Native Americans Celebrate Their Culture and History at Festival

Columbus Day is Monday, and that means many are celebrating Italian-American pride, but another group is also recognizing its culture and its struggles. NY1's Bree Driscoll filed the following report.

When dancer Cody Coe performs, his passion shows.

"People like going clubbing. I like going pow wowing," Coe said. "I dance hard because we're suppose to be honoring those people, so I am very proud of who I am and where I came from and my people."

Coe is one of dozens of dancers that performed at the Native American Festival taking place on Randalls Island this weekend.

While there was plenty of dancing and music, the festival was held to honor the history and culture of indigenous people.

"For me, it's kind of like a spiritual connection," said Jarvis Spruce of the Seneca of the Iroquois.

"We help to educate people and to bring awareness to our people's culture," said MJ Schenandoah of the Onieda. "It's very important because there's so many stereotypes and things like that of our people."

"It's very important for everyone to know our history and everything that has gone on with us," said performer Valerie Rivera.

While the festival is mostly about celebrating culture, organizers say they are also using as a protest of Columbus Day, which honors explorer Christopher Columbus.  

"He created the genocide that we know of in the Caribbean of indigenous people. He perpetuated slavery," said one person at the festival.

That person says the protest isn't anti-Italian-American. He would just like to see another Italian historical figure honored.

"I always say Frank Sinatra. I love Frank Sinatra, think he's a great Italian American. They should celebrate Frank Sinatra Day," he said. "But to celebrate Columbus and the whole idea of Columbus is kind of an insult to America, but most importantly, it is to Native Americans as well."

The festival runs through Monday. For information on ticket prices and hours, head to redhawkcouncil.org.

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