Feature President

A message from President Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.


Earlier this month, our Allegany Training and Employment Resource Center (TERC) brought back a small cohort of Construction Training Program (CTP) trainees, so they could continue their training, which had been halted, due to the global pandemic. The group consists of Senecas in their twenties. They have been reviewing the work they had started back in February, which includes electrical, dry walling and roofing. They have already earned certificates in OSHA-10, flagging, forklift operation and scaffolding. They’ll continue on to learn the entire residential plumbing system and how to install doors and windows. Vinyl siding installation will round out their education in residential construction. In addition, each TERC-CTP cohort gets to experience some hands on work for various projects in the community. The current cohort of trainees will be building benches and concrete pads for trash receptacles along the Pennsy Trail. When they graduate from the program in August, they will have earned a BOCES Construction Certificate. Their perseverance is very admirable and I wish them all the best, as they continue their training.

The “Black Lives Matter” justice movement has generated awareness and impacted native nations across the country. The football team from the District of Columbia are officially changing their name and team mascot. Recently, at the request of the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York, Mayor Myron Brown, ordered that the Christopher Columbus statue be removed from Columbus Park, to protect the statue from being further damaged and vandalized. It is not being destroyed, but is being re-located. I’m sure, in school, all of us were taught the same thing – that Columbus was a great explorer who “discovered America”. As a kid, I didn’t realize he was actually lost, which eventually lead to the European’s attempt to colonize our ancestors. What they didn’t count on, is our strong warrior spirit, which sustains us to this day.

This Coronavirus pandemic has impacted our Seneca communities in many ways: reduced to little or no social interaction, loss of employment, travel restrictions and lost loved ones. For those that play competitive contact sports, these uncertain times have made it impossible and risky to continue to play contact sports. As a people, we have always been known to have star athletes whom excel in basketball, lacrosse, football and running. This down time must be especially difficult for all of our lacrosse players. My hope is that our athletes have managed to find creative ways to continue their exercise routines and stay in shape. As tempting as it is, please be patient and we will get on the other side of this. Not being able to play competitive contact sports means more time to train. I know this: once we are no longer under the threat of this virus, our lacrosse games are going to be packed with fans, family and community support!

Back when Gakwi:yo:h Farms was first being developed, I doubt any of us could have predicted what a vital service they would provide in our communities. They started out growing our traditional white corn and a community garden. This planting season, Gakwi:yo:h Farms is growing thirty acres of white corn, sweet corn and hehgo:wa:h. In addition to the corn, the farm now grows a variety of greens, tomatoes, squash, carrots, cucumbers, berries, potatoes, tobacco and sweet grass. They manage a herd of 52 bison located in Machias and recently purchased 25 Red Angus cattle, which will be kept at the Sullivan Hollow site, near the Allegany Territory. Gakwi:yo:h Farms will soon begin construction on a much needed expansion to their existing barn, which will contain a sugarhouse for processing maple syrup, a cannery for processing white corn and space to hold community cooking classes. This summer, they have added a mobile produce market, where one can purchase a variety of fresh, locally grown fresh vegetables, berries and other Gakwi:yo:h Farms products. The main objective for the mobile market, in the future, is to set up in various neighborhoods on both of our territories and make healthy food available and accessible to our members. For now, the Gakwi:yo:h Farms Renegade Mobile Market operates on Tuesdays in Allegany in the Seneca Strong parking lot, from 11am to 1pm; and Thursdays in Cattaraugus at the Saylor Building, from 11am to 1pm. If you would like more information, you may contact Leroy Henhawk-Retail Coordinator, at: (716) 244-0493.

We’ve all basically been in isolation mode for five months, with this COVID-19. I’m assuming members in our communities have had to make adjustments and are participating in solitary hobbies, such as sewing, beading and other things that can be done alone. I suppose if I wasn’t working every day, I might be doing more gardening, which I have recently taken an interest in. When I was younger, I really enjoyed pencil drawing and getting the shading just right. I haven’t drawn in a very long time, so perhaps I’d be drawing. I also enjoy reading and spending time with my family and grandchildren. I know this hasn’t been the most pleasant situation for any of us, by any means. Whatever your favorite solitary hobbies are, I hope you are taking the time to enjoy them.

Our efforts to keep to ourselves as much as we can, to wear face coverings in public and maintaining social distancing, is proving to help keep our communities as safe as possible. I’m very grateful for that. We are still dealing with a global pandemic. I hear every day – it is not slowing down in large parts of the country. Please, re-consider if you are planning to leave our area to visit any hot spots or are planning to have guests from those hot spots. We have already lost more loved ones than we should have. Please do not become complacent. Stay vigilant and continue to help one another. Continue to wear face coverings in public and continue to maintain social distancing of six feet from anyone that does not live in your household.

Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.