This blog is a continuation of the Native Americans at G.C.C. blog series. The purpose of this blog series is to share what I learn about Native American culture as I talk to some Native American students at G.C.C.
JoVanni Klimowicz is a lacrosse player from the Seneca Nation of Indians.
He comes from the Irving Res and he says there is a lot of land out there. As a child he enjoyed playing in the woods and pond by his house. He went to Lakeshore and Gowanda Highschool.
When I asked Jo about his culture, and experience on the reservation, he said that he and many others prefer the title Native as opposed to Native American. He said that the elders in his town will pass down anything they can to the next generation. This includes history, how to make wooden lacrosse stick and any wisdom they’ve to share. JoVanni explained that the elders lived in a different society than the one he and his generation are growing up in. The times were tougher financially and they didn’t have as many gadgets and technology as we do now.
When I asked Jo about his perspective on American history, he surprised m by simply saying, “They could have handled it better.” He said that he wishes the colonist would have kept their distance once they noticed that they were carrying diseases that were harmful to the natives and they should have made more negotiations instead of forcibly taking land.
While I was listening to JoVanni speak about history I couldn’t help but notice that he was not angry at all. I could tell that he was a very calm and reasonable kind of guy.
JoVanni told me about an educational event he was apart of in high school called Close Up. Native students from all over the United States, from different Native American Nations, came together and pretended to be an official Native American council. They each spoke about problems and issues they noticed on their own reservations, and listened to others as they learned what life is like for Natives from different places. They were had an opportunity to say what changes they would make to their reservations to help solve some of the problems they saw. JoVanni says that there are a lot of drugs and alcohol on his reservation, but there are also programs that exist to encourage people to live a better life. The Seneca Nation distributes money it receives to it’s citizens, but JoVanni said it is not enough to live off of and people who try to do so are not financially progressive. During the Close Up program, JoVanni had the opportunity to meet with the president of the Seneca Nation in Washington, D.C. I could tell he enjoyed the experience because he spoke about it with passion.
I learned a lot about JoVanni, and it was cool to learn something about Native American Culture too. I firmly believe that we should be a nation that is more conscious of our Native American host. To put it simply, they were here first and we’re the new guys.
Next Up: A talk with Rochelle Dion Hill! Stay tuned! 🙂