Grasping a wooden atlatl in his hand, Dominic Tumminelli extended his arm forward and used the ancient throwing stick to launch a long spear toward a picture of a turkey. The 9-year-old Lindenhurst boy didn’t hit the target, but it was only his first try.
Had he been alive tens of thousands of years ago, Dominic would have been trained in how to use this tool to hunt for food, said Thomas Natale, a volunteer at the Garvies Point Museum in Glen Cove.
“Youngsters start at an early age and they practice and practice, because this is their livelihood,” he said.
On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of adults and children learned how to hunt, cook and live off the land at the museum’s annual Thanksgiving Native American Feast.
Even with temperatures dipping below 30 degrees Sunday, attendees donned hats, gloves and face paint, and endured the cold to receive basic lessons in spear throwing. They also huddled around an open fire, where volunteers cooked and served up squash, rainbow trout and popcorn soup, a concoction made of coarsely ground popcorn, maple syrup and water.
“The goal is to give people a feel for Northeastern Native American culture,” said Veronica Natale, director of the museum, which has been hosting the feast for more than 30 years. “They definitely learn a little bit about what it was like to live during that time.”
Inside the museum, the lessons continued with interactive workshops in pottery making, ancient tools, and face painting. There was also live American Indian music, educational films and exhibits on fossils, rocks and Long Island’s native tribes.
“Where we live there used to be a glacier,” Jessica Ward, 40, of Glen Head, told her children as they toured the exhibits.
Her son, Caleb, 9, also just finished a lesson on American Indians in his school.
“He’s mesmerized by everything in the museum,” she said “ He really likes it.”
Dominic Tumminelli had also just finished studying American Indians in his fourth-grade class. His mother, Lisa Tumminelli, 41, said she wanted to bring her sons to the feast, so they could relate to the challenges people experienced many years ago.
As the family wrapped up their day living like American Indians, she said, “I hope they gained an appreciation for what everybody went through before there was TV and electronic tools and everything else.”