NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XVI, No. 1, Spring, 1960
NUNDAWAGA SOCIETY FOR HISTORY AND FOLKLORE
Robert E. Moody
As he talked with Dr. Arthur C. Parker at the meeting of the Genesee Country Historical Federation in 1953, Jay D. Barnes became convinced that Yates County should
do something to exploit its unusual good fortune in having within
its boundaries both the birthplace of the Seneca Nation and the
man—Dr. Parker—best fitted to interpret the Senecas to the modern
world. As county historian, Mr. Barnes brought the matter before
the Yates County Historical Society, and under its sponsorship,
the Nundawaga Society was born.
The announced purpose of the new organization was “to
gather accounts of the history and folklore of Indian and pioneer
times and to interpret and dramatize by play and pageant the material thus gathered.” The name “Nundawaga” was taken
because that was the true name of the Senecas and it was evident
that the work of the Society would center around the interpretation
of Seneca life and history.
Soon after its organizational meeting, the Society received its
permanent charter from the New York State Board of Regents. It
was decided to present a pageant in a beautiful sycamore grove
just off New York State Route 245 between Middlesex and Naples
near the traditional birthplace of the Seneca Nation.
Dr. Parker prepared the first pageant for the Society,
Nundawao, The Coming of the Senecas. This told of two great
Seneca traditions. The first of these was that the original Senecas
were born from the earth in a cave in the great cleft, now called
Clark’s Gully, in their sacred mountain, and founded their first
village on the flats by West River. The village took the name of
the sacred mountain, Nundawao, which looms above Nundawaga
Grove where the pageants are presented. The second tradition was
the story of the Great Serpent that nearly exterminated the
Senecas on Bare Hill or Genundowa.
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