Indian Village honors Indigenous culture at the Fair

NEW YORK STATE FAIRGROUNDS (WSYR-TV) — Friday, September 1, marked Native Americans Day at the New York State Fair, a tradition going back to the 1920s.

Fairgoers can make their way over to the Indian Village, where all of the six nations making up the Iroquois Confederacy that have historically inhabited Upstate New York are represented, including the Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora.

Native Americans Day was celebrated with a special event as the Nations came together for an Iroquois Smoke Dance competition.

Competitors of all different ages were able to dance. The youngest age group was for children ages 0-5, followed by groups for ages 6-11 and 12-17.

Adults between 18-39 were in their own age group, along with adults 40 and older.

All the age groups were separated by gender as well. Each group named a third, second and first place finisher after all the dances had finished.

Men ages 18-39 dance in the competition

While the smoke dance competition was a special occurrence for Native Americans Day, traditional Iroquois Social Dances will happen at the Indian Village every day during the Fair at 11 a.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Outside of the dancing, fairgoers can enjoy vendors selling goods like dream catchers, beads and jewelry, with each Nation having its own booth.

Items for sale at the Oneida Nation booth

Important historical artifacts are also on display, including traditional pieces of clothing and even the bench that then-Governor of New York Franklin D. Roosevelt possibly sat on when he visited the Indian Village in 1932.

Many of the people at the Indian Village displaying artifacts or their crafts have been coming to the Fair for many years, going back multiple generations within their family, like Lisa Laptocha and her partner, Carl Jacobs, who run the herbalist medicine stand.

Laptocha’s mother, Otadodah Homer, began the herbalist medicine stand at the Fair roughly 40 years ago. Now Laptocha and Jacobs, both Oneida Nation members, are selling the medicine at the booth, which includes oils and gels to help with joint pain, leg cramps and even anxiety.

Liquids are also sold in spray bottles to help with getting rid of negative energy.

Ingredients used in the products are mostly local, and other herbalists also send ingredients.

If fairgoers want to stop for food at the Indian Village, they can do so at the Six Nations Soup House. And they can also try their hand at archery and lacrosse.

The Indian Village will remain open until the end of the Fair on September 4.

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