Monday, March 29, 2010
Visiting the Seneca Nation's Tonawanda Territory was a good experience for me. I am very grateful for the generous hospitality that I received there. I was reminded that the Senecas (who call themselves Onöndowága,' meaning "People of the Great Hill") have a land claim on Grand Island. Their name for Grand Island is "Go-Weh No-geh. I said, "I'd be happy to give it to you!"
Everyone laughed at my eagerness to give away Grand Island, which I suppose I can't do since I don't own even a small part of it.
One interesting note: the room where I spent the night is used also as a classroom, where children are taught the Seneca language. According to Wikipedia, there are currently only about 200 speakers of the Seneca language. It is an Iroquoian language and is linguistically related to other Iroquois languages. Certainly, the efforts of the Indian boarding schools, which I described in a previous post, has had a terrible effect on indigenous cultures throughout the United States and Canada. According to James Estes of the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, approximately 300 languages were spoken in North America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. After that event and the arrival of other Europeans (which is also termed the "European Invasion"), half of those languages are now extinct and many others are described as "moribund," meaning that they have few speakers and all of those speakers are elders.
The most widely spoken indigenous language in North America is Navajo with 148,530 speakers. Navajo was used as a code during World War II. The Germans never broke that code. Other widely spoken languages are Ojibwa, Western, with 35,000 speakers; Dakota with 20,355 speakers; Choctaw with 17,890 speakers; Apache, Western, with 12,693 speakers; Cherokee with 11,905 speakers; Papago-Pima with 11,819 speakers; and Yupik, Central, with 10,000 speakers.
It is my hope that more work can be done to preserve endangered languages, that more schools are opened for people to learn to speak and to communicate in those languages.
As I walked into Orleans County, I thought about the little school where the Seneca language is taught to children in the Tonawanda Territory.
Wikipedia, were modeled after the sleeping arrangements in the packet boats that traveled the Erie Canal. The first sleeping car was finished in 1864. People paid considerably more money to ride in sleeping cars than in coach. A Pullman sleeping car even carried the body of President Abraham Lincoln to Springfield, Illinois, for burial.
George Pullman hired many people to work in the sleeping car, providing excellent service. Many of the employees were newly freed slaves from the south. Pullman also built a "company town" for his employees to reside. His company owned everything in the town. According to Wikipedia, the town was run almost like a feudal city state.
The Pullman strike was a sad event in the history of U.S. labor relations.
But... back to the church...
Inside the church, we held an interfaith afternoon prayer service to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the U.S. launching of the Iraq war. We remembered everyone, both members of the military and civilians, who had lost their lives in the war. We also held the prayer service in solidarity and support of the march that was held in Washington, D.C. Later, I found out that Cindy Sheehan and seven others had been arrested on the sidewalk in front of the White House. Six persons, including Cindy Sheehan, were taken to jail and held until they were arraigned on Monday, March 22nd, because they were from "out of town."
Our hosts in Albion prepared a delicious pot luck dinner.The pastor, whose name is Kelly, offered a beautifully worded prayer about hands. I enjoyed sitting with new friends, including Margaret and Monica, and sharing this wonderful meal. I don't know how it is but, at every place we visited, I was always served my favorite foods!