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On the scene: Native American Pow Wow in Yorktown Heights
The Hudson Valley is rich with Native American history, so it makes sense that Westchester County would serve as the location for the 10th annual Native American Pow Wow.
The event, organized by the Redhawk Native American Arts Council to benefit local Native American artists and teachers, took place Saturday and Sunday at the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in Yorktown Heights.
“It’s magical,” said Rebecca Gitana, a first-time visitor who traveled from Queens to attend the event. “It’s a great way to connect with the ancestors and roots and experience oneness with everything,” she added in reference to her desire to embrace her Native American heritage.
The event was also fun for people who do not have a personal connection to the Native American culture. Nine-year-old Dylan Meldra, who is learning about Native Americans in school, was able to interact with a falcon during a live Birds of Prey show on Sunday.
Jennifer Pena of New Paltz, who runs the demonstration featuring falcons and owls, explained that the show “allows people to have a better understanding of why the Native Americans have a spiritual connection with hawks, eagles and other birds of prey.”
The Pow Wow’s biggest attraction was the traditional dances performed by members of several Native American tribes. Alex Lobe, a Baltimore resident and member of the Oglala Sioux tribe, was one of the dancers, and he was emphatic about how important the cultural tradition of dance is to him.
“I would do it if no one were watching,” he said. “It’s for me, not them.”
For visitors who wanted to bring a little Native American culture home with them, there were many vendors selling everything from dream catchers and jewelry to clothing and furs. Visitors were also eager to try authentic Native American cuisine such as venison, squash and buffalo meat. Cape Cod, Mass., resident Sherry Pocknett, a member of the Wampanoag tribe, assured us that it tasted “just like beef.”
The Pow Wow was successful in raising funds for its organization and also an awareness and appreciation of Native American culture. For many attendees, such as Lisa McKenna of Yonkers, the gathering of tribes from both North and South America evoked thoughts of the place Native Americans have held in the country over the course of U.S. history.
“[The event] makes you sad to think about what has happened to them in this country,” McKenna said. “But happy because they kept their traditions alive.”