On Wednesday evening, August 19th, 2020, we honored thirteen High School Equivalency Program graduates. The recognition ceremony was held at the Cattaraugus Community Center. Despite the difficulties with the COVID-19 restrictions, the determination of these graduates humbles me. A piece of paper does not make success. Success is what is inside each of us and inspires us to push through the obstacles we face. You have all proven to your families, your friends, your instructors and your community – you have what it takes to succeed. Most importantly, you have proven your ability to succeed, to yourself, and you should be very proud of your accomplishment. Your Nation stands ready to help you, to encourage you and to support you. You have made us proud, and we cannot wait to see what you accomplish next. Nya:wëh for being a beacon of success.
On Thursday, August 20th, 2020, my staff and several other employees joined forces and delivered an unprecedented event for our Seneca elders. Due to the global pandemic, the Elders Summer Event, which is normally held at the Seneca Allegany Casino, had to be converted to a drive-through distribution event. The event took place simultaneously at three locations: the Allegany Community Center, the Buffalo Office and the Cattaraugus Community Center. One of the stops on the route was an opportunity to play a quick shell game – guessing which cup the ball was under. As this was a drive through event, the committee wanted to make sure our elders could participate, but remain in their vehicles. Participants received a hot meal, a few gifts and a door prize, if they had won one in the raffle that was conducted prior to the event. Bear in mind, this had never been done before, therefore required planning, patience and perseverance to carry it out. I was fortunate to be able to be present at the Allegany site and visit with some of our elders as they passed through the line. I hope all those who were able to make it, enjoyed themselves!
As we all know, school will begin again in a matter of days, and right now there is still some uncertainty as to what the school day will look like. It may be a hybrid model with a few days of in-person learning and a few days of remote learning. It may be 5 days of completely remote learning. It may be different for different age students, even within the same household. Our families with school age children are faced with many challenges when it comes to this new, temporary, normal school day. Internet connectivity may be a problem for some, daily schedules will complicate learning, getting help with lessons or schoolwork will be difficult; and keeping students engaged with their learning will be a challenge. We must all stay committed to our children’s education and make every effort to keep up, whatever path we’re on. I encourage every parent to make a solid commitment to yourself and your family that you will not let this new school model deter your efforts to get your children the best education possible. Our Education Departments are also working diligently to create a plan to provide as much assistance as possible in the coming days. We hope to have learning pods established at our buildings to facilitate tutoring, provide Internet connectivity, and assist with homework help. Be on the lookout for more information from the Seneca Nation Education Departments and your local school districts.
If you are planning to travel outside of our immediate area to other states, as a public safety measure, I ask that you please strongly consider self-quarantining upon your returning to your home. If you must travel, the CDC and the state of New York both recommend self-quarantining for fourteen days when you return. I ask this so your loved ones and other members of the community remain as protected and safe as possible. Now is not the time to let our guards down, when it comes to this global coronavirus pandemic. Before we know it, flu season will be upon us and it will be even more important to continue with all established safety protocols. On the news, recently, I heard them referred to as the “3 W’s”: WASH your hands, WATCH your distance and WEAR a mask. Each time we practice these three actions – we are protecting our lives and moving another step away from this deadly coronavirus.
Rickey L. Armstrong, Sr.