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  • Dontae Scisson

Paying Homage to Culture

By Dontae Scisson

Earlier in the school year, I had the opportunity to go on a field trip with the ALANA Center to the Seneca-Iroquois Cultural Center and Museum in Salamanca, N.Y. as part of Native American Heritage Month. When the bus pulled over in front of the building, I was both amazed and in awe of how beautiful it was. Inside the cultural center, there is a museum and a gift shop with authentic Indigenous-American necklaces as well as other types of jewelry, including earrings, beads, bracelets and other souvenirs. 

The first artifact I saw was Mother of the Nations which refers to Jigonhsasee, the advisor of Deganawida. Both of them were responsible for making the Great Law, uniting the five original nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Seneca — Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk and Oneida. Later, the Tuscarora joined and became the sixth nation after being defeated by English colonists. The Tuscarora then migrated to New York to live peacefully under the Haudenosaunee. The Tuscarora had close relations with their brethren tribe the Oneida, who represented the Tuscana in the grand council and were granted access to their territory for 60 years. 

A replica Haudenosaunee longhouse

My favorite part of the museum was the replica of the Haudenosaunee longhouse. Visitors are allowed to go inside to see how people lived back then and stand where the villagers stood over 300 years ago. My favorite subject in school was always history. I loved classes about United States history because of the way it connected people and eras throughout human history. I specifically love Indigenous-American history: they are and always will be the original people of this country we call home. The United States Constitution was even based on the Iroquois Confederacy. 

On this trip, I had the opportunity to talk to Carson Redeye, a cultural interpreter, member of the Seneca Tribe and a part of the Wolf clan. He said, “The Seneca-Iroquois National Museum is not just a museum. It’s also a cultural center — we have classes that teach traditional crafts, and we invite anyone in the community.”

Many of us may have been told baseball is America’s first sport, but actually it is lacrosse. It was invented by the Haudenosaunee and other Native American tribes as early as the 12th century. Lacrosse was even called the “Little Brother of War” and “the medicine game.” At the time, instead of going to war to solve conflicts between rival tribes, Indigenous people often played lacrosse. The early and ancient version of lacrosse was played for several days, had 100 to 1,000 players per team on the field at the same time and was played with sticks that varied in size. Everything changed when the Native Americans came in contact with settlers such as the English and French who modernized the game.

In 1983, the Haudenosaunee formed a team to showcase their indigenous players from different reservations in the U.S., Canada and other Native American tribes. The Haudenosaunee nationals are a part of the International Lacrosse Federal formed in 1986, but the team was not recognized for two more years.  

On May 11, the museum will be hosting an art competition at the Allegany-Seneca casino.  The Ohi:yo’ Art Market will showcase traditional Indigenous-American art from all over the country. Competitors will have the chance to win a big prize for their work, as well as the opportunity to sell it to guests. This will be their first event of 2024. The event will take place at 777 Seneca Allegany Blvd, in Salamanca, New York.            

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