone tools are on display within a tall, narrow Timex Watch case. Chief Frisco, a dark-skinned manikin of no particular tribe, models a mix of garb including a felt hat with feathers and clothing made from animal skins.

“This place is awesome,” said visitor Jeff Babish Sr. of Pennsylvania. “Totally awesome.”

Babish said he is of the Tuscarora tribe.

Many items have historic value, such as the ancient dugout canoe in the creek that runs under the building. The land here is Native American ancestral ground, Francisco said.

Bushes obscure much of the fading, yellow siding out front. Posts protruding from the roofline each boast deer antlers bleached white by the sun and garnished with a tree fungus. A prickly holly grows on one side of the front door and a cactus grows on the other, almost daring visitors to slip by without a scratch.

The owners, Carl and Joyce Bornfriend, bought the century-old building 30 years ago and formed the nonprofit a year later. The couple has added on to it at least four times. While the front looks small, rooms extend back and sideways.

“We tell people all the time, it’s bigger than it looks,” said Joyce Bornfriend. “You’ll be astonished at what you find.”

The museum held powwows for many years where Native Americans gathered for dancing and interaction. Francisco, of the Mohawk tribe, felt the presence of ancestors when she attended a Frisco powwow years ago, prompting her to apply for the assistant director job.

“Ancestors called me here,” she said. “I am so lucky to be here.”

The Bornfriends, Francisco and gift shop manager and researcher Amber Roth have plans for an event called Village Days to begin next spring. Thanks to a grant from the Outer Banks Foundation, a volunteer is building an authentic longhouse - the typical Native American home. It sits near where the snapping turtle laid her eggs. Village Days would attract Native American dancers and artists much like the powwow did.

“We will show what life was like before the English contact,” Joyce Bornfriend said. “Our goal is to step back in time.”

Eighty-four-year-old Carl Bornfriend wheeled his chair into the pottery collection room and began recounting memories. He has gathered Native American artifacts since boyhood.

Once, he searched a wet, muddy field in a suit and new shoes. The retired school teacher had just exited a job interview when a local man told him about a great place to find Native American relics. He would have to go right away to take advantage of a recent rain storm that had uncovered treasures. So, he did.

Bornfriend will not name a favorite among the pieces. Case after case is filled with a mixture of ancient, sort of old, authentic, not so real and some that were about to be thrown away before Bornfriend bought or traded for them.

“I have very few highlights because to me, everything old that I see, and I think a human made that - that’s magic,” he said.

Bornfriend is not Native American, but he has been adopted into the Lenape tribe of Delaware. He has always loved the Native American people and customs, said Joyce Bornfriend.

“Carl never thought he owned any of this,” she said. “He thought, that’s beautiful and it ought to be saved. Part of what people feel here is the love it was created with.”

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com


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