If you’ve ever attended an event here at Syracuse University, you’re familiar with the land acknowledgment recited at the start of every game, speech and presentation:

Syracuse University would like to acknowledge with respect the Onondaga Nation, firekeepers of the Haudenosaunee, the Indigenous peoples on whose ancestral lands Syracuse University now stands.”

November is Native Heritage Month, and this year Syracuse University will host a number of events honoring the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee. The Native Student Program and Multicultural Affairs have organized this month-long celebration of Native heritage to educate the Syracuse University community about the culture and history of the original inhabitants of this land.

In addition to the celebrations and social gatherings, there will be a number of presentations this month on the past and present struggles faced by Indigenous peoples resulting from colonization.

Upcoming Events

I spoke with Diane Schenandoah, Honwadiyenawa’sek (One who helps them) to Syracuse University and Faithkeeper of Oneida Nation, Wolf Clan of the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy, about her responsibilities as Honwadiyenawa’sek and the upcoming Full Moon Ceremony.

What are your responsibilities as Honwadiyenawa’sek (One who helps them) for Syracuse University?

“I believe my responsibilities are to share my culture, the principles of peace and the use of a good mind, which is, in part, to be grateful for all things, love and care for one another and our Mother Earth. I see this [position] as a great opportunity to bring about awareness and acknowledgment of Indigenous peoples and the process of healing through these principles.”

What can students expect to experience (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) while attending a Full Moon Ceremony?

“Physically, we go around the circle and say all the things we wish to pray for, what we are thankful for and to give a special thanks for Grandmother Moon as she continues her duties. Emotionally and spiritually, the ceremony reminds us to take pause and be grateful for these elements.”

What is the significance of the Full Moon Ceremony?

“Our Grandmother Moon continues her duties every month: she watches over the nighttime skies, she controls the cycles for planting, the ceremonies, the cycles of the tides and the cycles of women. When we come together, we give our best greetings and thanks to her for continuing her duties, and we send out a collective greeting and prayer for all our community, families and loved ones.”

Why is it important for the campus community to learn about and attend Native ceremonies like the Full Moon Ceremony?

“It’s important to be grateful for all things, especially the elements that watch over us and nourish us. As human beings, we need to remember to always give thanks so that these elements will continue their duties. We all have a responsibility to care for one another and to care for our earth. We need to acknowledge and take the time to give our best greetings and thanks.”

For which 2021 Native Heritage Month event are you the most excited?

“I am very excited for the whole month. Indigenous Heritage Month has not been widely celebrated for the last two centuries, and as an Indigenous person, I feel as though we are finally being recognized and acknowledged. I am grateful and very appreciative that the Native Student Program and Multicultural Affairs continue to bring these events to the Syracuse University community. Certainly, these events will help bring about a better understanding of all Indigenous peoples.”

Time spent expanding your mind and your cultural knowledge is never time wasted. Before returning to your loved ones for Thanksgiving break—a holiday whose history is intertwined with Native history—I highly recommend attending a Native Heritage Month event. This November, learn more about the people whose heritage, culture and traditions maintained and nourished the land we now call home.

To learn more about the Onondaga Nation, the Indigenous peoples on whose ancestral land Syracuse University now stands, visit the Onondaga Nation’s official website. To learn more about support and resources for Native students at Syracuse University, visit the Native Student Program’s webpage or call Multicultural Affairs at 315.443.0228.

Written by Cecelia Kersten ’23, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications