Faith Keepers School Sign

“We are helping each other”

Many teachers and staff throughout Salamanca School District have spent the last year learning Onöndowa’ga (Seneca) history and culture.  They, with the help of the SCCSD Native American Curriculum team (NACT), also have been actively working to integrate history and culture into their curriculum.  What is often difficult for non-native teachers to do is to feel comfortable using Onöndowa’ga Gawë:nö (Seneca language).  Last Friday, teachers who met the prerequisites of taking at least three Seneca related professional developments prior to Summer 2022 joined their families and students and staff at Faithkeepers School at the “1st Annual Seneca History and Language BBQ” with the goal of comfort with Onöndowa’ga Gawë:nö in mind.

Teachers and their families began the day with a historical tour of Ohi:yo’ territory led by Rachael Wolfe and Jerry Musial.  The tour started at Gähasda’ge or “Strong wind there” (Vandalia in English) and ended at Onoville. Mrs. Wolfe told the stories of where the place names came from and challenged participants to say the names in Onöndowa’ga Gawë:nö while Mr. Musial added snippets of history ranging from NAGPRA(Native American Graves and Repatriation Act) to the American General Broadhead’s slash and burn campaign after the American War of Independence and many events in between.  Ever present throughout the tour were the effects of Kinzua Dam.

The second half of the day took place at Faithkeepers School where staff, students and families of Faithkeepers joined SCCSD teachers and families. Faithkeepers teachers Autumn Crouse and John Block took the everyone throughout the school and explained the history, philosophy and pedagogy of the school. Dave and Sarah Isaac provided a delicious Chicken BBQ that gave participants the fuel to join in an afternoon of Onöndowa’ga song, dance, and games led by Bill Crouse as the Master of Ceremonies.

One veteran teacher and community member said “This was the best training I have ever attended.  Everyone should do this.” Given the strong interest and attendance at Seneca related professional development during the summer of 2022, it is expected that this event will be even larger next year.

We:so’ Nya:wëh to all the participants and all the people who helped to make this event happen.  Special thanks to Salamanca School District for supporting the event and to Sandy Dowdy, who is the founder and heart of Faithkeepers School, for joining in the event and allowing the use of Faithkeepers School.