The Melungeons blog

Monday, April 09, 2007

Center helps local American Indians feel at home again

By Andrew Johnson
Thursday, November 30, 2006

"About 100 Indians and friends came out to the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center's recent "harvest fest" in Hazelwood. In the crowd of old and very young people, almost completely missing were people in their 20s and 30s.

Lisa Morales lost her father, Larry "Eagle Bear" Watson, who died in August at age 69. Watson, a Seminole who visited local schools to talk about Indian culture, acted as a local Indian historian.

"A lot of the knowledge he had is gone with him," said Morales, 39, of Wilkinsburg. "You can always replace the person in a position, but it won't be the same."

There are 1,593 American Indians in Allegheny County, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, part of an estimated 18,000 Indians statewide. They live in many neighborhoods. The nearest reservation is 200 miles away in New York state.

"It's an invisible population," said Russell Simms, 62, executive director of the council in Dorseyville.

"You have to dig deep to find it."

While the American Indian community here is small, it is cohesive, Simms said.

The council came to be out of the same spirit that forged the black civil rights movement."


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