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Arts & Culture

First Heritage Day features Native American history and culture

Seneca Iroquois National Musem

Native American culture and history is taking center stage in the first annual Heritage Day at the Seneca Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca.

On Saturday, artists will demonstrate crafts from basket-making and bead work to antler carving. There will also be a fashion show, art display, and Native American food.

Museum Director David George-Shongo said he hopes the event will expose many people to Native American culture.

“Sometimes when people come to the museum they ask us, Where are the Indians?’” And we have to tell them, ‘We are Indians.’ And they’re like, ‘Well you’re not dressed as Indians,’” said George-Shongo. “So we’re trying to give people the knowledge that we’re still around. That’s what we hope people walk away knowing – that we still have our heritage but still we do modern things and everything else just like everybody else in the United States.”

George-Shongo said there will be a Smoke Dance competition, that takes its roots from a war dance.

“They changed it up a little bit. It’s a very fast dance and originally just the men did it. Then women were like, ‘We can dance too.’ So they started dancing. It’s a really fast step and as we have the competition it’s grown more and more. It’s really popular with the young people now,” said George-Shongo.

Heritage day runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The event will conclude with a silent auction that will raise money to fund future exhibits. Plans are under way to replace the existing museum with a new $18 million dollar cultural center, six times it’s size. A grand opening is scheduled in August 2017.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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