Schoharie County

Acclaimed musician to star at Iroquois festival

Award-winning Native American musician Darryl Tonemah will headline the annual festival this weekend

Award-winning Native American musician Darryl Tonemah was expected to draw a crowd when he was booked to perform at last year’s annual festival at the Iroquois Indian Museum.

But ongoing natural disasters canceled the show and the festival, leaving the struggling institution with a hole in its budget that forced staff cuts.

Sun is in the forecast for this year’s Annual Iroquois Indian Festival and Museum Director Erynne Ansel-McCabe said hopes are high Tonemah will draw guests from far and wide.

If you go

WHAT: Iroquois Indian Festival featuring Native American food, entertainment, displays and market.

WHERE: Iroquois Indian Museum, 324 Caverns Road, Howes Cave.

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $10 for adults, $5 for children.


A medical doctor, Tonemah won the Best Folk Recording award in the 2007 Native American Music Awards and has become famous for his style of music he calls “Native Americana.”

“We’ve already gotten phone calls from people. There’s an excitement that we haven’t had before,” Ansel-McCabe said.

The annual event held on Labor Day weekend is considered the primary fundraiser for the massive longhouse museum that highlights, among other things, the various contributions Native Americans make to contemporary art.

Much like the museum, this weekend’s festival will showcase modern arts, including music and crafts, while Indians share traditional skills and knowledge passed down over generations.

The Sky Dancers from the Six Nations Reserve in Canada will perform traditional Iroquois social dances, a “smoke dance,” and invite guests to join in on the dance floor.

The age-old skill of flint knapping — chipping flint into arrow points — will be on display along with a variety of artifacts gathered by the museum’s archaeology department.

The museum’s need for help because of its financial struggles, amplified last year when tropical storms Irene and Lee shut down Schoharie County, haven’t gone unheeded.

Ansel-McCabe said staff at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Sharon Springs reached out with an offer to help, and they will be volunteering both Saturday and Sunday to help direct traffic and set up.

No Iroquois event would be complete without storytelling, the primary method by which the Native Americans have passed down their history.

This year, Ansel-McCabe said, Turtle Clan member Perry Ground of the Onondaga Nation will open some eyes during his discussion.

“He’s one of those kinds of guys that wakes up a crowd. He’ll just engage everyone in the storytelling process,” said Ansel-McCabe, who saw Ground perform in Washington, D.C.

The festival also will feature a bird and animal display by wildlife rehabilitator Kelly Martin, an all-Iroquois Native American Market and self-guided tours of the museum’s 45-acre nature park and trails.

The 31st Annual Iroquois Indian Festival, sponsored by the state, will run Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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