For 33 years now, the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave has been educating people about the native Americans who occupied this area long before the Europeans showed up.
The tradition continues this weekend with the 33rd annual Iroquois Indian Festival, but this year’s event will include a contribution from the Creek nation, a tribe associated more with the American South .
“Coming all the way from Texas is William Harjo, who is Creek,” said museum director Maria Vann. “Beginning this year we’re going to have a special guest each year from another native American nation, and he’s our first one. We’re looking to get more people involved and have more representation from other nations in the years to come .”
Harjo, who resides in Livingston, Texas, is an accomplished flute player who also makes the instruments. He is one of many native American musicians who will perform at the festival, which in the past has limited its celebration to various forms of Iroquois creativity and self-expression.
Iroquois Indian Festival
WHERE: Iroquois Indian Museum, 324 Caverns Road, Howes Cave
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
HOW MUCH: $10 for adults, $5 for children five and over
MORE INFO: 296-8949, www.iroquoismuseum.org
Those traditions, however, from the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Tuscarora nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy, will also be on display this weekend, including the Sky Dancers from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario.
“They are coming back, and what’s exciting about that this year is that there are going to be four generations of the Sky Dancers present,” said Vann, who added that the group will be performing traditional Iroquois social dances in the museum’s new outdoor amphitheater.
Saratoga Springs storyteller Kay Olan, another regular at the festival, returns this year along with local wildlife rehabilitator Kelly Martin. A Mohawk, Olan will share stories of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) that have been passed down through the oral tradition from generation to generation. Martin, meanwhile, will discuss wildlife conservation in the area and will present a variety of animals, including birds of prey.
The Children’s Tent will feature arts and crafts activities, including beadwork and cornhusk doll making, and the museum’s archaeology department will be available to help identify archaeological finds and give demonstrations of flintknapping and other early technologies.
Resident educators Mike and Andy Tarbell will be running a number of various children’s activities as well as guided tours around the museum’s 45-acre nature park.
The museum’s current major exhibit, “Standing in Two Worlds,” will also be on display.
“We put out a call to artists throughout the Six Nations and asked them to comment through their art about what’s on their mind in 2014,” said Vann.
“It could be about anything, perhaps something about fracking or treaty rights, or it could be an internal issue about passing along family traditions.”
More than 30 artists from the Six Nations submitted work for the exhibit, and some of them took on the issue of sports team’s nicknames. The Washington Redskins of the National Football League are currently under pressure to change their nickname, and Vann is firmly in the camp of those who would like to see a change.
“Everyone that I’ve come in contact with finds that term offensive,” she said. “No other group of people are depicted as cartoons. The only thing that remotely comes close is the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, but their mascot is a leprechaun and we all know they don’t really exist. People will not be using that term this weekend.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.