The Roasting Ears of Corn Festival, said to be “Pennsylvania’s Oldest American Indian Gathering” is honoring American Indians once again, August 18 and 19, for the 32nd year.
“We have the oldest gathering in Pennsylvania. It’s a festival, not a pow wow. It is not competition. For the most part, it is contractor performance and social dancing,” said Pat Rivera, executive director of the Allentown-based Museum of Indian Culture.
The event, which is open to the public, features performers from different tribes and returning guest from California, Robert Silent Thunder, (Gros Ventre) who is the designated Head Man Dancer. Thunder has appeared in films, including: A Fork in the Red Road, A River of Tears and Amityville Horror.
The event is a major fundraiser for the Museum of Indian Culture, which was established three decades ago to serve as an educational resource center for people to learn about the Lenape Delaware and other American Indian tribes.
Aside from the guided tours that show primitive tools, authentic beadwork, pottery, basketry and other handmade items made by various Northeastern tribes such as Iroquois, Passamaquoddy and Lenape, among others, the Museum also offers offsite programs.
One offsite program, the Native American Cultural Heritage, provides a platform for federally registered Native Americans to perform their songs, dances and present their history and culture to schools, churches and interested organizations.
The main focus in the program, according to the Museum’s Web site, is to break stereotypes and provide the foundation of a genuine education of the American Indian by empowering federally registered Natives to speak about their culture.
The Museum works closely with the Eastern Woodland Natives—Lenape Delaware and Iroquois for this program.
This August, the Museum opens its doors to the public to make way for its biggest event of the year. “We use this particular event to promote our other events and vice versa,” said Rivera. “Our primary goal is education.”
The Festival alone draws 3,500 people, 60 percent come from the Lehigh Valley area and the rest from all over the country. During the year, the museum attracts a total of 6,000 people.
“We actually want to bring the October festival back,” said Rivera, referring to the Time of Thanksgiving Festival. She said the Museum used to hold three festivals a year, including this August event, but had to cancel two events due to bad weather.
“Due to bad weather, we had to eliminate our May and October events in 2009,” said Rivera. She said they are planning the return of the Thanksgiving Festival next year, around the third week of October.
“It will be the last pow wow. The setting is different,” said Rivera, noting the fall timing and their park location.
This coming September 15, the Museum has added a new event. Back to Nature is a family-friendly educational event with hands-on activities, visual exhibits, and a nature walk. The L’il Le-Hi Creek was where the Lenapes used to go fishing, Rivera said.
She said the free public event is also a reminder that health and wellness is connected to the way we recycle and conserve Earth’s precious resources.
For the Roasting of Ears Corn Festival event this month, the public can expect music, dancing, American Indian food, Native cooking demonstration, tomahawk and atlati throwing, crafts, jewelry and a craft area and face painting for children.
Aside from Robert Silent Thunder, the other performers are White Buffalo Singers, (Northern) as Host Drum; Medicine Horse, (Northern) Guest Drum; Rozlynn TonePahHote, (Kiowa) Head Woman Dancer; and Mark Tayak, (Piscataway Indian Nation) Emcee and Jay Hill, (Six Nations) Arena Diretor.
The dancers include Iroquois Social Dancing, Onyota’a:ka Dancers and Aztec Fire Dancers. The Hoop Dancer is Matthew White Eagle Clair, (Mikmoq). Lakota Recording Artist Davidica Little Spotted Horse is also performing.
The event, rain or shine opens on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Grand Entrance is at noon. Adults pay $7; seniors, 62 and above, $5; children, ages 8-17, $5; and children, 7 and under, free. The event is free to museum members with membership card.