42nd annual Thunderbird Powwow - New York City - July 29, 30, 31
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Posted : Jul 29, 2005 20:08
Lessons from the natives
Dozens of tribes here for annual powwow
BY ETHAN SACKS
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Hundreds of Native Americans from around the country, dressed in full feathered and beaded regalia, will gather this weekend to sing, dance and drum their way into the hearts of New Yorkers.
This will not be a scene unfolding on a reservation in the Southwest. The 42nd annual Thunderbird Powwow starts tonight on the grounds of the Queens County Farm Museum, in the middle of New York City.
For Louis Mofsie, 69, the founder of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, which hosts the three-day event, the powwow is a chance to spread cultural awareness, an extension of the visits the retired art teacher of Hopi and Winnebago ancestry makes to local schools.
"One of the things that we try to get across to kids is the fact that Native American people are still here," said Mofsie, who was born in Brooklyn. "We don't dress in feathers - at least not every day."
Many non-Indian New Yorkers may think that Native Americans left the area when Dutch colonists defrauded the local Lenape Indians out of Manhattan.
But there are 41,289 people of Native American and Inuit descent living in the city, according to the 2000 census. New York has the largest Native American population of any city in the country.
"At different times, there have been people coming here from Alaska down to the tip of South America," said Hortencia Colorado, a Chichimec Otomi actress who - along with her sister, Elvira Colorado - formed the Manhattan-based Coatlicue Theatre Company.
Because the city's Native American population is spread out across the boroughs and consists of dozens of nations, there is no centralized equivalent of Chinatown or Little Odessa.
An enclave established in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, by Mohawk steel workers during the construction boom of the 1950s - the neighborhood in which Mofsie grew up - is now gone.
The center of Native American life in New York is now the American Indian Community House at 708 Broadway in the Village.
Mofsie said he expects about 5,000 visitors to the powwow. Those attending can enjoy crispy fry bread and buy handcrafted turquoise jewelry, which will be sold from booths ringing the campgrounds.
Performances are tonight from 7 to 10, tomorrow from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Parkway in Floral Park. Tickets are $9 for anyone 12 and older and $4 for children under 12.
"You have to remember, we're in native territory here," said Joe Cross, 56, who performs around the city with his wife, Donna, as the Leafarrow Storytellers. "We never really left."
Originally published on July 29, 2005
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