1976 Festival Of American Folklife 4 (Seneca, Iroquois)

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Smithsonian Institution

The 1976 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife videos were made as part of the Bi-Centennial Commemorations.

1976 Festival of American Folklife 4 features raw, unedited footage of announcements of indigenous presenters and dancers; social drumming, dancing, and singing; and interviews (with unidentified interviewer) with dancers at the Festival. The announcements are made by Huron Miller (Onondaga).  The audio quality of the footage is poor; the picture quality (black and white) is low contrast and “washed out,” typical of early consumer-grade video recordings.

Named locations: Washington, D.C.; Six Nations Reserve; New York; Salamanca, New York; Allegany (Territory), New York; Brantford, Ontario; Delaware

Major themes covered: Indian Dances
Native activities shown:  Songs and dances include the “Welcome Dance,” an “Iroquois Rabbit Dance,” “Delaware Skin Dance,” and “Round Dance.” Also, the Red Cloud family members perform tricks with whips.

Individuals Named: Huron Miller (Onondaga); Audrey Pawis (Ojibwa); Louise Henry (Tuscarora); the Chrisjohn family (Oneida); Irving Chrisjohn (Oneida); Kevin and Wes Patterson (Tuscarora); Stanley Hill (Mohawk); Cam Wilson (Mohawk); Richard (Rick) Hill (Tuscarora); Wanda Wilson (Mohawk); Marlene Thomas (Seneca); Ruby Williams (Onondaga); Hazel Thompson (Seneca); Andrea Jimerson (Onondaga); James Skye (Onondaga); Philip Thompson (Seneca); Tim and Guy Williams (Onondaga); Philman Harris (Seneca); Steve Harris (Seneca); the Red Cloud family; [some names are difficult to decipher, due to the poor audio quality]

Native language spoken: some on-screen Iroquois singing and drumming with “water drums;” some Iroquois songs may be sung in Iroquois dialect.
Noteworthy elements:  Huron Miller (Onondaga) is the announcer in 1976 Festival of American Folklife 4. In the “Descriptive Notes” for the 1958 vinyl recording entitled Songs and Dances of Great Lakes Indians, Huron Miller is described as “Onondaga-Tuscarora of Six Nations Reserve”. According to the “Notes,” he performs three different songs on the recording, including the “Women’s Dance,” the “Fishing Dance,” and the “Stomp Dance.” The “Notes” provide a brief biography for Miller (as of circa 1958):

             " Kadega'ohiyaie (Middle of the Sky) had an Onondaga mother and Tuscarora father, but he is one of the chief singers and speakers at the Ontario Seneca longhouse and often helps out in rites and social dances of Onondaga longhouse. As dancer he has no equal in the lightness, exuberance, and sensitivity of his style. He was well chosen to star in the National Film Board "People of the Longhouse." For the present he works in Hamilton, to provide medical care for his little boy; but at the time of the recordings he lived on the reservation. He and his wife were very cooperative and helped rig up the battery converter connections. One of his disciples provided the antiphonies" (8).


Pritzker, in his A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture and Peoples, describes traditional, cultural and historical practices of the Seneca and (more broadly) the Iroquois peoples. Pritzker explains that the word “Iroquois” is an adapted word from the (somewhat derogatory) Algonquian name for this group, meaning “real adders” (412). The Iroquois once referred to themselves as “Kanonsionni,” meaning “League of the United (Extended) Household,” and today refer to themselves as “Haudenosaunee,” meaning “People of the Longhouse” (436). The Seneca were the “most powerful, and westernmost of the five original tribes of the Iroquois League…The Seneca homeland stretched north to south from Lake Ontario to the upper Allegheny and Susquehanna Rivers and west to east from Lake Erie to Seneca Lake, but especially from Lake Canandaigua to the Genesee River…The Seneca spoke a Northern Iroquois dialect” (465). Pritzker also provides a brief description of traditional Iroquois and Seneca regalia, variations of which are worn by some dancers and singers in 1976 Festival of American Folklife 4 (468).

The Seneca Nation of Indians explains their past and present on their website:

             "The Seneca Nation of Indians has a proud and rich history. We are the largest of six Native American nations in New York State which comprised the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations, a democratic government that pre-dates the United States Constitution. We are known as the "Keeper of the Western Door," for the Seneca are the westernmost of the Six Nations. In the Seneca language we are also known as O-non-dowa-gah, (pronounced: Oh-n'own-dough-wahgah) or "Great Hill People." Today, the Seneca Nation of Indians has a population of over 8,000 enrolled members. We are the fifth-largest employer in Western New York, creating thousands of new jobs and investing hundreds of millions of dollars to bolster the region's and New York State's economy "(n. pag.)

Link to the Program Book for 1976 Festival of American Folklife:

“1976 Festival of American Folklife/Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service.” Smithsonian Research Online. Smithsonian Institution Libraries, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. http://si-pddr.si.edu/jspui/handle/10088/11053

“1976 Folklife Festival Program Supplement June 16-27.” Smithsonian Research Online. Smithsonian Institution Libraries, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. http://si-pddr.si.edu/jspui/handle/10088/11053

General information on Seneca and the Iroquois:

Abler, Thomas S. “Seneca Moieties and Hereditary Chieftainships: The Early-Nineteenth-Century Political Organization of an Iroquois Nation.” Ethnohistory 51.3 (2004): 459-488. JSTOR. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.

Howard, James H. “Cultural Persistence and Cultural Change as Reflected in Oklahoma Seneca-Cayuga Ceremonialism.” Plains Anthropologist 6.11 (Feb. 1961): 21-30. JSTOR. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.

Jennings, Francis. The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984. Print.

Johansen, Bruce Elliot, and Barbara Alice Mann, eds. Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

Lyon, William S. Encyclopedia of Native American Healing. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. Print.

Parker, Arthur Caswell. The History of the Seneca Indians. New York: Friedman, 1967. Print.

Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture and Peoples. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.

Seneca Nation of Indians, The. “Nya:weh sgeno.” The Seneca Nation of Indians: Keeper of the Western Door. n.p., 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. http://sni.org/

Speck, Frank Gouldsmith. The Iroquois: a study of cultural evolution. 2nd ed. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook, 1955. Print.

Wilson, Edmund. Apologies to the Iroquois. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1992. Print.

Information on Huron Miller:

Folkways Records & Service. “Descriptive Notes.” Songs and Dances of Great Lakes Indians (1958). Web. 27 Mar. 2013.  http://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/folkways/FW04003.pdf

Other notes: Richard (Rick) Hill (Tuscarora) and Irving Chrisjohn (Oneida) are featured in both 1976 Festival of American Folklife 3 and 4; Stanley Hill (Mohawk) is featured in both 1976 Festival of American Folklife 5 and 4.


--Eric Maynard (Mohegan), 2013