Bronx Native American Festival

By Sean Engeldrum

Drums echoed September 22nd as Pelham Bay Park played host to the annual Bronx Native American Festival. Organized by the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, the festival brought traditional music, dance and storytelling to the Bronx.

“It’s awesome to see,” said Jennifer Angelo, a childcare worker living in Throggs Neck. “I have a tiny bit of Algonquian in me and I rarely get a chance to connect with my heritage. I never expected to see it in Pelham Bay Park.”

The event attracted dozens of curious people who had been in the park enjoying the first day of Autumn. The smell of food, sight of horses and the sound of music near the picnic area proved irresistible to many on the clear day.

“Sharing our culture and seeing others in the Native American community is always nice,” said Michael Taylor, a physical therapist/energy healer whose Native American name is Dancing Wolf. “I’ve performed all over, but this is my first time in the Bronx.”

Taylor, who is a member of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, joined the Silvercloud Singers in wowing the crowd which gathered in the park’s picnic fields. The onlookers formed a circle as dancers and drummers performed an inter-tribal show which had representatives from several tribes including Choctaw, Apache, Cherokee, Seminole and Ramapough.

“It’s about having a healthy spirit,” said Richard Powell, a Ramapough member of the Silvercloud Dancers. “Performing with others and teaching people is part of that.”

The spirit of sharing was evident throughout the festival. In between dances, members of the crowd would mingle with performers as people sought to learn more about the varied indigenous cultures of the Americas.

Most of the crowd hadn’t known the event was happening, but there were a few people in attendance who had marked it on their calender. Caridad Moreno, a worker at the Bronx House, said she was looking forward to it. “I love experiencing different cultures. It is great that the park had this event,” she said. “There aren’t enough opportunities to see this type of thing in the Bronx. Also, I’m part Taino, so there is that extra link.”

Many of the crowd identified as Taino and when one of the Silvercloud Dancers introduced himself as part Taino the crowd clapped in response. Ms. Moreno wasn’t surprised. “Of course. The Bronx has a large population of Puerto Ricans and other Caribbean people,” she said. “Tainos are well represented here. I only wish more people knew about their heritage.”

People left the event with a new appreciation of Native American culture, and many expressed a desire to learn more. Ms. Angelo was excited to get online, “I’m going to go home and do some research. I need to learn more about my heritage. Today was so much fun.”

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