Column: Oren Lyons keeps Onondaga Nation's faith

"Oren Lyons remembers it well. He was on one of his international trips, talking about the environment to a group that included corporate executives. Once Lyons gets rolling, he gets rolling, and the stories fall easily into one another, and finally a baffled listener asked a question.

"Look," he said to Lyons, "what's your bottom line?"

Lyons laughed quietly as he told that tale, hands on a cup of coffee - decaffeinated now - that he sipped at the Coffee Pavilion in Hanover Square. Lyons is a faithkeeper for the Onondaga Nation, whose people go to sleep at night on a piece of land that never left their hands, a piece of land that was never deeded to the United States or the British or to anyone else.

What is Lyons' bottom line?

"I told him, 'You think in lines," Lyons said. "We think in circles."

Answers like that are either profoundly wise or maddening, depending on whether you agree with Lyons. They help explain why he has become one of the most famous people in Central New York. Lyons considered John Lennon a friend. When anthropologist Jane Goodall came to Syracuse, she greeted him with a big hug. He speaks casually of conversations with actor Jon Voight or guitarist Carlos Santana or author Peter Matthiessen."

Get the Story:
Sean Kirst: Faithkeeper stresses his nation's history (The Syracuse Post-Standard 8/8)

Relevant Links:
Onondaga Nation -

Cayuga Land Claim Decision:
Cayuga Nation v. New York (June 28, 2005)

Sherrill v. Oneida Nation Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Souter] | Dissent [Stevens]

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