Iroquois culture is featured

Iroquois culture was honored and celebrated Sunday at the 27th annual Iroqouis Indian Festival wi

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Iroquois culture was honored and celebrated Sunday at the 27th annual Iroqouis Indian Festival with singing, dancing, food, art and other activities.

The event, held at the Iroquois Indian Museum on Caverns Road, drew about 700 visitors.

“We’re honoring the past with our traditional dance and storytelling,” said Erynne Ansel-McCabe, the museum’s executive director. “The popularity has stayed with us because people are eager to learn and teach their kids about Iroquois culture.”

The annual event is the museum’s main fundraiser, Ansel-McCabe said. Admission for adults is $10 and the museum raises about $15,000 every year at the event.

“We believe everything in creation has a spirit and a soul,” said Mike Tarbell, the museum’s education director. “It has an essence, a life, a spark, so this is what we’re honoring.”

The Iroquois Confederacy is a group of American Indians originally consisting of the Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca tributes. Although referred to as Iroquois, the nations refer to themselves as Haudenosaunee, meaning “people of the longhouse.”

The Iroquois lived throughout the northeast, primarily in upstate New York.

Tarbell, a member of the Mohawk tribe, directs the educational programs and events at the museum. He lives in Richmondville and was born on the St. Regis reservation in northern New York. He also teaches American Indian history at SUNY Cobleskill.

The Sky Dancers from the Six Nations reservation in southern Ontario were at the museum Sunday performing various dances that honored parts of nature, such as various animals, trees and foods.

“There’s a thousand songs, a thousand dances,” Tarbell said. “Each dance is a little different than the next.”

One of the dancers, Marvin Skye, has performed at the museum every year since the first event in 1981. He said he has traveled to foreign countries with the dance group and enjoys meeting new people.

Skye is Iroquois and lives on the Six Nations reservation in Ontario.

“I don’t have a worry in the world when I dance,” Skye said. “I’m dancing for my creator. I’m giving thanks for what he’s given me.”

Several outdoor tents dotted the 45-acre museum property with food, clothing, jewelry and art vendors selling mostly handmade pieces.

“You’ve got real handmade products. A lot of them that say something, “ said 55-year-old Mark Los of Jefferson, who has been coming to the event for more than 20 years. “They have a message.”

Los bought a 4-inch piece of a deer or elk antler that was hand carved to look like a bear. He paid $45 for it and said he has many similar items that he either uses as jewelry or to decorate his house. Los said he has enjoyed American Indian culture since he was a boy.

“They’ve always paid more attention to the land and what they do on it,” he said.

The festival runs from Saturday through today and events today include more art, food and clothing sales, dancing at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. as well as storytelling throughout the day.

For information, call the museum at 296-8949.

Categories: Schenectady County

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