Seneca from New York
Join us as we travel the distant and fascinating lands of Indian Country. This download was originally aired nationally as a public radio program titled Oyate Ta Olowan--The Songs of the People during the 90s. Each Oyate download includes the 30 minute program plus the full length songs featured during the program.
See the longer description below to hear a short clip of this show and to read for a full account of our journey to meet Michele.
Oyate Ta Olowan was produced by Milt and Jamie Lee with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series was aired nationally by Public Radio International.
Michele Stock is a Seneca woman who was raised on the old Allegheny Reservation in New York. She is a pretty, vibrant young woman and lives with her husband and daughter, Charlotte, in a house built from the timbers of an old Amish barn. With a Masters in Education, Michele has played many roles in the education of her people. She has served as a delegate on the White House conference on Indian Education and has developed curriculum materials for native peoples.
In addition to these many accomplishments, she does beautiful craft and beadwork.
In every corner of the house there are traces of her work: jars of beads, scraps of leather, thread, and fabric. Michele grew up learning the songs and dances of the Seneca (one of the six tribes of the Iroquois) in the traditional long house when she was just a small girl. Most of the music is so old that the translations have been lost. The long house, a rustic log structure, was once home and hearth to the people but is now used primarily for ceremonial purposes and social dances.
During a break from the interview process, we went outside in Michele's yard and watched as Michele and her daughter, Charlotte, danced a round dance. We joined them and had a fabulous time.
The Seneca are an Eastern Woodlands tribe who reside now primarily in western New York and Canada, with two separate reservations in the United States that are known as the Seneca Nation. They were originally one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois, a confederacy of eastern tribes, and were the “keepers of the western door.”
Figuratively, Iroquois lands were laid out as a giant longhouse with tribes guarding each of the doors. However, they withdrew from the confederacy and formed the Seneca Nation. The social structure of the Seneca is matrilineal with the lines of descendents traced through the women. In traditional culture, women owned the land, appointed the chiefs, and raised crops. The society is arranged in a clan system.
Listen to a short sample here.