Summit County will commemorate First Peoples of North America Day with events, exhibits and a march October 1-7

AKRON, Ohio – Akron Public Schools, Summit Akron County Public Library, Summit County Historical Society and Summit Metro Parks are among organizations hosting events to commemorate North American First Peoples Day from October 1 to 7.

The Akron City Council declared the first Monday in October North American First Peoples Day in 2018 as a way to honor Native American history, life, and culture. In 2019, Summit County Council expanded the declaration to include all of Summit County. The statements were encouraged by students at the Lippman School, which has a long-standing trading relationship with the Cheyenne Nation of Northern Montana.

Commemorations this year include the sixth annual Portage Trail Walk, guest speakers, art exhibits, school activities and a new archeology exhibit.

Native American art exhibits

The University of Akron Cummings Center Institute for Humanities and Culture will host an exhibit of contemporary Native American art on Saturday, October 1 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The exhibition is open to the public and features “Delaware Girl: The Art of Valerie J. Evansin the Metzger gallery in the center. Evans’ colored pencil portraits reflect her Native American (Delaware/Six Nations) heritage and are paired with recent works that show women from a bygone era, dressed in vintage bathing suits and caps while taking a bath sun at the beach or at the swimming pool.

Free guided tours of the center’s exhibits are available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. upon prior registration. Curator Fran Ugalde will lead behind-the-scenes tours of the Oak Native American Ethnographic Collection, which includes entry into temperature-controlled storage objects not currently on public display.

Portage Trail

The annual walk is scheduled for Sunday, October 2 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. The one-kilometre walk retraces the steps of the indigenous peoples who once walked the Portage Trail – an 8-mile trail that crosses the divide between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers. Members of the Northern Cheyenne Nation lead the march, which is open to the public. The walk begins at the Portage Path Community Learning Center, 55 S. Portage Path, and ends at the John Brown House, 514 Diagonal Road. A program of percussion and singing is scheduled at 2 p.m.

The event also features a Native American street food trailer operated by the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio.

Guided archaeological walk and discussion

On Sunday, October 2 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Summit Metro Parks will host a park archaeologist-guided walk from the Big Bend parking lot at Sand Run Metro Park, 1337 Merriman Road. Along the walk, the archaeologist will discuss the history of the area, which serves as an important link between North American waterways. At the northern terminus, artist Peter Jones (Onondaga/Seneca) will talk about the statues he created of the Portage American Indian that can be seen at the northern and southern points of the Portage Trail. Jones is due to speak at noon in front of the statue located at Portage Path and Merriman Road. Parking is available at nearby commercial lots.

school activities

On Monday, October 3, participating schools in Summit County will host Indian Nation representatives and create lessons and activities that align with the tours.

Many Voices speaker series

On Monday, October 3 at 6:30 p.m., the Akron-Summit County Public Library will host the many voices lecture series featuring Emmy-winning storyteller Sarah Eagle Heart (Oglala Lakota) in the Main Library auditorium. Eagle Heart is co-CEO of the Return to the Heart Foundation, which supports Native American women. In 2019, she founded Eagle Heart Collective to focus on narrative change, leadership development, and social justice storytelling.

Lecture: History of Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Identity in the Native American Community

On Wednesday, October 5 at 6 p.m., the University of Akron’s Cummings Center Institute for Humanities and Culture will be sponsoring a lecture by LaDonna Blue Eye (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma). she will discuss History of Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Identity in the Native American Community. Blue Eye earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a doctorate from the Indiana University School of Public Health. The conference is free and open to the public. The Cummings Center is located at 73 S. College St.

New archeology exhibition

Friday, October 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Summit Art Space will host the Portage Path Community Archeology Project organized by Stewards of Historic Preservation. The exhibition, open until December 17, features archaeological artifacts, interpretive maps, text panels and artwork. Summit Artspace is located at 140 E. Market St.

As part of the opening, University of Akron history professor Kevin Kern will present a lecture titled “White Visions of ‘Red men:’ Indians in Northeast Ohio Memory.”

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James C. Tibbs