Odawa tribal members, park service mark western Pennslyvania battle date

Farmington, Pennslyvania (AP) July 2010

National Park Service officials were joined by about 20 members of the Odawa Indians from northern Michigan to commemorate the 256 anniversary of the battle of Fort Necessity, a western Pennsylvania encounter that launched the French and Indian War.

“It’s an honor to be here, to make a journey similar to the journey our warriors made so many years ago,” Frank Ettawageshik, past tribal chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, said in a ceremony the weekend of July 4th at the interpretive center.

The tribal members were on hand for the opening of “A Zhimaagnishak Miikaanhs: The Odawa Warriors’ Journey,” a yearlong exhibit telling the story of how a young Odawa man journeying to Fort Necessity became a warrior and showcases traditional Odawa culture still practiced today.

The exhibition includes artifacts on loan from the Odawa and Fort Michilimackinac State Park in Michigan as well from the fort’s own collection, including an original French musket, trade gun parts, village items, the fully dressed figure of a warrior and Odawa artwork such as quill boxes, ash baskets and pottery.

Joanne Hanley, superintendent of Western Pennsylvania Parks, said the exhibit “gives our visitors an opportunity to expand their understanding of the Odawa, not only who they were in 1754 but who they are today.”

The park service has been telling the story of the French and Indian War at Fort Necessity for years from the British, French and Indian points of view, but the new effort asks Indian nations for their input.

Colonial troops were defeated at Fort Necessity on July 3, 1754 in a fight that signaled the beginning of a struggle for control of North America between Britain and France – and marked George Washington’s first major battle and only surrender.

Park ranger Brian Reedy noted that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to the French and Indian War as the first global conflict, which spread to Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and ended in the Philippines.

Members of the Odawa sang during the opening ceremony which was followed by a traditional Odawa feast that included corn soup, dried squash, trail mix and sweet water. At the afternoon memorial program, Frank Ettawageshik played a drum and sang a song for all the warriors who died at Fort Necessity as well as current veterans.