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Senecas, St. Bonaventure launch committee to strengthen ties between Nation, university

Feb 23, 2024

Leaders of the Seneca Nation and the St. Bonaventure University community met this month for the first time since the two institutions agreed last fall to rekindle their relationship.

“This is about polishing the chain of friendship,” said Odie Porter, a Seneca Nation councilor, referring to a centuries-old metaphor about renewing relationships with Indigenous people.

In October, the Seneca Nation Council approved joining a committee of university faculty, staff, students and administrators to deepen their shared connections and address the needs of the Nation, while also improving the education and richness of the experience for all members of the St. Bonaventure community.

The committee’s specific focus will be to explore and develop strategies in the following areas:

  • Enhancing Seneca and Haudenosaunee representation on campus through development of an appropriate Land Acknowledgement Statement as well as other actions and initiatives reflecting SBU’s solidarity with and commitment to its Seneca neighbors.
  • Developing educational collaborations, services and curricula related to Seneca and Indigenous communities.
  • Establishing ways of growing together in friendship through events and gatherings and sharing news and advocacy of important issues and concerns.
  • Fostering connections to Seneca SBU alumni and improving opportunities and a welcoming college experience for future Seneca students.

“This partnership with the Senecas has so much potential to not only provide more opportunities for collaboration with the Nation, but to educate the Bonaventure community so we can gain a greater appreciation of the rich history of our neighbors and all that they have to offer,” said Dr. Jeff Gingerich, university president.

The land upon which the university sits was once Seneca land. The city of Salamanca sits within the Allegany Indian Reservation, which follows a meandering path along the Allegheny River from a small portion of the town of Allegany on the eastern border — just a few miles from campus — to the town of South Valley to the west.

St. Bonaventure established an 18-credit minor in Native American and Indigenous Studies in 2021.

The committee members are:

  • Jeffrey Gill, Seneca Nation Councilor
  • Odie Porter, Seneca Nation Councilor
  • John Waterman, Seneca Nation Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Klint Nephew, SBU Class of ’92, Seneca Nation
  • Jacquie Crouse, SBU Class of ’91, Seneca Nation
  • Blayze Becker, SBU student (Mohawk)
  • Jillian Rea, SBU student (Seneca)
  • Oneniotekowa Maracle, SBU student (Mohawk)
  • Dr. Dave Hilmey, SBU Provost and VP for Academic Affairs
  • Dean Whitcomb, SBU Director of Admissions
  • Lindsay Retchless, SBU Director of Alumni Engagement
  • Ann Lehman, SBU Chief of Staff
  • Dr. Oleg Bychkov, Director of SBU’s Native American and Indigenous Studies program
  • Dr. René Hauser, SBU Dean of School of Education
  • Dr. José Medrano, SBU Assistant Professor of World Languages & Cultural Studies
  • Fr. Stephen Mimnaugh, O.F.M., SBU VP for Mission Integration
  • Br. Kevin Kriso, O.F.M., Franciscan friar at Mt. Irenaeus
  • Br. Robert Lenz, O.F.M., Franciscan friar
  • Tom Buttafarro, SBU Director of Government and Community Relations
  • Tom Missel, SBU Chief Communications Officer


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. Out of 167 regional universities in the North, St. Bonaventure was ranked #6 for value and #14 for innovation by U.S. News and World Report (2024).