SARATOGA SPRINGS – On Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, the Saratoga Native American Festival is returning to Saratoga State Park, at the Victoria Pool Mall, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For the second year in a row, the event is free and open to the public.
The Saratoga Native American Festival is a collaborative effort of the Ndakinna Education Center and the NYS Office of Parks and Recreation. The festival is part of a regional effort to educate people about the history, cultural traditions and continued active presence of the Native peoples of the northeast.
“The idea was to bring in representation, such as dancers and crafters, to educate in a bigger way about the Iroquois and Algonquin cultures. It’s a great way to gather people to learn from actual representatives, and on a bigger scale. We figured one big event a year would reach more people,” said Jim Bruchac, director of the Ndakinna Education Center. Bruchac, who is also an author, storyteller and wilderness expert, will be performing at the festival with his family.
Each morning at 10 a.m., the festival begins with a traditional opening address delivered in Mohawk and English by Tom Sakokwenionkwas Porter, who positions with the Mohawk National Council of Chiefs and is the spokesman and spiritual leader of the Mohawk community of Kanatsiohareke.
In the afternoon, there will be dozens of Native American dancers and drumming, featuring the drum group, Rez Dogs. The Native American dancers will compete for cash prizes offered each day in categories such as Smoke Dance, Men’s Traditional and Lady’s Shawl. There will also be Friendship Dances, where the public can join in.
The festival includes over forty vendors, who are from nearly all of the American Indian nations of the northeast. They will be selling their own traditional arts and crafts as well as modern forms. Past years have included bead work, tufting, silver work, leather work, oil painting, clothing, and carvings in wood, stone, antler and bone.
Native American food is a major part of the event. Half a dozen different Native American vendors will be offering a wide selection of foods, such as traditional corn bread, moose meat and strawberry drink, as well as Navajo tacos and buffalo burgers.
There is also a popular children’s area inside the Victoria Pool Building, sponsored by Stewart’s Shops. Native activities and crafts will be available for children, who must be accompanied by an adult.
The Ndakinna Education Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and charitable organization, based at the Marion F. Bowman Bruchac Memorial Nature Preserve in Greenfield Center. The organization offers programs, performances, camps, field trips and special events that focus on regional Native American understanding, Adirondack culture, martial arts, wilderness skills and awareness of the natural world. For more information, visit ndakinnacenter.org.