Oren Lyons, Rick Hill, Larry McDermott and Agnes Williams
In the late 1980s and early 1990s at the Native American Center for the Living Arts in Niagara Falls, New York, a series of historic discussions involving scholars knowledgeable in Indigenous affairs was hosted, recorded, and published in the Turtle Quarterly magazine.
These Fireside conversations centred on single conceptual themes (e.g. On Seeking Wisdom) that were introduced into the circle for the participants to ponder, ruminate, and deliberate. The intent was to draw out the knowledge, perspectives, and wisdom of cultural and academic intellectuals who applied deep intelligence to their understanding of how things got to be the way they are.
Now, some 30 years later, Celebration of Nations is recreating this historic program and asking our esteemed participants to address this concept: Fireside: On What I’ve Learned.
Hosted in Partridge Hall, this is an event not to be missed.
Oren Lyons (Joagquisho) is an American Indian icon and probably the most widely heard orator of traditional Haudenosaunee philosophy and practice. A faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs and of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Oren Lyons has been a traditional “runner” and consistent spokesman for the elders of one of the oldest continuously operating Native governments in the Western Hemisphere. He is recognized not only in the United States and Canada but internationally as an eloquent and respected spokesperson on behalf of Native peoples. He is a sought-after lecturer or participant in forums in a variety of areas, including not only American Indian traditions, but Indian law and history, human rights, environment and interfaith dialogue, and has received numerous honors and awards. Oren Lyons is a living legend. In the long-distance run of Native activist history, his is a unique voice, as clear a representative of the collective traditional American Indian vision as has ever emerged through the sea of confusion and misinterpretations rendered on the subject. The perspectives held by American Indian elders, principles of appreciation and empathic tradition, are embedded in the ancient languages and particularly the foundational narratives, philosophical and ceremonial rituals, that persist throughout history. As traditional orator and principled delegate, Lyons has succeeded in framing the issues facing humanity through an Indigenous lens that relies on ancient teachings such as the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, the Ceremony of Condolence, and cultural protocols that speak to universal values. The curriculum and incidental history in the biography of Faithkeeper Oren Lyons is extensive and elaborate, befitting an elder of consistent human capacity and penetrating intellect.
Rick Hill, former coordinator of Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic, Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River is a historian and advisor for the Niagara Falls Museum and numerous organizations conducting projects and programs involving Haudenosaunee culture and art. He was a lecturer in Indigenous Studies at McMaster University and the State University of New York at Buffalo, a former Assistant Director for Public Programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., and former Director for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. As an accomplished artist, researcher, and writer Mr. Hill is a master lecturer who has become an essential resource for numerous organizations involved in programming and educational activities for the bicentenary of the War of 1812. He is a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, residing at the Grand River Territory.”
Larry McDermott (Algonquin), a senior advisor to Friends of Laura Secord, is executive director of Plenty Canada, an Aboriginal non-government organization devoted to the protection of Mother Earth, building healthy communities, and promoting cross-cultural awareness of the value of Indigenous ways of knowing to achieve a sustainable environment for future generations. A former three-time mayor and council member of Lanark Highlands, chair of the Rural Forum of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Larry is a member of numerous organizations including the International Indigenous Forum for Biodiversity, the Ontario Species at Risk Public Advisory Committee, the Canadian Environmental Network, UNESCO, and the Ontario Recovery Strategy for the American Eel. Larry also has served as a comprehensive claim representative for Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, is a certified tree marker and butternut assessor, and holds other environmental certifications. He lives in a 170-year-old log home on 500 acres of biologically diverse Algonquin land along the Mississippi River.
Agnes F. Williams, Seneca Wolf Clan, was born and raised on the Cattaraugus territory of the Seneca Nation near Irving, New York. She is a mother of three and grandmother of seven who holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and a master’s degree in social work from Syracuse University. After earning a second master’s at the University of Buffalo’s American Studies Program she entered the inaugural class of its PhD Program. Agnes qualified as a candidate in 1991. The title of her dissertation is “The Retraditionalization of Indigenous Women as an Empowerment Strategy.”
Agnes published “The Transition of American Indian Women from a Reservation to an Urban Setting and their Changing Roles” in 1978 for the US National Education Institute in Washington DC; “Ours is a Circle That Never Ends” in Border Lines magazine, Toronto Ontario; served on the editorial board of the magazine Indigenous Woman, Austin Texas; and published the article “Two Birthing Stories” in Native Self Sufficiency, Forestville, California.
Agnes is a community organizer in Buffalo with Indigenous Women’s Initiatives, a project with Grand Island Riverside-Salem UCC campaigning for “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery,” “Nuclear Free Cattaraugus Creek,” “Water is Life,” and promoting sustainable Native communities. She also works with Nekanehsakt in Buffalo to support Native issues.
Agnes is a licensed field supervisor of social work volunteers with UB’s School of Social Work providing community organizing field placements for advanced social work students. She participates in Rekindling the Sisterhood, recovery fellowships in Western New York, and consults as a lecturer and writer with human services agencies.
She is the President of the Indigenous Women’s Network, Austin Texas; a past member of the Freedom Survival School, Oakland, California; and past staff person of the International Indian Treaty Council, an NGO based in San Francisco, California. She has traveled to the United Nations Human Right Commission in Geneva Switzerland, the A&H Conventions in Japan, and the World Conference of Indigenous Women in Peru.