story & photo
by Vito J. Leo
Hundreds of Native Americans from CT and neighboring states converged at Fort Shantok on August 15 to once again display the dynamic ethnic dances created by their ancestors centuries ago. The popular celebration was started years ago by local Mohegans to bring together people of different Tribes under one tent for a weekend of social and cultural exchange.
“We really enjoy coming here each year. We began coming years ago when they first started it and were holding it at St. Bernard’s,” said Don Moose, Preston. “I especially like the colorful costumes they wear and I really enjoy the children’s dances,” said Don’s wife, Judy.
Among many men, women and children displaying their attractive native garb, while dancing around a campfire located in the center of the tent, was Amanda Russell, Uncasville.
Amanda, 21, a dancer since age 12, said she enjoys both the opportunity to display her natural abilities, and a chance to share some time of camaraderie with other Native Americans who have similar interests.
Albert Sargent, Ledyard, said, he attends a half dozen or so similar events each year held in the tri-state area. Wearing a coyote headdress, Albert struts his stuff under the large white tent set up at Fort Shantok, displaying the skills he learned as a child. His relatives took him to dance festivals throughout the area where they could collectively share their creative and rich heritage.