Remember the Removal 2020 – Honoring our Past, Protecting our Future

By Tami Watt, Editor

Due to COVID-19, the Remember the Removal (RTR) Committee hosted a Virtual Day of Remembrance this year within the Seneca Media Facebook page. The purpose of the this event was to encourage community members to walk on their own or in family groups at the location or lost community (i;e; Old Road, Old 280, Steamburg, Cornplanter) of their choice.

Many community members shared their day with us on Facebook and other social media platforms by using #RTR2020. Using #RTR2020 allowed any Facebook member to view photos and stories posted online which let the community share this day together and safely. Many families visited their pre-Kinzua homesteads and shared photos and stories from the past.

Caleb Abrams and family visited the childhood home of his father Bruce Abrams in Coldspring, NY:

“Before Kinzua, my dad would often accompany his father, Myron Abrams, on his nightly treks to the river to check his traps for muskrats or beavers. My grandfather would process the animals at home and sell the pelts to help supplement their family’s income. I’ve heard my dad talk about their trips to the river many times; he always describes those memories of him and his father fondly. After the relocation my grandfather stopped trapping.

During our recent trip to Ohi:yo’ my family visited where my father’s childhood home in Coldspring used to be. We spent the morning walking through the same woods from my dad’s stories. This was the first time in over 50 years that my dad had been back to visit his old homestead and the land he once called home – nearly one year after his own father passed away and with his grandchildren in tow. It was a very special day. The land still knows my father and remembers his stories.”

Siblings Debbi Hoag, Michael Jimerson, and Penny Minner, formerly of Coldspring, NY, traveled to the cemetery along the old Cornplanter Grant to honor past family members whom were directly affected by the dam.

As Ms. Hoag states, “Our #RTR2020 morning was spent visiting the cemetery of our grandparents Walter & Dorothy Jimerson, Uncle Ken & Aunt Tessie Snow, cousin Jeffery Snow, my dad Lester & mom Hazel Jimerson & family. My grandson had a short lesson in cemeteries on the Allegany Reservation. We also went down Rt. 280 to Cornplanter’s cemetery at Corydon. Visited Lana Redeye’s plot. He had an adventure finishing off at tasty freeze. And Highland playground.”

Jessica Colburn and daughter Shelby visited Old Town, the river was so low that remnants of the road were visible, allowing them to walk along the old path.

Kimberly Pierce and family visited the former John Family Farm and picked oneoga:n (white corn) from the Gakwi:yo:h Farms field and ended the day with beautiful braids.

Karen Bucktooth and her dog Sammy enjoyed a nice view of Ohi:yo’ along Old Route 280.

Hattie and Heron Watt visited their Great-Grandmother Gloria Heron’s childhood homestead in Red House. The original dirt driveway is still intact.

The Remember the Removal (RTR) Committee hosted a drive-thru at the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum and the Steamburg Community Center where t-shirts, masks, and a bag of promotional items were handed out using social distance protocols. The RTR Committee and volunteers gave out over 600 t-shirts, a new record! The Seneca-Iroquois National Museum site gave away all t-shirts on site in one hour!

A brief wreath ceremony was held at Indian Park after the drive-thru event. Pauline “Snap” John, Kinzua survivor, tossed the corn husk wreath made by Penny Minner into Ohi:yo’ in an effort to pay homage to those whom are no longer with us and to reflect on the past.

The five remaining Head of Households; Rovena Abrams, Ralph Bowen, Opal Frank, Caroline Pierce, and Bennett Wheeler were gifted a corn husk wreath from the RTR Committee.

As a committee, we strive to gain as much community involvement as possible. Nya:wëh to the original Heads of House Holds for showing true strength during adversity, our volunteers for their tremendous support, and our community members whom continue to take part every year. Although we could not walk together as a community, it was nice to see what this day means to you all. Hopefully next year, we can gather together safely.