Having just stepped off the arena where dozens of American Indian dancers celebrated their heritage, Saturday’s Shinnecock powwow was worth the commute from Massachusetts to Long Island for Daniel Frye.
“It’s a lot just to show up here. You have to make sure you’re squared away,” said Frye, 22. He sported a longbow and ceremonial American Indian regalia as he participated in his seventh Shinnecock Indian Powwow in Southampton. Frye, of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, said he had to take time off from work as a mason, prepare his regalia outfit and find a place to stay to attend the four-day festival.
It was worth the time and effort to dance with old friends, he said. “A lot of them are from different tribes that I don’t get to see often. A lot of them dance, if not, they’re drumming,” he said. “And I love dancing. It’s feeling good, and representing our traditions, keeping them going.”
One of the largest American Indian gatherings on the East Coast, the festival draws thousands every year, organizers said. The event, which ends Monday evening, hosts 100 American Indian arts, crafts and food vendors from throughout the Americas. It also features dance competitions, entertainment, prayers and ceremonial dances.
After years of dancing in the festival that she has attended since childhood, Marianna Singh, 26, of Mastic, said she was happy to be spending the day sitting with four generations of family members in beach chairs on the lawn near the stage. They cheered and watched other relatives dance onstage and compete in dance competitions.
“I love the atmosphere,” said Singh, of the Unkechaug Indian Nation. Her family used to spend weekends at the festival and used to camp there, she said.
Terri Maresca, visiting from Issaquah, Washington, was watching the dances with her nephew Jake Maresca, 16, of West Islip, both of Mohawk descent. While Jake Maresca said he was inspired by the knapping and leather work of native crafts, Terri Maresca said the festival was a reminder of the continued presence of American Indian culture.
“As big a city as New York, Native American people are here and have always been here,” Terri Maresca said. “Especially on the East Coast, where people may not be aware that indigenous cultures are very much alive, and this festival might give someone their first exposure to this culture. I think it’s a powerful statement of resiliency.”