Author Topic: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch  (Read 9829 times)

Offline educatedindian

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What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« on: February 06, 2007, 02:52:34 pm »
Longtime members of this board know we've been trying to figure this one out for years. Is Twylah Nitsch a fraud and exploiter, or is she an elder whose name, words, and person are being misused by the Nuagers surrounding her? Photos of her sometimes show an extremely elderly and ailing woman, yet she (or the Nuage circle controlling her) is frequently booked selling ceremonies and workshops in Europe and Latin American spiritual tourism sites like Qero.

This was passed onto me, a Seneca discussion board with some pretty strong opinions. One post says she's not legit but the Seneca have their own reasons for not saying so, the rest denouncing her in very unambiguous terms.

http://forum.senecaindians.com/_disc1/0000019b.htm
"Date: 7/10/2004
Comments
she's a fraud. she's selling something she has no rights to. from what i hear she's been removed from the rolls because she's completely bastardized and used the nation name"

http://forum.senecaindians.com/_disc1/0000019c.htm
"From: sarah
Date: 7/10/2004
Comments
why would you want to be a part of a fraudulant woman. she has used the name of the seneca nation like a whore, selling it to anyone who will pay. ever hear the term 'WANNABE'? they are the only people who listen to her pile of horsecrap."

http://forum.senecaindians.com/_disc1/0000019a.htm
"Date: 7/10/2004
Comments
she's a complete and total fraud"

http://forum.senecaindians.com/_disc1/000001a2.htm
"From: senexa
Date: 7/26/2004
Comments
You mean other than creating an entirely fake spiritual movement and taking people's money and heart away from them in exchange for false ceremony and false membership in a made-up society?
Last I heard she was living in Florida somewhere.
You will find very few of us who have anything kind to say about this woman.
She almost destroyed Cattaraugus with her summer camp for lost souls; and she certainly destroyed hundreds of people's lives for no other reason than her own ego and to line her pockets."

http://forum.senecaindians.com/_disc1/000001d8.htm
"From: sallyguy
Date: 10/21/2004
Comments
No one would ever toss Twylah out. She's a different one all right. No self-respecting Native person would follow her teachings but she had many friends in New York. Her people are very tolerant of her peculiar ways."

This is the first I've heard of any claim of her being tossed off the rolls.

Offline magicbean

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2016, 03:41:30 am »
The links are out of date, but the snapshots of the posts are very helpful.  I work in a mental health treatment facility, and the facility has permanently hired on a white "spiritual counselor" who claims among other things that he studied with this Twylah Nitsch and he goes around smudging people's rooms and telling them how to do "releasing ceremonies" and find their power animal.  I am embarrassed to be around it on my good days and angered on my better days.  But before I try to educate management about the fraudery and try to cut it off at the root, I wanted to check here to make absolutely, positively sure that she was (at best) a controversial figure.  The Jamie Sams book is easy pickings for obvious fraudery, but I wasn't sure about Nitsch. Any other clarifying information welcome.  I'm sure it is old news to all of you here, but it is relevant and helpful to me.  Thank you.

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2016, 06:48:23 pm »
Go to the front page of the forum; type Twyla into the search box at the top right.

The entire forum will only be searched if you do it from that page, and using the shortened form of her name will also pull up the posts where people misspelled her name. There are *tons* of threads that mention her. She has spawned innumberable frauds.

By the time this forum got going, I think Nitsch had already left Seneca territory. I heard she was asked to leave, but don't have details. Natives I spoke with said she was offering fake adoptions to non-Natives for money, and that she took this money to buy a home for herself and her son in Florida.

I knew Twylah. She told me she was not raised in the Seneca community. She talked about spending a lot of time alone at boarding school as a child, where she made up a lot of the things she later sold as "Seneca Teachings." She told me her father was white and her mother was Native, and so she claimed to be half, but I believe her BQ was much lower. She could pass as white and I think for most of her life, she did. That wouldn't really matter if she was raised and living in community; it wouldn't matter if she had been culturally Seneca; but as it was, she exploited her blood and tenuous community connections to make a living as a ceremony-seller.

When I met her in 1984 she was older, but she was not an actual Elder in the Seneca community. At that time she had moved back to one of the communities and reconnected with relatives, but the impression I got was that, rather than learn and re-assimilate into the community like other scoop kids, she wanted to be seen as a ceremonial person and ceremonial Elder, even though she hadn't come up through that traditional system.

I spent time with some of the Seneca young adults and teens who knew her very well, and they told me things about what sort of life she was living. Like these friends, I found Twylah very likable, and I, too, considered spending more time with her. But I was young and ignorant, and the more I listened to people from her community, the more I discovered they were politely, kindly, telling me that back at home she was not what she was pretending to be in front of the non-Native audiences. They were very embarrassed by her doing these things for non-Natives, and were growing to resent the fact she was showing off the brown kids as some kind of token that she really was from the community.   

Shortly after that time, I heard she had started "adopting" white strangers into her fake "Wolf Clan." I heard she had been asked to leave Seneca lands.

I think a lot of the Seneca people felt sorry for her, as many do when someone returns to community after being raised by non-Natives. And I think she really broke some people's hearts by choosing to become an exploiter rather than a full member of the community. I am relieved she is gone now. I wish she hadn't made such a mess. Her relatives are still having to clean up after her.
"In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all the white people wil be Indians and all the Indians will be ghosts."

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2016, 06:57:56 pm »
Oh, the "releasing ceremony" she taught people.... She taught that to anyone who'd come to one of her talks at Vincent LaDuke's "Medicine Wheel Gatherings."  It's not real. It's just some fragments of the psychology involved. The version she was teaching white strangers when I knew her did not include the main things you need to know to make that sort of thing work.

Whether she knew the whole ceremony and was just exploiting white people and NDN cultures by selling the tiny fragments, or whether she had never learned the proper ceremony, I don't actually know. Given how she reacted when I tried to discuss it with her, I think she wanted me to believe it was the former, but it was actually the latter.
"In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all the white people wil be Indians and all the Indians will be ghosts."

Offline Diana

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2016, 07:36:40 pm »
Twylah Hurd Nitsch died in 2007 at age 94. She was born in 1913 in upstate New York and was raised in Buffalo New York. In all the censuses she is white as is her father Ray P. Hurd. Her mother Alice Hurd is Indian and she is on the Indian census as is Twylah. They were of the Seneca Nation Cattaraugas New York. Their reservation the Cattaraugas is mostly in Erie county New York. I did find her mother's family on the Indian census and they have a long history in the area.

It appears that Twylah Nitsch wasn't raised on the reservation but in Buffalo NY. which is only about 30 miles from the Cattaraugas reservation. I also found her in city directories and census records up to the 1940s for Buffalo and other states. I think she may have been disconnected from her Tribe...?? hence, all the newage made up gobbledygook and her fellow Tribal members disdain for her.

I hope this helps in some way.


Diana 

Offline Diana

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2016, 08:07:56 pm »
Hi Yells, I didn't see your postings, lol. We must have been posting at the same time. I don't know about her boarding school stories  ::) In all the census records from the 20's 30's she is living with parents and I found a school record for her in 1930 Buffalo NY. She would of been 17 years old. But we've all heard the fake boarding school stories before. In the 1940 census she is married with 2 children and is living in Buffalo NY.
 
Twylah Hurd
 in the U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012

Record Image
View

Name:
Twylah Hurd

Estimated Birth Year:
abt 1914

School:
South Park High School 206

School Location:
Buffalo, New York, USA

Year:
1930

 

Offline magicbean

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2016, 10:04:00 pm »
Thank you all, that gives me everything I need.  Yells, that is kind of a sad story about her trying to make her way back home in some ways and doing so much damage.  Oy.  I figured the person at my facility made up the "releasing ceremony", so it's good to have in my pocket that if would have been "learned" it from her.  I am off to go ruffle some new age feathers this week.  Thanks again. --bean

Offline magicbean

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2016, 10:08:48 pm »
Among other points I can make to management is that if a real Seneca Native walked through the door and was offered spiritual counseling from this person, they'd be profoundly and rightfully offended.  That's not culturally competent care.

Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2016, 04:31:41 pm »
I don't know about her boarding school stories  ::) In all the census records from the 20's 30's she is living with parents and I found a school record for her in 1930 Buffalo NY. She would of been 17 years old. But we've all heard the fake boarding school stories before.

The story I recall her telling in 1984 was that she was the "only Indian" at her school, and that she was very lonely because she had no friends. So, when she told the story then, it was not a residential school story. But I think she changed details over time to make it better suit that narrative.
"In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all the white people wil be Indians and all the Indians will be ghosts."

Offline Diana

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Re: What Senecas Say About Twylah Nitsch
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2016, 07:20:13 pm »
I don't know about her boarding school stories  ::) In all the census records from the 20's 30's she is living with parents and I found a school record for her in 1930 Buffalo NY. She would of been 17 years old. But we've all heard the fake boarding school stories before.

The story I recall her telling in 1984 was that she was the "only Indian" at her school, and that she was very lonely because she had no friends. So, when she told the story then, it was not a residential school story. But I think she changed details over time to make it better suit that narrative.

@ Yells, I went back and re-checked again and Twylah Hurd Nitsch was always in Buffalo NY. And I found a couple more school records for her in Buffalo NY. She was always at the public school South Park High 150 Southside Parkway, South Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, Erie, 14220. Here's the history of the high school:   
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Park_High_School_(Buffalo,_New_York).

Now, there was a residential Indian school on the Cattaraugus reservation. It was built in 1900 and called the Thomas Indian School. And it's still there today. Here's a link to the school. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Indian_School. I don't believe her grandmother, mother or any other direct relative went there as they would have been adults at the time the school was built.


Diana