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Two centuries later, Tuscaroras remembered


A brief ceremony Monday morning in the Village of Lewiston will remember a cold day of war in the long years of the War of 1812. "The only time that anybody in history can figure that Indians attacked Indians to save non-Indians (laughter)," said Tuscarora Nation Council member Neil Patterson, talking about the morning 203 years ago. Members of his nation helped defend against a large British military invasion of the United States in the wake of the burning of what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

They crossed the Niagara River and burned Lewiston. Then, they marched toward Niagara Falls. The Tuscaroras stepped in and Patterson said they gave the British the illusion there were many more of the nation high on a hill overlooking the line of march.

"These guys must be really powerful because they could look up on a hill, there's a hill above the Ridge Road there, and the Tuscaroras had started little camp fires all the way along," he said. "It looked like there was a whole battalion of people of people up there and they said, 'Let's go back to Lewiston and discuss this.' This gave them enough time for the people of Lewiston to get out toward Wright's Corners."

Seven years ago, the Lewiston Historical Society realized the Tuscaroras had never been thanked for what happened that day in 1813. It raised the money for the Tuscarora Heroes Monument in the village. That is where the ceremony will be held.

That monument is about a half-mile away from a somewhat similar monument in Niagara-on-the-Lake, recognizing the role of Indians on the British side of the Niagara River, unveiled earlier this year.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.