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In tent city! Williamsburg park gets a tepee

Fair weather tent: The tepee will sit at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge till Sept. 1.
Photo by Alec Jacobson

A group of artists are bringing a little bit of South Dakota to Williamsburg this summer with a large canvas tepee in Havemeyer Park.

The tepee is meant to be an inviting hangout spot and a symbol of the impermanence of the park, which exists only until the land is dug up for a building that will be part of the Domino Sugar factory mega-development.

“This is a call for the community to come together in the space with art and culture and tradition and creativity,” said organizer Denise Cermanski, who took out a loan to fund the structure. “The fact that it is right across from the Domino Factory is very poignant.”

The tepee is built in the style of those favored by the Native-American Sioux tribe, who once used the sturdy but portable shelter to traverse the Great Plains following the buffalo. The interior of the tepee is about 22 feet across, or about the size of an average above-ground swimming pool.

The group that erected the tent plans to use it to host Native-American-themed events as well as yoga, art classes, and movie screenings.

Members of the Sioux tribe said they were surprised but not necessarily offended to learn that artists are building tepees in Brooklyn.

“The younger people here do not have much interest in the traditions of our tribe, so it is good that someone is keeping it alive,” said Tay Redcloud, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

Other Sioux folks we polled said they think the tepee in Havemeyer Park is fine as long as the artists show the proper reverence for their way of life.

“Everything has a spiritual reason in our culture,” said Bernie Shotwitharrow, an Oglala Sioux tribe councilman. “So a lot more respect has to be put into that.”

The planners, who call themselves the Tipi Project, say they are collaborating with Native-American groups including the Red Hawk Native Arts Council, Drums Along the Hudson, and Golden Drum, which constructed the tepee.

The tepee will be up until September 1, said Cermanski. The Tipi Project plans to host a public blessing of the tepee on May 29.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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