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Photos by Wayne Peters
Photos by Wayne Peters

OFN to host 'Native Nations at Niagara'


Fri, May 3rd 2024 07:00 am

Old Fort Niagara Press Release

Old Fort Niagara will host its second annual smoke dance competition, “Native Nations at Niagara,” on Saturday, May 11.

The smoke dance was originally a Haudenosaunee war dance, primarily danced by men, but has expanded within competition dance to include and highlight female dancers.

The fort will be welcoming local and nationwide competitors to dance throughout the day. Visitors will be able to watch as dancers compete for prizes, learn about traditional and historic Native regalia, and talk to the fort’s interpretive staff about the connection that Fort Niagara has to the Haudenosaunee and other Native communities during OFN’s almost 300-year history. Visitors will also be able to peruse a variety of native crafts persons, artisans, and food vendors.

Several stories have evolved around the naming of the smoke dance. In one story, the dancers’ fast spinning in small circles is believed to emulate the curling of smoke. Another story revolves around Haudenosaunee longhouses. In these dwellings, smoke would sometimes linger. To help the smoke dissipate dancers would try to “chase” the wafts of smoke through the hole in the ceiling by swiftly dancing in circles in an attempt to push the smoke up out of the house.

While dancers appear to move effortlessly, the world of Haudenosaunee dance is complex. Each dance is dependent upon different drumbeats, different chants and specific foot movements that each individual dancer can interpret into their own style.

New in 2024 will be the inclusion of hoop dance demonstrations by a national champion Native hoop dancer. The hoop dance is a traditional celebration of the creation, mother earth and healing. The dance’s style mimics the movements of animals such as horses, birds and even insects.

Old Fort Niagara would like to stress our gratitude to the participants and visitors for facilitating the sharing of Native cultures and knowledge. These perspectives have historically been overlooked and undervalued, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our local Indigenous communities to reinforce the importance of the Haudenosaunee’s historical presence at the fort.

Hours for the event at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the dance competition running from noon until 4 p.m. The public is invited to watch and learn about this important piece of regional culture.

This event is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and Northwest Bank.

‘Native Nations at Niagara’ event schedule

10 a.m., OFN opens to public

11 a.m., musket demonstration

11:15 a.m., voyageurs of Fort Niagara

Noon , round one dance competition

2 p.m., mortar firing demonstration

2:15 p.m., hoop dance demonstration

3 p.m., round two dance demonstration

4:15 p.m., awards ceremony

4:45 p.m., hoop dance demonstration

5 p.m., OFN closes to public

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