Ithaca’s Dewitt Park, normally a placid area, was transformed on Sunday for the First Peoples’ Festival. Bustling people toured tents of intricate artwork, listened to demonstrations of flute music and enjoyed the scent of herbs.
The festival, which has been occurring annually for the past nine years, serves to “build awareness about the indigenous community members,” said Phouphet Souvorachak, the administrative coordinator of the Multicultural Resource Center, which helped organize the festival.
In addition to raising awareness, the festival is also a place where different indigenous vendors can showcase their work.
Ann Printup, a member of the Tuscarora Beaver Clan, located around Niagara Falls, has been attending the event for about five years.
Not only does she “love Ithaca,” but she said it also gives her a space to sell some her beadwork.
The origin of beadworking is important for the Tuscarora Beaver Clan, she said, as it was, and still is, a source of income for some people.
“I equate it to a farmer growing his produce and cultivating it and taking it to a market and selling it,” said Printup, who has been beading since she was 10.
Other tents focused on the awareness aspect of the event.
Native American Students at Cornell highlighted the significance of Cornell recently changing what was previously known as Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“Indigenous Peoples’ day is changing that narrative where they can celebrate the resiliency of their people,” Ana Bordallo ’18 said. “A day, depending on what the name is, [causes] people to have different reactions.”
Souvorachak agrees that the festival can help bring attention to a “a culture that isn’t very much brought to the forefront of our schools and even festivals like the Ithaca Festival.”
“The indigenous people of this land are not just part of history, but are a history in the making still,” Souvorachak said. “This is an opportunity to bring together folks to learn together.”