Pearl white and the sidewalk senecas: Faithkeepers and twentieth-century Haudenosaunee regeneration
Napierala, Nancy Titus
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My topic is the biography of Pearl White, a Seneca woman, Faithkeeper for the Newtown Longhouse, and mother of nine, who began her life on the Cattaraugus Reservation, speaking only the Seneca language from birth in 1933 until she entered a reservation school at the age of seven. She then learned English and became equally fluent in both languages, although she continued to think and dream in Seneca for the rest of her seventy-nine years. For most of her adult life, she lived in the City of Buffalo with her husband Wilford Smith and their six children. I discuss Pearl's life and her interactive experiences with other members of the urban Haudenosaunee community, including myself as a peripheral member of the society through my father, seeking to identify the impact their work and social life had on a regeneration of Haudenosaunee vitality and success during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I begin with a review of Haudenosaunee philosophy and a brief history of Pearl's Cattaraugus childhood home as an orienting guide to her world aspect. Then, through oral interviews with Pearl and her companions in the city of Buffalo, I open a panoramic view of Haudenosaunee cultural continuity and growth that occurred during her life-span. The dedication and preoccupation of Pearl and her cohort with the ongoing practice of Haudenosaunee cultural expression in many Buffalo venues has been a significant factor in Senecas and other members having increased in numbers, strength, and influence. I find that they all function as faithkeepers for their society, for their children, and with a clear vision of the Seventh Generation to come.