Onondaga Nation Communications
By Wendy Gonyea
We Haudenosaunee have a unique gift of oral traditions. It has been our way to learn by listening, re-hearing, over and over again. But, oral learning can be difficult because we have become accustomed to rely on other techniques to help us learn. We use paper and pencil, computers, text messaging in a world of instant high tech communications. New inventions attract us as they are efficient, handy tools to use in our busy lives. We’ve survived, many mastering new challenges, but our foundation remains. The messages, the teachings are our strength.
Many times in our lives the written agreement binds us to projects and contracts. We sign when we mean business. The spoken word has become less important. They are ‘just words.’ There are instances when we hear different versions of a story and we debate the authenticity. (Well my grandma said it this way, or that’s not the way I remember hearing it.) Some might think a certain text an ultimate authority, but in doing so, it limits our ability to carry on one our important mandates, listening to oral speakers. Today we have a great task to learn many new things, but keep the messages close.
Listening takes time. Listening involves a certain amount of respect, concentration and being attentive. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of listening to many elders from our Nation and beyond. Elders in particular have a way of getting points across without lecturing. Their unpretentious sharing, humor and wealth of information offer the listener wisdom far beyond any text. Admittedly, I’ve used note taking to help me remember some of life’s lessons- from those who have lived them. My notes have helped me reconnect to the time and place I heard the words, and who said them. Their words linger in my head. They permeate my thoughts when I search for an answer. They offer direction, advice, remaining constant, waiting to spring to life at a moments recall. I think the following words were meant to be shared.
Foremost, respect. Respect yourself, your family, your place, your Nation. Respect your existence as ongwehonwe. Your ancestry is unique, special. A long line of individuals saw to it that you are the person who lives today.
Elders say get up before the sun, when it’s just getting light and thank the Creator because you are living. Creator holds you, puts his arms around you in the light of the sun, embraces you. You are so fortunate and lucky, everything that lives, every tree, all get this hug.
Keep your words soft and your mind clear.
Our message has never changed. The basic principles are always with us.
We have to have a reverence for life. Water is life. The lake has a spirit. It’s alive. The DEC is not adhering to their own regulatory criteria. The sand cover will eventually fail.
As human beings we are destroying those things we need.
We are the only ones who don’t give back to this cycle. We take from it, so we have to be very thankful.
Find ways to include all of our people in what we do. We cannot leave our people out-that’s where disunity comes in. We need to do those things our old Chiefs did like wiping people down. Those things that make us who we are.
Over the years we’re been separated in our dealings (as Nations.) We’re all a product of colonization. We get suspicious of one another, we want the approval of the oppressor in the back of our minds. It’s important to stay together.
Our land right is not about money, it’s about land and securing it for future generations.
Let’s start a ‘truth commission’ and tell what happened and what is happening. Our people, children need to know their own history, they have nothing to be ashamed about.
Don’t argue over land.
We need to re-ignite the cooling embers to glowing embers to bright flames.
Our Creator knows if we’ve done wrong.
How long will we last? It’s up to us.