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Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett, Jacket Gifting Ceremony

Leather jacket of Seneca long-distance runner Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett

The Onöhsagwë: de’ Cultural Center (OCC) invites the public to attend a gifting ceremony on Friday October 20, 2023, at 11am. For over 40 years the Gowanda Area Historical Society (GAHS) has had a leather jacket in their possession that according to them, is attributed to the famed Seneca long-distance runner Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett. Earlier this year, the Onöhsagwë: de’ Cultural Center was informed that the GAHS possibly had some materials related to Lewis Bennett. After corresponding with the GAHS, we learned that the GAHS had a jacket that they claim belonged to Lewis Bennett. It was at that time that the GAHS offered to gift the jacket to the Onöhsagwë: de’ Cultural Center.

According to the GAHS, the jacket was gifted to them in the early 1980’s by Sadie Bennett. Unfortunately, the woman that had worked for the GAHS during that time has now passed, and so any more information about the jacket is now gone. The jacket is made of animal hide, has long fringe, and is decorated with quillwork on the front.

Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett was born in 1830 and was a member of the Snipe clan. When he was born his family lived on the Buffalo Creek Territory. After the fraudulent Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1838, the Seneca Nation lost all their lands except the Oil Springs Territory. The subsequent Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1842 restored some of the Senecas territories including Allegany and Cattaraugus. It was after that time that Lewis and his family moved to the Cattaraugus Territory.  

In 1856, Lewis first gained attention after he won a race in Fredonia N.Y. when he ran five miles in exactly 25 minutes. He then continued running races at various events held from Buffalo to Boston. During this time, he caught the eye of a prominent race promoter named George Martin. In 1861-1863, Lewis had some of the most prolific moments in his career when he travelled to Europe and subsequently set several world records over a 22-month span. Upon returning home he continued to race competitivity until, in 1870, he ran the last of his competitive races in Montreal.

When he was 40 years of age, his running days for competition came to an end. However, he continued to run exhibition races at various Six Nations agricultural fairs. For the remainder of his life, he lived on the Cattaraugus Territory and took up farming. His first wife died in 1880 and he later remarried, continuing to raise his children on his farm. Lewis passed away in 1896. He is buried in at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY.

The jacket is a welcome addition to another piece that the Onöhsagwë: de’ Cultural Center already has in its collection – a beaded headband that belonged to Lewis Bennett. Both pieces will be on display on October 20 at the gifting ceremony. Like all the materials in our collection, the Lewis “Deerfoot” Bennett jacket will be assessed and will receive any necessary care and conservation so that it can be preserved for generations to come. Join the Gowanda Area Historical Society at the Onöhsagwë: de’ Cultural Center for this event. Light refreshments will be provided after the ceremony.


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Onöhsagwë: de’ Cultural Center
82 W. Hetzel Street
Salamanca, NY 14779
United States

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