Indigenous Voices Speak of Healing and Thanksgiving


November 24 – It was difficult to find a parking spot near 1201 Pine Ave in Falls this weekend as the Native Voices Cultural Festival was held at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.

License plates from as far away as Florida and Utah, as well as a few Canadian visitors, could be found on cars in spaces near the old Niagara Falls high school campus.

Inside the two-day event, heavy foot traffic made for a successful weekend.

The organizers put together a busy schedule and filled the halls with vendors’ exhibits, the classrooms and auditorium hosted Indigenous arts workshops, a fashion and pageantry show, and a well-received speech that framed all the activities of the fine arts and the performing arts within the framework of the tradition. of the healing process.

Cara Ewell Hodkin, leader of Newfane Girl Scout Troop 70356 attended the event with several members of the troop. She said, “I think it’s important for these young women to know more about Indigenous culture because we live on Indigenous lands. Ewell Hodkin also said the Girl Scout Council of Western New York created a dozen regional badges, including the Iroquois Confederacy Patch.

One of the most popular events was a fashion and pageantry show, as dozens of spectators gathered in the auditorium on Saturday afternoon to watch.

The show drew attention to the plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Jay Carrier, an Indigenous artist whose piece “The Fallen” is on display at NACC’s Townsend Gallery, recently called the horrors of MMIWG a pandemic.

On Sunday, even as the festival drew to a close, Erwin Printup, Jr of Lewiston Tuscarora Reserve was leading a busy corn beading workshop.

Another workshop focused on Aboriginal drum and dance, with Jordan and Kehala Smith, was popular, with approximately 40 participants.

In the Townsend Gallery, visitors watched a video titled “Guardians of the Haudenosaunee Language and Culture,” featuring local artist Allan Jamieson, Sr.

The Native Voices art exhibition will continue in the Townsend Gallery at the CNAC until November 26.

The opening keynote for the event was delivered by Pete Hill of Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties, Inc. and touched on many of the most critical issues facing Indigenous people, as well as all humans.

Entitled “Cultivation and Healing with a Right Spirit for Our Ancestors, Our Families, Ourselves and the Seven Generations,” Hill’s speech centered on the need for increased respect and what he called “the right one.” intelligence ”. Hill called attention to the MMIWG, the residential school scandal and the need for healing and restoration.

Hill spoke about intergenerational trauma, highlighting how events that happened seven generations ago still impact today and how the things we do today will continue to change the way our offspring will live seven generations into the future. He spoke of “clearing the way for the seven generations to come.”

One practice Hill uses to help erase the pain of the residential school scandal is speaking the native language. He said, “Every time we do this it helps reverse what the schools were trying to do. “

Hill’s themes also included thanksgiving and forgiveness. He referred to Thanksgiving as “an everyday concept, not a once-in-a-year thing.” Hill also said that “it is important that everyone honor their ancestors.”

In the question and answer period following the speech, Kathleen Olszewski of Grand Island spoke about how her favorite book described the impact of residential schools on a town in British Columbia, Canada, where the children had been taken. “I read it every year, for about 15 years, and I cried every time I read it,” she said.

Ray Robertson, director of the NACC gallery and grandson of a slave, inquired about the silence that often came from previous generations who had suffered trauma, whether from residential schools or slavery. Robertson asked: “I wonder if they really thought they didn’t want to traumatize young people, or if men in particular were ashamed of these things that they were powerless to stop?

Hill recognized the importance of sharing these stories as a path to healing: “We don’t want to stay in the victim mentality, the truth is a path we can take to restore ourselves.”


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