Onondaga Nation – The Onondaga Nation has begun construction of a new firehouse, Tsha’ Thoñ’swatha’. Tsha’ Thoñ’swatha’ will have the ability to house the current fleet of fire trucks plus will have the capability of housing more trucks. Tsha’ Thoñ’swatha’ also includes a community hall which will have a fully functioning kitchen and gathering area for over 150 people.
Current Fire Chief Ron Shenandoah said of the project, “We’ve been in need of a new facility. We have been eagerly planning and anticipating this for a long time.”
The Onondaga Nation Volunteer Fire Department has been a part of the Nation community for over 60 years. In the 1940’s, the Onondaga Council recognized the need to create a fire department to better serve the people and homes on the Onondaga Nation. But at that time, there wasn’t a Nation revenue source from which to draw from. The Onondaga people then slowly began to raise money through turkey shots, bake sales, 50/50’s and the revenue from the ‘Green Corn Dance’ at the ball field. Through their hard work, in 1950 the Onondaga Nation Volunteer Fire Department (ONVFD) was born. Since that time, the ONVFD has proudly been providing emergency services for the people without Federal or State aid. In 1970 a new firehouse was erected and the department moved from the old NYA building. This firehouse has served as the home for the fire department for the past 43 years.
“The people of the Nation has used and loved that building for many years,” said Onondaga Council member Brad Powless. “The people fondly tell of stories of how they worked together to construct that building. I know that we are re-creating that same feeling of pride with our new firehouse.”
The Nation wanted to design a building that is totally unique than its predecessor. The current firehouse is constructed of a steel frame with an aluminum shell. It served its purpose well, but the Nation went with a different approach in the construction of Tsha’ Thoñ’swatha’.
“We invited different companies to the Longhouse to present their vision of what the firehouse could be,” said Tadodaho Chief Sidney Hill. “We decided on Ashley McGraw because of their idea of integrating green technologies to create an energy sufficient firehouse. We are very mindful about making this building relate with Mother Earth in a positive way.”
Some of the technologies that will be incorporated into Tsha’ Thoñ’swatha’ include geothermal heating, solar power, breathable walls, natural day-lighting, LED electric lighting, super-insulated building envelope, use of natural, renewable, and/or recyclable materials, minimal oil based materials like plastics, low-VOC materials, rain gardens for storm water control and the use of local construction materials and the utilization of Nation employees in its construction.
Dan Heukrath, Ashley McGraw’s lead architect states, “We were very excited to be working with the Onondaga Nation. We are located in downtown Syracuse and we are well aware of the Nation’s Land Rights Case and its call to clean Onondaga Lake and to take care of the earth.”
“We believe a habitable future depends on a mutually beneficial relationship between human-made and natural systems,” added Dan Heukrath. “We are looking forward in creating a building that helps the Nation in reaching its goals. This has been a great partnership.”
With the construction underway, the fire department is continuing its tradition of fund raising by having ONVFD t-shirt sale.
“We are offering the public the opportunity to help us fund raise,” said Fire Chief Ron Shenandoah. “The money will go towards helping us furnish our day room as well as updating some of our equipment. Nya weñha (thank you) to all who can help us reach our goal with our new firehouse, Tsha’ Thoñ’swatha’.”
If you would like to help: Please visit the Firehouse’s facebook page for information or send a donation with a check made out to “Onondaga Nation” c/o Ron Shenandoah ONVFD Chief, 319-B Hemlock Rd, Onondaga Nation, Nedrow, NY 13120.
Note: Donations are not tax-deductible as the Onondaga Nation is not a part of the United States.