Tribute Concert Will Raise Money for Scholarship in Honor of Native Student

Gale Courey Toensing
7/18/12

A tribute concert for Seneca Black Elk Mathews will be held July 24 with all proceeds going into an endowment fund for scholarships for Native American students at Oklahoma State University.

Seneca Black Elk Mathews, of Cayuga Seneca and Quapaw ancestry, was 27 when he was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident last February. An employee of the Quapaw Tribe’s Downstream Resort Casino, Seneca had spent weeks, along with other Quapaw members, helping the people in the community of Joplin, Missouri recover from a massive tornado that destroyed the town in May 2011. The son of Beth and J.R. Mathews, the Downstream co-founder, Seneca was young, vital, energetic, upbeat and a joy to everyone. The Quapaw community was shattered by his death.

“Seneca was a very special man,” said his father. “He was kind to everyone who met him and his gift of helping, such as all those he helped in the days after the tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri, is his legacy that continues.” J.R. said his son had many dreams; among them to one day attend Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The family is working to recover from Seneca’s tragic death and put the pieces of their lives together again, J.R. said. While they accept that Seneca’s dream will not come true for him, they believe there are some positive actions that can take place. “To that end, the family has decided to honor Seneca by helping others with their dream of attending OSU by establishing an endowed scholarship in his name,” J.R. said.

The fundraising concert will take place at the historic Coleman Theater in Miami, Oklahoma. Heading the bill is Bobby Bridger, singer/songwriter, poet, actor, playwright, author and painter, who has traveled the globe for more than three decades performing a trilogy of one-man shows. He has recorded albums on Monument, RCA and Golden Egg Records and has appeared on PBS's "Austin City Limits,” ABC's "Good Morning America,” and on NPR, A&E and C-Span. He is the singer/songwriter of "Heal In The Wisdom,” the official anthem of the internationally famous Kerrville Folk Festival for 25 years. And Bridger is a long-time friend of the Mathews family. “We’ve known each other forever and when Seneca passed Bobby wanted to do this concert, so we finally got it together for July 24,” J.R. said.

John Inmon will be sharing the bill with Bridger. “His peers know John as one of the finest guitarists in Austin, Texas (and, considering the competition, that is high praise indeed); his fans know him as the signature guitar style that has at one time or another propelled the music of Townes van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball, Omar and the Howlers, the Lost Gonzo Band, Bruce Robison, Pat Green, Michael Martin Murphy, Keith Sykes, and most famously, Jerry Jeff Walker, for over three decades,” J.R. said, adding that Bridger and Inmon “have performed forever together.”

Also on the program are Williams & Ree—"The Indian and the White Guy." The performers have packed casinos, clubs, and arenas from Niagara Falls to Las Vegas for more than four decades. “They are very funny comedian-musicians and they just are tremendously entertaining. Seneca loved them. He saw them 10 years ago and bought their CDs,’’ J.R. said.

All proceeds from the concert will go into the scholarship fund. “All of the artists are performing for free. The Downstream and Quapaw casinos are covering all the costs of the tickets, the posters, the concert hall, so every dollar raised will go to the scholarship endowment fund at OSU,” J.R. said. The organizers are aiming to raise $100,000, which will guarantee a $5,000 a year scholarship for a student at the university—enough to cover almost all of a year’s tuition and books.

“It’s going to be a general scholarship for Native Americans. We’re going to set it up so Quapaw and Seneca Cayuga students will be first on the list, then other Native Americans, then everyone else,” J.R. said.

Tickets are $25 for VIPs, $15 in the orchestra, $10 in the balcony plus $1.00 for a preservation fee for the historic Coleman Theatre. Reservations can be made by calling  918-540-2425.

For those who can’t attend the concert at 7:30 on July 24, but would like to contribute, donations can be sent to The Seneca Black Elk Mathews Scholarship Fund, Arvest Bank, 1405 N. Main, Miami, OK 74354.

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