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Festival goers celebrate Native American culture

  • Bryan Blanchette, of the Abenaki tribe, performs a drum song with the Black Hawk Singers at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival in Unity Park in Turners Falls, Saturday, August 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Alden Stahl, 7, of Ashfield, and Gavin MacNeille, 14, of Brattleboro, Vt., run their hands over animal pelts inside a teepee at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival in Unity Park in Turners Falls Saturday, August 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • The Black Hawk Singers perform a drum song at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival in Unity Park in Turners Falls, Saturday, August 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Jennifer Lee, of Plainfield, braids the hair of her granddaughter Zena Stahl, 4, of Ashfield, as Paloma Hsiao-Shelton, 11, of Plainfield and Alden Stahl, 7, of Ashfield, sit by outside a teepee at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival in Unity Park in Turners Falls Saturday, August 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Chief Don Stevens and the Nulhegan-Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Singers perform a drum song at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival in Unity Park in Turners Falls, Saturday, August 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Paloma Hsiao-Shelton, 11, of Plainfield, helps Zena Stahl, 4, of Ashfield, put on a beaded dress inside a teepee at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival in Unity Park in Turners Falls Saturday, August 5, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Saturday, August 05, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — As 64-year-old Lenny Novak of Wakefield, N.H. tended his booth at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival Saturday, he reconnected with old friends and shared stories with new acquaintances.

For Novak and his girlfriend Kelly Mowers, the festival is rather like an Old Home Day for Native Americans and for those who share an interest in their culture.

“It’s like a family,” he said. “Everybody’s like-minded here. They appreciate the native ways.”

Novak, a member of the Abenaki tribe, and Mowers, of the Micmac tribe, were two of the vendors operating a booth along Unity Park’s waterfront Saturday, immersing passersby in Native American culture, art, music, food and history.

“At shows, it’s about 90 percent history and about 10 percent people who want to buy something,” Novak said while overseeing his collection of what he calls Lonewolf Stars and Lonewolf Webs, named after his business Lonewolf Studios.

The stars and webs are similar to dreamcatchers, but are made with imitation sinew and antlers. Novak said he’s been making them for almost 30 years, starting by mistake after he saw a dreamcatcher made with grapevines and fishing line at a powwow in Connecticut.

“I said ‘I can do that,’” he remembered. “It was a wonderful mistake … Everybody who comes says they’ve never seen anything like it.”

While most pieces take between 50 and 60 hours to craft, some last well into hundreds of hours, Novak said. But at a place like the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, Novak explained he feels surrounded by other talented vendors who “know what real art’s about.”

For example, a few booths down sat Hawk Henries and his daughter Sierra, both of Sullivan, Maine and of the Nipmuc tribe. Hawk Henries said he has spent 30 years handcrafting flutes, while Sierra Henries makes artwork using birch bark.

Getting his first flute when he was 31, Hawk Henries said he learned the craft through trial and error. It now takes him between 30 and 40 hours to make a flute.

“I thought I could make the flute sound better than it did,” he remembered, thinking of his first flute. “What took five minutes to ruin took six months to fix.”

Hawk Henries also demonstrated his music at the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, with music being one of the most popular attractions.

“I love the music,” said festival attendee Beverly Phelps, of Bernardston, while she caught up with Hawk Henries, an old friend of hers.

The Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, now in its fourth year, is organized by the Nolumbeka Project, which strives to promote a deeper and more accurate understanding of Native American history. The festival serves “to bring people together,” while offering education, according to Nolumbeka Project Events Coordinator Diane Dix.

Indeed, attendees exchanged stories about topics some may have been unfamiliar with, and saw unfamiliar art. Offering an example, Novak remembered meeting someone at a festival who told him what it was like whale hunting in his youth.

“It’s a really great chance to learn about people from these areas, to learn about other cultures and to learn different art forms,” Sierra Henries said. “I just love being here with everyone.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257