Two Row Times: Hello Steve. How are things going in Oklahoma with the Seneca-Cayuga people?
Steve Bunch: Great. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your readers in the Iroquois Confederacy.
TRT: Please tell the readers a bit about yourself. This interview’s a first for the Seneca-Cayuga in the TRT.
SB: I am an Onkwehon:we from Oklahoma; the great, great grandson of Charlie Bigtail Hubbard who was one of the first Iroquois to establish the Seneca Cayuga tribe. I am a college graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma A & M. I work in the Indian Gaming industry and own my own business as a vendor. Most importantly, I am the father of a young son, Pax-E-Kah, who lives with me. It is his world that I work for.
TRT: What are your connections to the Iroquois Confederacy presently?
SB: I have spent a fair amount of time in Central New York and also on the Akwesasne Kanienkehaka Territory. Previously, I have acted as an advisor to the Men’s Council there.
TRT: What is the connection to CNY?
SB: Our tribe had a convenience store in Seneca Falls that was raided by the ATFE in 2012. Prior to this, I attempted to mend fences with our nearby relatives, the Cayuga Nation, who opposed the business. I knew that they had their own problems with the Seneca and Cayuga counties from their own businesses that they developed. I tried to add our southern arrow to the clutch of arrows already standing together.
TRT: Do you wish to merge tribes or the people in the tribes?
SB: That is a good question. I ask myself that a lot. I ran for Chief of my tribe earlier in 2013, partially on that vision but was not successful. The Seneca-Cayuga tribe of Oklahoma might actually be the Cayuga-Seneca tribe of the Iroquois. It is all how that you choose to look at it. We know that we are one people. A lot of my relatives and neighbors here are quiet people, fearful of change. Not all feel that way though. Some of us want to bring about that reconciliation with our older brothers and sisters in the Land of the Longhouse. I have travelled as much as any of my fellow tribal members to our homeland.
TRT: Could you describe your spiritual or ceremonial beliefs?
SB: Our people here celebrate the Green Corn Ceremony at our tribal “stomp grounds” which are like a tribal campground. After being exposed to the Akwesasne Longhouse, I know about the four sacred ceremonies in addition to the Green Corn. My people had a lot of their culture taken from them when we relocated. My ancestors first went to Ohio and from there we ended up down here on the edge of Oklahoma.
TRT: If you could tell the people in the Iroquois Confederacy one thing about your people, what would that be?
SB: That we are all one people. I have a whole different viewpoint on the exodus from our homeland to bring us all the way down here by a thousand miles, than many. I see our place as watchers of the southern flank of the Iroquois. I know about the Keepers of the Western and Eastern Doors as they appear on the cradleboard of the Hiawatha Wampum. Somewhere on that beaded string is us.
TRT: Do you have any projects that you are presently involved in that you wish to share?
SB: I would like to get more of our people working through economic development. Our tribal tobacco company here has been dragged through the mud over the past few years. People have been laid off. I would like to see all of our people working towards some common goals of financial stability. Tobacco exports are one business area that completes the circle. The Asian and Middle Eastern consumer markets value a Native-made cigarette over Big Tobacco products. They trust our belief system. The impression those markets embrace is that we manufacture and conduct trade with a product that is part of our common heritage. For all of the trouble Iroquois people have with tobacco and New York State, the export market is still wide open. There is a potential to grow the manufacturing to meet this export demand.
TRT: Do you have any closing thoughts?
SB: Distance has made my own heart grow fonder for the opportunity to rejoin ourselves within Iroquoia as a common homeland. I doubt that the federal government wants to see two or more tribes “merge” together from different states, but if we go back to our roots and seek approval from the People of the Way of the Longhouse to do so, that is a start in the right direction. I hope to live to see that day.