By Ted Bickford:
These speeches brought to mind the story that Catherine Schweitzer of the Baird Foundation and Preservation Buffalo Niagara has reminded us of on several occasions, a story about the people of Buffalo coming together at Buffalo Creek many years ago. It happened at a time when the village of Buffalo Creek was laying the groundwork to grow into an American city. In September of 1820 the harbor was partially constructed and in a vulnerable condition. A fierce storm blew in off of Lake Erie and threatened to wash away the work that had been done. An alarm call went out and all the villagers rushed to the shores of Buffalo Creek to save the threatened harbor, which was to become the nucleus of the future city’s identity.
We are a much more diverse community now than in those days. I was moved Saturday night and two weeks ago to see the same spirit of collective good will and a desire to contribute to the betterment of Buffalo, coming from two groups who have been most unfairly marginalized for the last 200 years of our history. To paraphrase the announcer at the Jazz Festival, Canalside is going to be a fantastic place, but to be that it needs African American Soul, so let’s give it the best we have, he said, to make it the best we can. Sound familiar? In 1820 they were building a harbor. Today we’re building something for our city that is just as substantial and important to our future as what came before. Once again it requires all the people coming to the water’s edge and joining hands for a common purpose. That appears to be happening.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, I’ve attached to this posting what to me is the most monumental and iconic image of a return to the waterfront. It is a symbol of our coming together on common ground as a diverse but unified people. In Seneca tradition the land does not belong to any one group but to the Creator. (What in the end might this emphasis on unity at a major urban historical site famous for its immigration history demonstrate to our fragmented nation?) The photo of the return of the Senecas to Buffalo Creek was taken on August 7th of this year, approximately 200 years after their unjust removal and cultural exclusion from the site.