By Kyle Barr
Every July for the past 11 years the sound of drums, yells, shouts and laughter has resonated from the grounds of the Setauket Elementary School. It is all part of the Setalcott Native American Nation’s Annual Corn Festival Pow-Wow, which returns this weekend. For Helen “Hart of Morning Star” Sells, one of the coordinators of the festival, those sounds are an important part of her family’s history and the history of her people.
Sells is a member of the Setauket-based nation and can trace her lineage back four generations to Rachel Tobias Holland Hart, who is depicted in William Sidney Mount’s famous painting, “Eel Spearing at Setauket” (1845). The 76-year-old looks forward to helping to host the event every year.
“A Pow-Wow is a time where we get to celebrate the harvest that we receive from the great spirit each year” she said in a recent telephone interview. “We celebrate our history and make new friends. That’s what it’s basically about. It’s to let people know we’re still here.”
The Setalcott Nation was one of the first Native American tribes to encounter Europeans, selling 30 acres of land to colonists in 1655, in what would become the Town of Brookhaven. The name “Setauket” is derived from the Algonquin speaking Setalcotts whose members still reside in the areas around East Setauket, specifically along Conscience Bay.
According to Sells, the Corn Festival Pow-Wow was founded in 2005 by her cousin, Theodore Green, who had been chief at the time. Green, who passed away in 2007, was asked to put an event together to educate the community about Native American culture as well as have them recognize the Setalcott Nation’s importance and history in the development of the surroundings towns and hamlets.
The family event will feature native traditional dances from the Bronx Taino Nation as well as Aztec fire dancers along with craft and food vendors, storytelling, singing, a candy dance for the children and much more.
A Grand Entry, which will be held at noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, and at noon on Sunday, will honor the memory of World War I veterans with American Legion’s Hunter Squire Jackson Post 1218 (Amityville) and the Irving Hart Post 1466 (Setauket), among others.
The 12th annual Corn Festival Pow-Wow will be held at the Setauket Elementary School, 34 Main St., Setauket on July 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and July 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bring seating. Admission and parking is free but donations are appreciated. For more information, call 631-698-5517 or 917-415-5139.