If you are interested in the Haudenosaunee Tradition, Oren Lyons is an excellent spokesperson and one full of knowledge of the Iroquois Confederacy and its significance in todays world.
Lyons is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation who sits on the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. The Onondaga Nation is the central seat of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Haudenosaunee or “People of the Long House.” As a Faithkeeper, Lyons is entrusted to maintain the traditions, values and history of the Turtle Clan and uphold Gai Eneshah Go’ Nah, the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois.
Lyons was born in 1930 and raised in a traditional family on both the Seneca and Onondaga territories in New York state. After graduating in 1958 from the Syracuse University College of Fine Arts, he worked for many years as a very successful commercial artist in New York City, eventually becoming the art and planning director for the Norcross Greeting Cards Company and responsible for directing 200 artists. In 1970, he decided to return to Onondaga Nation. Lyons was formally adopted by the Onondaga People in 1972.
Lyons was a featured speaker at the Global Forum of Spiritual Leaders for Human Survival held in Moscow, and in 1992 was invited to address the General Assembly as the first indigenous speaker of the United Nations and open the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People at the United Nations Plaza in New York. He was the subject of an hour-long television documentary broadcast on PBS in 1991 with Bill Moyers.
His 1992 book, “Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, the Iroquois and the Constitution,” co-edited with John Mohawk, details his belief that the emerging American colonies used the model of the Iroquois Confederacy as the basis for the democracy of united states.
In 1982, he helped establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations, and for more than 30 years he has participated in the Indigenous Peoples Conference in Geneva, an international forum supported by the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission.
Information from St. Bonaventure University
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — Chief Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation will discuss “Doctrines of Discovery” during a presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, in the William F. Walsh Science Center amphitheater on the St. Bonaventure University campus.
The presentation, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the university’s Franciscan Center for Social Concern and Clare College.
The Discovery Doctrine is a concept of public international law expounded by the United States Supreme Court in a series of decisions, initially in Johnson vs. M’Intosh in 1823. The doctrine was Chief Justice John Marshall’s explanation of the way in which colonial powers laid claim to newly discovered lands during the Age of Discovery. Under it, title to newly discovered lands lay with the government whose subjects discovered new territory. The doctrine has been primarily used to support decisions invalidating or ignoring aboriginal possession of land in favor of colonial or post-colonial governments. This doctrine governs United States Indian Law today and has been cited as recently as 2005.