TUSCARORA NATION, N.Y. (WKBW) — Two artists on the Tuscarora Nation not only kept their business going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but opened a new storefront designed to honor and preserve their culture.
Robert D'Alimonte and Murisa Printup started Tuscarora Woodworks in 2013. The two spent years traveling to different events where they showcased their Native art and craft items. Earlier this year, they were able to open a storefront dedicated to their crafts, with somewhat of a larger purpose.
"We feel that in some ways we're helping to strengthen our culture," explained D'Alimonte.
In fact, when you visit the store, you can get somewhat of a history lesson. The two are excited to talk about the past of the Tuscarora people, as well as the culture that's been passed down over the years.
D'Alimonte is a skilled woodworker. Printup draws, paints, and also creates beadwork, which is a traditional form of native art that's been passed down for generations. She makes earrings, picture frames, and a number of other items you can find at the store.
"The raised beadwork the Tuscarora were very well known for. At the end of the 1800s they used to set up down at Niagara Falls and sell all their beadwork. It would be things like pincushions, purses," she explained.
Preserving their culture has a personal connection for the two artists. Printup's grandmother, Nan, lives nearby and often visits the shop. As a child, Nan was taken from her home and sent to a Residential School in Cattaraugus. The schools were designed to force natives to assimilate into American culture.
"Even today the effects of those boarding schools are still impacting us," explained D'Alimonte.
"A lot of us still carry the trauma that came with those schools," echoed Printup. "To go to a residential school, and they weren't able to have their culture and their language, so it's important to me to put our culture and use language in the pieces I make. And use my culture and my language. Because they weren't able to."
As you visit the store, the artists say you can feel free to ask questions, because they're happy to share their experiences and their native culture with everyone.
"The Tuscarora people are still here. Indigenous people are still here. That's what I hope they get form visiting us," said Printup. "Because our culture is alive, and well, and it's beautiful."
You can visit Tuscarora Woodworks at 5532 Walmore Road on the Tuscarora Nation, or you can check out the store's website here.