Native American Festival

Native American dancers perform at the Mini Wacipi in May. 

AVON LAKE - Tony Tomanek heard stories about his great grandmother finding and collecting arrowheads as a young girl walking through the fields of Avon Lake.

Tomanek, president of Heritage Avon Lake, the city’s historical society, knows that the arrowheads his great grandmother discovered after the vineyards were tilled were among items belonging to the first people who walked the shores of what became the lakeshore community.

Now, he is following through with a plan to remember them during the inaugural Native American Fest 2019.

The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Veterans Memorial Park on Lake Road. It will feature Native American dancers, storytellers, drum groups (Redbird and Thunder Nation), food (fry bread and Indian tacos), vendors and demonstrations for crafts and jewelry. Heritage Avon Lake and the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Native American Council are hosting the festival.

The event, which will showcase the culture and traditions of various Indian nations such as the Lakota, Navajos, Dine' and Odawa, is free and open to the public. Members of all four nations are expected to attend.

In May, Tomanek attended the Mini Wacipi at the Urban Community School in Cleveland, a Native American event that recognizes members of the Native American community striving to learn the traditions of their heritage. That inspired him to hold a similar event in Avon Lake.

"The color, the pageantry and the culture is incredible to see," Tomanek said "Being responsible for the town's history, I thought it would be important to remember the first people who lived here. It would be short sighted of me if I didn't. I wanted our residents to know who first occupied this land."

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, Ohio was home to numerous Indian nations, including the Iroquoi, Erie, Huron, Miami and Shawnee Indians, who hunted and gathered food along trails a few miles south of Lake Erie.

Lamenting about not knowing whatever happened to his great grandmother's collection of arrowheads, Tomanek said that the Native Americans in the Avon Lake area were woodland Indians. , who were "hunters and gatherers ." They followed trails along the shoreline which were about two or three miles south of the lake, Tomanek said.

Marlys Rambeau, chairman of the Lake Erie Native American Council, a nonprofit organization formed in 1990, said the group's mission is to preserve Native American traditions for its youth and future generations.

There are more than 4,500 families of Native American descent in Cuyahoga County, according to Rambeau. The council is expanding its preservation and membership efforts in Lorain and Medina counties with hopes of identifying more families of Native American heritage there, she said.

"A lot of people don't realize we're still here," said Rambeau, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux's Lakota nation. Her mother still lives on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation in South Dakota.

"There's still a wide variety of Indian nations around the Cleveland area," Rambeau said. "We want to preserve our culture in an urban setting. We also want to educate others on our modern-day history and how we got here as current residents."

Tomanek said he hopes the festival will have a good turnout and become an annual event.

Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com, or 440-871-5797

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