Warren's rich heritage was on full display Saturday.
The annual Four Flags Ceremony at Heritage Point in Crescent Park honored Seneca, French, British and United States roots. Robert Odawi Porter, Seneca Nations of Indians president, delivered the address.
Tim Greenlund served as master of ceremonies and listed Porter's long career in the legal field and academia. He has degrees from Syracuse University and Harvard Law School and served as the first Attorney General of Seneca Nation.
Times Observer photo by Colin Kyler
Robert Odawi Porter talks about the relationship between the Seneca Nation and its neighbors.
As Porter noted, the Four Flags event is unique. Outside of the Seneca Nation, he said there are few places where its flag flies.
While in office, Porter said he's worked to strengthen ties with neighbors in New York State and Pennsylvania.
"I'm a Cornplanter descendent," Porter said. "My mother used to tell me about how should we visit Warren."
According to Porter, he was especially glad to be in Warren on Memorial Day weekend. It's a time to think about ancestors, he said, which can be a challenge in the modern era.
"We forget about the past," Porter said. "It's not what the TV wants us to think about."
However, Porter said, it's important to consider who lived here first. Another thing to remember is who made the town what it is today.
One significant moment came in 1794, Porter said, when the Canandaigua Treaty was signed between the U.S.A. and the People of the Long House. It included promises no other nations received.
"It recognized us as equals," Porter said. "It said we could have free use and enjoyment of our land. It gave us freedom to live as we saw fit."
This year is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, Porter said, and that war was the first time Seneca warriors fought on both sides of a conflict. They stood together with the U.S.A. in many wars and in every conflict, he said, and its Legion post is commemorating Memorial Day this weekend.
"There's a bond between us," Porter said. "We depend on it even if you don't remember it. We have to remind our American brothers and sisters of our sovereignty."
The Kinzua Dam created a lot of damage, Porter said, and took away 10,000 acres from the Seneca. It displaced them along with non-Seneca.
People today are beneficiaries of that progress, Porter said, and it required some to give up their homes. Therefore, he said, it is important to be thankful for our ancestors.
Porter said he feels optimistic about the future. Hopefully, he said, the Seneca will soon take ownership of the dam's hydroelectric plant.
"It makes millions of dollars, but has provided no benefit for us or you," Porter said.
Greenlund said he loves to see the cooperation the neighbors now enjoy.