Editor’s Note: This article is part of the multi-part series “Exiled to Indian Country” about the exile of Native Americans.
A military veteran kneels to the ground and bows his head to appreciate the stone that has been dedicated to his tribe. The veteran is being thanked, not just by this gift, but by the entire tribal community.
The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe, headquartered in Grove, is doing its part to honor the warriors of the nation.
The members of the tribe celebrate their veterans, said William Tarrant, cultural preservation director of the tribe. He said he grew up immersed in the Seneca-Cayuga culture and tribal ceremonies.
A stone monument honoring veterans was donated in 1999 by the Seneca-Cayuga Tribal Daycare. It was placed beneath the U.S. and tribal flags to emphasize that the veterans served their country and their community.
Bryan Wencil, a former candidate for a position on the tribe’s grievance committee, said “I am a veteran and served honorably with pride.”
Wencil said tribal members make a connection between serving in the military and the service their ancestors provided as hunters and warriors for their communities.
“Military service is a way of becoming a warrior,” Tarrant said.
The men of the tribe in the early days hunted deer or elk used for food, clothing and shelter. They used a bow and arrows or a spear, similar to the one that is etched on the stone, and also used them as weapons to protect their tribes.
The Seneca tribe originated from New York and Canada and migrated due to the Revolutionary War.
They were then forcibly moved to Indian Territory as a result of the Indian Removal Act.
Over time, they kept moving due to readjustment of borders within the territory.
By 1937, the tribes combined, and under the Indian Reorganization Act were recognized as the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe. Since then, the tribe has been located in Oklahoma.
“I regard our warriors and veterans with utmost respect and they should be treated with such,” said Dillon Dougherty, whose cousin is a veteran. “They risk their lives for their people and not just anyone could do that.”