Louis Mofsie on the Thunderbirds' 41st Annual Grand Mid-Summer Powwow, 2019

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

For our current exhibition Urban Indian: Native New York Now, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Rebecca Jacobs and filmmaker Nate Lavey created an original film in collaboration with Louis Mofsie on The Thunderbirds’ 41st Annual Grand Mid-Summer Pow Wow, held in summer 2019. In speaking about her experience, Jacobs states “It was a real honor to work with Louis Mofsie to create this video about the Thunderbirds’ annual Queens powwow for the Urban Indian exhibition. His perspectives on growing up in Native communities in Brooklyn, vast knowledge of powwow dances from across the country, and generous spirit sharing this knowledge with New York City residents make him one of our city’s great cultural leaders.”                                                                          

The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers host New York City’s oldest and largest annual powwow at Queens County Farm Museum each year. The Thunderbirds are an all-volunteer intertribal and multi-ethnic New York City–based dance and music organization founded by Louis Mofsie with neighborhood friends in 1963. Mofsie, who is still the organization’s Director, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1936. His father was Hopi from Arizona, and mother, Winnebago from Nebraska.

"Native American culture isn't stagnant," Mofise says in this video "...styles of dancing are changing all the time." Each year, this mid-July powwow features three days of intertribal dance competitions and opportunities for celebration through music and dance. Over 40 Tribal Nations are represented at this annual event, which features social dances. The powwow also includes a special Friday and Saturday sunset lighting of the bonfire, when all visitors are invited to dance.

Dr. Rebecca Hayes Jacobs was The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York from October 2017 to October 2019. Urban Indian is her capstone project.

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