Ganondagan Gives Us Light: An Introspection on Cultural Appreciation

By Sahana Narayan

Did you know that kettle corn was first discovered by Native Americans? I sure didn’t. This was one of many things I was able to learn this weekend at the Ganondagan Arts Festival. The 2-hour drive, filled with naps, music, and mindless conversation, only heightened my anticipation.

Before we knew it, we were lined up, given wristbands, and let loose like a herd of cattle ready to graze. My eyes flickered from the various stalls lined up to the huge performance tent set up in the back. With the trusty schedule we were given, I was able to set an itinerary for the afternoon (something that eased my need for organization) with my friend. Walking from tent to tent, I was enthralled by the intricate beadwork, stunning jewelry, and authentic hand-carved wooden flutes. After lunch, I watched Iroquois social dance styles, learned the history and process of basket making, and immersed myself in the symbolism behind stories, hoop dancing, and hand signals alike.

It wasn’t just the various stimuli that made this Saturday exciting; it was the level of acceptance. In a time where there continues to be a tense relationship between cultural appreciation and appropriation, the gracious invite to witness such a rich culture was rewarding. When an ASL interpreter there encouraged the audience to participate in the ‘Friendship’ dance, I could feel the passion the people there felt for their community. I couldn’t help but want to delve deeper and learn as much as I could. It was a great experience for a plethora of reasons. I can promise there is something beautiful about cultural appreciation and I recommend the experience to each and every one of you when you visit Ithaca.