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SUNY Fredonia hosts Oren Lyons, key spokesman for Indigenous people
Monday, April 01, 2013

Oren Lyons, one of the most highly revered leaders and speakers for Indigenous people throughout the world, will give three presentations at SUNY Fredonia, culminating with the evening discussion, “The Nature of Nature: Respecting the Cosmos” that he will lead, on Friday, April 5.

Lyons will speak about the Haudenosaunee perspective of environmental sustainability, the importance of living in harmony with nature and how everything is connected at a 7 p.m. talk in Room 204 of the Williams Center. He will be introduced by Agnes Williams, of the Indigenous Women’s Initiative and a noted activist for native rights and environmental issues.

Earlier in the day, Lyons will speak about Earth and global warming at American Culture classes taught by Dr. Christine Zinni. They will be held at 1 p.m. in W101 Thompson Hall and 2 p.m. in 209 McEwen Hall. Admission to all three events is free and open to the public.

“Oren Lyons is a man with a message. The message isn’t pretty but it is urgent: the earth as we know it is threatened and we are in trouble,” said Dr. Zinni, who coordinated Lyons’ campus presentations along with SUNY Fredonia's Department of History and Cheryl John, director of Fredonia's Native American Consortium.

Referring to what he calls the world's "accelerating" race toward environmental calamity being driven largely by global warming and population growth, Lyons has been calling for a way to put the common good above profits. "Business as usual is over," he intones. Lyons has traveled the world to speak out against environmental destruction and other wrongs committed in the name of progress.

In his talks, Lyons underscores the Native American proverb, “we do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, but rather we borrow it from our children.”

Lyons serves as a spokesman for indigenous rights and nature’s laws at the United Nations, is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation and chief of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse).

A SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor Emeritus of American Indian Studies, Lyons co-founded the Native Studies program at SUNY Buffalo along with Seneca scholar Barry White. He is also chairman of the board of Honoring Nations at Harvard University and of Plantagon, which has received worldwide recognition in greenhouse innovation.

In 1972, Lyons was a founding member of the Traditional Circle of Elders and Youth, a council of respected Native American leaders that provides an avenue for Native American culture to inform and contribute to contemporary cultural and political debate.

In 1982, Lyons worked with a consortium of people around the world to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations and was the recipient of the United Nations NGO World Peace Prize. In 1992, he opened the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People in an address before the United Nations General Assembly.

Lyons serves on the executive committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, is a frequent participant in human rights issues in Geneva, and recently received Sweden’s Prestigious Friends of the Children Award, along with a colleague, Nelson Mandela.

His many honors include the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the National Audubon Award, the Earth Day International United Nations Award and the Elder and the Wiser Award of the Rosa Parks Institute of Human Rights.

Lyons has been active in indigenous rights and sovereignty at the United Nations and other international forums for more than four decades. He has held leadership positions in forums on the environment, sustainable development and global change and participated in the UN’s historic Conference on the Environment held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, which adopted Agenda 21, an unprecedented global plan of action for sustainable development.

Among other honors, Lyons received the George Arents Award for Excellence in Social and Environmental Activism from Syracuse University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and an honorary doctorate of laws degree in1993. He was a standout student-athlete at Syracuse, earning the university’s Laurie Cox Award and the Orange Key Award in 1957. Lyons was inducted into the Syracuse University Sports Hall of Fame and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Lyons was also the subject of a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers.

“Chief Lyons’ message is just as relevant as it was decades ago -- all the more so as we see plants, animals and humans suffering from the consequences of global warming. It is up to us to heed the call,” Zinni said.

Support for Lyons’ presentations is being provided by the Department of History, Native American SUNY: Western Consortium, Center for Multicultural Affairs, Sustainability Committee, Earth Week Committee, Office of Affirmative Action and Office of the President.

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