Imagine you can fly. Sailing across the blue sky, you see people from all corners of the planet gathering in a circle. They dance to celebrate and hope for all children. Your heart takes a picture. On July 30, at the Memorial Park in Dunkirk, you can experience such a magical moment.
That day, drone pilot Cheryl Johnson and the “Warrior Flight Team” the team will record a special video “Dance” from a bird’s eye view. Bill Crouse and the Allegany River Indian Dancers will invite our entire community to join in a Native American social circle dance as part of a major documentary, “Tradition, trauma and tenderness.” The idea behind the film is that “Traditions, passed down in a loving and nurturing environment, can help prevent and heal trauma, abuse and neglect in children and families.”
Produced by the CREATE Project and directed by Founder and Lead Artist Valerie Walawender, this feature-length documentary was supported by grants from Arts Services, Inc. and the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The City of Dunkirk, Dunkirk Public Library, Blosssom Garden Friends Peace and Education Center, CAP (Child Advocacy Center), Prevention Works and other community entities have been integral to this process.
Professional videographer Alex Simmons has been filming tradition bearers, children’s specialists and community members for the documentary since February 2022. The groundwork for the film was laid by Simmons, in a series of videos made for the CREATE Project website (www.create-project.com) last year. Simmons is the sole editor of this massive project, which is set to premiere at Gowanda’s Hollywood Theater in the coming months.
During the July 30 event, Cheryl Johnson and her team will use their drone technology to film the final scene of the “Tradition, Trauma & Tenderness” documentary. The City of Salamanca School District launched its drone program in the fall of 2017. It started with several teachers earning their FAA Part 107 license for small unmanned aircraft. They called each other “Warrior Flight Team” and over the years it has become a popular course offered to high school students. Licensed students and staff enjoy flying the drones for multiple school and community events. Johnson is the Salamanca Central School District’s lead coach and mentor for the FIRST Robotics Challenge and FIRST Tech Challenge; and 8th grade physical science teacher; Forensic Science and the Science of Enrichment.
The “Tradition, trauma and tenderness” the film features Native American narrator, Bill Crouse; Neuroscientist Dr. Audrey Hager; and trauma and child psychologist Dr. Daryl Tonemah, as well as a wide variety of cultural tradition bearers from the region.
Chautauqua County has the 8th 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.
Simmons and Warrior Flight Team’s videography work will culminate with a large community video shoot for the film’s final scene, at Memorial Park in Dunkirk on Saturday, July 30 from 1-3 p.m. Everyone is welcome !
At this event, Simmons will film community members as they join a circle led by the Allegany River Indian dancers. Native American dance leader Bill Crouse (narrator of the film) will share the story of Native American social dancing circles. When the “circle” is over, the drone’s video camera will soar skyward to film the assembled group from above for a dramatic ending to the film.
Adults and young people are invited to wear the traditional dress of their culture or to wear something that symbolizes their culture (Polish, Puerto Rican, Italian, Greek, Swedish, Jewish, etc.).
Members of the community are also encouraged to wear or wear something that symbolizes their profession or interests. Nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals may wear their gowns or a stethoscope. Girl Scouts, police, firefighters and military representatives will be in uniform. Teachers and students can carry a favorite book. Artists may be holding a brush and palette, or perhaps a small painting, sculpture, or ceramic bowl that they have made. Musicians can carry their guitars. Singers can bring a songbook.
Organizations, groups and businesses are encouraged to hold up a sign indicating the group they represent. Kids can wear a favorite toy or even bring their pet (friendly, leashed, or confined) to include in the movie. Journalists can bring a camera or their favorite newspaper.
Open Door Church will be offering its famous barbecue ribs, macaroni and drinks for purchase. There will also be free light refreshments for everyone and activities for children between shoots. At the event, bearers of the Native American tradition will demonstrate their art forms including Peter Jones and Mike Jones, pottery, sculpture; Penny Minner, basketry; 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 welcome to be part of the “Tradition, Trauma & Tenderness” documentary! The event is free and open to the public.
The CREATE Project is an arts-based community initiative designed to help communities break free from 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. are serving as fiscal sponsors. The Dunkirk Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club of North Chautauqua County are our primary community partners.