NYT: Tonawanda Seneca man connects with his roots in New York

"Into a hotel suite of white wine, gray hair and Oxford shirts, the ponytailed Seneca entered in his bright red duck cloth frock, knitted strips tied around his beaded leggings and a broad medal across his chest inspired by the one George Washington gave his great-great-uncle’s uncle, Red Jacket.

A man helpfully offered him a name-tag sticker.

“No,” the Indian named Hö Yen Dah Önh replied. “They’ll know who I am.”

He was on the 16th floor of the Roger Smith Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The name tag read Alvin Parker. That is his government name, so to speak. He is 69 and lives in South Buffalo.

But Mr. Parker is a full-blooded member of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians, with a home, coincidentally, just off Seneca Street, and when he was a young man, the clan mother — Mr. Parker’s own mother — gave him his Seneca name, which, he said, translates to mean, “He Got It.”

This is what he got: a Polish girl to whom he offered guitar lessons when he was in high school, who would become his wife (“She never did learn how to play guitar.”); a love, through said wife, for polka; two sons and three daughters; a job as an instructor in products-service training for General Motors Corp.; retirement; four grandchildren; a handsome replica of regal Seneca attire; many speaking and re-enactment engagements; a train ticket to New York City on Tuesday and a seat at the dinner table Wednesday among a couple dozen members of the Civil War Forum of Metropolitan New York. "

Get the Story:
City Room: A Seneca Indian Connects With His New York Roots (The New York Times 9/19)