Native American festival allows others a glimpse inside Ganondagan

09:09 PM, Jul 28, 2013

Peter Jemison, left, and Darwin N. John perform Iroquois social dances during the festival on Sunday. (MARIE DE JESUS/ /STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)/


Written By Patti Singer Staff writer

Her future daughter-in-law is a member of the Seneca Nation, so Lisa Norcott has been learning about its history.

Sunday at the 22nd annual Native American Dance & Music Festival at Ganondagan State Historic Site, the Canandaigua woman tried her hand at some of its arts and crafts.

Wetting corn husk strips that had been dyed different colors and wrapping the “bloom” in floral tape, Norcott fashioned a flower that could be worn as a boutonniere.

I love crafty stuff,” she said. The activity gave her a glimpse into a different culture, and gave her new respect for something she hadn’t much thought about before.

I’ll be making my family eat more corn because I’ll want more husks.”

The two-day festival was full of traditional stories, dance and music. Hands-on activities included making baskets and lacrosse sticks, as well as turning husks into adornments.

Peter Jemison, historic site manager for Ganondagan and a member of the Seneca Nation, said the festival preserves the past as it celebrates the present. “We are a contemporary people.”

The festival draws approximately 3,500 people a year and Jemison, who has been involved since the beginning, said a large number of visitors are non-native people. “There are some who are having their first experience.” he said. “A lot of people have a picture of us that is fairly narrow.”

Paul Hendershot, of Canandaigua, has lived in Ontario County his whole life, but aside from a little junior-high history, did not know much about the Native American people who lived throughout the Finger Lakes — more specifically the ancient Seneca town of Ganondagan that was home at one point to 4,500 people.

He and daughters Matilda and Nora dodged Sunday morning’s raindrops to listen to Perry Ground tell a story about how the owl came to have such big eyes and to walk through a full-size replica of a 17th-century Seneca bark longhouse, where an extended family would have lived.

We’re learning about history,” he said. “Too much of what happens how, people are focused on the mall, on watching TV. It’s not how I want my kids to be raised.”

Sue Maslak, of London, Ont., originally visited the area to attend a concert Friday night at CMAC. As she was getting ready to head home, she heard about the Ganondagan event.

She knew about the Six Nations in Canada, so took advantage to learn about the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy across the lake.

It’s interesting,” she said. “I didn’t realize native culture was across the border. Why shouldn’t it be, right?”