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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Saratoga Native American Festival Returns This Weekend

By | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Native American festival returns this year, presented by the Ndakinna Education Center and the festival’s host venue, Saratoga Spa State Park.


This year the event takes place the weekend of September 29-30, running from 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. both days. The event will take place either rain or shine, with plenty of big tents to keep guests dry in case of showers. Tickets are available at the festival box office and are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors. Children ages 6-12 are just $5 and children under five are admitted free of charge.

The festival returns to its original, annual format. The education center had decided to hold the event bi-annually, due to limited funding. The decision to change back, according to Ndakinna Education Center director Jim Bruchac, was determined after a great turn out in 2011.

“We usually do the festival every other year, but we switched to an annual festival because the buzz was big enough that even though we hit some bad weather last year, we had great attendance.”

Bruchac is quick to point out that the festival has taken specific measures to ensure their guests will be as comfortable as possible in the event of inclement weather.

“We’ve prepared for the worst this year and secured several really big tents where all of the vendors will be located. If we run into bad weather again, we’ll also have all the dancing under the big tent. We’re prepared no matter what.”

There are dozens of performers and speakers scheduled, with more being added even in the week leading up to the festival. This year’s festival will have a special focus on the Nations of the Northeast. Dancers of all traditions are welcome but the main focus will be on dances and cultures of nations native to this area.

“We always have a northeastern theme because the education center has a focus primarily on northeastern native culture, so that is always our emphasis: the Iroquois, Algonquin people among others. That’s our main purpose and our mission inside our nonprofit,” said Bruchac.

Tom Porter of the Mohawk Community will deliver the Thanksgiving Address on Saturday. Other performers and storytellers include: Peter Ground, Al Cleveland and Darryl Tonemah, who will perform twice on Saturday.

“You can expect a good representation of northeastern styles of dance like smoke dancing, which is a very fast-paced dance that is based on the war dances of the Iroquois. There will be storytelling and dozens and dozens of crafters and vendors selling handmade items representing various northeastern cultures; everything from jewelry to drums to artwork, pottery and weaved baskets.”

Brand new to the festival this year will be two traditional Native American stickball games, played in its original, much rougher style. A quick search on the Internet reveals the game is similar to lacrosse, but with much more intensity and contact. Bruchac adds a little historical perspective, remarking that it was much more than just a sport for the native tribes.

“They were pretty hardcore about it. These games were supposed to get people in shape and train for the worst case scenario if these people had to go to war. These games would actually help prepare them for that.”

The master of ceremonies for the 2012 Saratoga Native American Festival is Mr. Sundown, a native smoke dancer. Mr. Sundown will be on hand to introduce a new event: a hand drum competition with prizes for first and second place.

For more information about the 2012 Saratoga Native American Festival, or to see a complete listing of competitions and categories, visit www.saratoganativeamericanfestival.com

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