by Peter Stevenson and Terry J. Jones
Peter Stevenson and Terry J. Jones, US film maker and member of the Seneca Nation - Wolf Clan, create a conversation sparked by Terry’s response to the story of Tryweryn, and a parallel experience from the Allegheny River; reflecting more widely on storytelling, resistance, language and ecology.Drowning
Peter: In 2021 the Native Spirit Film Festival, which highlights the work of Indigenous film makers around the world, invited Peter Stevenson and Jacob Whittaker to show their film Chwedl Dŵr, Fairytale of Water, a story told through oral folk tales from west Wales where myth, conversation and gossip ebb and flow like streams of thought. As a result, a conversation developed with filmmaker Terry J. Jones (Seneca, Wolf Clan) about our shared stories, which offered a new perspective on the importance of water to Wales and the Seneca Nation. What follows is a condensed version of these recorded conversations which began when Terry heard the story of the drowning of Capel Celyn.
Terry: My name is Terry J. Jones. I am a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians, located about thirty miles south of Niagara Falls, here on Turtle Island. I am a filmmaker, cultural presenter and trustee of the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, and the storytelling in my films is to entertain and educate people about historical and contemporary Indigenous people, particularly my tribe the Seneca and the Haudenosaunee people, though you might be more familiar with the term ‘Iroquois’.
Your [Peter and Jacob’s] film is about stories of water but also the context of the real-life situations regarding dams and how they have impacted the people, the land, the plants and animals. Here on Seneca territory we had a similar circumstance with the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River which was built in the 1960s by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and which flooded our homeland. We had to move to higher ground, our graveyards and cemeteries were moved, and this was a disruptive period of time for our people who were alive then. The memories in your film of displacement by water are important, as eventually there will be no more living memories to keep these stories alive.
I watched the film about Capel Celyn [Tryweryn, the Story of a Valley, made in 1965 by the staff and students of Friars School, Bangor] and it was in colour, and it was great. We (the Seneca Nation of Indians) have a film, Land of Our Ancestors, made in the mid-1960’s by Allen Forbes, a non-Native who was commissioned by us to document the displacement of people by the construction of the Kinzua Dam.Sign in to read more