Onondaga Land Rights & Our Common Future Part II Lecture Series
Syracuse Stage, Syracuse NY. The Onondaga Land Rights & Our Common Future Part II opened its second educational series to a full house Monday night, February 8th. The series grew out from the positive response after the first series began after the Onondaga Nation filed its Land Rights Suit in 2005. Organizer and NOON representative Andy Mager opened the event by welcoming the crowd to watch the movie, “Brighten the Chain”.
The movie “Brighten the Chain” was produced by the Onondaga Nation to inform our neighbors about the intent of the Land Rights case. The movie then grew from just informing the public about the case and the Onondaga people to a program informing everyone of all of our responsibility to take care of Mother Earth and the roll the Onondaga Nation wants to have to help make that happen.
Program facilitator Dr. Robin Kimmerer of SUNY ESF followed the movie by introducing members from the Onondaga Nation who were in the movie. The panel consisted of Jessica Shenandoah, Dr. Stephanie Waterman, and Onondaga Council members Oren Lyons, Jake Edwards and Sid Hill. At this time the panel was able to talk about their reflections about the film and what has happened since the land rights case began in 2005.
Jessica Shenandoah, midwife and traditional herbalist, talked first about the importance of how this case has brought unity to the area. Being a part of the Onondaga Nation’s communication office, she is able to directly see people and organizations reach out to the Onondaga; saying that they too are willing to work toward a bright future for our children. As Jessica clearly stated, “There is no border when it comes to clean air or water. If the air or water is dirty, it will affect us all.”
Dr. Stephanie Waterman, turtle clan and professor at University of Rochester, discussed how important the film was to inform the public the Onondaga are still here. In her role as educator, there are times when she has to teach college students about the basic fundamentals about the Haudenosaunee and the Onondaga Nation. What the film did, according to Dr. Waterman, “…was to show the people that were are not a people lost in the past, or just a mascot, or logo. That we are a people that are alive and to be treated with respect.”
Oren Lyons, renowned environmentalist and member of the Onondaga Nation Council, focused on the importance of the treaties brought up in the film, “Brighten the Chain”. The Haudenosaunee and our white brothers have a long history of diplomatic agreements. These treaties are agreements which pledge Peace and Friendship and working together. The United States was very new in 1780’s and westward expansion came face to face with native peoples and their struggle to maintain their way of life. Oren Lyons discussed how Generals Harmer and St. Claire were sent into the Ohio Valley to handle the “Indian Problem” only to have the US Armysuffer huge losses. Lyons states, “It is at this time when President George Washington commissioned a wampum belt to make peace with the Haudenosaunee to halt the warfare on the frontier. Not many know of that. It is time for the people to look towards knowledge of the indigenous people to begin making change.”
Jake Edward’s message reinforced the importance of protecting the Natural Law. He referred to the Ganoñheñnyoñ’ or translated into English, the Words that Come Before All Else. He explained how in the Ganoñheñnyoñ’, the Onondaga give thanks and honor all of Creator’s creation. We, as humans, have a duty to respect and to take care of all of these gifts including the water. Without water continuing its duties, our life on Mother Earth would cease. Holding a glass of water Jake Edwards told the audience, “Every drop counts. Every drop has a duty to provide life and if decide that it is ok to pollute some, we are battling the Natural Laws and no one will prevail.”
The final panelist Sid Hill, Tadodaho and one of the 14 chiefs of the Onondaga Nation council, elaborated on his comment in the film; “The goal of the clean up is to be able to drink the water.” Sid Hill then spoke further on that topic. He said, “We talk of maintaining our hunting and fishing rights that have been provided in our treaties. But it is difficult when the lake from which used to provide for us, no longer can. The fish that we catch, we no longer can eat. But by working together, we can help make a change.”
Next in the Onondaga Land Rights & Our Common Future Part II educational series is:
“From the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ to International Recognition of Rights.”
Monday, March 1, 2010 @ Le Moyne College (Grewen Auditorium) with guest speakers: Tonya Gonella Frichner, Phil Arnold and John Dieffenbacher-Kral.