2022 North American First People's Day Programming Announced

Sep 07, 2022

(Akron, Ohio. September 6, 2022) The Portage Path, Akron’s tribute to the Native people that first occupied the land here, will be celebrated in a series of events October 1– 7, 2022. The Portage Path was created by Indigenous people who populated the area for millennia before the first Europeans arrived and is one of the oldest, most visible landmarks on the North American continent, an 8-mile trail crossing the watershed divide between the Cuyahoga River and Tuscarawas River.

The Portage Path was marked by the Summit County Historical Society in 1999, when for the first time, monumental sculptures at each terminus were connected by fifty markers in the shape of Indian broad blades over the 8-mile trail.

Saturday, October 1. 11am – 7pm.
An exhibit of contemporary Native American art will be open to the public at the Institute for Human Science and Culture at the University of Akron Cummings Center. Delaware Girl: The Art of Valerie J. Evans is featured in the Center’s Metzger Gallery. Evans has been able to achieve the effects of a fine oil painting through colored pencil portraits that reflect her own Native American heritage (Delaware/Six Nations). In Delaware Girl, these portraits are paired with recent works depicting women of a bygone age, donned in vintage bathing suits and caps, sunbathing at the beach or pool. Together, these works achieve an underlying effect of quiet reverence and dignity. Born in Ontario, Canada, Valerie currently resides in Westlake, Ohio. https://www.uakron.edu/chp/whats-on/delaware-girl. 

Free guided tours of the exhibits are available 11am – 4pm with prior registration. Join Curator Fran Ugalde for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Oak Native American Ethnographic Collection, including exclusive entry into the temperature-controlled storage housing the objects not currently on display to the public. Attendees will learn about how the private collection of Jim and Vanita Oelschlager came to The University of Akron, what it offers in terms of vast geographic representation of diverse Indigenous Nations, and some of the research questions that are currently being explored. Limited spaces Available.

Sunday, October 2, 1: 30p.m – 3:00 p.m.
The sixth annual Portage Path Walk will take place on Sunday, October 2. A one-kilometer walk will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Portage Path CLC, 55 S. Portage Path and will be led by members of the Northern Cheyenne nation who will be drumming and dressed in regalia. . www.walkportagepath.com. The walk, open to the public, will end at the John Brown House, 514 Diagonal Road. There will be a program at 2:00 pm that will include drumming and singing. The Society’s historic museum will be available for walk-through tours.

A food trailer operated by the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio will be open to the public. “NAICCO Cuisine” is a Native American owned-and-operated food trailer that offers a one-of-a-kind menu consisting of exquisite Native American street food including fry bread, NDN tacos, buffalo burgers, and more. It is the first food trailer of its kind in the Midwest.

Sunday, October 2, 11: 30a.m – 1 p.m.
Summit Metro Parks will present a walk guided by a Summit Metro Parks archaeologist. Participants will learn about the history of this vital link between North American waterways and enjoy a talk at the northern terminus by artist Peter Jones (Onondaga/Seneca). Jones created the statues of the portaging American Indian which can be seen at both the northern and southern termini of the Portage Path. The walk will begin at 11:30 at the Big Bend parking area in Sand Run Metro Park, 1337 Merriman Rd.

The artist Peter Jones will be available at noon at the statue located at Portage Path and Merriman Road. Parking is available in nearby commercial lots. Currently, Jones is designing another large, bronze-cast sculpture for the City of Cuyahoga Falls, which received an “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.The sculpture will be installed on Levinson Lane, between Front Street and Second Street later this year.

Monday, October 3
The Collaborative will sponsor in-school activities around Summit County, including a “teach-in” with appearances by Indian nation representatives. Participating Akron Public School teachers are creating lesson activities aligned with the visits.

Monday, October 3, 6:30 pm
Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Event: Many Voices speaker series will feature Emmy award-winning storyteller Sarah Eagle Heart (Oglala Lakota) in a program Monday evening October 3 at 6:30pm in the Main Library Auditorium. https://services.akronlibrary.org/event/6995356.

Sarah Eagle Heart is the co-CEO of Return to the Heart Foundation supporting Native American women. She founded Eagle Heart Collective in 2019 focusing on narrative change, leadership development and social justice storytelling. She recently served as CEO of Native Americans in Philanthropy, a national nonprofit that focuses on investment in Native American communities.

The speaker will be introduced by Amber Crowe (Ojibway, Alderville First Nation), a magistrate in the Summit County Juvenile Court and a candidate for the Ohio 9th District Court of Appeals.

Wednesday, October 5, 6:00pm
The Institute for Human Science and Culture at the Cummings Center of The University of Akron will sponsor a lecture by Dr. LaDonna Blue Eye (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) whose topic will be History of Two Spirit and LGBTQ Identity in the Native American Community. Dr. Blue Eye received a Master of Public Health from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and earned her PhD from the School of Public Health at Indiana University. Dr. Blue Eye’s research interests include qualitative methodology in health behavior, health disparities, and culturally appropriate health interventions. The Cummings Center is at 73 S College St., and the program is free and open to the public. https://www.uakron.edu/chp/whats-on/two-spirit-and-lgbtq-identity.

Friday, October 7, 5:00-7:00pm
A new archaeology exhibit will open at Summit Art Space, Portage Path Community Archaeology Project curated by Stewards of Historic Preservation and will continue on exhibit through December 17. The exhibition will feature archaeological artifacts, interpretive maps, text panels, and artwork prepared by local artists that illustrates this colorful history. Summit Art Space is located at 140 E. Market Street.

On Friday, October 7, as part of the opening, 5:00pm – 7:00pm Dr. Kevin Kern, professor of history at the University of Akron, will present a lecture, White Visions of ‘Red men’: Indians in Northeast Ohio Memory. https://www.summitartspace.org/

• Akron City Council in 2018 declared the first Monday in October as “North American First People’s Day,” a day to honor Indian history, life and culture. It was extended to the entire county in April 2019 by Summit County Council. The initiative was prompted by students at The Lippman School of Akron, which has a longstanding exchange relationship with the Northern Cheyenne Nation of Montana.
• Students from Lippman, Portage Path CLC and the Cheyenne Nation joined together in 2016 to create a web-based mobile app that provides extensive information about the Indian trail, including its history and the natural world that it traverses. The app can be accessed at www.walkportagepath.org.
• The Portage Path Collaborative includes The Summit County Historical Society, The Lippman School, Summit Metro Parks, Akron Public Schools, the Akron-Summit County Public Library, Stewards for Historic Preservation and The University of Akron Institute for Human Science and Culture/ Cummings Center for the History of Psychology. Two individuals, La Donna Blue Eye, a member of the Choctaw Nation and Akron artist Chuck Ayers are also members of the group.
• A brochure outlining the historic trail and the history of Native peoples who used the Portage Path has been published and is free and available at the Historical Society and at Metro Parks’ F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm.
• The sculpture of a Native American portaging a canoe was designed and sculpted by Peter Jones who resides and works on the Alleghany Indian Reservation near Salamanca, New York. He graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in 1965 and has been honored with national awards recognizing his lifetime commitment to perpetuating Haudenosaunee traditions and to restore and pass on ancestral knowledge and traditions, connecting Native peoples to their greatest assets.
• The mission of the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio is supported by the operation of the Food Truck and strengthens NAICCO’s community-driven initiatives – social development, economic development, and cultural restoration/preservation.
MEDIA CONTACT: Dave Lieberth, 234.738.0003, david.lieberth@gmail.com