Summer is finally here and with it the usual assortment of beer festivals and country fairs. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never met a funnel cake or bratwurst I didn’t like and I still can’t resist a man in lederhosen; but if you’re looking for something completely different from the oom-pah bands and cotests involving small children and greased pigs, I’ve got a great suggestion. Check out one of the annual Seneca Nation pow wows this July. It’s an opportunity to learn about our area’s oldest native culture and have a lot of fun in the process.
The Seneca Nation is one of the original Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy which boasts a democratic government that pre-dates the United States Constitution. Haudenosaunee means “People of the Longhouse and is comprised of chiefs from the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. This union was later expanded to include the Tuscarora, becoming the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. At the time of the formation of the Iroquois League, the original five nations occupied large areas of land in Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern United States. The Seneca occupied territory that stretched throughout the Finger Lakes area in Central New York, and into the Genesee Valley in Western New York.
The Seneca people call themselves O-non-dowa-gah, (pronounced: Oh-n’own-dough-wahgah) or “Great Hill People. Like the other Iroquois tribes, they lived in longhouses, which were long, narrow bark-covered dwellings that housed several families from the same clan. There are eight Seneca clans, each named for a different animal. They are the Bear, Beaver, Turtle, Wolf, Deer, Hawk, Heron, and Snipe. Clan membership is passed on to children through their mothers. The Seneca Nation of Indians currently has a total enrolled population of nearly 8,000.
Pow wows originated with the indigenous Native American tribes of the American West. They began as cultural festivals akin to county fairs that brought several different tribes together to meet, celebrate and compete. The general program has changed very little over the years. This year there are two local pow wows associated with the Seneca Nation.
The first pow wow is sponsored by Iroquois Post 1587 and runs from July 13-15 at the new Cattaraugus Community Center at 12767 Route 438 in Irving, NY 14081. The theme this year is “Honor All Veterans”. Bud Thompson, co-chair of the Iroquois Post 1587 Veterans Pow Wow said that. “This reflects the Seneca people’s deep respect and appreciation for all veterans, both native and non-native.” The theme makes this pow wow really special. There will be color guards from all over the country as well as the opportunity to honor family American flags and our local veterans.
Several different Native American Tribes will participate in The “Seneca Pow Wow 2012” which will be held July 21-22 at Veteran’s Park on Broad Street in Salamanca, NY. Both events will feature drum and dance competitions as well as traditional, food and craft vendors, educational exhibits, competitive western style and smoke dances as well as drum competitions.
I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a beautiful summer weekend than soaking up some local culture and honoring our veterans. Hope to see you there!