Guest blog – Onondaga Nation meeting

Onondaga, NY (September 26, 2011) –  I attended a Onondaga Nation’s Council of Chiefs regular meeting with Jewell James and the rest of totem travel team.  The meeting took place in the Longhouse, the center of the Onondaga Nation’s government and ceremonies, which is not far from Syracuse.

Besides those traveling with the totem and myself, five Chiefs and two Clan Mothers attended the meeting.

          The Onondaga Nation’s Longhouse

          (Photo: courtesy of Kate Flewelling)

Since this was a regular meeting of the Chiefs Council, there was no special regalia.  The Opening Ritual expressed thanks for the blessings on earth, including medicines, and in the sky was performed, as it is performed before all gatherings.

The Chiefs, then, took turns discussing the issues of the Nation.  By consensus, they agreed to hear from the visitors.  All of this was said in the Onondaga language.

The visitors introduced themselves;  Jewell James and several others spoke about the journey and the totem pole.  We had lunch, men followed by women, before the totem made a visit to the Nation’s school.

It was incredibly educational to watch one of the oldest democracies in action.  All the clan Chiefs are peers and take turns recording the events of their meetings.  Decisions are made by consensus and all government functions are presented in the Nation’s language.

Water quality is one of the public affairs issues that impact the the Onondaga Nation, which is active in an effort to clean up Onondaga Lake.  The Nation also are involved in the debate about hydrofracking, a process of underground natural gas mining.

This was a splendid day at the Nation.  The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny for early fall in Central New York. Before the meeting, I enjoyed peeling and chopping local apples that were being baked into pies for a Nation event next week.

            Apples prepared for the Longhouse meal

            (Photo: courtesy of Kate Flewelling)

Kate Flewelling

Outreach Coordinator

National Network of Libraries of Medicine-Middle Atlantic Region



2 thoughts on “Guest blog – Onondaga Nation meeting

  1. Hello,
    I work with a group called Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation ( and we are working on a booklet called “Neighbor to Neighbor, Nation to Nation: Readings about the Relationship of the Onondaga Nation with Central New York, USA.” I was looking for a photo of the longhouse to put into it, and wondered if it would be ok with the photographer for me to put her photo of the longhouse into it. Thanks for any help you can offer.

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