The Seneca of western New York were one of the five original nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Bob Nitsch is the grandson of Grandmother Twylah Hurd Nitsch, elder and founder of the historical society. He grew up on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Western New York and was raised in Seneca traditions.
According to the Wolf Clan website, Twylah's grandfather, Moses Shongo, was a practicing Seneca medicine man. When controversy broke out in the 1970s over Native people sharing their teachings with non-Native people, Grandmother Twylah "was the one of the first to begin sharing the profound and beautiful philosophy of the ancient Seneca people.... Twylah brought forth the original concepts and transformed them into modern terms, 'so the teachings may live.'"
Grandmother Twylah passed away in 2007. Bob and his wife, Lee, have been traveling internationally for several years and sharing their people's teachings to fulfill his grandmother's dream.
The Nitsches will be in Eureka Springs this weekend, offering a drumming circle Friday night and a workshop all day Saturday, called "An Ancient Paradigm for a Sustainable Future."
Local plant spirit medicine practitioner Melissa Clare, who is facilitating the drumming Friday night, said she had attended a session with the Nitsches in the past.
"I was very drawn to them because they seemed very kind and gentle," she said. "They led us in a dance for the corn, and it was very beautiful. Bob, especially, has a great sense of humor."
Of the Nitsches sharing traditional Seneca beliefs with non-Natives, Clare said, "I think they walk a fine path between their long-house elders who stay on the reservation and work with Native people. But they have the blessing of the long-house elders. They're used to working with all age groups and are used to working with white people."
She said the corn dance was exciting because she dreams of getting her garden together and planting corn.
"We were on land that would have been associated with their people, and I really felt connected to the land and the corn," Clare said. "I found it very joyful. I got a sense that this is the way we should be connected with the plants."
The Drumming Evening will be held Friday, Aug. 31, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Sacred Fire Community Hearth.
On Saturday, Sept. 1, the workshop will go from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fire Om Earth Studios.
For more information on cost or to register, visit www.fireomearth.com.