Calvin Lay, Former Seneca President, Walks On

Calvin E. Lay of the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, World War II veteran and long-time member of Seneca Nation Politics died February 19, 2012 in the Gowanda Nursing Home, Gowanda, New York, following a short illness. He was 86.

According to Buffalo News, Lay was born in Red House, near Salamanca, New York; educated at the Thomas Indian School; and held various governmental positions with the Seneca Indian Nation throughout his life.

Lay served in the Army’s 102nd Infantry Division, seeing combat in France and Belgium. According to Observer Today, he was a member of Iroquois Post 1587, American Legion, and held posts as chaplain, treasurer and commander.

A member of the Deer Clan, Lay’s service within tribal government according to The Sun News included:

  • Seneca Nation marshal in 1952
  • Peacemaker in 1968, 1993 and 1997
  • Four terms on the Tribal Council in 1956, 1970, 1972 and 1980
  • Seneca Nation treasurer from 1974 to 1976
  • Seneca Nation president from 1976 to 1978 and again in 1984, when he ran as an independent and won, a historic event in Seneca Nation politics.

Lay also served on boards for the Seneca Nation Library, the Seneca Nation Iroquois Museum, and helped fund the Tri-County and Lake Shore hospitals according to The Sun News.

“Cal Lay was an honest and humble, dyed-in-the- wool servant of the Seneca Nation,” President Robert Odawi Porter said in Buffalo News. “The Seneca Nation is extremely grateful for Cal’s lifelong service and contributions to the Seneca Nation. We are also indebted to him for his courage and service in World War II. When we speak to our Seneca children of Seneca men and women who are good role models from which we can all learn, Cal Lay is among those exemplary citizens who was willing to go the extra mile, make sacrifices for his people and defend the best interests of the Seneca Nation. He will be sorely missed.”


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Calvin Lay, Former Seneca President, Walks On