SPRINGWATER — Many community members gathered to learn about what it is like to be a “Modern Day Native American” on the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation.
Jason Pragle is a native of Springwater who discovered he has Seneca in his family tree. Pragle gave a presentation with his son Jackson Bob, 9, on what it is like living on the reservations these days. He is drawn to his Native American roots, and has honored them for many years.
Pragle worked maintenance at the Gannagaro Historic Village for several years. It is a 17th Century Seneca Village. It was destroyed a long time ago. Archeologists have been fascinated by it for years.
“I transferred to Stony Brook, but I was still traveling a long way from home,” he said. “I wanted to be with my kids, so I transferred to Darien. Family is the the most important thing to me.”
Pragle got involved in Lacrosse, which is more than just a game to the Native Americans.
“Lacrosse to Native people is not just a game,” he said.”It is a way of life.”
“In the Native Community it is not custom for women to play Lacrosse,” Pragle continued. “There is medicine in the wood, and it gains more strength in the community. Lacrosse was given to the people by the Creator. Five tribes came together. The game was given to the people, but it was played in the sky world. Animals used to play against one another too.”
The male children start playing this game at a very young age.
“Many children are moving away from Football and going to Lacrosse. In Football you get a hit every time,” Pragle said. “Lacrosse starts with the ball on the ground, and it is a game of hide and seek with the goalies.”
In the tribe there is a Clan System that the mother passes down to her children. Jackson Bob and his siblings are of the Snipe Clan.
The State Fair is all reservation land, and on this land they hold a Native American Dance. Pragle helped in making a genuine longhouse at this land. He also helps with the Snow Snake games.
The Seneca Nation is pushing now to have their children learn and hold onto the daily language of their people.
“The daily language is being lost,” Pragle said. “The older generations were told they could not speak it. I had a friend who was beat in school for speaking indian, and beat at home for speaking english. He went and joined the military.”
Pragle said his children can go to public school in fourth grade, and they are given lessons in Seneca language.
“We are bringing back the daily Seneca language,” he said. “It is important for our tribe and our culture.”
Pragle said when he chose to move to the reservation with his family he was amazed by how the people did things.
“They fish with a spear and a net,” he said. “They drag the net at the bottom of the lake and pull the fish on the boat They separate the eggs from the fish, so the lake can be rejuvenated.”
Pragle met his wife Sesiley, at a social dance. Sesiley‘s mother is Seneca and it is from her she gets her clan. Pragle’s oldest son is from another woman of Mohawk Nation.
The one thing that is bothersome to the Native Americans is the horrible drug epidemic.
“The drug epidemic is disturbing, and that is what concerns me the most right now,” Pragle said. “I got all of the trouble out of me when I was young, and I didn’t go to the reservation with all of that baggage.”
Pragle explained he does not belong to any tribe or clan. His children have their mother’s clan and nation. Pragle did some digging in his family genealogy and found Native American roots there. However, he was never enrolled into any tribe or clan.
Sesiley Pragle said that although her father is not a native she is considered full Seneca since the roots run through the mother.
“I chose him (Jason) as my husband and we took him into our community,” she said. “I am considered full blooded regardless. The roots run through the mother.”
“My kids have the opportunity to speak their language and learn how to read and write it,” Pragle continued. “I didn’t have this opportunity when I was growing up.”
Pragle explained the women are above the men in the culture, so the line follows the mother. Women decide who will be the chief. There are certain things only for women, and certain things only for men.
The main thing now on the reservations is to save the language and preserve the culture.