Buffalo in the ’60s: First All-Iroquois Powwow

By Steve Cichon

Held through the rest of the 1960s, this photo with Past Seneca Nation President Cornelius Seneca and Chiefs Corbett Sundown and Clinton Rickard of the Tonawanda Reservation is from the first All-Iroquois Powwow in 1962.

Buffalo News archives

In 1965, the event was described as a “four-day pageant at which Indians entertain their white neighbors,” and for many years, the highlight was adopting outsiders as honorary members of the Seneca Tribe.

One such honoree was Fran Striker of Arcade. He was best known as the creator of such radio thrillers at “The Lone Ranger” and “Sgt. Preston of the Yukon,” both of which had their start at Buffalo’s WEBR Radio, and both of which painted Native Americans in a positive light.

Frank Striker, 1957. (Buffalo News archives)

Striker praised Native Americans as “the only real Americans,” adding that “History has shown they acted with braveness and valor, and I have tried to bring this point across in my character, Tonto.”

Chief Sundown, reservation sachem chief, conducted the adoption ceremonies in the Tonawanda Community Building on Rt. 267.

Proceeds of the event benefited the Peter Doctor Memorial Indian Scholarship Fund. “Open to all Indians in New York State,” The Peter Doctor fund “helps put Iroquois youth through college.” It was named for the late grand chaplain of the Iroquois Temperance League.

The fund continues to this day, “to assist Iroquois enrolled in Nations located in New York State to pursue higher education by providing one-time awards in ‘Incentive’ and ‘Grant’ categories.”

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.