Imagine you could fly. As you sail across the blue sky, you will see people from all corners of the planet gathering in a circle. They dance in celebration and hope for all the children. Your heart takes a picture. On July 30th, you can experience such a magical moment at the Memorial Park in Dunkirk.
On this day, drone pilot Cheryl Johnson and the “Warrior Flight Team” Team will be videotaping a special “dance” from a bird’s eye view. Bill Crouse and the Allegany River Indian Dancers will be inviting our entire community to participate in a Native American social circle dance as part of an important documentary. “Tradition, trauma and tenderness.” That’s the idea behind the film “Traditions passed on in a tender, caring environment can help prevent and heal trauma, abuse and neglect in children and families.”
This documentary was produced by the CREATE Project and directed by Founder and Principal Artist Valerie Walawender. He was supported by grants from Arts Services, Inc. and the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The City of Dunkirk, the Dunkirk Public Library, the Blosssom Garden Friends Peace and Education Center, CAP (Child Advocacy Center), Prevention Works and other community agencies were integral parts of this process.
Professional videographer Alex Simmons has been filming heritage figures, child labor specialists and community members for the documentary since February 2022. Simmons laid the groundwork for the film in a video series that was uploaded to the CREATE Project’s website (www.create-project.com) last year. Simmons is the sole editor of this massive project, which is due to premiere at the Hollywood Theater in Gowanda in the coming months.
At the July 30 event, Cheryl Johnson and her team will use their drone technology to film the film’s final scene “Tradition, Trauma & Tenderness” Documentary. The Salamanca City School District launched its drone program in the fall of 2017. It began with several teachers receiving their FAA Part 107 small unmanned aircraft licenses. They called each other “Warrior Flight Team” and over the years it has become a popular course offered to senior high school students. Students and staff with a license enjoy flying the drones for several events taking place in schools and in the community. Johnson is the Salamanca Central School District’s lead coach and mentor for both the FIRST Robotics Challenge and the FIRST Tech Challenge; and 8th grade physics teacher; Forensic science and enrichment science.
That “Tradition, Trauma and Tenderness” Film features Native American storyteller Bill Crouse; neuroscientist dr. Audrey Hager; and trauma and child psychologist, Dr. Daryl Tonemah, as well as a variety of cultural traditions of the region.
Chautauqua County has the eighth highest rate of reported child abuse of any county in New York state. The relevance of this film cannot be overstated as our community faces this crisis.
The videography work by Simmons and the Warrior Flight Team will culminate with a large community video shoot for the film’s final scene on Saturday, July 30 from 1-3pm at Memorial Park in Dunkirk. Everyone is welcome!
At the event, Simmons will video community members as they join a circle led by the Allegany River Indian Dancers. Native American dance leader Bill Crouse (the film’s narrator) will tell the story of Native American ballroom dancing circles. If the “Circle” is complete, the drone video camera will rise into the sky to record the assembled group from above for a dramatic ending to the film.
Individual adults and youth are invited to wear their culture’s traditional clothing or wear something symbolic of their culture (Polish, Puerto Rican, Italian, Greek, Swedish, Jewish, etc.).
Community members are also encouraged to wear or carry something that symbolizes their profession or interests. Nurses, doctors, and other health professionals may wear their gowns or a stethoscope. Girl Scouts, Police Officers, Firefighters and Military Representatives will be in uniform. Teachers and students can carry a favorite book. Artists may hold a brush and palette, or perhaps a small painting, small sculpture, or ceramic bowl that they have made. Musicians can carry their guitars. Singers can bring a song book.
Organisations, groups and companies are invited to hold up a sign identifying the group they represent. Children can carry a favorite toy or even bring their pet (human-friendly, leashed or locked) to include in the film. Reporters can carry a camera or their favorite newspaper.
The Open Door Church offers their famous barbecue ribs, macaroni and drinks for sale. There will also be free light refreshments for everyone and activities for the kids between shoots. At the event, Native American leaders will demonstrate their art forms including Peter Jones and Mike Jones, pottery, sculpture; Penny Minner, wicker; Debbie Hoag, corn husk dolls; and Kari Kennedy, beadwork.
Community members and groups are encouraged to pre-register for the event on the CREATE Project website: For more information and to pre-register, please visit: www.create-project.com
Everyone is cordially invited to attend “Tradition, Trauma & Tenderness” Documentary! The event is free and open to the public.
The CREATE Project is an arts-based community initiative that aims to help communities become free of child trauma, abuse, and neglect and become places where children can thrive. The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, Blossom Garden Friends Peace and Education Center and Arts Services, Inc. serve as our financial sponsors. Dunkirk Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Chautauqua County are our key community partners.