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Great Spirit

Original New Yorkers (and friends) convene.

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This weekend, Native Americans—whose long, slow fade from New York began with that mythic deal of $24 for Manhattan Island—will take back a tiny slice of the city for a moment at the Queens County Farm Museum’s annual powwow. Indian nations, including participants from South and Central America, will take part in the two-day, two-night festival, organized by Louis Mofsie. “My father was Hopi from Arizona, my mother Winnebago from Nebraska, but I was born and raised in Brooklyn,” says Mofsie, 71, who learned about his background on summer trips west to his relatives’ reservations. “I met so many incredible people and realized that nothing on the scale of their celebrations existed in the East,” he says. So, years later, Mofsie, a schoolteacher by day, formed his own troupe, the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, and in 1978 organized the first annual Thunderbird Pow Wow in Queens. Part exhibition, part competition, part fund-raiser for a Native American scholarship program, it takes place on the 47-acre Farm Museum grounds. Tribal dancers come together, rain or shine, to celebrate and compete in several categories: old-style traditional, fancy-dress, and children’s dance. “Old-style can include a dance about warriors home from battle,” says Mofsie. There could also be a healing dance by women and performances by children, adds Mofsie, who narrates dances. The performance and pageantry still fascinate him, but the highlight of the event, he says, is audience participation. “When I look out and see visitors invited to join the dancers in the circle, learning the steps of my ancestors, for me this is what the Pow Wow is all about.”

7/27 through 7/29, Fri. 7–10 p.m. (gates open at 6); Sat. noon–5 p.m. and 7–10 p.m. (gates open at 10 a.m.); Sun. noon–5 p.m. (gates open at 10 a.m.). Queens County Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy., Floral Park (queensfarm.org or 718-347-3276); $9 grown-ups, $4 kids. Weekend-price packages available.


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