The Onondaga Nation and the Colbert Report
July 15, 2013
One of the late night political humor shows, Colbert Report, referenced the Onondaga Nation. Host Steven Colbert uses humor to make fun of the American political process. For instance, to illustrate the lunacy of the Supreme Court’s decision that business are people and have a voice in government, he created his own Super Pack raising millions of dollars not to run for President! Therefore, it was very surprising when Steven Colbert referenced the Onondaga in his monologue about the Revolution and Free Speech Rights. I’m glad to see that Steven Colbert recognized the importance of the Haudenosaunee and the Onondaga in the ideals in the foundation of the United States. Awesome!
February 10, 2011
Our Midwinter ceremonies are over. Midwinter ceremonies are a great time of celebration of life and the gifts that our Creator gave us. It lasts a better part of a month and when finished, you are usually exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. But being together every day in the Longhouse you get an appreciation of the closeness that we had in the olden times; the times that our elders talk about.
This Midwinters I could not help be remember a few of the elders that we lost since the last Midwinter ceremony, Stanley, Betty, and Gonwaianni. All three were integral parts of our ceremonies and some of the faces you look to see when I would walk into the Longhouse. Since I was little, these leaders (Stanley was a chief and Betty and Gonwaianni were both clan mothers) were always there, participating and teaching. They all had their special ways of connecting with the people around them, talking, nurturing, guiding people to make sure all was done to the best of our abilities. informing them of the old ways that needed to continue.
I know that they were missed these Midwinters. But I also know that they would have been proud that Midwinters carried on. The time they spent teaching and guiding the young ones paid off.
But I still miss them all.
August 15, 2012
This past weekend was the LaFayette lacrosse alumni game. It was great to see old friends as we strapped on the pads Saturday. There were 3 of us from my senior class; Chris Volan, Lars Tiffany, and Jacob Lazore. Chris traveled from Maine to play, Jacob informed us that he's going to be inducted into the Nazareth Hall of Fame this fall, and Lars (the Head Coach at Brown University) spent the afternoon trying his best to slash all of us. Our most alumni player was Tom Scoffield, class of 1967. He was a member of the LaFayette lacrosse team that recorded a 47 game undefeated streak and his team was inducted into the Central New York Hall of Fame. Tom played goalie then, and did on Saturday and he made some great saves. We didnt keep score. We didnt have too. We were too busy laughing and having fun on the field, which I discovered, seems to have stretched quite a bit since high school.
August 4, 2012
The Falls is a landmark on the Nation. A place to meet. A place to play. A place that means home. Now with the drought that has affected us all, it is a reminder to me of the importance of water. With contaminates entering upstream, notices have been posted about the dangers of swimming there. It is a reminder that we all must do a little extra to keep our Ethinotha Oñhweñjade’ (Mother Earth) healthy.
July 27, 2012
The Nation, Syracuse University, and National Grid are sponsoring a festival in downtown Syracuse called Eco Fest. It was great to see everyone down at the Hanover Square. Great food, crafters and awesome dancers. The best part is: there will be more tomorrow!
April 12, 2012
Whether we sat in a language class at the Nation school, or felt her constant presence at our Longhouse, maybe we went to her for guidance, or began a conversation with, “How do you say_ _ _?” We feel the loss
of our elder Audrey Shenandoah. During an interview which aired on radio several years ago, I wrote this poem for her. The subject was ‘Women who had an influence in your life.’ Other than my own Mother, Audrey, Gonwaianni was one of those individuals. She worked hard and shared so much with all of us.
For Gonwaianni ,
Ah ga has.
Whenever you met, you and my Mom would talk
Downtown, waiting for the bus in front of the White Tower
Or in the wooden aisles of the Easy Bargain Center
Your whole face smiled, your eyes crinkled at the edges
I never knew what you talked about
I just knew you were a friend
As a child
I thoroughly enjoyed those trips downtown with my Mother
I went away to school and came back to the Nation- credentialed
But with oh, so much to learn.
It was an exciting time
Our community pushed for changes in the school curriculum
To enhance the identity of our children
To include our way of life
You were always respectful, calm, deliberate.
You would remain at the school for 31 years.
You were a teacher, mentor, advisor, linguist, and an elder. All the
while you were a wife, grandma, great-grandma, sister…and
You continued to smile.
You would travel the earth on behalf of indigenous peoples
Share the stage with some of the most notable world leaders
And always come home, unchanged.
When my world crumbled and I couldn’t think, couldn’t function.
You came. You offered your wisdom, You offered soft words to sooth my
And you came back.
“The winds continue to blow,” you said. “The Creation is still doing
And you had that smile.
We sat around your table, immersed in our words,
in ongwehonwe ka.
We were young women eager to learn.
You went around the table, you knew if we didn’t study.
Gentle nudging, yet imperative
The messages, stories, meanings you shared around your table
We listened hard.
Your gift of knowledge and of life to all the young minds of our
community is enormous
We thank you for every lesson, big and small.
I’ll keep close your teachings.
And always have the memory of your smile.
Ah ga has.
Ojinoñ hya' dade nyoñ - Underground veins of water
March 16, 2012
When I look back on my life and reflect on the times that meant the most, that helped shape me as a person, and that gave me a much wider outlook on life, I can with little hesitation say that the Healing Journey and the people of Ruby, Alaska have had a profound effect on my life. The 2011 Healing Journey for me had a little bit of everything-excitement, danger, good friends new and old and most importantly strong words from strong people who are committed to staying the course of being one with the Earth and protecting the environment for today, tomorrow, and for the Seventh Generation. And having my sister Carol as my Alaskan guide didn't hurt either. The journey for me began on the Onondaga Nation, located in Upstate New York, through cancelled flights, lost bags, and a possessed Tarp holding everything in the pickup from Anchorage to Fairbanks. More flights and a few days delay in Tanana due to strong winds, and we finally had canoes in the water. Coming from a community that in recent history where a majority have lost their nautical ways, I can appreciate the skill and knowledge the people of the Yukon River possess. The trip itself was exhausting, but only of body, for simply the privilege of being in a place of such untamed wilderness that many will only get to see or read about in books or the internet, extinguished any desire to quit. To simply sit and let the current carry you in the waning light, surrounded only in silence and a soft breeze is a memory I will never lose. Despite the cold, the wet boots, and lack of sleep, I would be on the next plane if asked if I wanted to do it all over again.
Arriving in Ruby (the unscripted and scripted arrivals) was very enjoyable, to be welcomed by good people with kind hearts and good soup. Although not my first time in Ruby, it never feels like visiting a town over 3000 miles from home. Walking around town has the feeling of where home is, the Onondaga Nation, and even feels like visiting another community within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Everyone knows each other, and even with not being from there, their hospitality and friendliness creates the environment that you feel at home away from home. Even when 'home' is sleeping in a tent and in a sleeping bag.
The most immediate and direct impact the Healing Journey stirred in me was the truth that despite the odds that we as Native people face, we are not alone. The Healing Journey itself is a kaleidoscope of faces, each with their own unique stories and insights, all working with the desired goal of protecting and maintaining the environment, for like us to the Earth, we are all connected. With all the hardships and challenges that the people of the Yukon River face, I was reminded of the challenge we face at Onondaga, with the coming dangers and pain we face with Natural Gas production and Hydraulic Fracturing of the Marcellus Shale by companies and people, always with the dollar signs in mind, never with the consequences their actions create. We stand and see the potential dangers these people and their processes bring to our lands, to our waters, to our homes. I remember this while being in Ruby and I am comforted in the fact that with threats that face the Yukon River and the waters of Onondaga alike, there will be strong people who will meet these threats and challenges head on and never waver in their desire and goal of doing what is right not only for today, but for the tomorrows to come. These are the people who I met in Ruby at the Healing Journey.
As this journey neared the end, I was left with words I overheard that have stuck to me up to today and I'm sure beyond. It was when getting a chance to visit with Martha Wright, after being fed salmon, rice and otter pops, she offered her perspective on the Yukon. She said the waters, "they are my mother's veins. I will not stand by and watch her die while I'm alive." In the Onondaga Thanksgiving address, the word Ojinoñ hya' dade nyoñ is spoken, which gives thanks for the Veins of Mother Earth. So even though we are separated by masses of land, the waters connect our minds and hearts. I left Ruby much like how arrived, exhausted of body, but nourished and well fed of mind. The lessons and experiences I will pass on when I can, but the moments of being with good people, with views of vistas that would take more words than I have to describe, I'll keep those with me.
My "Fun Run"
December 30, 2011
I was a little intimidated on this sunny Saturday morning, ‘warming up’ among serious runners from around our area. Sean Kirst was there, the Lyons sisters, and of course– Randy Hall. I had been doing fast walks often and thought this was the one event I want to at least try, after all, my father was a marathon runner. Once the race started, it didn’t take long for me to know I was out of my league as all the runners left me in the dust. My run became a jog as I followed the beautiful course around our ball field, up across Hemlock Bridge, past the Longhouse, circling the box two times, and back around the ball field. At times I thought I’d quit early, but determination took over and the cheers of our residents were so encouraging, I kept going…to the finish! I came in at 49:34. I never saw who won the race, as many had already left when I finished the course, but I felt like a winner that day! This accomplishment far out-weights the aching muscles of the next two days. To me this trail run was one of life’s gifts. You don’t know what you can do if you don’t try.
Nyaweñha Shirley for bringing the event to our community.
More than a Meal
December 8, 2011
Twice a yearparents come to eat with their children at the Onondaga Nation School, Harvest and Spring Dinners. It’s quite an event. It’s more than a meal it is...
… an impressive show of our children’s involvement in Harvest and Spring Dinner, their fingerprints all over it. They help the elders, serve food, fundraise money for their class trips, take pictures, clean-up, and run errands, and decorate. Each class contributes to the menu. The different departments tackle different tasks for a successful meal.
… a perfect time to raise some money for the individual grade levels by selling t-shirts, raffles or handmade pies. Sometimes there will be a book fair, sometimes a small art show to display the students’ latest accomplishments.
The Fifth Grade class sold t-shirts and pencils for their end of the year class trip during Harvest Dinner. They made a $318 profit. They would like to say “ nyawenha to all who stopped by to check them out!”
The Third Grade sold blanket raffle tickets during the dinner. The winner of the blanket was Mike Moses.
The winner of the K-3 50/50 raffle was Connor Thornton. He won $215.00!
… a time for Traditions old an new. There are generations of ONS Alumni that regularly commit to this event. The young and old are eager to eat and drink corn soup, mush, hotscoons, and strawberries. Remember eating in the Language room? In the library? The school is now equipped with a larger gymnasium that can hold the large number of people coming to eat. Families don’t have to carry their trays up and own the stairs in order to eat. Although, there was something intimate about eating in the classrooms. Now its just a technicolor memory.
This Fall’s dinner showcased two Giving Trees. From their branches hung notes pronouncing what people are thankful for this Harvest Season. I’m thankful that for the enthusiasm and coordination involved in putting this event together... see you at Spring Dinner!
October 8, 2011
A few years ago I was sitting in the Longhouse when it was announced that the new chancellor for Syracuse University was going to visit. I was very eager to hear what she wanted to say. I knew that while at the University of Illinois, Chancellor Cantor worked to change their mascot- Chief Illini. I was curious to hear her plans for Syracuse University.
At the longhouse we discussed the rich history of the Onondaga and the Haudenosaunee. The Chancellor stated that saw the University as a tool to promote change and growth between our two cultures. She promised to see this relationship develop.
At that time my daughter was in elementary school, her nose always in a book. We often found ourselves reminding her, before we all sat down to eat, or well after bedtime, or even anytime we wanted to talk to her to, “Put the book away.”
But she didn’t.
My wife and I proudly watched her continue to grow and learn as she finished her elementary schooling at the Onondaga Nation School then onto the LaFayette HS. All too soon it was time to look at colleges and just as quickly it seemed, the acceptance letters arrived in the mailbox. It eventually came down to two choices; Penn State (my alma mater) or Syracuse (my wife’s alma mater). The promise prevailed.
So this fall, the family loaded up the van and headed north on Interstate 81 to Syracuse University. As I carried crate after crate up to her new dorm room, I couldn’t help but reminisce about that that meeting in the Longhouse years ago. Now my daughter is a part of that exchange between our two cultures and we couldn’t be prouder.
Fishing with Grandpa
August 7, 2011
My grandpa was larger than life.
He was many things to many people. To our community he was a respected Chief who would share his knowledge of the ceremonies and the Onondaga language to those who wanted to learn. He was Hall of Fame lacrosse player who loved the game. He would go to every game he could from the men’s games to my high school games (even in the rain). He was a terrific hunter who knew his way through the woods bringing home food for his family. And he was a fisherman.
My father and Grandfather would go fishing after work. Sometimes they would make trips to the surrounding lakes like Otisco but mostly they would fish the local streams on the Onondaga Nation. Like many people on the Nation, they would bring home fish for dinner and a story or two. So when I was old enough, I was able to get minnows and night crawlers for our fishing trips. I was so excited.
On the way there, Grandpa would tell a story or two. One of the stories that my Grandfather shared with me while we were fishing at the dam on the Nation was how it used to be. (note: the picture from the Post Standard shows why he liked fishing at the dam)
When we were fishing together in the late 70s and early 80s the waters of Onondaga Creek were getting muddy. Upstream the industrial drilling accelerated the flow of mud silt into our stream making it difficult for the fish to flourish. He fondly recalled a time when he was walking home at night after a successful evening of spearing. He told of raising his lantern to see his way. It was then when he saw so many fish swimming that he thought he could walk straight across the creek on their backs to the other shore.
It is great story to tell. It reminds people about how important the waters are in our lives. That Onondaga creek used to sustain our people with food and drink and kept us healthy. It is a great story to tell to help remind people that this stream isn’t just barrier in trying to Gannon’s Ice Cream on Valley Drive.
Then in the end of July, sculptor Peter W. Michel erected his new piece called “Honoring Onondaga Creek ”. The Post Standard took pictures of the unveiling of the colorful fish filling a stream and a man walking across their backs. I quickly showed my father the Post Standard article and photos of the event.
My father, now 81, smiled and sat for a moment looking at the photographs.
“It’s Grandpa’s story”, he said quietly.
We both sat and remembered.
COOKING WITH ASHES
January 15, 2011
Nixtamalization is the process where corn is cooked in an alkaline solution (hard wood ash in our area) to break down the outer shell, or endosperm. This process comes from Mesoamerica. "Nextli” is a Nahuati word, spoken in Central Mexico, meaning ashes."Tamali" is maize dough. This process works on other grains as well. Not only does this process soften the food and make it edible, it increases the nutritional value of the end product. According to Chef Iliana De La Vega of the Mexico Culinary Institute of America "You can have a very complete nutrition just with a few more things. Beans, and tomatoes or other vegetable, you will have a full diet. You almost don't need any protein." A statement that reaffirms the importance of the Three Sisters in our culture.
In addition to adding flavor to the corn, Nixtamalization releases B3 for the body to absorb, increases the amount of Protein and Calcium, and it also reduces the toxin, mycotoxin in most corn by 90%. This is a great alternative for those who need more calcium in their diet and milk is not an option. One must also consider that non-GMO and heritage strains of corn will produce the best nutritional results.
Different types of trees give you different levels of alkalinity; The Iroquois Museum’s website recommends using Poplar ashes. A recent study noted that Navajos use ground Juniper ash in their bread flour. It increases the nutritional value of the bread, and adds calcium. Other items found to be used in throughout the America’s are corn kernels, corn cobs and even oyster shells.
Please think about the purity of your ashes if you are to use your ashes for cooking. Ashes made from chemically treated wood, newspaper, egg cartons, crumpled paper, and burn all-night logs may be toxic and not suitable for cooking. The best objects are pesticide, preservative, and chemical free. Most of the lawns on the nation are pesticide free, using leaves and dry brush and kindling found around your yard is a better option. A sensible and inexpensive method.
Do not cook in Aluminum pots or use aluminum spoons when working with wood ash. According to American Macrobiotic Cuisine by Meredith McCarthy, “The Lye in the wood ash reacts strongly with aluminum to produce hydrogen gas, which is both flammable and explosive.” The Ashes can ruin your aluminum pots and spoons due to the alkalinity . Stainless Steele, ceramic, and wooden spoons are a great alternative.
Now imagine if we started cooking deer meat in our corn soup instead of salt pork. In longhouse, everyone would be taking home a nutritious meal.
The information found in this article was obtained on the following webpages: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2009/03/nixtamalization-nutritional-benefits.html, http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2009/03/wisdom-from-the-past-nixtamalization-of-corn.html, http://thecheffyboy.blogspot.com/2009/12/cooking-with-ashmaking-masa.html, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixtamalization, and also from the book American Microbiotic Cuisine A Macrobiotic Celebration of America’s Ethnic Cooking by Meredith McCarthy.
Onondaga Eel Clan
December 19, 2010
The news of the dismissal of our land rights case September 22, 2010 stung. Reading the words of U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence E. Kahn were to me, a biting dose of unwelcome reality. The decision states: “The profoundly disruptive nature of the Onondaga Nation’s claim in readily identifiable throughout its Amended Complaint.” And further, “Sherill, Cayuga, and Oneida foreclose any possibility that the Onondaga Nation’s action may prevail; the Court is bound by these precedents to find the Nation’s claim equitably barred and subject to dismissal.”
It had taken Judge Kahn five years to re-state decisions in the previous mentioned cases-five years to dismiss the important message on behalf of the lands we share today with Central New York; to turn us away, without the opportunity to explore meaningful negotiations and redress the historical wrongs. It hurt. It is insulting, but, it is not the end.
In filing our land rights (we purposefully did not use the word land ‘claim,’ but instead called ours a land rights case, as it is our inherent rights, and those of our ancestors, that we seek justice. We took a big step when we filed papers in federal court in Syracuse March 11, 2005. But this was not the beginning. Our people spoke out in the 1700’s about the theft of almost all of our aboriginal lands by the State of New York. The new state divided up parcels of our lands to pay soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Speculators, soon to be barons, wheeled and dealed to get their hands on our lands to make money through trade, transportation and settlement. In 1789 Onondaga Chief Sharongyowanon told then Governor George Clinton: “We did not expect that you, after advising us to shun private treaties with individuals and avoid selling our lands to your disobedient children, that you would yourself purchase lands from a few of our wrong headed young men, without the consent or even knowledge of the chiefs.”
The legal concept of ‘laches,’ that we waited too long to file, is an argument they use, perhaps because they don’t have evidence to refute us. It’s like the bully who changes the rules when he knows he can’t win. We know our ancestors objected to the land takings, and we know our contemporary leaders have taken every opportunity to soundly and diplomatically challenge the history of the ever growing empire state. In the words of our beloved Tadodaho, Chief Leon Shenandoah: “What you call the United States, we call Turtle Island. This is where the Creator planted us and when he did, he made us free. Europeans were not planted here, but you came here because you wanted to be free like us. In our original instructions, we were told that nobody could own the land. Then the Europeans decided that all of the Great Turtle Island was theirs to own. That wasn’t funny to us anymore.”
In our land rights case, we named NYS as a violator of federal law, but we also named the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County, and five of most flagrant polluters in Central New York; Honeywell International (bought Allied Chemical-polluters of Onondaga Lake), Clarke Concrete (polluting Tully Valley), Hansen Aggregates (open pit mine in Jamesville), and Trigen Energy Corp. (emits toxins burning waste). Our case was taking a stand, not only were we challenging history, we called attention to what is happening to our lands today. We cited ancient teachings- natural law. Our land rights action is a catalyst to move toward environmental stability and balance, not just for the Onondaga Nation, but on behalf of all people and all life.
Our environmental message was enthusiastically welcomed by our neighbors throughout Central New York and beyond. Many of our neighbors have come to terms with their clouded history and are willing to help make it right. The citizens group, NOON, or Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, has grown in numbers and continuously offers support, most recently by collaborating with colleges and universities to host an educational series called “Our Common Future II.” Members of NOON are visible and active, and, they are friends.
In retrospect, there were many on-going factors in need of agreement before we reached the decision to file. The original plan was to file united as a Confederacy. But, as we all know that wasn’t to be. As a result we’ve had the Oneida Sherill decision and Cayuga decision to set precedents that affect our case. Prior to filing it was very difficult to have our say about Onondaga Lake, and other matters affecting us, because we weren’t taken seriously. That has improved somewhat. We waited for the Department of Justice to join us in a supportive move-as our lawyers insisted they are morally obligated to do, but they never did. The DOJ didn’t step up in support of us- knowing NYS violated federal law when it took our lands. We went to court alone, inserting the words-“on behalf of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.”
We’ve had our ups and downs since we filed in 2005. We traveled to Albany in 2007, and were joined by many NOON citizens when our lawyers presented oral arguments before Judge Kahn. We gathered at Tom Porter’s for talks, food, and good hopeful feelings on our way home. In May 2010 our lead attorney, Tim Coulter, a familiar face at Onondaga, resigned as counsel on our land rights case citing his disagreement with terminology used regarding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. Attorneys Curtis Berkey and Alex Page, based in Washington, D.C., are filling the void left by Coulter. Joe Heath continues to be Onondaga’s main counsel.
Since we filed, new faces now sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. A new President was sworn in and reached out to Native peoples soon after settling into office. These are some of the alternative avenues we may need to face after the conclusion of our appeals process- which is where we are now. We may end up taking our land rights case to World Court. These scenarios/options were discussed soon after the dismissal in September by our Nation’s Council and legal team.
Some of us may have thought since our case is unique, that we strived to make dishonorable history honorable, that we sincerely want all citizens, native and non, to restore environmental damage before there’s nothing left to destroy, that such a noble cause would matter to the legal system whose mantra is justice after all, but we were sorely disappointed by Judge Kahn. However, our journey on this road is not over. We’ll live on. We’ll continue to build alliances. Canandaigua remains firm. Our way of life continues, and our next generation will carry on our important, imperative message of unity for our earth and all that lives within.
August 5, 2010
The ocean is mesmerizing, refreshing, powerful.
We have never been to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. And someday we will have to go back.
July 22, 2010
Onondaga and the other 5 nations have a close relationship to Dehontshigwa'ehs or Lacrosse. The game is a gift from the Creator. We give our babies sticks; we are buried with our favorite.
This past week has shown to many how important this game is to us. The game is a part of us. It defines us. Its spirit runs through us. To try to separate the game from who we are is unthinkable.
La-Crosse was adapted to the game by the French who watched us play. Standardized rules were written. Non-natives began to play. By the 1900’s Onondaga teams like the ones pictured here were playing teams from other nations as well as college teams.
Then a new rule was written. All native teams were considered professional and therefore unable to play field lacrosse against colleges anymore.
Many native communities then began to learn a new adaptation of our game, box lacrosse. Games continued between nations, in the box, not in the field.
But 60 years later, Onondaga leader Oren Lyons began a campaign for the Haudenosaunee to return to competitive field lacrosse. Then in 1990 the International Field Lacrosse Committee agreed that the Haudenosaunee should return. We returned as a separate nation to compete against other nations, as equals.
Because the game is a part of us.
June 12, 2010
It is the end of the school year. For some, it is the conclusion of a goal. For our family we had the pleasure of celebrating the Commencement ceremonies at Syracuse University by watching my wife walk across stage. Well at Syracuse there are so many students the students from the different colleges take turns standing as each college accepts the privileges and responsibilities of a Syracuse University degree.
But during the speeches, it was made clear that it is a time of commencement or beginning rather than an end. That these individuals had worked very had for a beginning once they leave SU. That is very true we are very proud of my wife's hard work but she is about to begin on new journey. I am very fortunate to take that journey with her.
Wild onions and leeks (ramps) make wonderful additions to your everyday cooking recipes. Just by substituting a few chopped wild onions/ramps into your omelets instead of chives or scallions you can add loads of flavor to your breakfast. These plants grow wild here on the Onondaga Nation so getting a hold them can be a hassle unless you like traipsing in the woods (which this cook normally does not do). Fortunately, I was able to acquire both varieties from Dale Edwards & Amos Jacobs who drove up to the Communications Office asking a fair price for what they had just harvested.
Naturally, both the onions and ramps still needed to be cleaned. First, I submerged the ramps underwater freeing them of as much soil as I could before peeling the outer most layer of skin from them (this torturous task is usually relegated to teenagers to give them something to complain about, but there were no teens to be found). After they were cleaned I let them air dry over night on the counter. The next day after they were completely dry I placed bunches of 10 or so in freezer bags. It’s true, the taste of any produce is by far superior when plucked from the soil, cleaned, then cooked, but there were entirely too many ramps/onions to consume.
Note: If you attempt to freeze any produce before they are completely dry you end up with slimy veggies, which by most standards, is an undesirable texture. A friend of mine (whom I was asking advice on how to prepare the leeks being that I am from Oklahoma and had never cooked with them with them before) from Cherokee North Carolina said his mother told him stories of when she was in elementary school Cherokee students would be sent out of class to work in the hallway due to the smell of ramps on their breath. (Which to me sounds a little drastic.) His advice was the usual: fry them with potatoes, soups, etc. I also researched more intricate preparations such as using them in braising liquids and risottos. The raw taste of the ramp is akin to garlic or a shallot, so, you can cook them as you would any other aromatic. Dale told me to cook them outside unless I wanted the house smelling like onions, but I decided to risk it anyway.
First, I made a frittata, one of my favorite savory breakfasts. Instead of sautéing onions with the potatoes I used finely chopped ramp bulbs. I thinly sliced the leaves (chiffonade) and added them to my eggs for color and flavor. I toped the frittata with Parmesan cheese, vine ripened tomato, and basil leaves.
This braised short rib dish was a bit more challenging. Actually the braising was the easy part: seared the meat, deglazed with red wine, added ramp leaves, carrots, celery, a cinnamon stick, three cloves, a bay leaf, and simmered for three hours. The risotto was the challenging: sautéed some sweet onions and ramp bulbs until translucent, stirred the Arborio rice until incorporated with aromatics, deglazed with dry white wine (stirring constantly), after the rice absorbed the wine I ladled in hot chicken stock. The process was laborious constantly stirring until the rice had porridge like consistency (about 25 minutes). The fiddleheads were sautéed with garlic salt and pepper.
Cooking with the wild onions was more familiar to me having grown up harvesting and eating them as a small child in eastern Oklahoma. So, I prepared them with scrambled eggs. I then made a simple breakfast sandwich with eggs, freshly sliced avocado, bacon, and cheese.
Next I decided to make a wild onion burger. I bought some lean grass fed beef, added some olive oil, black truffle oil (since the meat is lean I had to add oil so the meat would not be dry, fattier meat would not need oil), and made a seven-ounce patty studded with the onions. I brushed some melted butter to the outside of the patty and seasoned with salt and pepper. The butter helps seal the burger when cooking, that way all of the juices (flavors) do not run out of the burger. Don’t smash your burger with your spatula, just let it cook; you want a nice crust on your patty. I cooked this burger in a smoking hot pan until medium rare. I topped the burger with red onion, lettuce, tomato, pickle, American cheese, bacon, and mayo, all served on a toasted roll.
Finally, I wanted to roast a chicken. I read somewhere that wrapping scallions around a punctured lemon will add amazing flavors to an oven-roasted bird. I decided to use wild onions in the scallions’ stead. After tying the lemon and onions together I stuffed it in the cavity of a four-pound chicken. I trussed the chicken sealing the cavity. I seasoned the outside of the bird with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. I roasted it for an hour and five minutes at 450 degrees.
While it is common to make soups with ingredients like this I am wondering how well these aromatics hold up in other food dishes such as savory crepes and/or in a gratin. Often with soups the ingredients get over cooked and lose what makes them unique, texture and taste. Also, using these foods in everyday cooking amounts to more variety in your diet. These plants are one of the last remnants of the vast, sophisticated, landscapes Native People cultivated pre-European contact. Rather saying the plants grow wild, its is safe to say, according to Charles C. Mann’s book 1491, these plants thrived through the nurturing and horticultural knowledge of our ancestors.
(Santee is a staff member at the Onondaga Nation Communications office. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma)
Arthroscopy and Me
“Arthroscopy allows the orthopedic surgeon to insert a pencil-thin device with a small lens and lighting system into tiny incisions to look inside the joint. The images inside the joint are relayed to a TV monitor, allowing the doctor to make a diagnosis. Other surgical instruments can be inserted to make repairs, based on what is with the arthroscope. Arthroscopy often can be done on an outpatient basis.”
After my doctor and I discussed my options after physical therapy for my shoulder, I looked up what it meant. It all seemed ok but the couple of weeks after the surgery were extremely painful.
I scheduled the surgery at the end of December to allow for maximum recovery time. But life is full of surprises as in early January; it was time for Midwinter ceremonies.
Being still in recovery mode, sometimes I wasn’t able to participate like I have in the past. But being there makes you feel so refreshed and ready to start the year with a good mind.
But truth be told, and don’t tell my doctor, I took off sling a couple of times to dance. Just couldn’t resist.
So here it is in February and physical therapy is still a part of my life but I am getting better, feels good to be able to raise my arm, put on my coat, type, brush my hair, and dance (guilt-free).
New Yea, New Yea!!!
January 5, 2010
As we were getting ready by putting our hats and gloves on to bring in the new year by going New Yea-ing in the community, a family from down the road was already on our porch hollering, "New Yea! New Yea!"
My wife brought out the freshly made pineapple drop cookies and began handing them out to our first New Yea-ers. It was going to be great day.
We went from house to house bringing in lots of cheer to our neighbors, wishing them all a happy New Year. As my two youngest children and I walked down the road through the Nation, we ran into many groups along the way and we were greeted with warm smiles and wishes for a great new year. It was one of those moments with huge fluffy snowflakes gently falling to the ground, and the quietness of this hills being broken by the shouts of "New Yea" that made me realize how special my home is and how thankful that we live here.
So when we were done, we made our way back home. As the kids emptied their bag of homemade cookies on the platter on the kitchen table, they told their mama about the houses we visited and the people we saw along the way. It truly was a great day. I can't wait til next year!
December 23, 2009
Well I really can’t believe it. My daughter Niononda’ah has turned 16!
It doesn’t seem like 16 years ago that my wife and I were going to be parents for the very first time. I was recently accepted into a master’s degree at program at Penn State when we got the news that we were expecting. So both my mom and my wife’s mom said to me, “You finish school as fast as you can so that our grandchild will be coming home soon.”
So as many new parents do, we read all the books, decorated the room, checked out the baby name books, and circled the date on the calendar. Luckily our date fell after my finals.
Once she was born, then it was time for the grandparents to come. Soon we had a household full of people in our small apartment. Our new little baby was being held and passed around the room. And today she went to the DMV with her mom to get her permit.
Wow, I still can’t believe that it is 16 years later.
Peace and Friendship
November 25, 2009
November is a very busy month. There is so much going on during this time but we do have to sometimes think about the past. This past happened 215 years ago at Canandaigua.
Some perspective needs to be thought of first when we are thinking of this era. The Americans just signed a treaty with England in 1783 ending the American Revolution and the United States was born. Even though the war was over, there were continued skirmishes between natives and the United States for land.
In 1776, the colonists wrote The Declaration of Independence. In that document it provides reasons why they feel the crown no longer represents them. One reason stated in the Declaration of Independence is the inability to acquire lands to the west. After the French and Indian war, England’s King George drew a Proclamation line stating anything west of Ft. Stanwix (present day Rome NY) was considered “Indian Country”. This provided a boundary line for settlers and natives to live peaceably. But with the defeat of England, the United States used the premise of the Right of Conquest to expand their territory westward. Understandably, many of the native nations did not agree.
Nations such as the Miami led by Little Turtle began to fight the United States to stop expansion into the Ohio River valley. As the fighting began, Little Turtle began to accumulate victories over the US Army against General Harmer and General St. Claire. In fact suffered the worst defeat of the US Army ever had against native forces (that includes General Custer). President George Washington fearing all out warfare along the frontier decided to use diplomacy with the Haudenosaunee.
After many months of negotiations, the United States and the Haudenosaunee secured perpetual “Peace and Friendship” on November 11, 1794. This historic treaty recognized the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee, allowed for safe passage of Americans through our territory, established land boundaries, and created a way for our two nations to peacefully resolve any conflicts.
So in the 215 years since, both the Haudenosaunee and the United States recognize this treaty in Canandaigua with a parade, speeches, and a great dinner. As our ancestors demonstrated to us, Peace and Friendship is a worthy goal.
October 11, 2009
This week has been great week. Giahwihyoh (The Good Message) came to Onondaga!
Giahwihyoh was given to the Haudenosaunee at a time of great turmoil. Two wars had just played out in our lands (French & Indian War and American Revolution), the Sullivan Campaign had just ravaged Haudenosaunee villages, NYS and land speculators began claiming our homelands, alcohol was disrupting family life, the population of our people was down approximately 90%, and a there was a wonderment of what is going to happen next. Then this message arrives and it provides the Haudenosaunee direction and hope.
So for more than 200 years, speakers have been reciting the message given to Seneca chief Handsome Lake. His message told the people to return to the longhouse ceremonies and gave guidelines how to live in this new era of living with our white brothers.
So the Onondaga Nation was honored to host Giahwihyoh and Haudenosaunee people from all across the state and Canada came to hear the message. It was good to see so many people come and share in listening of the message, see our visitor’s outfits, dance to their songs, and continue to spread the message of Giahwihyoh.
And as you can see, it was hard to find a parking space.
August 30, 2009
My gram's house was in the middle of a renovation project when the workers on the project had a concern, asbestos. So we halted the project and had her house tested. Sure enough there was asbestos found on the floors, ceiling and even the outside shingles!
So as we arranged for the safe removal of asbestos from the house, I remembered a story that happened quite a few years ago.
A company who removed asbestos from their own buildings decided that they were not going to safely remove it from the property. Instead they did their renovations and took the hazardous materials for a drive in a truck and dumped it along a road thinking they had ridded the waste for good.
But their truck happened to stop within the boundary on the Onondaga Nation. Soon it was reported to the council by one of citizens about this mysterious pile of trash. Spearheaded by Chief Irving Powless Jr., the nation began to work with federal agencies to find the offending company. Chief Powless knows our treaties and brought to the attention of the federal authorities Article VII of the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty. This section of the treaty specifically deals with the process which each government can follow to redress wrongs from citizens from each nation. He reminded them that this treaty a binding and living agreement between the two sovereigns and by implementing Article VII against the offending party, we would be polishing the agreement between us.
Armed with treaty and federal law the offenders were soon caught and were not only responsible for the cleanup of the site, but fines as well. I'm sure that that company learned its lesson.
Pheobe Hill passes
August 10, 2009
When an elder passes onto Creator’s Land, are reminded not to morn the loss of the body because it’s just a shell and she has already begun her journey. But we are to remember the love, caring, and laughter that she left with us.
And for Pheobe that means a lot of love is still with us.
Whenever my family went to her house, it always felt like she was waiting for us to come and would invite us to sit and make us feel at home. She would tell stories of “how it used to be” which would inevitably turn into many big laughs.
Although I will miss seeing her sitting in her chair, I will hold onto the caring that she gave to so many and hopefully, be able to live my life like hers; full of family, love, and laughter.
July 16, 2009
As our feet continue to caress Mother Earth in our daily travels, we give thanks for the continuance of all of the life forces that make up our existence. To be grateful for the simple things that are given, brings joy to all living things when surrounded by good feelings and the comfort of knowing that all, is as well as we make it. The hope that thrives on positive feelings spawns love in all directions, carried by the winds of voice, and the wings of action, the strength of its song and unconditional temperment, includes all who know compassion and seek Peace; both within themselves and the people that are most important to our daily lives. It is indeed possible to change, for the good of the people, for the good of the family, for the good of the Nation, we can be better, to each other, to the Earth and our environment. Peace is a state of being that appears when happiness is habitually present, like a visit with an old friend, whose memories feed the heart, it is time well spent. Summer breezes cool the spirit as the sun gallops west to the horizon, another day, passes with ease, amongst the People of The Hills, here, in the solstice moon of Saskehah.
TRAVEL: The Road West part 1
July 15, 2009
Sometimes in life opportunities present themselves. They might seem impossible or so challenging we think we can't do something before we even start. That's what happened recently to me when my daughter Carol talked about her job and moving to Alaska. I had doubts about her plan: for her and me to drive to Anchorage! But when the time came for her to pack up that is just what we did. We left home May 15, 2009 driving 5,606 miles of highway in her Nissan Altima packed to the roof (she even managed to get her bike in there). It turned out to be an amazing road trip traveling through the most magnificent mountains I had ever seen.
After two stops with family and friends in Buffalo, NY and Indianapolis, our first venture was so to go off the interstate to Pipestone, Minn., a sacred site where ongwehonwe people historically went, and still go, to get catlinite, a rock for making pipes. The road into Pipestone was paved with the reddish rocks. Large boulders could be seen in fields, in ornamental displays in flower gardens, or in road signs. The quarry sat in the midst of the prairie in southern Minnesota. A recent fire had charred the grass but as we walked further in to the quarry we found beautiful formations and a clear stream with a waterfall. The huge boulders were cave-like, the temperature dropped near them. I stuffed my bag with rocks which are free to ongwehonwe, they were heavy to carry, but I know some carvers who would use them. Pipestone is a National Monument and has a modern gallery with Lakota people demonstrating pipe making and other crafts. They have a gift shop with books and educational brochures to hand out. We saw groups of school children taking a tour, which is free to ongwehonwe. Like many places we encountered there were plenty of tourist shops selling different sorts of 'authentic' items. We took another red road out of town and spent the day driving through South Dakota.
The day was a long haul our next stop was Rosebud, SD. There wasn't much happening in town on a Monday. We picked up the tribal newspaper, Sicangu Eyapaha. In the center is a fold out with photos of all the workers of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, all smiling (nice idea). We drove on to Pine Ridge where we paid our respects at Wounded Knee. Just as the sun was setting we left our offering there with all the other ribbons tied to the monument on the top of a rolling hill. We drove into town looking for a restaurant, saw only a pizza place, and so we got on the highway made it to Sturgis for the night. Most of the time we made great food stops, but sometimes, by the time we rolled in to a town, we were so tired we just wanted a place to sleep.
Gradually the plains gave way to mountains as we drove through Wyoming. We stopped often to take photos. It was 95 degrees when we left Sturgis, but on the mountains we had our jackets on and made snowballs. We drove through the Powder River country an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, the wind blows pretty hard up there. I thought of our western relatives who traveled this country long ago on foot or horseback. Boy they were tough, Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, and their people. But there truly was beauty all around us. We stopped often. Carol took over a thousand photos. We stayed in the ‘western’ town of Cody, WY, and stood on top of Buffalo Bill Cody Dam, formerly Shoshone Dam.
Miles of forest ushered us in to Yellowstone. We noticed entire hillsides were bare due to infestation and others had been burned or purposefully cleared in spots. Scenic stops gave specific information about all the sites along the roadway. Our first creature was a lone buffalo walking along by the side of the road-away from Yellowstone. We didn’t see any more of his relatives till miles down the road. “Where was he going,” we wondered? We saw our first black bear, from a safe distance of about 200 feet. Many other travelers had stopped, some setting up tripods to photograph, the bear didn’t seem to pay attention to the group gathered. We stopped to see “Old Faithful” one of the main attractions and walked the entire boardwalk meandering through a thermal area of geysers and bubbling hot springs. It was like being on another planet. We saw buffalo tracks and clumps they leave on these ‘hot’ grounds.
We bought great hamburgers in one of the plentiful food stops. What’s more, they had great coffee (one of my criteria). They also had the most friendly, polite wait staff. We lingered around the shop, passing several more on our drive through.
Yellowstone is the world’s first National Park (1872). Of course it was the lands of the Blackfeet, Cayuse, Cour d’Alene, Bannock, Nez Perce, Shoshone, Crow, Umatilla and more. If National Parks help people to learn to appreciate lands and all that live there, then they can do a great service to preserve special places. They also give you an ethereal connection to what is real. We were blown away by Yellowstone, and we only drove through it. They say to see the park you need to spend at least five days or longer.
By now we were getting to be great road warriors driving all day and into the night. It was staying light until 10 p.m. and later as we went further west. The towns were becoming further and further apart. We stayed in Butte, MT, and traveled through the gorgeous Flathead Reservation. Although miles on construction and dust slowed us down, they have forests, mountains, glaciers, buffalo; it was a beautiful drive taking about an hour to cross their lands. There were many road signs in their native language. We tried to read them.
We crossed the border into Canada near Eureka, MT. There were no problems, no hassles. We rested two nights with friends on top of a mountain in British Columbia before driving through two of Canada’s premier National Parks, Banff and Jasper. Mile after mile of land so serene and majestic touches your soul. You feel honored and privileged to be in such places. We drove off the interstate to get closer to the mountains and glacial lakes. We also started seeing plenty of four-leggeds. Our first up close encounter with a black bear was exciting and scary. We turned around to see better, then he started up the incline near our car deciding it was close enough, quickly getting back on the highway. We had to keep a sharp eye on the road side for caribou, elk, deer, more bears. All kinds of animals live in these protected parks. The roads are theirs. We were just visitors traveling through.
Honoring My Mother
May 22, 2009
On Thursday, April 23, 2009 the YWCA held their 11th Annual Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism and Promote Diversity Luncheon which honored twenty YWCA Academy of Diversity Achievers who have directly helped in the YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women by participating and supporting programs which promote and embrace diversity, supporting opportunities for women’s growth and leadership or the person embodies the spirit of peace, justice, freedom and dignity.
One of our own community members was honored with this award, my mother Jeanne Shenandoah. Who truly has embraced peace, justice, freedom and dignity. As a traditional member of the Onondaga Nation Eel Clan she has worked very hard at educating and bringing communities native and non-native with an open heart, mind and hand. “The importance of the work I do is to reach out to people in the name of peace, friendship and justice. I have been fortunate to have been able to sit in many different circles and carry the message from our people the Haudenosaunee. In following the ways of our people we stress that we have concern for the well being of all people, not only our own. We also stress that we are still here; we still exist in our indigenous territory despite the many generations of injustice and genocide that our people have endured. This message is to all people to persevere and maintain a strong belief in ones self and your path of life. Peace and love for all is the strongest message one can share. Thank you Jeanne Shenandoah.”
It truly was an honor to attend this luncheon with my mother, grandmother and several of her closest friends. Growing up the taught me to always welcome new people into my life without judgment and to always be proud of who I am an where I’ve come from. With this I would like to say Gon no wen’ kwa’ Genoha’.
March 23, 2009
Barack Obama burst on the national scene in just a few years- he was virtually unknown in major political circles. He wasn’t born into a family name with endless opportunities. He worked, was elected to the Senate in Illinois, and he carried a message to the people. Two words became synonymous with Obama- ‘Hope’ and ‘ Change,’ two words a country desperately needed. The youth, minorities, everyday folks, were drawn to the platform of promise. Barack Obama’s road to the White House culminated January 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C. with his historic inauguration ceremony in front of a record crowd and millions of viewers around the world.
Our main reason for traveling the Nation’s capitol was to attend another ceremony. The eldest of our family, Mitchell L. Bush, was receiving a lifetime achievement award from the American Indian Society of Washington, D.C. (AIS) at their inaugural ball held in Arlington, Va. “Bushy” was one of the founders of AIS in 1966, retired from government service in 1985 and continues to help out any natives in the D.C., Virginia area. Traveling with my brother Tony Gonyea and son Steven, we arrived Monday evening, in time for the AIS sponsored pow wow. Our peoples gathered from the four directions, taking turns at the drum, sharing songs, giveaways, till long into the night- what a way to welcome everyone!
We started out early Tuesday morning with our brother Stephen who lives in the area to get the capitol, but right away, we knew by the crowds already gathered at the metro station in Arlington, it wasn’t going to be easy. To get a seat, we rode away from D.C., then came back. The crowds of people waiting to get on the subway grew larger at each stop- some trying to squeeze inside the car we were riding in. We were already packed in. There was electricity in the air, as families held hands with their children, people all races, ages, had a look of anticipation. Getting closer to the capitol area, we were disappointed to hear the announcement, the metro stops at the mall were closed, so we were all exited in Chinatown, many blocks away from the event. Ordinarily, Chinatown would be a great place to visit- with all the shops, but not today, so we started our longest walk to get to the inauguration. Many sections of the Capitol mall were already closed off, and the crowds kept coming. We were scrunched in at bottlenecks and worked our way around. We lost Tony at one of the bottlenecks, but kept in touch with our phones. We also ran smack dab into Jesse Jackson; apparently he was in the same boat, trying to maneuver through the crowds and road blocks.
On our trek we met limousines- couldn’t see who was in them, waved anyway, lots of secret service, police, army, they were everywhere, even helicopters flying overhead. The sun was out; it seemed like a perfect day. People were happy, smiling, sometimes an Obama chant could be heard, we kept walking, trying to find a spot. Full, closed, move on. Walk some more.
We ended up far away from the capitol steps, but we could hear. Roars of clapping, shouts rippled through the sea of people now shoulder to shoulder when the new President took the oath. More roars during hid speech. I couldn’t see, but I could hear. Steven managed to work his way up to a screen. We were packed in as close as we could get, some people were in trees, others climbed on top of the port-a-johns to get a view. Occasionally a rescue vehicle squeezed through with personnel shouting to make way, the space closed up immediately after it passed with more people. We ended way down by the Washington monument, but just to be there, in that place, with a couple of million people was unforgettably moving.
The ceremony ended. The winds picked up, and temperatures must have dropped, because it seemed to get really cold, unless we had been warmed from all the crowded in body heat. As we waited in line for coffee, we saw Marine 1, the Presidential helicopter carrying George Bush circle around the area and away to his civilian life. I can’t recall when I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee more. We decided not to stay for the parade; there was a waiting time because the dignitaries were having a luncheon. Tony found us again- he had a spot up near the reflecting pool, where he could see. He was amazed at all the people, lots were crying tears of joy, he said. Back together again, we continued our walk..all the way to Arlington Cemetery! We walked across the Memorial bridge, cars weren’t allowed on bridges that day. I estimate we walked about 12 miles that day.
Back at our hotel we saw the event’s on the television screens, we were so glad to be warm and near food. But next, we had to get ready for the AIS Ball.
It was fun to see all the natives dressed up at the 11th Annual Native American Inaugural Ball. The women wore beautiful gowns, many men wore tuxedos, a few; including Tony, work traditional dress. The excitement of the day continued as natives who were in the inaugural parade mingled with tribal chairmen, people who had seated tickets to the Inauguration, and others like us, who were experiencing our first inauguration and ball. People mingled, danced, ate, and enjoyed the entertainment and ambiance. We were surprised to run into Shawna Cook and Mike A. at the ball. Shawna was beautifully dressed- Mike too. Our brother out-lasted us, spending the evening surrounded by friends of all ages-until all hours.
The next morning we thoroughly enjoyed the AIS morning brunch with Bushy and his friends before we packed up and headed for home.
Given the history of genocide, slavery, and the latest-anti immigration laws, I truly never thought I’d see Americans select a minority President. I thought Hillary Clinton stood a better chance. The pages of history are turning at an incredible pace. Obama’s new administration seems more open, connected to the people. His call for unity-in his address- however raises questions, if he thinks Native peoples will jump into a melting pot. For it is our differences, our inherent human right to remain who we are, well before those ‘founding fathers’ and his ancestors arrived on our shores. Time will tell us how this new President and his new administration will treat us
February 17, 2009
Winter time at Onondaga brings lots of snow!
So with the snow out came the Gahwanda or snowsnakes. The snowsnake track was very built very quickly with the large amount of snow for the trackmakers to work with.
The kids at the school were so excited and came prepared to whether the cold weather with hats and gloves and many layers so that they could go out and play. They choose their partner, one throws and one marks how far it went, and played for two afternoons in a row. After a while, these boys were getting very confident with their throws and soon the snakes were flying down the track.
January 26, 2009
Growing up at Onondaga (the People of the Hills), we all live at the bottom of a large hill. Large enough to block the tv towers. So I grew up watching channels 3 (NBC) and 5 (CBS) only, and when it snowed, how exciting, we could watch PBS too!
So when I settled down in my own home with my wife and children, I was used to the limited channels. Satellite T.V arrived and people were able to get more than 2 stations. But my wife and I resisted. We knew the lure of 100 channels and while we like to think we were giving our children a family life not centered around the latest programming, we really knew that it was our own brains that we were salvaging. We like to zone out just as much as the next family, and worried that having that many choices may prove too much. Good bye family dinners, Dad's favorite movie is on. Tuck yourselves in kids, Mom's home makeover show just started.
Now we find out that we have to go digital tv by February. We had been putting it off but we finally applied and received our coupon for a digital converter box. After we hooked it up, we thought we were ready. But we were mistaken. No reception. Now we needed an antenna. What's the point of digital if you don't get any more channels than when you started?
Off to Best Buy I go. When I get there there are so many choices. But I'm cheap. I buy the least expensive one I find (#1) and hook it up. Too our delight, we find that digital tv has a sharper image! Now we get NBC, CBS, PBS & FOX now, but not ABC. I check on the web and it says you should get ABC. For the first time in my life I want more channels. I am consumed by it. I grab my keys and yell to my wife I'm going back to Best Buy! Fast forward one week of going back and forth to Best Buy every day with a receipt and previously opened box, walking past my silent but clearly amused wife, I list my results here, in hopes my time and effort will benefit other non-cable, non-satellite tv watchers (is there anyone else?) Anyway, I found out that #2 and #4 were the worst. Number 6 was going to be the most expensive so I'm so glad that #5 works great in our home so I didn't have to buy it.
So now we can watch more than 2 channels on our couch for the first time.
Too bad that football season is almost over.
We live on the outskirts of the village so it takes us a little while to get to any homes after our neighbors, so we look forward to afternoon of walking into the village and visiting the houses along the way. But this New Years was different. #1 It was really cold & #2 I am a year older.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
January 2, 2009
What a wonderful time of year! It is a great time to wish everyone a Happy New Year. At Onondaga it is a tradition for the children to walk to the homes and shout "New Yea! New Nea!" and this year was no exception.
But this morning we woke to a cold cold morning. The clear blue sky against the newly fallen snow was just beautiful. So after breakfast and some puttering around the house, I told my anxious kids to get ready to go New Yea-ing.
So for the first time, I went New Yea-ing in the van! I bet my mom was just shaking her head looking down from Creator's Land at me. Just to make sure that I didn't make it too easy on my kids, as I told my kids how I used to New Yea in much colder weather then this, I had the window open, but just a crack.
HAPPY NEW YEA!
December 17, 2008
As the cold, icy air eases in for the season, the moon of winter now rises in the eastern skies. A fine mist of snow powders the ground casting a bluish haze upon the quiet evening dusk, sparkling flakes, frost the evergreen limbs of the Tree with the Long Leaves. It is as if the forest itself awoke, and sat silently admiring its new seasonal coat. The footprints of our lives are recorded in the snow and leave a imprint of our existence, for those who follow the same paths, and to those whose paths were destined to cross. The Main Village marks time, as renewed traditional duties make busy for the keepers of the Ongwehonwe way of life. Families huddle closer, where warmth is also measured in degrees of love and compassion, each accepting fully, the required dignity and respect of an equally shared environment. As we continue together as family, thankful to once again see all of our tracks in the snow, Comfort is renewed in our hearts, when the clan fires of, the People of the Hills, continue to echo with Peace, and the power, of the good mind, here in the late winter moon of ….JYOTOWE'GÓ∙NAH.
Festival of Races
October 7, 2008
I don't know how my wife does this but she talked me into a running a 5K race. We signed for the 16th annual Festival of Races here in Syracuse NY.
It seemed like a great idea until the first Kilometer.
Well I knew that I was in trouble when I told my wife, "Oh, no we're too late. They already started the race!"
"No Dear, we're not late, they're just getting ready."
"So they're running before our race... " I knew I was in trouble. But in order to hide my worries about running with these gazelles, I informed my wife, "I probably won't win because I don' know where to run I don't want to get lost."
I don't know if it worked but I felt better.
Genundowa, or Festival of Lights
August 30, 2008
For the end of summer for our family means one thing, traveling to Hammondsport, N.Y. for the Festival of Lights.
A quite a few years ago, my niece was asked to join a Haudenosaunee dance troop which shares our Onondaga social dance songs with the people and visitors o the small town of Hammondsport on the bottom of Keuka Lake. When my niece started dancing, she was just a teen, now 10 years later, my daughter was asked to come and dance with her. Wow how time flies.
The Genundowa Festival has many great memories or us as a family. Since it occurs during Labor Day weekend, it was a great place to celebrate my father’s birthday. Since it was a dance and craft festival, it was great to watch my mom go and visit and buy jewelry, especially silver bracelets, from the vendors. For the kids, the last splash in the lake and even a dip in the pool.
Since my mom’s passing and my father got sick, it is still good to continue our tradition of going to Hammondsport. And judging from my little ones, looks as though they are excited to keep coming back too.
Kheksdenh - my wife
July 25, 2008
Its our 16th anniversary today.
We were talking over a quiet dinner (babysitting is awesome) about that day 16 years ago. The Haudenosaunee have different marriage rites. We don’t have bride’s maids, best men, a walk down the isle, and a long white dress you can get at Bloomingdales. We were talking about how busy we were in preparing our wedding outfits… the cutting, the sewing, and the beading. Oh the beading!
Anyway at Onondaga, it isn’t the father that gives away to bride to the groom. We do things a little bit differently. The speaker asks the mothers of the bride and groom if they will accept them into their family. If they do not accept, then the wedding is off. I’m so lucky that I have a great mother in law who said “yes”. After hearing and instructions of the speaker, one of my most memorable moments is when we all hugged! What a great feeling and a memory I won’t forget.
In case you are wondering, we don’t exchange rings either. We exchange baskets.
July 4, 2008
The very nature of our traditional life stems from process and protocol, there is order for everything that we do, even in our quietest moments we still are giving thanks, for another day, or our families, or a beautiful night, the equally important things that we may momentarily overlook, as we move about in our busy lives. Order is not a burden, or a task, it is the natural flow of life which is generated by all living things, each doing what they should, at the right time, As the sun rises, darkness fades, as the sun sets the light of the day wanes to dusk, as it should in the process and protocol of the natural world. Disorder is the product of conflict, which is strictly a human trait, disrupts the natural flow of life, sapping the life forces of our peaceful existence, the fragile balance between order and disorder is but a, misguided or misconstrued word or gesture away, the resolution of which, may be amicable or possibly deadly if allowed to fester. The path to peace is paved with constant vigilance and protocol, we look each other in the eye and smile and greet each other like friends, we offer assistance even when none is needed, we make no judgments of others, only ourselves, being equally careful not to destroy our own self esteem, and most of all we do not spread fear amongst the young and old, supporting and protecting that of which we once were and what we all may be, here in the late spring moon of OHYAIHGÓ∙NAH.
May 16, 2008
Well the blog has been quiet lately. The reason, practice.
For my 8 yr. old daughter this means softball, for my 6 yr. old son, its lacrosse. We have practice or games almost every weekday evening. We coordinate our schedules as it seems both children have things happening at the same time. Some days it seems like all we do is chauffeur them back and forth. Other days we think, "Maybe we will just stay home and catch up on the many waiting chores around the house." However, there they are by the door with their mitt or lacrosse stick in hand waiting to go to practice. Then we think of the coaches who are already out the door getting ready for the players to arrive.
The sports programs would be nothing without the dedication of the coaches who give so much their time and patience, they are always encouraging and positive. They make it so much fun, that my kids do not want to miss a day of practice. These coaches are dedicated to their sports, but most importantly, dedicated to the kids. Our community has been fortunate to have these men and women work with our children. And we respect the work they have done, and will continue to do in the future.
About Miss Marion
March 22, 2008
My gramma, Marion Green, turned 90 or 89 this March 8th, or was it the 9th? We simply don't know the right answer. My gramma's documents give conflicting information.
What we know is she went to Thomas Indian School, we don't know too much about that time in her life, nor does she talk about it too much. From that point on she hasn't spoken Onondaga. Our best guess at her age comes from my papa (grampa), Chuck Honyoust, and what he remembers about my gramma. My papa turned 90 last year, when he was young he remembers my gramma being in the grade below him. She preferred walking to get where she needed to go. She loves eating wild berries and milkweeds. She likes to be outdoors during the summer heat. Some of her favorite movies were Rambo and Rocky, but now she's found a new hero, Jet Li.
When I look at her now, I get a glimpse at myself in the future. She seems to be doing well for her age. I get many things from my gramma, and one of them is her hair. I also got a little bit of her unique personality. When it comes to my grammas genes, I think they have gone to my daughter, she is tiny and spunky. Is my gramma 89 or 90? It doesn't matter. All that matters is she is the cutest most lovable person I know. She will be returning from Florida in a few weeks, and I can't wait to see her!
Onondaga Eel Clan
Snowsnake at ONS
March 5, 2008
The kids in the school were so excited. They were going to play Snowsnake with the men again. The men spent the weekend building the track for the kids so they could play on Monday.
Every class was dressed warm and ready to try their best on the new track; some kids even brought their own mudcats from home. One of our accomplished players explained the rules to the kids and how the game first came to our people. The kids were divided into teams and began to play. “Meat” also stopped by to watch the kids play. He shared some of his expertise in playing snowsnake and gave some great pointers to our upcoming “throwers”. It was a great time had by all; too bad the rains came and melted the track.
February 27, 2008
ONS has a new music teacher. Her name is Miss Wolfe.
So this new teacher has new ideas and is willing to try new things.
The winter concert has always been an event which would bring everyone out of their comfy homes into their cars and make their way to the school gym to hear the chorus and band play. This time however, Miss Wolfe and our Art teacher Mrs. Homer decided to do something different, challenging, and got the who school excited ... a play.
Mrs. Homer and Miss Wolfe wrote the play based on the Haudenosaunee Creation Story which all of the students (grades K-8) would have a part. The kids loved it and so did the audience. The play was a mix of traditional Onondaga social songs, musical arrangements, and acting. It was definitely worth the trip!
February 22, 2008
One of the great traditions of the Onondaga Nation School is Community Give. It began in 1979 with an 8th grade class who wanted to do something for the elders in the community. So the class made homemade food and crafts and went to their elders homes to deliver them. It was such a success that more and more classes wanted to join in the fun.
Now so many years later, it is a school-wide event where all students and teachers in grades Kindergarten thru 8th grade write and make things for our elders. The goodies get packed into boxes and carefully carried to the welcoming homes of the elders. They offer their services for chores and most importantly take time to visit and connect with these special members of our community.
This year we had special guest, Peter Tigh. In February, Peter began his tenure as Superintendent for ONS and the LaFayette School District. In getting to know the people of our school, he was very excited to learn about the Community Give and asked if he could join also. So for the first time in the history of Community Give, the Superintendent joined in.
February 14, 2008
I know that the last two entries have been about food but...
The Kindergarten class advertised a bake sale at ONS for Valentines Day. When the Kindergarten teacher at ONS does bake sales, they are usually quite a sweet tooth feast. Today was no exception.
Brownies, cupcakes, cakes, candied pretzels, cookies of all kinds, fresh popcorn and so many other sweets that I couldn't remember then all were all lined up on these long tables, ready for hungry buyers with a sweet tooth.
Before my kids got on the bus, they remembered the bake sale and were busy doing "extra chores" for some change. It was worth it though as the kids were able to remember to pick up some goodies for us to bring home for dessert after dinner. Now all we have to do is coordinate the Corn soup dinners with the bake sales and we will be all set!
February 7, 2008
Corn Soup Dinner
Thursday was a Corn Soup Dinner at the Cookhouse.
Onehogwa' or "Corn Soup" has been served up by the Onondaga forever. It is made from "white corn" which is a type of corn that is only grown among the Haudenosaunee communities. It is so important to us that it is serve it during our ceremonies. So when an invitation is sent out that there is going to be a Corn Soup dinner, you better get there early.
Today the dinner was put on by our young ladies. These girls are raising money to head out to Vancouver to participate in the Indigenous Games to play softball and volleyball against other natives across North America. These games have been going on for a few years and it has been a great success for the youth of our community to set a goal, reach that goal in order to play against the best. But first, lets have some soup!
The Big 4-0
January 31, 2007
So the day finally came. I am no longer in by thirties but now ... 40!
I really can't believe it. When I was an adolescent, I thought that 40 means that you like to watch 60 Minutes and The Lawrence Welk Show. Well I started watching the Lawrence Welk Show ages ago with my daughter but 60 Minutes still doesn't do it for me.
But when I did wake up on my 40th I thought of my mother. My mother passed away about 6 years ago but she is always there for us. She was in my thoughts that morning as I welcomed a new day. I always would tease her about how "old" I was and that I was almost 40... "Twenty-two is close to 30 which when you count by 10s is 40..." My mom would then tell me how she was NOT old and then do her crazy walk/jog just to show that she still 'Had It.'
But after I had my children, I came to realize how much my wife celebrated our children's birthdays because it was her special day too. It was a day when my wife and mom and brought in to our world, a new person to love.
I told my morning revelation to my wife as we sat together for a special Birthday lunch in downtown Syracuse. We both agreed, my mom was cool.
January 22, 2007
Midwinter Ceremonies are here!
We have been going to the Longhouse every day now for the past 18 days. Giving thanks to the Creator for the gifts that are given to us. These ceremonies that we've been going to have been a part of Haudenosaunee life forever.
Getting ready is always the fun part in our family. When we go to Longhouse, we wear our Ongwehonwe or original dress. We get our kids ready first because they are always itching to get down to ceremonies 'right away'. Today the kids were so patient that my wife was able to snap this picture as they waited for me to get ready.
Boy I've got good kids.
January 1, 2008
Welcome to the new year of 2008!
At Onondaga we welcome the New Year by visiting year other with shouts of "New Yea! New Yea!" This year was no different as my family and I got our warm clothes on and we headed out with our bags to visit our neighbors.
No one remembers when this tradition began at Onondaga, but everyone has great memories of when they were out New Yea-ing. This year we started walking and it immediately started to rain, then sunshine, followed by hail, cold gusty winds, and finally giant fluffy snowflakes fell from the sky. We were going to work for our treats this year.
We try to go to as many houses as we can but there are some that we cannot miss. Our first of can't miss houses is my fathers. As part of his New Yea tradition is making homemade molasses cookies. The recipe was my grandmothers (on my mother's side) and she gave the recipe to my father and he's been making them ever since, they are deliciously soft and moist.
After we left my father's place we walked down towards main road collecting as many cookies and seeing as many old friends as we could before we got too cold and had to make our way back home. It is a great tradition.
Happy New Yea everyone!
Solstice at ONS
December 22, 2007
The Onondaga Nation School celebrated the winter solstice on Friday, the last day of school before winter break.
The kids were all very excited for all of the activities planned for them. The classroom teachers had several different activities to celebrate the shortest day and the longest night including decorating the glass atrium.
The kids, mine included, love these days when the teachers in the primary grades all get together to learn, sing, and smile together.
I went to this school and loved it. I know that my kids do too.
December 4, 2007
Chris Brandalino called for Lake Effect snow. So last night it started snowing… and it didn’t stop. And as my 78 year old father says, “When I was young we didn’t have Lake Effect snow, we just had snow.”
This morning we watched as the morning news as more and more schools began to list which school district was delayed an hour and which schools were closed. As usual our school district, LaFayette wasn’t listed. As more and more schools continued to be added to the rolling script on the bottom of the tv screen, our spirits rose. Then at 5:40 am we saw what we’ve been waiting for, “Lafayette Central Schools Closed”. Yea!
So after our morning Maypo, the kids were ready with their snow-pants and sleds and I got my hat and gloves on and headed outside to shovel us out.
One of the reasons why Onondaga is so special is that everyone helps each other. So before I even shoveled up the car, a truck with a couple of guys showed up in their pickup. Soon they were plowing out my neighbor’s driveway and mine too! They have been out helping others all morning.
After they waved see-ya, I heard them start plowing my sister’s driveway. What nice guys.
Neda’heñ’wha’ Nangeñhoñhgeñh – Turkey Day
November 25, 2007
This past weekend was Turkey Day or Thanksgiving across the United States. This is a time set aside to give thanks for your “blessings”, eat some turkey, and watch some football.
Onondaga as well as the other Haudenosaunee communities continue in a practice of “Giving Thanks” every time we gather for a ceremony or a meeting large or small. This ritual reminds us all to give thanks to all of Creation that they are still here and still performing their duties. It also reminds us how each aspect of our lives is connected from the earth, the medicines, the tress, and free animals, the berries, the food, the waters, the winds, the thunders, the sun, moon and stars and the Creator. It is a practice that all of the people hold close to their hearts.
So as many head to their local mall, check out a book by Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp entitled “Giving Thanks”. This is a beautifully illustrated children’s book that reviews our traditional custom that is still practiced today.
November 16, 2007
Our family anxiously waits for O'gä to arrive.
My son, Haeñhyanonhña', can't wait. We watch the local news guy on Channel 3, Chris Brandalino, for our "Storm Team" forecast about the impending storm that must be coming today... but hasn't. He is beginning to believe that Chris doesn't know what he is talking about as there hasn't been snow even though he keeps showing snow on the forecast for some time now.
So this morning, we awoke to cheers as my son and his older sister made plans for sledding on our hill right after school. Too bad it melted. Maybe tomorrow.
November 10, 2007
At Onondaga it is time to give thanks. It is time for us to gather at the Longhouse for Hadiyeñtwagwas, or Harvest Ceremonies.
These ceremonies that have been a part of life at Onondaga since the Creator placed us on Earth and gave us our instructions. For so long, Onondaga parents have been taking their children to the Longhouse to give thanks for the gifts that the Creator has given us. It feels so good to do the same for our children.
Our Harvest Ceremony lasts for 6 days. It is always a great feeling seeing all of the familiar faces in our community coming together. If someone isn’t there, they are missed. Our community works together to perform these important ceremonies that have been handed down from our ancestors. Each member of our Nation contributes during our ceremonies. Our elders, speakers, singers, cooks and dancers (young and old) all work together to continue our traditions. It is such an uplifting feeling.
I hope we’re not late.
October 30, 2007
New Onondaga Nation Blog
Welcome to the Onondaga Nation blog. This blog will be collaborative
effort from different voices from the people at the Onondaga Nation. We
will hopefully share a lit bit of why we love to call Onondaga home.
seemed appropriate to think of the beginning of this journey as being able
to share the idea of “walking in someone’s moccasins” by
sharing a picture of my moccasins.
I have a few pair of moccasins but I know exactly how old these ones
are. I’ve been wearing these ‘mocs’ for the past fifteen
years. The years are significant to me as I made these moccasins
in preparation for my wedding at the Longhouse on July 25, 1992.
It was an exciting day for me and my wife and wearing these mocs brings
back some of those memories when my wife and I were so young. But
like my mocs, my wife and I are a good fit.
Da•ne’thoh ("that is all"),