SENECA NATION - Onondowahgah
People of the Great Hill

Bill Crouse, Seneca

The visual expressions of Bill Crouse have everything to do with being a Seneca person, whether it is a visual analysis of a Seneca dancer performing, an owl looking over the edge of the Kinzua dam, or a giant snapping turtle swimming in the sea with an Iroquois village of longhouses on his back.  His intense interest in Iroquois images goes hand in hand with his commitment to performing and educating people about Iroquois culture.  Crouse grew up performing his culture, noting changes in styles as he grew.  Although he is better known as an MC and head singer of the Allegany River Indian Dancers, Crouse’s acrylic paintings, watercolors, and sketches show another side of his expression.

Bill gives public performances of social dances and songs, but is also called on locally to perform ceremonial songs. He enjoys introducing children to the symbols and forms in Iroquois art. Perhaps the media where Crouse’s performing and visual expressions converge is in clothing, or regalia.  He seeks to create outfits that are historically accurate, covering different periods from the pre-Columbian to more recent times.                    

The Seneca Nation (Onondowahgah), meaning the People of the Great Hill, was one of the five original nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy.  Their traditional homeland was between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake in what is now called New York State. The Seneca were also known as the "Keepers of the Western Door" because they lived west of all the other Haudenosaunee nations.  They were responsible for guarding the Iroquois Confederacy from threats from the west.

The Seneca sided with the British during the Revolutionary War.

Seneca Gustoweh (one feather points straight up) There can be variations in the height of the feathers depending on the maker. In this particular Gustoweh, the feather hanging from the brim is decorative. 

There are 5 Seneca communities in the United States and Canada shown in blue on the map below:

Ø  Allegany : at Salamanca, NY, between Jamestown and Olean.

Ø  Cattaraugus: northwest of Gowanda, NY southwest of Buffalo.

Ø  Oklahomanear Turkey Ford, northeast Oklahoma (the Seneca-Cayuga Nation)

Ø sIX NATIONS: west of Buffalo, NY near Brantford, Ontario

Ø  Tonawanda: southeast of Lockport, NY.