It’s a park rooted in ancient ceremonial history.
“This is what this park means it’s the unifying of all these tribes,” Vida Landron said, looking out at indigenous groups assembling for a pow wow in one of the lawns of the Inwood park.
What’s now known as Inwood Hill Park, outlined by the Hudson River and the Harlem River Ship canal, was once the home of the indigenous Lenape people. Landron works with the community nonprofit group Nitchen Inc., and is a safekeeper of the historical surroundings and has knowledge of the people of old Manhattan.
“Lenni Lenape named Manhattan, Manahattan because it translated to 'land of many hills.' Literally we are on one of the hillier parts,” Landron said.
The park now boasts recreational fields and jogging paths, but within the forest Landron said you can still find Lenape caves and trails.
“It has that heartbeat for centuries or for however long it's been here and the fact that children come here and get to connect with that,” Landron said.
Whether through kids crafts or storytelling, the neighborhood continues to honor its history and cultivate the environment with acts of service from planting trees to ceremonial beating of drums at pow wows during events like Drums Along the Hudson.
These grounds today serve as a gathering place for many.
“Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, We are still here,” Irma Laguerre, Director for Children’s Cultural center for Native America, said. “This is a very sacred area, sacred spot for many of the indigenous people from this area."
Every beat of the drum and movement groups display tells a story connecting families gathering with open minds to fully embrace the experience.
“This is an opportunity to come and watch native dancing and ritual and to learn more about the community," Sarah Marcy said, an Inwood resident watching a performance with her young daughter.
“It’s important especially after this pandemic that we all learn to be one,” Lourdes Jibodh said, who traveled from the Bronx to attend the event in the park.
Edward Hilario Jaramillo is a Chief with the Kalpulli Huehetlahtolli tribe. His group comes to Inwood Hill Park annually. Jaramillo said education is one of his main agendas.
“I like to do these events especially now because people need to remember or be educated that Mexican people are natives,” Jaramillo said.
These familial gatherings in the park are also part of that dedication to keep traditions alive.
“The pow wow is medicine to the heart, it’s medicine to the soul, it’s medicine for the park,” Nana Zakia said, who also goes by her indigenous name Buffalo Woman.
Zakia and others said this connection to the indigenous brings the neighborhood of Inwood together in more ways than one.