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Sunday, June 1, 2014 I went to Drums Along the Hudson, a Native American Festival and Multicultural Celebration—translation: an Indian Pow Wow. This not the first of these I’ve attended, but as I sat in the stands watching the dancers, enjoying the drumming and fighting the urge to go join them, a question occurred to me. How much of your ancestry is hiding inside you, waiting to come out?

My father once told me that like most African Americans we have very mixed heritage. We are part (maybe 1/16th) African, french, scottish, and blackfoot indian. I always assumed those were just numbers, but on a recent trip to Colorado, I found postcards with photos of blackfoot indian tribe families. The resemblance to my Dad and his family was unmistakable…Locals told me Blackfoot originated in the south—where dad is from– and were brought to Colorado because of their skills in mining silver.

Although I learned how to sing in German and Italian in my private voice lessons, when I studied French in High School, I found I had a flair for speaking that language….Photos of Scotland, and the skrill of bagpipes fill me with yearning to go somewhere I’ve never been…..Touring the African exhibits in the Museum of Natural History gives me chills. Looking at the ceremonial masks on exhibit there, I get (vibes) that they are not happy about being in the museum on public display.

My strongest reaction however, is to Native American Music. Although I’ve attended many Pow Wows—in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and even the Shinnecock Tribal festival in Southampton, Drums Along the Hudson is the only one that allows—and encourages—the audience to participate in the dancing. Even though I’ve never studied their dances, I suddenly find myself out there reveling in dancing with abandon in the grass, under the open sky. I have no idea what the singers are saying, but it doesn’t just strike me as simple noise; the only thing that matters is the drums, that drive you on…. which is also a huge part of the African music…..

Looks like the roots go far deeper than we realize!




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