The Independence Day holiday most of us are celebrating this weekend is NOT treated as a holiday by many of the nation's first inhabitants. Beginning with the sale of Manhatten Island, Native Americans have lost most of the land they once called home. In the 1960s, when thousands of native peoples were relocated from the reservations to cities like Cleveland, many also lost contact with the cultural traditions that made them who they are. Eight years ago, the American Indian Education Center started the Cleveland Powwow, a ceremonial gathering of nations held each year at Edgewater Park. The two days of Native American dancing, food and culture have a special meaning for Cleveland's native people. 90.3 WCPN's Karen Schaefer attended this year's gathering and brings us their story.
Karen Schaefer: For the last eight years Clevelanders have celebrated Native American culture at the annual Cleveland Powwow held every Father's Day weekend at Edgewater Park. For non-natives, the festival means colorful costumes, dancing, buffalo burgers and Indian fry bread. It's also a chance to meet some real Indians.
But for Cleveland's Native American population, the powwow has a deeper meaning. Beginning in the late 1950's, thousands of tribal members were encouraged by the federal government to move from reservations to cities like Cleveland, where new generations quickly lost touch with their native culture.
Today there are more than 2 million Native American peoples still living in the United States, both on and off the reservation. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by the year 2070, virtually none of their descendants will qualify as full-blood Indians. In the meantime, Cleveland's Native Americans will continue to celebrate their heritage and do their best to preserve Native culture for the generations yet unborn. In Cleveland, Karen Schaefer, 90.3 WCPN News.