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Native Nations at Old Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara will host its first Smoke Dance competition, Native Nations at Niagara, on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The Smoke Dance was originally a Haudenosaunee war dance, primarily danced by men, but has expanded within competition dance to include and highlight female dancers.

Old Fort Niagara will be welcoming local and nationwide competitors to dance throughout the day.

Visitors will be able to watch as dancers compete for prizes, learn about traditional and historic Native regalia, and talk to the Fort’s interpretive staff about the connection that Fort Niagara has to the Haudenosaunee and other Native communities during the Fort’s almost 300-year history. Visitors will also be able to peruse a variety of native craftsmen, artisans, and food vendors!

Several stories have evolved around the naming of the smoke dance. In one story, the dancers’ fast spinning in small circles is believed to emulate the curling of smoke. Another story revolves around Haudenosaunee longhouses. In these dwellings, smoke would sometimes linger. To help the smoke dissipate dancers would try to “chase” the wafts of smoke through the hole in the ceiling by swiftly dancing in circles in an attempt to push the smoke up out of the house.

While dancers appear to move effortlessly, the world of Haudenosaunee dance is complex. Each dance is dependent upon different drumbeats, different chants and specific foot movements that each individual dancer can interpret into their own style.

Old Fort Niagara would like to stress our gratitude to the participants and visitors for facilitating the sharing of Native cultures and knowledge. These perspectives have historically been overlooked and undervalued, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our local Indigenous communities to reinforce the importance of the Haudenosaunee’s historical presence at the Fort.

Hours for the event at 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with the dance competition running from Noon until 4:00 p.m. The public is invited to watch and learn about this important piece of regional culture.

This event is made possible by a grant from the Museum Association of New York and by our generous donors.

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Jamie Moses

Jamie Moses founded Artvoice in 1990

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