Festival Footprints
Haudenosaunee Friendship Festival

by Tarki Heath

By the time my friend and I made it to the Haudenosaunee Friendship Festival on August 7, festivities were well underway. (Haudenosaunee is the traditional name for the Six Nations Confederacy, of which the Onondaga Nation is a part.)

We walked up the hill, through fields of tents filled with handmade crafts, playgrounds filled with children, and the heavy aromas of grilled corn, frybread, and buffalo burgers.

People of various cultures and ages sat on the lawn and in chairs, or stood in small groups as event organizer Sherri Hopper announced the social dancing. Standing on the Onondaga Community College campus atop Onondaga Hill, overlooking Onondaga Lake on this beautiful day, the connection was easy: this is Onondaga land.

Above the noise of the crowd we heard the announcer explain how these Haudenosaunee children learned the traditional dances from their parents, passed on generation to generation. This legacy is a true testament to the vibrant life and growth of the Haudenosaunee culture.

The announcer’s invitation to “join in” was sincere and well accepted as many children and adults from the crowd joined the dancers on stage. Each dance was explained as a way to welcome outsiders and share with the community. From the playfulness of the Duck Dance and exhilaration of the Smoke Dances, to the reverence of the Women’s Dance, each step brought a greater appreciation of the Haudenosaunee culture.

In this last dance, the women’s steps were said to emulate how we are to “caress” the Earth. In fact, each of the dances demonstrated a way of reverence and connection with nature, the land, and one another. So I ask myself now, how will I walk on the Earth today, and how can we follow in these reverent footsteps?

We were not able to stay for all the other events of the day, but I left with gratitude for having been invited to participate with the community in this cultural sharing. This event, and others like it, will surely bring us closer to healing the wounds between our cultures. It was very difficult to leave the friendliness of that company.

To learn more, contact Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) – a local grassroots group supporting the sovereignty of the Onondaga Nation: Carol Baum, 472-5478, <carol@peacecouncil.net>.