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Inwood Hill Park

The Daily Plant : Wednesday, May 12, 2004


On Sunday, May 2, the rhythms of drummers from around the world inspired joyful dancing in Inwood Hill Park. For the first time, two of New York City’s most popular spring events, "Shad Festival" and "Drumming Along the Hudson", unified to bring New Yorkers "Shad Festival - Drums Along The Hudson: A Native American Festival", a free, fun event celebrating Native American heritage.

The history of Inwood Hill Park is deeply rooted in Native American culture. "This area was originally settled by Native Americans—they fished on the shores of the Hudson River and lived in the park’s rock shelters," said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "Today, Inwood Hill Park is one of our city’s most beautiful green spaces, a hidden jewel, and home to the last natural forest and salt marsh in Manhattan."

As long as three thousand years ago, Native Americans fished and gathered shellfish on the shores of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, which meet at Inwood Hill Park. They hunted deer and wild turkey and cleaned and cooked their game at the Inwood Rock Shelters that still exist today. When European settlers came to the area, they found the marshes on the river banks perfect for pasturing their livestock. This was one of the many attractive features of Manhattan that led Europeans to "purchase" the island from its inhabitants in 1626.

The Shad Festival, first held in the 1980s, celebrates the annual return of spawning shad to the Hudson River. Chris Letts, of the Hudson River Foundation, led demonstrations of shad planking, a cooking method used by Native Americans and taught to settlers. Festival-goers sampled a variety of shad preparations, including pickled and smoked shad. Considered a delicacy, shad are the only fish that the Department of Environmental Conservation permits to be commercially harvested from the Hudson River, because their life-cycle allows them to remain PCB-free. Tom Lake, of the Hudson River Foundation, was also on hand to display and discuss other fish native to the Hudson River.

At the festival, Mohawk Elder Tom Porter and Commissioner Benepe, along with other community leaders, presided over the planting of a White Pine, a symbol of peace. Louis Mofsie and the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers led a traditional Native American powwow with intertribal social dances. Winona LaDuke, author of All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life and founding member of the White Earth Recovery Project, was honored at the powwow for her activities to promote environmental awareness and her commitment to Native American rights. Children and adults from the crowd carefully matched the footwork of experienced dancers as they honored Ms. LaDuke in a special ceremony.

Homer Young-Kennedy III, a festival presenter, received a surprise of his own, when Parks & Recreation presented him with a plaque in the shape of a Parks’ leaf. Young-Kennedy works with the Inwood Community Coalition and was honored for his dedication to Inwood Hill Park.

The afternoon featured drumming from across the globe, with performances by Manhattan Taiko (Japanese drumming), Ayoub (North African drumming), Golden Atlantic Symphony Steel & Brass Orchestra (Guyanese drumming), Chhandayan Tabla Ensemble (Indian drumming), and Iroquois Singers and Dancers (Native American drumming).

"Shad Festival - Drums Along The Hudson: A Native American Festival" was presented by LOTUS Fine Arts Productions, NYC Parks & Recreation, Inwood Community Coalition, and the Hudson River Foundation.

Written by Jocelyn Aframe


"The girl with the pretty face
keeps on picking olives
with the grey arm of the wind
wrapped around her waist."

Federico García Lorca
From the poem, "Arbolé, Arbolé..."


Directions to Inwood Hill Park

Know Before You Go

Nature CentersInwood Hill Nature Center

Due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, this facility is closed until further notice.

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