Festival Celebrates Native American Culture

Erin Mincer

On Saturday, October 19, the 13th annual Native American Arts and Cultural Festival was held in the Sanford field house. The event was a great opportunity to bring together Colgate students and staff along with the Hamilton community and allows for the amazing chance to be exposed to a wide variety of Native American cultures. According to the main coordinator of the event, Senior Curator of the Longyear Museum of Anthropology, Lecturer in Art & Art History, Native American Studies, Africana & Latin American Studies and Sociology & Anthropology Carol Ann Lorenz, the festival draws people in from all over the surrounding area including Buffalo and Albany and as far away as Pennsylvania and southern Canada. Lorenz believes that one of the main purposes of the festival is to bring people together in both a constructive and interesting way.

“I think it’s really important to create an environment where these three constituencies, the Colgate campus, Native communities, the town and the greater Hamilton environment can come together in a situation that is very positive, that is educational and also entertaining where people have a chance to talk to one another,” Lorenz said. “Many of the artists and performers love to talk to young people. They just enjoy explaining what they’re doing. I think it’s nice to bring people together in this way. One of the most important things to me is that this is a positive environment for mutual understanding and mutual learning about one another’s cultures.”

This festival was originally started over a decade ago when one student, Leyosta Hall, who was a Mohawk and a part of a Haudenosaunee singing and dancing group, suggested that Colgate host a powwow to celebrate Native American culture. Lorenz had received the suggestion earlier from other members of the Native American community and had pondered the idea on her own, but seeing Hall’s enthusiasm caused Lorenz to officially begin the endeavor. As a result of Hall’s connections, virtually every year the festival has featured a group of Haudenosaunee singers and dancers. This year also featured Corn Bred, a Native American Blues Band, and Dan Hill, a traditional Cayuga flute player. Besides just the live performances, there were several other ways that Native American culture was featured at the festival. There were many different vendors at the festival that were selling both customary and atypical items relating to Native American culture. The Native American Student Association (NASA) especially tries to make sure that Native peoples from many hemispheres, including North America, Central America and South America, are represented at the festival.

“They sell everything from more traditional kinds of work like baskets and sometimes antler carvings and wood carvings, stone carvings, pottery,” Lorenz said. “Many of those things, however, have a modern twist. And then there are many things that are not old and they’re not ancient, but they have themes that are part of their culture; they may be paintings, prints, computer generated art, somebody does wood burning imagery was there. People were making all kinds of bead work and somebody was selling ceramic mugs, but with his own designs on them. We did have Latin American Indian people represented, so there were Maya Indians from Guatemala [and] there were people from Colombia.”

NASA has been working since last spring to decide which live acts, vendors and food suppliers would be included in this year’s festival. The group must also plan ahead regarding what specialists they want to have participate in the activities as well. Lorenz does much of the scheduling throughout the summer and got two very interesting educators for this year’s celebration.

“The other thing that we have there are craft demonstrators, so people who demonstrate how bead work is done, especially fancy bead work and fancy baskets and antler carvings, stone carvings, pottery and so on,” Lorenz said. “Then there is always Native American demonstrations of things that are not being sold. So, one is a Mohawk educator, Mike Tarbell, who brings archeological material and cultural artefacts and Allan Jamieson, who brought replicas of wampum and could explain what were the designs.”

Besides just NASA, many other student organization helped to make the Native American Arts and Cultural Festival possible. Lorenz explains that besides a sense of community that the festival creates, the fact that so many organizations get involved in the festival creates a unique sense of community amongst the students that are involved in the process.

“While I work hand-in-hand with the Native American Student Association, that there are many other student groups that are involved in putting the last minute things together,” Lorenz said. “In addition to NASA, there’s Konosioni. The ALANA Ambassadors are very wonderful. For the past several years, Project Peace, students from there have come and volunteered. These are organizations that help to make it happen. It’s really wonderful that all those students are involved.”

   Contact Erin Mincer at [email protected]