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Pequot 'Green Corn and Dance' festival brings together Indigenous tribes and visitors alike

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
Provided photo
Schemitzun is an annual harvest festival featuring Indigenous dance and music.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation will welcome Native American tribes from New England and beyond to Ledyard this weekend for its annual “Feast of Green Corn and Dance,” or Schemitzun. It’s a chance for tribes to reconnect and participate in music and dance contests. For visitors, it’s a glimpse into Native American culture and a window into the past.

“It’s a harvest festival, a way to acknowledge the Great Spirit for providing for us, knowing that all things are in the hands of the Great Spirit,” said Wayne Reels, the Mashantucket Pequots’ cultural resources director. “Whether we get a bountiful harvest or a small one. It also helped prepare for the winter season. Often to prepare for the winter we’d harvest corn and put it in the ground, and that was our diet for the winter.”

Reels said one particular Schemitzun Festival, in 1669, had colonists worried that the gathering was a prelude to a major attack.

“We had tribes from all over the region, the Mohegans, the Shinnecocks, the Wampanoags,” Reels said. “It was in the time right before King Philip’s War, and the colonists thought such a large gathering must mean war.”

Reels said the Narragansett Chief Sachem Ninigret allayed the fears of the colonists, even inviting them to participate.

The festival features Indigenous dance and music and Native American chefs cooking up traditional cuisine. The festival also includes a reenactment of a Pequot Eastern Woodland village, with storytelling and a fire-cooking demonstration, as well as traditional arts and crafts. Reels said the festival is a homecoming of sorts.

“It is a homecoming for tribes, but it’s a homecoming where we are inviting you to share in this homecoming,” Reels said. “That’s the biggest thing, I think, that keeps people coming back because they feel they are part of the event, too.

“Schemitzun: Feast of Green Corn and Dance” gets underway Saturday morning at the Mashantucket Cultural Grounds in Ledyard. Go to schemitzun.comfor more details.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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