Guitar to Bear Legionnaire's Name

Utica Post 229 - Utica, NY

UTICA, NY, Dec. 29, 2010 -- Post Adjutant Jim George, who enjoys playing the guitar, is now making an electric guitar from scratch out of maple wood. And when he’s done with it, and it’s ready to emit the sound of song, the guitar will carry the label of its maker – which in this instance will be part of Jim’s Mohawk name.

It’s Okwa:ho.

“That’s one way to say ‘wolf’,” Jim noted.

He’s named after his grandfather, who was a Mohawk chief and whose name roughly translates as Lone Wolf.

“My full name is Okwa:ho Owella (prounouned o-GWA-who o-gweela). Mine roughly means younger or junior wolf.”

Regarding crafting the guitar, “this is my first ‘real’ one,” he said. “I used to buy older ones or busted-up ones and ‘Frankenstein’ them. That’s pretty much how I got to learn to put them together. Plus I used to tinker with mine all the time. I also used to fix them for friends, depending on what the problem was.”

He is using maple, he said, “because out of every guitar that I've owned, the maple ones always had a warmer sound and more sustain to them. I think it just gives a much fuller sound. That's pretty much the standard with the highend guitars as well.”

When Jim was growing up, he spent a lot of time with his grandfather, who lived at Akwesasne (Saint Regis) reservation (which straddles the New York-Canadian border) and then later in Utica.

As a chief, his grandfather had met with Pope John Paul II several times and developed a friendship to the point of exchanging personal letters. Jim used to accompany his grandfather everywhere, including celebrations at the Martyrs Shrine at Auriesville, NY and the National Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine at Fonda, NY. (Kateri, a 17th century Mohawk mystic declared Blessed by the Vatican, lived her young years at Auriesville, and then her teen/young adult years at Fonda after the Mohawks moved their village across the Mohawk River following a small pox outbreak.)

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