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Archive for September 5th, 2010

Oghema Niagara, better known as Chief Thunderwater, lies in Erie Street Cemetery.

Chief Thunderwater

Niagara was born in New York state and traveled with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West shows before settling in Cleveland. As well as being a businessman, Niagara was active in Native American affairs, helping to found the Supreme Council of Tribes, and education of whites about Native American culture and issues. He was a prominent figure in the fight to keep Erie Street Cemetery from being closed and was a member of the Cleveland Early Settlers Association. He can be seen wearing a feathered headdress in this photograph of a re-dedication ceremony at Erie Street Cemetery. Every year, he would honor Joc-O-Sot, another Native American buried in the cemetery, with a ceremony that included planting maize at the grave. According to the family scrapbook online, his granddaughter continued the tradition for many years, putting maize on Chief Thunderwater’s grave as well.

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The three linked rings on these tombstones probably represent the men’s membership in a fraternal organization. According to Stories in Stone, the most likely candidate is the International Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF), sometimes nicknamed the “three link fraternity.” The “three links” are friendship, love, and truth.

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