By Wendy Gonyea
Dan Maffei’s first visit to our Longhouse was February 27, 2009. He was a fresh young politician who felt his constituents had ‘honored’ him by electing him to the U. S. Congress. He said he was ready to work jointly to improve the quality of life for all people- his and ours. Maffei admitted mistakes made in past history, but said he would keep communication lines open because the lack of communication leads to a lack of understanding. He also promised his best to keep to treaties. After the words of welcome, with a dose of our historical perspective- including the point that ‘he was in our district’ and that we’ve had a NYS problem since 1779! As you may know, our speakers get to the point. Maffei invited leaders to visit him in his new Washington D.C. office, or his Syracuse office. He had established a relationship, unlike so many others who don’t bother to extend a hand unless they are legally bound to visit.
Dan Maffei lost his Congressional seat in 2010, but came back in a closely contested race in 2012 and he won back the seat for a second term. And he came back to sit with our Council.
He was more relaxed, now a seasoned politician who’d been through a tough campaign. He again owned up to the history of his ancestors and quickly commented about our shared resilience and persistence. “I know a little bit about that, persistence works,” he said. He shared environmental concerns, particularly the water based economies of Central New York and the threats to clean water. He advocates a permanent role for the Onondagas on the cleanup of Onondaga Lake, was perplexed by the passport issue with the Iroquois Nationals and promised to write the President for a clarification. He seems to want answers from his government too and is already looking for ways to help. Citizens of Camillus Clean Air Coalition recently challenged the safety of the Onondaga Lake dredging work affecting their community…and lost. Dan Maffei said, ” the issue needs to be re-examined so that any necessary changes can be made to make certain the surrounding neighborhoods are safe places for our kids and their families.’
Because this official representative of the U.S. Government chose to sit down with our leaders and respectfully talk about our past and future relationship, he was presented a gift, a replica of Guswenta or the two row belt by our Council of Chiefs. Genuinely moved by our gift, Dan Maffei said he wanted to get closer to the spirit of the Two Row. He said it will be displayed prominently in his Washington D.C. office.
The replica was hand made by Tony Gonyea who explained the work behind it and the care of it to its new owner. Outside of the Longhouse for photos there were a lot of laughter and the usual good natured teasing, just like we do when old friends visit.