Hidden in the woodlands of Glen Cove, visitors wandered the grounds of Garvies Point Museum and Preserve during the annual Native American Feast last Saturday. Each year, the weekend before Thanksgiving, the museum invites patrons from near and far to take part in a variety of activities that celebrate Native American life.
“Being a museum, education is our No. 1 goal,” said Veronica Natale, the museum’s director. “So we like to bring education through hands-on activities. People get more out of learning when it’s hands-on and visual.”
Guests applied tribal face paint made from red shale, which was ground at a stone-drilling station. Children weaved in and out of wigwams in the interactive woodland village, and visitors sampled fare from Native American food displays, which featured four types of popcorn, cranberries and boiled corn soup. In the pottery studio, patrons used natural clay deposits from Hempstead Harbor beach to sculpt bowls and vases.
Marianna Ferrari, who came from Queens, said she enjoyed the exhibits, which she said realistically portrayed life in native tribes. “The multisensory aspect of it [is more interesting than] just reading about it in your book,” she said. “My kids are at that age where they’re old enough to understand and appreciate some of the local history.”
In front of the museum, visitors took turns scraping into the trunk of a tulip tree with natural tools like seashells and sticks, forming a dugout canoe. In a clearing behind the building, patrons launched spears across the sky using an atlatl — a tool that pre-historic tribes used for hunting.
Visitors trekked through the trees and explored the natural surroundings on the preserve’s numerous walking trails. A flight of leaf-laden stairs led down to the beach, where red shale rocks stood out on the shoreline. A family of four, squatting near the surf, molded small hills from the sand.
“It’s a great place,” said Dimitri Bourianov, who had come from New York City with his family. “It was great to walk around on trails and see the ocean as well. My kids love it — all of the magic behind the trees.”
Bourianov said the feast offered them a chance to engage with an ancient way of life. “I think it changes the scenery,” he said, “and it gives you a view of the culture and history as well.”
Down a different trail, the aromas of flame-broiled rainbow trout and roasted acorn squash floated through the forest, enticing guests who gathered near a crackling campfire. The flames were tended by Ted Strickroth, a.k.a. “Teepee Ted,” from the Traveling Wilderness Museum in Aquebogue, in Suffolk County. With assistance from his helper, Ryan Clemente, of Seaford, Strickroth showed patrons how to cook over open flames. The skill, he said, helps “renew a connection with people and Mother Earth.”
“It’s about remembering that everything comes from the Earth,” Teepee Ted explained. “I’ll ask children where their computers come from, and they say the factory or the store. Computers used to look like a rock. Thousands of things have been done to that rock to make it a computer.”
That sentiment served as a unique reminder of the Native American tribes that once inhabited the region, and what they did in order to survive. Strickroth’s demonstration also illustrated how society once socialized, he said — around a cooking campfire.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a campfire,” he said. “It’s hypnotic.”