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Shinnecock festival offers old village experience on Long Island

John Boyd, an educator at Shinnecock Nation Cultural

John Boyd, an educator at Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, stands at the Wikun Village where traditional culture is taught. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

You think the polar vortex makes for a rough winter? At this Shinnecock festival, you can feel what it was like to live through a long, hard Long Island winter with just a wigwam, animal hides and a fire for warmth.

At the 13th annual Winter Arts & Crafts Festival on Dec. 13 at the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum -- held on the same reservation as the popular Labor Day Pow-Wow -- guests can visit the recently redesigned museum free of charge, sing and dance along to native music, taste winter cuisine and generally experience a bit of life in a Shinnecock village of long ago.

"We'll really give them a true sense of the way we lived," says administrative director Andrea Godoy.
 

SHINNECOCK VILLAGE LIFE

The Wikun Village (pronounced wee-gun), an outdoor living culture exhibit, is a centerpiece of the festival. It recreates a Shinnecock village from the first contact with Europeans in 1640 through 1750. Visitors can sit inside a wigwam home and warm up in front of an open fire.

Cholena Smith, 22, a village interpreter and artisan, will be among the educators dressed in traditional garb demonstrating cooking, wood-carving, finger-weaving and other crafts.

"I'll be talking to visitors about the time period we are displaying, and showing some of the ways that we would live, how we built our home, how we collected and stored food," Smith says.

She'll also be demonstrating how her ancestors entertained themselves -- inviting guests to join in the "stomp dance." She'll sing Shinnecock songs with her friend John Boyd, another village interpreter.
 

SIMMERING SUCCOTASH

It took a hearty diet to survive the winter, and Shinnecock cooks will be preparing some of those soul-satisfying dishes at a traditional food stand. Visitors can sample homemade succotash slow-cooked with cranberry beans, and hearty winter dishes such as corn and pork, clam chowder and roasted squash. If you're holiday shopping, you might find something for the hard-to-please at the art market, where Native American artists will be selling authentic jewelry and other crafts.

At 2:30 p.m., the entire Wikun Village staff will show their drumming and singing skills.
 

A REDESIGNED MUSEUM

The tribal museum, which was redesigned two years ago, is "a regional resource for southern New England Indian tribes, and the only Native American-owned and operated museum on Long Island," museum curator David Bunn Martine says.

Its two exhibits will be open to the public. A Walk With the People offers an overview of Shinnecock and Long Island culture, beginning in the Paleolithic period. It includes murals painted by Martine, based upon research and the oral history of the tribe, and artifacts such as arrowheads. The redesign added circular storytelling alcoves with space for children to sit on logs amid 8-foot-high murals. "It's very immersive, it's like you're surrounded by the scenery," Martine says. The other exhibit, My Spirit Dances Forever, is a collection of about 30 bronze statues of the Lakota people and other tribes, created by well-known Western sculptors.

Martine will be on hand to sketch portraits of visitors.

At the end of the day, visitors should have a realistic picture of a nation that continues to thrive, says Smith. She adds, "The Shinnecock people are still here, and our cultural traditions are alive and well."
 

Winter Arts & Crafts Festival

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 13, Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum, Southampton

INFO 631-287-4923, shinnecockmuseum.com

ADMISSION Free

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