By WILLIAM J. DONOHUE
Our Snyder Beach experience has been extremely positive. Over time we have come to know members of the Seneca Nation of Indians, starting with the owners of the beach and appreciate Native Americans more as the years go on.
Many of the current residents have been here for more than 50 years and look forward eagerly to return each season. Those who have sold their cottages visit saying how much they regret that decision. Residents look to the future to pass on their leases to their children and grandchildren.
The one-of-a-kind trust relationship starts on Day One for residents with a simple lease and set of rules. I know because my wife and I bought our cottage directly from one of the co-owners.
We residents are confident that as long as we obey the rules and pay our lease fee we will be here till we die. There is nothing arbitrary in either the rules or enforcement by owners, John Metzger and Dan Maybee, heirs of the founder and members of Seneca Nation of Indians. No lawyers were present on either side when we signed. The rules and regulations that accompany the lease drive home the Snyder Beach mission, to be a family summer resort, just as the founder envisioned it.
The owners and their families live among us and participate with us both in work and play. When I extended the back patio, Dan Maybee and my next door neighbor provided know-how, labor and materials. When we clean the beach each June the owners are there with their chain saws doing the heaviest work. They live the Snyder Beach spirit as well as proclaim it.
Snyder Beach is a unique human experience. As great as the lake and beach scene is, even more powerful is the experience of community here. Much of this is due to the wisdom and foresight of the founder, John L. Snyder and the homogeneous traditions this family has created over 95 years and four generations. In an era when Indians faced extreme prejudice and were not even considered citizens, Snyder was a remarkable man. He stands out in New York state history as the first Native American to pass the state bar exam. His vision continues intact to this day at the beach.
In an era of constant and often unwelcome change, Snyder Beach is a jewel of constancy unlike almost any other institution in the country, much like the Chautauqua Institution.
An added benefit has been our proximity to the Seneca Nation and its members. Snyder Beach residents have an unwritten rule, which is to use Seneca contractors and support Indian-owned businesses and stores whenever possible. We benefit from their growing business sector, both as economic development for the greater Western New York region and as their customers.
Snyder Beach residents buy jewelry, pottery and other artisan works out of their workshops on the reservation, not out of charity but for their beauty and investment value. We are thankful for the protection given by the Seneca Nation of Indians Volunteer Fire Company and contribute to it annually.
Coming to know individual Nation members has brought on curiosity about the Nation, its history and current objectives.
We have learned to appreciate member pride in their Nation and culture. We observe with a keen and happy eye the material progress of the nation in the form of new buildings and native residences throughout the reservation.
Thus our nearly century-long relationship to the Snyder family, its current representatives Dan Maybee and John Metzger, other members, and the Seneca Nation as a whole gives us confidence the present situation will be solved in due time in a reasonable manner to the benefit of all parties.
William J. Donohue is a Snyder Beach resident.