About Richard Johnny-John (Onöhsagwë:de’). He was was born May 2, 1914 in Elko, NY. The towns name was later changed to Quaker Bridge. Johnny-John’s Seneca name was Onöhsagwë:de’ [oh-no-saw-gwan-date] which was often shortened to Gwë:de’ [gwan-date]. Gwë:de’ was the third of five children born to Lorenza Halftown and Amos Johnny-John. Amos’ worked for the Erie Railroad and the Allegany State Park, the family lived in workman’s camps in the Jamestown and Falconer area. There were many other Seneca families in these work-camps and therefore they were able to have socials and smaller ceremonies throughout the year. While attending school Gwë:de’ was a catcher for the J.V. baseball team. Later the family moved back to the Ohiyo’ territory and Gwë:de’ finished his last year of school at Indian School District #5. Gwë:de’ was instrumental in the Cold spring Longhouse from the age of 14 years old as Lead Dancer during ceremonies and speaker. Later he was unanimously selected as the men’s Head Faithkeeper. “I learned to be a speaker at the Longhouse by listening and remembering… The only way I know of to keep our language on-going is through language classes at Headstart and Daycare. The small children learn fast. Once they learn, it stays with them.”
Gwë:de’, a great story teller dancer and singer was also a member of the Allegany Singing Society, President of the Treaty of the 1794 Drum, Allegany Indian River Dancer, and an active member of the Allegany Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department. Gwë:de’ had taught Iroquois Culture and Seneca Language in Salamanca City Central School, and at various college and universities in the Eastern United States.
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