Two special events honoring the history of the Tuscarora Nation will highlight the 168th annual Tuscarora Nation Annual Picnic and Field Day today and Saturday.
“A few years back I started telling people to come and be part of history,” said Neal Patterson Sr., organizer of the event. This year, those who attend will get to look back at events 300 years ago and 200 years ago.
During Saturday’s opening ceremony at 11 a.m., members of the Nation will honor the young adults who participated in the Tuscarora Migration from late March until May 31 retracing the route their ancestors took when they fled North Carolina in 1713 to reunite with related peoples in New York.
“We are going to honor them with the highest honor you can give an Indian, the eagle feather,” said Patterson.
Also during the opening ceremony Saturday, Lee Simonson, the 1812 Bicentennial director for the Historical Association of Lewiston, will formally thank members of the Tuscarora Nation for helping save the people of Lewiston from invading British forces on Dec. 19, 1813. Simonson will present each member of the Nation’s council and each clan mother with a “Tuscarora Heroes” coin. The coin commemorates the brave actions of the Tuscarora, who Simonson said used “bluff and bluster” to hold off a much larger British force, allowing most residents of Lewiston to flee.
The bravery and friendship of the Tuscarora will also be commemorated in a monument being planned for Portage and Center streets in Lewiston, with unveiling set for Dec. 19.
“If not for them, it would have been a massacre,” Simonson said. “I think it’s the first time in 200 years that anybody has ever expressed any appreciation to the Nation.”
“This is a good year for the Tuscarora Nation,” said Patterson. “The picnic was originally made for everybody to come, non-Indians as well as Indians, anybody who wants to stop in and enjoy the day with us.”
The two-day celebration actually begins today with a 5 p.m. opening ceremony,big drum performance and social dance to get people up and dancing in the grove on Walmore Road near Mount Hope Road on the reservation, across from the Tuscarora Indian School. People may park for free in a field next to the grove. Admission to the picnic is free.
People who plan to stay for a while should bring lawn chairs. No alcohol or drugs will be allowed on Nation land. Food being sold will include the traditional corn soup and fry bread, chicken chowder, hamburgers and hot dogs, strawberry shortcake and blackberry sundaes, a local favorite, as well as Indian tacos, made with fry bread instead of tortillas.
Vendors from all over Western New York and Southern Ontario will offer Indian-related goods, including beadwork, crafts and art. “You could come here and go broke, if you like Indian stuff,” said Patterson.
The Tuscarora Baptist Choir will perform at 6 p.m. Friday. The Tuscarora Princess contest will follow at 7 p.m., and the Girls Gone Mild band will perform from 8 p.m. until sundown.
Saturday’s picnic begins at 7:30 a.m. with a breakfast in the grove in exchange for a donation, followed by a 10K race or a 2.5-mile run or walk. Awards for the race follow at 10:15 a.m., followed by a short parade into the grove at 11 a.m. Opening ceremonies will include the recognition of the Tuscarora Migration participants, the presentation by the Historical Association of Lewiston and the opening of the National Horseshoe Tournament.
At 12:30 p.m., Tuscarora toddlers in traditional garb will compete based on their attire and how they carry themselves, followed at 1 p.m. by warm-ups for the Smoke Dance competition. At 2 p.m., Iconic Albums will present a tribute to the Eagles band, followed by a Tuscarora Indian Band Concert at 3 p.m. At 3:40 p.m., Daygot Leeos, an Oneida rap artist, will perform, followed by the Craig Wilkins Band at 4 p.m. The finals of the Smoke Dance competition begin at 5 p.m., followed by the Sawhorse Jackson Band at 6 p.m., a hand drum competition at 7 p.m., and a performance by the Wilson Brothers Band starting at 8 p.m.