Spirit of the Wolf Festival helps preserve Native American culture

Dancers participate in the grand entry at the 10th annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival in Broadalbin on Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

BROADALBIN — William Redhook of Gloversville, who said he is 75 percent Sioux, came to the 10th annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival Saturday for both social and cultural reasons.

“I usually get involved in the dances,” he said.

Redhook is concerned about Native Americans’ losing their culture, which involves people helping each other. “We’re getting too homogenized,” he said. The current American culture is “all about dollars and about stuff,” he said. Even on reservations, Indian youths are into hip-hop, he said.

Eli Thomas of Avoca in the Finger Lake regions said Native America culture believes “everything is connected and related, and nothing stands alone,” both people and the natural world.

The Wolf Clan had a traditional relationship with wolves so that each respected the other. When deer were hunted, Indians left some carcasses for the wolves, he said.

Judith "Red Eagle' Caban, mother of the Wolf Clan, walk in ceremonial garb through the 10th annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival in Broadalbin on Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

All or most Native American clans are a matriarchy, so the clan mother is above the chief and can replace him or her.

“It’s indigenous that we have clan mothers,” Thomas said.

Eric Marczak of Delanson is married to a woman in the turtle clan. He believes the matriarchal concept is based in “utmost respect for women.”

“The women are the ones who bring life into this world, their cycle is like the moon cycle–28 days.”

If a man of one clan marries a woman from another clan, he becomes part of her clan, he said.

Eric Marczak of Delanson plays flute music at the 10th annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival in Broadalbin on Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Marczak said he was taught by Polish nuns in Cohoes, some of whom suffered in the Holocaust under the Nazis, that Indians aren’t savages. They’re intelligent and compassionate people, he said.

The festival will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post at 119 Pine St. Each day the ceremonial grand entry begins at noon, which has a spiritual and prayerful aspect.

The festival is filled with booths, many of which carry Native American wares.

Inti Jimbo of Ecuador was selling items with styling from both his native town and other areas. “When we were kids, we made these things,” he said. “All the people make something.”

Kathy Lathey and Claudia Funk, both of Gloversville, were looking over his display. “Everything is so beautiful,” Lathey said.

Dawn Standingwoman of Delanson tells an Indian story at the 10th annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival in Broadalbin on Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

People from Whispering Willow Wild Care of Schenectady, which rehabilitates injured or disabled birds and has educational programs, held owls and other raptors for viewing.

“We get donations so we can feed the birds,” said Joyce Perry, the director. “The people who come here [to the festival] care for animals and the environment.”

“Everytime you cut down a tree in the spring, you cut down somebody’s house.”

Some of the proceeds from the festival will aid the VFW, Gloversville Cat Sanctuary and Whispering Willow.

The festival admission is $6 for adults and $5 for seniors. Children younger than 12 are free.

Members of Whispering Willow Wild Care of Schenectady display some of the wounded birds they are caring for during the 10th annual Spirit of the Wolf Native American Festival in Broadalbin on Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

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