A mixing of spirits at Native American festival
By JASON SUBIK
BROADALBIN – Whether it was “Amazing Grace” being played on traditional Native American instruments, Aztec dancers mingling with Iroquois, or a red-haired, blue-eyed Wolf Clan member dancing a “Fancy Shawl Dance,” everywhere at the fourth annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival, there is a notion of diverse heritages mixing together.
Mixing is one of the founding principles of the Wolf Clan, a group of about 25 people descended from Native Americans with members concentrated in Fulton and Montgomery counties, said clan leader Betty “Chief Little Fox” Overrocker.
“We are a mix of different native peoples, a mix of different nations,” she said. “We come together to celebrate our different heritages and we put on this powwow and the festival every year to educate the people and also to meet new people.”
Organizers expect about 1,500 people in total will attend the two-day festival, which continues today with storytelling and guitar playing starting at 10 a.m. at Pine Park on Route 29.
“We’ve grown in attendance every year we’ve done this,” Overrocker said.
Wolf Clan charges a $5 entry fee for adults, but children are admitted free. The money raised from the entrance fees is donated to local charities such as North Country Wildlife, Feline Guardian Angels, exotic wildlife refuge Beyond Human and the American Legion Color Guard.
Some of the attractions at the festival include Native American dancers and dancing, as well as drum circle performers, native craft vendors, storytellers, a wildlife/exotic animal education show, a birds-of-prey show and food vendors. New to the festival this year are dancers from the Venture
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Crew 13 Scout group and two drum bands, Red Thunder Bear Drum and the award-winning Medicine Horse Singers.
Overrocker said many of the vendors and performers travel on a circuit of such festivals and powwows. Overrocker lives in Amsterdam and owns a jewelry business called “Handcrafted Native American Magnetic Jewelry & Crafts.” She said she attends festivals often.
“You can find a different powwow going on just about every weekend of the year,” she said. “For most of the vendors here, this is their livelihood.”
Rosalynne White, Overrocker’s daughter, is both a craft vendor at the festival and a fancy shawl dancer. Traditional fancy shawl dancing features flowing leaps and spins; White’s version incorporates some modern music and tells the story of how a tornado destroyed her craft business earlier this year and how she has since rebuilt it.
“I’ve had a very trying year; this is how I’m getting it out. That’s why we’re going to dance this way and hopefully people will get it,” she said.
White is herself emblematic of the themes of the Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival – she has Native American ancestry on both sides of her family from the Mohawk and Seneca tribes, but she gained red hair and blue eyes from her mix of English, German and Dutch ancestry. Her regalia at the festival included a shawl with embroidered butterflies.
“The fancy shawl is based on a butterfly’s movements, and for me the butterfly stands for transformation and freedom, so it was symbolic for me at the time that I made the shawl. When you dance, the dance is very flowing and uses very fancy footwork,” she said.
White said identifying with Native American culture for her is about being in touch with “Mother Earth.”
“Native is a feeling, not just a bloodline,” she said.
White’s partner in the fancy shawl dancing is Brooke Presley of Fonda. Her Native American name is “Walela,” which she said means hummingbird.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve just flown around the circle dancing,” she said. I’ve always been just really fast with a lot of energy.”