Seneca Chief Red Jacket, known by the Seneca Nation as Sagoyewatha “Keeper Awake” became popular for his speeches that carried the message of equality and sovereignty.

“He was talking about diversity at a time when people weren’t talking about diversity and differences,” said Joe Stahlman Seneca-Iroquois National Museum.

The name Red Jacket can be found all over New York State including right here in Western New York. There’s parks and streets named after him. There’s even a huge monument marking his burial site at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

“When he was alive he was a celebrity,” said Stahlman. “American politicians loved him, philosophers, and even everyday folk and it was his speaking style. He had an air about him. He was a public speaker, people came from miles and miles just to hear him.”

In 1792 George Washington gave Red Jacket the “Red Jacket Peace Medal” honoring the Seneca’s role in the Treaty of Canandaigua. After his death, the medal passed through several hands before ending-up at the Buffalo History Museum.

The museum gave the medal back to the Senecas on Monday.

“It’s more than a physical artifact from our shared history,” said Seneca Nation President Matthew Pagels. “This meda, it represents what lives inside each and every Seneca person. The heart of a sovereign and our rightful recognition as such”

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