Pennsylvania's national parks plan special events

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Chief Guyasuta was one of the best known Native Americans to have fought in the French and Indian War.

His role as an ally of the French and French-Canadians in their conflict with the British and American colonists will be highlighted in a new exhibit at Fort Necessity National Battlefield.

The museum show, scheduled to open April 19 at the fort-and-museum site in Fayette County, is a joint project of the National Park Service and the Seneca Nation. The Senecas are a federally recognized tribe, many of whose members live in western New York. Guyasuta, a Native American warrior and diplomat, was an 18th century leader of their tribe.

The Seneca exhibit at Fort Necessity is one of several shows, special events and activities planned at the national memorials and historic sites. "We have one superintendent [Jeff Reinbold], and we function as a cluster of parks," said management assistant Mary Ellen Snyder.

The other locations in addition to Fort Necessity are the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, the Flight 93 National Memorial, and the Friendship Hill National Historic Site. More than 800,000 people visited those parks in 2012, according to a National Park Service report.

"So many people are not aware of what they have in their backyards within an hour or two of their homes," Ms. Snyder said of the parks. "We have battlefields, memorials and historic structures."

The area sites also have more than 30 miles of hiking trails. One of those paths winds through Jumonville Glen, near the top of Chestnut Ridge southeast of Uniontown.

Jumonville was where 22-year-old George Washington led Colonial militia and Native American warriors in an attack on French soldiers in May 1754. That skirmish is usually described as the first battle of the French and Indian War.

"It's still a very pristine wilderness site," Ms. Snyder said of Jumonville, which is administered as part of Fort Necessity. "If you want a typical National Park experience, we have the same attributes but on a smaller scale."

April 19 and 20 will be a "fee-free" weekend at all National Park facilities, including the local sites. All locations will be extending hours and switching to spring schedules in the coming weeks.

Other major events will include the "Plant A Tree at Flight 93" weekend on April 25-26 at the national memorial in Stonycreek, Somerset County. That site honors the passengers and crew of the United Airlines flight that crashed near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. Some of those aboard were battling terrorists who had taken control of the airplane.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Johnstown Flood. That tragedy, which killed more than 2,200 people in 1889, will be commemorated with a weekend of events May 31 and June 1 at the national memorial in Cambria County.

The role that members of the Seneca tribe played in the French and Indian War will be marked with a heritage weekend at Fort Necessity on June 28-29.

The Senecas were members of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy that controlled much of New York State and surrounding areas in the first half of the 18th century. Seneca warriors were among the enemy troops that forced Washington to surrender at Fort Necessity in July 1754 and helped to destroy Gen. Edward Braddock's British Army near the banks of the Monongahela in 1755.

"This new exhibit will include artifacts that ordinarily are locked away," said Brian Reedy, chief of interpretation at Fort Necessity. "It will provide a different perspective on the French and Indian War."

Guyasuta is a familiar name and face to many local residents. A Boy Scout camp in O'Hara and Sharpsburg is named for the Seneca chief. He and Washington are the dual subjects of a larger-than-life sculpture on Mount Washington that overlooks Pittsburgh's Point.

Len Barcousky: or 724-772-0184.

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