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Diane Schenandoah—Honwadiyenawa’sek—Offers University Community Healing Opportunities Rooted in Indigenous Principles
Diane Schenandoah ’11 grew up in a longhouse within a large, close-knit family on the Oneida Nation in Madison County.
Her mother was a Wolf Clan Mother of the Oneida Nation, and her father was a Beaver Clan Pine Tree Chief from the Onondaga Nation. Schenandoah was immersed in the traditions of her family and her ancestors before her, particularly in the Native connections with nature and thankfulness for the gifts of the Earth. Energy work—finding natural ways of healing within nature and spirit—was woven into the fabric of her life.
Schenandoah, a faithkeeper of the Oneida Nation, Wolf Clan of the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy, is the Syracuse University community’s first Honwadiyenawa’sek—One who helps them. The position, which she began last semester, is the result of commitments to diversity and inclusion the University has made to address concerns raised by Indigenous students in the fall of 2019.
In her role, Schenandoah shares her intuitive energy work with Syracuse University students, faculty and staff. “My work is grounded in my culture and traditional Haudenosaunee teachings, along with the techniques of hands-on energy work, art therapy, tuning forks, acupressure, dream interpretations and self-empowerment,” she says.
“My duty and my traditional responsibility,” she says, “are to share and promote the use of a ‘good Mind,’ which are ancestral principles of peace and the methods of conduct and responsibilities to the natural world.”
Schenandoah offers a new dimension to the University’s wellness offerings for students, faculty and staff.
“As Diane shares her work rooted in Haudenosaunee principles, she creates spaces with students that help them enhance their emotional and spiritual wellness in entirely new ways at the Barnes Center,” says Tanya Williamson, associate director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Barnes Center at The Arch. “Her spiritual work with students and her education efforts across all parts of our community have tapped into gratitude and peace—components of holistic wellness that we can all benefit from focusing on.”
“I am having an amazing time working with students,” she says. “It is my great honor to be back at Syracuse University in this capacity.”
Members of the University community can make an appointment with Schenandoah by calling the Barnes Center at The Arch at 315.443.8000.
Among upcoming educational opportunities are:
Witness to Injustice Blanket Exercise: Unraveling U.S. and Indigenous History on Monday, April 11, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Using participatory education to foster truth, understanding and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples, the exercise is a unique two- to three-hour interactive group. Since its inception, this has been a powerful tool for participants to learn of the Indigenous experiences and historical impact for the past 500 years.
Participants are invited to experience colonization, conquest and attempted genocide of the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, especially in the territory stewarded by people of the Onondaga Nation and other Haudenosaunee Nations. This exercise is designed to raise awareness of European conquest, Indigenous resistance and survival through the use of meaningful quotes and blankets representing the lands of Turtle Island. Participants engage and explore this shared history, that non-Indigenous peoples rarely learn or cannot be provided by reading a book, attending a class or even Indigenous events. Participants have the opportunity to share with the group what they learned, felt and more, while resources are shared by facilitators to help participants continue their education.
Full Moon Ceremony on Monday, April 18, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the Kenneth A. Shaw Quad. Participants will pause to thank Grandmother Moon for continuing her duties. During this small ceremony, participants will give collective greetings, thanks and pray for community, families and loved ones. Participants are encouraged to bring small hand drums, rattles and blankets. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Hendricks Chapel Noble Room.
On Monday, Aug. 29, the first day of the Fall 2022 semester, Schenandoah has tentatively planned an “Edge of the Woods” gathering at 3 p.m. on the Quad. The gathering is a traditional custom that is carried out when Haudenosaunee welcome visitors into their homelands.
Schenandoah is a 1982 graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A sculptor for close to 40 years, she works in mediums of stone, clay, wood, antler and bronze. She also has sung professionally as a backup singer since 1990, touring with her late sister, Grammy Award-winning artist Joanne Shenandoah H’02.