The past few days have been noteworthy (in my mind, at least) for the recognition being shown to the culture and history of Western New York’s first inhabitants, the members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy – the nations of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora – and their ancestors. [I admit my cultural ignorance, and offer this link as a useful primer reprinted at the website of the Syracuse Peace Council, “Understanding Haudenosaunee Culture.”]
The July 18, 2022 print version of the Buffalo News includes an article by Mark Sommer entitled, “WNY exhibits celebrate Haudenosaunee culture.” [Here’s a link to the on-line version under the headline, “3 WNY exhibits celebrate Haudenosaunee art, culture, history.”] Mr. Sommer reports on: (1) The Buffalo Maritime Center’s “The Haudenosaunee and the Erie Canal,” at the Longshed at downtown Buffalo’s Canalside; (2) The Buffalo History Museum’s “Haudenosaunee Resurgence: Marie Watts, Calling Back, Looking Forward“; and, (3) An art exhibition at SUNY at Buffalo’s Center for the Arts and Anderson Gallery, which celebrates the 50th year of UB’s Indigenous Studies program by displaying the work of around four dozen artists of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Three days earlier, July 15, I witnessed something gratifying on a pleasant summer evening in South Buffalo’s Cazenovia Park. As the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Olmsted 200 Celebration” concert was about to begin, Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy, did something that had not previously been done at a BPO concert or BOPC event. She read the following statement to the assembled crowd:
Land Acknowledgement for BPO Concert at Cazenovia Park | July 15, 2022
Before we begin this concert, we would like to respectfully acknowledge
that the land on which we gather is part of the aboriginal territory of the
Seneca Nation and the Tonawanda Seneca Peoples. Their continued
presence on this landscape is affirmed by The Dish with One Spoon Treaty of
Peace and Friendship, and the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, between the United States Government and the Six Nations Confederacy. This region is both the traditional and the current home of the Seneca, Haudenosaunee, Erie, Wenro, and a host of
countless communities over time.
This very site where we listen to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra,
Cazenovia Park, once held the Seneca Town of Buffalo Creek. A few blocks
away from Cazenovia Park at Buffum Street, is Seneca Indian Park, originally
the Seneca Indian Cemetery. The Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1842 eliminated
the Buffalo Creek Reservation. We sincerely hope that by recognizing the
historical wrongs that have taken place here and far, we will begin to try
understanding and healing the traumas that have been inflicted on the
Indigenous community, and to celebrate their rich culture and time on
Turtle Island. Please join us in showing gratitude for this opportunity to
share music and the natural environment of this beautiful land today.
These words of acknowledgement and respect were most fitting given both the location of the concert – the heart of the Buffalo Creek Reservation – and the BOPC/BPO’s stated desire to present “music inspired by nature and nods to the rich tapestry of cultures that make up the Buffalo community.”
A sliver of the crowd at the BPO’s Olmsted 200 Celebration, Cazenovia Park, 07/15/2022.
“Seneca Indian Park” on Buffum Street, site of an ancient Indigenous burial grounds.
The introductory statement – if my understanding is correct – came to timely fruition thanks to the receptiveness of the BOPC’s executive director, Ms. Crockatt, the focused efforts of BOPC’s marketing communications specialist, Zhi Ting Phu, and the guidance from Joe Stahlman, director of the Haudenosaunee cultural center in Salamanca, NY (known officially as the Seneca-Iroquois Museum).
My thanks to all involved.
With All Due Respect,