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Native American Festival moves indoors in return, draws nice crowd

Native American Festival moves indoors in return, draws nice crowd

'It’s part of the history of this land'
Native American Festival moves indoors in return, draws nice crowd
Remy Allen, 5, creates a beaded bracelet with his mother, Stacey, on Sunday.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

Jennifer Lee sat on a small stool Sunday afternoon next to an eastern conical wigwam, stitching a bark basket as visitors walked past.

“It takes a long time,” she said, referring to the basket-making process. “But the sewing is the most relaxing part.”

Lee, who came to the Capital Region from Plainfield, Massachusetts, was among hundreds of people at the Saratoga Native American Festival.

The festival returned to Saratoga this year after a one-year hiatus. It took place at the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, a venue that offered protection from any inclement weather. Turnout was boosted as a result, organizers said, with attendees taking in Native American food, music and culture.


The event is run by the Ndakinna Education Center, a nonprofit organization based in Greenfield Center that offers programs focused on outdoor learning, arts and Native American culture.

The Ndakinna center had shirts, wrist bands and other goods for sale to commemorate the event.

The festival first took place in 2008, and was previously held elsewhere in Saratoga Spa State Park, said Mikael Mulholland, one of the event coordinators. This year’s turnout seemed strong compared to past years, he said, which he attributed partly to the new venue.

During the 2015 festival, wet weather deterred some people from attending, since most of the activities were outdoors, Mulholland said. When someone proposed moving the 2017 edition to the National Dance Hall of Fame, it seemed like a good fit.

Much of the activity was indoors, with drum circles, storytelling presentations, arts and crafts sales and more. Outside, there was a large tent to provide cover for those eating or taking a break from the fun.

A food truck offered buffalo burgers, blue cornbread and other Native American-centric food, while Lee sat and answered questions near the baskets and wigwam that visitors climbed into to further inspect.

“A bark basket used to be as common as a paper bag,” Lee said.

The Native American Festival provides a way for the Native American community to unite, she said, and for visitors to look at some of the culture and traditions that bond the community together. There are hundreds of different Native American nations throughout the country, she said, each with different ways of doing things.

“It’s part of the history of this land, and it helps people appreciate the ways of this land,” Lee said.

Several attendees said they had not previously attended the festival, and wanted to check out some of the crafts and music. Jewelry, dream catchers and books covering Native American history were among items available for purchase.

“I hope they have an enriching cultural experience,” Mulholland said. “And that they learn something."

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