Seneca Nation of Indians; William Seneca Administration Building’s Living Classroom

“All future developments of public spaces on Seneca Nation Territory will incorporate landscape designs limited to Indigenous plants of the Seneca people and the Western New York State region.”

– Seneca Nation Of Indians, Policy on the Usage of Indigenous Plants Species in Landscaping. Passed on March 08, 2014

William Seneca Administration Building is located on the Cattaraugus Territory, south of Buffalo, NY. JKLA developed the foundation of the design with the project leaders over a two week period, with the specific planting design created in the field during the Education and Planting Day.

JKLA and volunteers installed 448 Native trees and shrubs, re-introducing 25 different species into the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory.

Indigenous landscapes, native plants and better understanding of the role they play in the health of our environment are leading topics across the country today.

For generations, knowledge of and acceptance of the indigenous landscape had been removed from daily life on the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus Territory. In its place was a European centered landscape with daylilies, Norway maples, turfgrass and annuals. The leaders of the Seneca Nation were looking to change this, and to do so were prepared to remove a decorative, but not meaningful, landscape at their new $30million William Seneca Administration Building.

This project re-engage the Seneca citizen with the land that is such an important part of their culture by creating a living classroom for everyday citizens to see, touch and better understand the indigenous forests and landscapes that once surrounded them, and to provide a much needed touchstone to move a new By-Law beyond a mandate and toward the citizen’s true understanding of the beauty and power of their Place.

Coinciding with the development of this learning landscape, the Seneca leadership undertook a significant project, the creation of a Tribal By-Law which would mandate that all Territory facilities use indigenous plants as part of any new construction. Supported and guided by these new initiatives, the Living Classroom has become the first living demonstration of this By-law.

As there was no general contractor for the project, JKLA provided all logistics for the project, including procurement and delivery of materials, oversight on installation, as well as organizing and leading a Community Planting Day. During the day-long program, participants were engaged in discussions regarding native and non-native landscapes within the Territory and were trained in how native landscapes work as an ecosystem, as well as planting techniques, growing habits and how to care and nurture their native landscape.