An annual ceremony was held last week at the Burchfield Nature and Art Center in West Seneca to mark the 176th anniversary of the signing of the Buffalo Creek Treaty. The pact, signed in 1842, restored and recognized the Cattaraugus and Allegany territories as sovereign Seneca lands.
The ceremony in West Seneca opened and closed with Native prayers and featured numerous dances featuring men, women and children.
Seneca Nation president Todd Gates referred to the day as “polishing the chain of friendship” between the communities. He also called the treaty important, given past attempts to manipulate the Seneca people and take their land. He credited ancestors for having the strength to persevere and he warned that several times since, other governments have attempted to take land and compromise their treaties.
The lessons of the past, Gates said, remain relevant to today’s generation. He spoke of the Seventh Generation principle, in which decisions made today must preserve a sustainable world for those seven generations from now.
“It’s exactly what our ancestors wanted us to do, to preserve these agreements that we entered into for our lands and our sovereignty,” Gates said. “Their courage and determination and actions continue to influence us to this day.”
The Seneca Nation and New York State have locked horns in numerous disputes over the years and will soon take their disagreement over the Casino Compact to arbitration. On this day, though, State Senator Tim Kennedy recalled another politician named Kennedy, the late US Senator Robert Kennedy, who was committed to protecting Seneca sovereignty. The state lawmaker renewed a vow to respect Seneca lands as theirs.
“We’re going to continue to defend the sovereignty and independence of the Seneca Nation, that was signed into law by those original treaties hundreds of years ago,” he said. “We have an obligation to uphold those treaties and I can tell you we will do everything we need to do to make sure that happens.”