SenecaBy Sue Whistler

After one of the most reluctant springs in recent memory, summer is finally here and with it a wide assortment of cultural festivals and country fairs. If you’re looking for something a little different that doesn’t involve carnival barkers and pie eating contests, check out the 24th annual Seneca Casino Veterans Pow Wow.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about our area’s oldest native culture and have a lot of fun in the process.

The 24th annual Seneca Casino Veterans Pow Wow 2013 will be held on July 19–21 at Veteran’s Park located at 520 Broad St. in Salamanca.

Bud Thompson, Commander of the American Legion Iroquois Veterans Post #1547 and a co-chair of this event, calls the Seneca Pow Wow “a really nice community event that welcomes everybody and honors Native American veterans and their families. You’ll see many native people from all over the country.”

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 narrow, bark-covered dwellings that housed several families from the same clan.

There are eight Seneca clans, each named for a different animal — 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.

The annual Seneca Casino Pow Wow is an alcohol-free, family event that celebrates the culture and heritage of the Seneca Nation. It will feature real Native American arts and crafts, authentic Native American foods, educational exhibits, as well as competitive Western-style and smoke dances, and drum competitions. It’s a great way to enjoy a beautiful summer weekend with family and friends while soaking up some local culture.

For more information you can visit or call (716) 945-8558, ext. 4200.  Don’t forget your dancing moccasins!