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Annual Waterfall Unity Festival 2023

Indigenous Traditions and Arts Celebrated As Waterfall Unity Festival Returns to Schoharie Valley

By Sal Cataldi | June 30, 2023

When summer comes rolling in, the Hudson Valley turns into music festival central. While 2023 is overflowing with exciting offerings, no festival may support a more noble and novel cause than the Waterfall Unity Festival. With an incredible lineup of local and internationally beloved musicians as well as crafts, food, speakers, workshops, and vendors, this three-day-long benefit will be inspiring fun for the whole family! It will also educate the public about and help foster the return of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk People) to their ancestral homeland in the Schoharie Valley.

Waterfall Unity Festival 2023 at Iotsi’tsisons (Skywoman’s) Forever Farm

This year’s lineup includes Akwesasne singer-songwriter Theresa Bear Fox, folk legend Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, Bethany Yarrow, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, the Ondandoga Women’s Singers, frontline activist and singer Mercedes Terrance, Kanienkahaka songstress Semiah Smith, Mohawk wolf clan spoken word artist Kahsenniyo Williams, Tibetan singer Tsering Lodoe, songwriter and forager Sean Rowe, Roberto Múkaro Borrero, the jazz duo of Stephanie Rooker + Ben Tyree, Brazilian composer Maria Esther Pallares and many more.

Festival attendees have the option to camp near the longhouse during the three-day event and partake in what Yarrow calls “a beautiful community and rustic adventure where outside of the festival program you can share songs by the campfire at night and swim at the waterfall during the day.”

The event will take place July 28 – 30 at a traditional longhouse being built in West Fulton, NY adjacent to a sacred waterfall originally called Kahonraken:ra (the White Spout).  The festival is organized by the Waterfall Unity Alliance, a local not-for-profit led by Haudenosaunee women. Last year the festival helped to raise over $800,000 to purchase and renovate Bohringer’s Berry Farm in the heart of the Valley.

The farm, now renamed IOTSI’TSÍSON (SKYWOMAN’S) FOREVER FARM, sits on a spectacular 60-acre ribbon of cropland in Central New York. It is also the site of the last Kanien’kehá:ka Turtle Clan village in the area, over 420 years ago.  Over the past year the farm has undergone extensive renovation, getting ready to welcome the first Kanien’kehá:ka families back down to a new traditional community on their ancestral lands.

During the day, festival attendees can participate in a variety of workshops, teachings, traditional social dances, berry picking – all aimed at fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Kanien’kehá:ka culture, artistic expression and community bonding. The event will also feature a host of vendors selling arts and crafts. The workshops will be led by renowned teachers/artists including Kanerahtiio Roger Jock, a leader of the Akwesasne Reserve who has taught cultural awareness for over 40 years as a part of the White Roots of Peace Movement, and Kawennniiosta Jock, Kanienkehá:ka Wolf Clan, who is an activist, master seamstress and Co-Executive Director of Waterfall Unity Alliance.

All proceeds from this year’s festival will go toward building a Kanien’kehá:ka language and cultural immersion program for the new community.


Kanerahtillo Jock of Iotsi’tsisons (Skywoman’s) Forever Farm

Kanerahtiio Roger Jock at the Iotsi’tsisons (Skywoman’s) Forever Farm

Kawenniiosta Jock, who now lives at the Forever Farm explained, “This isn’t just a berry farm to us. These lands hold a significant part in our journey to self-discovery. Patching the holes within our being is an act of resistance to the ongoing genocide of our planet and specifically our Onkwehonwe (original) peoples of these lands. This is what environmental justice looks like to me. Reclaiming my spirit and the future of my children’s existence. Reconnecting and Relearning the ways of our ancestors. Going back to the land and being present in my day-to-day interactions with all creation.”

The Waterfall Alliance was co-founded by activist and musician Bethany Yarrow.  The genesis goes back to this born-and-raised New Yorker’s 1999 purchase of an old roadside inn next to a 150-foot waterfall known locally as Bouck’s Falls.  Built on the edge of a dramatic gorge, the house had been a gathering place for generations, drawing visitors to the awe-inspiring landscape and powerful healing waters which remain protected on private land. The purchase of the house and the stewarding of the waterfall began a decades-long journey for Yarrow, who worked closely with the Kanienkehá:ka in 2013 as they were returning to the Valley to reconnect with their ancient sacred sites.

As a passionate climate activist, land and water protector, Yarrow helped form the Waterfall Unity Alliance in 2015 with Kanienkehá:ka leaders to fight the construction of the Constitution Pipeline through their ancestral territories. Together with other grassroots organizations, they successfully defeated the pipeline, setting a historic precedent as the first federally approved interstate pipeline to be stopped by a State agency.

Bethany Yarrow

Co-founder of The Waterfall Alliance, Bethany Yarrow

The frontline work deepened relations between Yarrow and the Akwesasne community, the Kanienkehaka reservation that straddles the border between New York, Ontario and Quebec.  It was evident to everyone involved that it was not enough just to stop a pipeline. To address land protection, climate chaos, environmental justice and intergenerational trauma, it was urgent to open the doorway for a peaceful return of the Kanien’kehá:ka to their ancestral lands.

As one of seven Kanien’kehá:ka communities pushed north, the Akwesasne reservation was formed in the mid-18th century, where more than 12,000 people now reside. It is also home to the largest PCB dump in America, courtesy of General Motors, Reynolds and Alcoa. Akwesasne is now designated as a toxic superfund site, with extremely high rates of cancer and other rare diseases in the community.

The newly “rematriated” land in the Schoharie Valley will offer a clean place to live and grow food, to sustain a new community. In reclaiming sovereignty and identity, land and language are inseparable, so the next step of the project is to establish a language and cultural immersion program. All proceeds from this year’s Waterfall Unity Festival will go towards supporting the new school and community.

The Iotsi’tsisons (Skywoman’s) Forever Farm

The highlight is a captivating concert featuring a diverse lineup of talented musicians, storytellers and spoken word artists, a showcase for various genres and cultural influences. “The Waterfall Unity Festival is a testament to the power of unity and community support,” says Bethany Yarrow, Schoharie County resident and co-founder of the Waterfall Unity Alliance. “We invite everyone to come together and join us for an unforgettable weekend of music, learning, cultural exchange and ceremonial acknowledgment of our shared commitment to right the wrongs of history and work together to protect the Schoharie Valley and all Earth.”

Attendees are asked to register online HERE so that adequate amenities can be provided onsite. The festival website also includes info on local Airbnbs and hotels for lodging.  While the event is free there is a requested donation HERE to support the work of the Waterfall Alliance.

For more information and registration, please visit or contact Liv Bigtree at [email protected]   There is also a link on the homepage for vendors interested in participating in the event HERE.

“We are excited to extend an invitation to individuals from all walks of life to join us at this year’s festival, where we will commemorate the growth of our vision and honor the Kanien’kehá:ka’s return to our ancestral homelands,” says Kawenniiosta Jock.

“The success of our inaugural festival last summer helped us raise the necessary funds to purchase Iotsi’tsison (Skywoman’s) Forever Farm. We are so grateful for the opportunity to return here and to create the space needed for our people to rediscover their roots and grow.”

Local lodging and nearby Skóhare
Though we cannot host everyone onsite, we have provided lodging information below. See links to nearby hotels, motels and b&b’s. Additionally, links to local airbnb and campsite options.

Hotels, motels, and B&B’s HERE
Campsites local to Skóhar HERE
Airbnb’s local to Skóhare HERE

Inside+OutUpstate New York, a proud co-sponsor of the event, will publish a more extensive feature and interview with Yarrow on the organization’s mission and the festival in the coming weeks.

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Contributing writer Sal Cataldi is a musician, writer and publicist living in the Hudson Valley.



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