Sunday, September 30, 2007

Native American Festival -part II

Another attraction we went to see were the wigwams (wigwam means “house” ).
There were two present- one bark covered( the small picture on right), made by Jeffrey
Kalin for this year's Festival, and
another that was made of fabric( the big picture on the left).
We didn't get the chance to go inside the bark one, but I took some good pictures of the fabric one.
It was quite hot inside, not as I expected.
The floor was made from animal skins, it looked very comfortable.
In the middle there was an animal skull ( see picture below) and some feathers, there was no one to ask about what this represented though.
The three-stick leather chair in front of it had a very interesting shape. On the ceiling there was a
small opening that I assumed was for the smoke to go out.







And speaking of smoke, there was the Smoke dance competition!
Unfortunately my pictures from the competition are not very good, because the dancers were under the arbor ( shaded area ) and the lighting was very poor( as is my camera quality for that matter).
There are different types of native dancing- ceremonial, social, competitive, honor and pow wow dancing. The Smoke dance is a special form of dancing of the Haudenodaunee, very rhythmic, a lot of drumming with water drums. It is said that this was a dance that was used to “remove the smoke” from the long house. It is a very attractive sight! The kids really liked it, even my daughter was rattling her drum-rattle that we got her for the ocasion in rhythm :-).
The competition was for boys, girls, women and men. At the end everyone danced together.

I had the opportunity to watch Mr Perry Ground ( Onondaga) explaining the essence in canoe making. He said a lot of things but one I that surprised me was that the canoe was a community property and if somebody came to a place with one canoe, he was sure allowed to take another one on the way back. Imagine leaving your minivan in the parking lot and when you go back you find a small two door car instead :-).

The Children's Area was one thing we explored for a long, long, LONG time :-). They had all kinds of crafts- small furry stripes on a spoon, sand and stones on a wooden piece, beads, color paper pieces on paper plates etc. They had children's storyteller hour too, a “corn” box ( same as a sandbox, but full of corn ) that was another huge success with the kids :-). Now that was one thing the people who organized the Festival did very well!
Let me tell you some other things about the organization though.
On the way back home I finally had the time to take a look at the program that we bought when we first arrived at the festival's site. Imagine
my surprise when I found a whole page of rules of festival etiquette! I sure would have appreciated this on a poster at the entrance perhaps, because who has the time to read the whole 37 page booklet when they enter the festival, and what happens with the people that don't eventually buy it?
I think this is one thing that the people who organise this event have to think about.
Well I am saying this because I felt really bad afterwards since the rules were really important, e.g not to point at objects with your finger,
because it is considered impolite by many Native people, instead you have to point with your nose or lips, not to pick up a feather if fallen on the ground, because some of them are sacred, how to approach the dancers etc.
I really would have felt more comfortable if I knew this in ad
vance, but with kids, in an unfamiliar place, holding the map in one hand , an enormous bag of snacks , water, diapers etc. in the other , surely I wasn't able to “investigate” what is inside the booklet for an hour or so?!
Other than that it was well organized, they had First Aid team too.

Our next stop was with the Kontiwannehawi (Akwesasne) Women Singers. I didn't know but I read about it in the booklet later, that the songs sometimes don't even have particular words, but rather sounds and they are suitable for different ocasions, as they can also have a healing purpose.
Another thing that amazed me was that the songs like stories
are considered properties of a particular individual, family, tribal nation or group.

Last I had the pleasure to listen to Ms Kay Olan ( Mohawk) , the storyteller, and spending some time with her was a perfect finish of a perfect day!
The story she was telling was about the pregnant wife of the Forbidden tree's keeper, that had a craving for tea from that tree.
Unfortunately I don't know what happened at the end because we had to go.
Later I read in the booklet that among Native American Indian people, words are considered more than just sounds spoken into the air, but they were perceived as they have potential power and influence.
I like the idea of that.
Nowadays people have the ability to forget, that things you say are not “just words” and they can hurt as well as they can heal.
I hope we all would manage to remember that and find a way to be more respectful towards other people no matter their nationality, race, age, marital status, sexual orientation or religion.

Here you can check out the first part of this article.


P.S : For more information you can check the Festival's website.

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