AURORA | At first, the students stayed shyly seated.
Members of the Cayuga Nation had asked the dozens of Wells College students sitting on a circle made of hay bales to join them Friday afternoon as they showcased traditional American Indian dances like the Robin Dance, the Friendship Dance and the Standing Quiver Dance.
But after a few seconds of observation, they couldn't resist.
One by one, students turned bold, abandoning their seats and joining the singing Haudenosaunee as they made dancing circles on the Aurora campus' grassy lawn.
And despite their initial timidity, nearly every student joined, smiling and laughing as they learned the traditional Iroquois social dances.
The singing and dancing were all part of the Peachtown Native American Festival, an annual event where Wells College teaches students about the Cayuga Nation, Aurora's first inhabitants.
Cam Hill, a member of the Cayuga Nation's Bear Clan, started off Friday's ceremony by giving a thanksgiving address in the Cayuga's traditional language — something he said the Haudenosaunee do at the beginning and end of each gathering.
"That's to give thanks for everything that the creator has put here for us for our well being," he said. "A lot of things from Mother Nature and the sun and the moon also — all of creation we give thanks for."
After the thanksgiving address, Cayuga Clan Mother Birdie Hill, of the Heron Clan, thanked attendees for taking part in the event.
"It just really gives me that extra strength....to see all of you people, you beautiful, wonderful people, here to participate," she said. "I hope you do participate in the dancing and whatever you can do to bring us closer together."
After all, celebrating a place both the Cayuga Nation and Wells College students love is what the Peachtown festival is all about.
"Get to know us, and let us get to know you," Hill said. "I'm sure that we all have something in common."