April 11, 2011

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By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Chief Oren Lyons will give the talk, "A Value Change for Survival: An Iroquois View on Caring for the Earth," on Tuesday, April 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Bucknell University Environmental Center.

Lyons is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation who sits on the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. The Onondaga Nation is the central seat or fire of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Haudenosaunee or "People of the Long House." As Faithkeeper, he is entrusted to maintain the traditions, values and history of the Turtle Clan and uphold the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois.

Born in 1930, Lyons was raised in a traditional family on both the Seneca and Onondaga territories in the state of New York. After graduating in 1958 from the Syracuse University College of Fine Arts, he worked as a commercial artist in New York City, becoming the art and planning director for the Norcross Greeting Cards Company where he was responsible for directing 200 artists. In 1970, he returned to Onondaga Nation and was formally adopted by the Onondaga People in 1972.

In 1982, he helped establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations. For more than 30 years, he has participated in the Indigenous Peoples Conference in Geneva, an international forum supported by the United Nations' Human Rights Commission.

The recipient of the Elder and Wiser Award of the Rosa Parks Institute for Human Rights, the International Peace Award from the United Nations, the National Audubon Award and the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, he holds an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Syracuse University and City College of New York.

In the Oka standoff in 1990, he helped negotiate (as a member of a six-leader delegation) a peaceful resolution to the conflict between the Canadian and Quebecoise governments and the Mohawk People.

A featured speaker at the Global Forum of Spiritual Leaders for Human Survival in Moscow, Lyons addressed the General Assembly as the first indigenous speaker of the United Nations and opened the 1992 International Year of the World's Indigenous People at the United Nations Plaza. That same year, he organized a delegation from the Iroquois Confederacy to attend the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in South America.
A founding member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth, he directed the Native American Studies Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was the subject of an hour-long television documentary broadcast on PBS in 1991 with Bill Moyers.

His 1992 book, Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, the Iroquois and the Constitution, co-edited with John Mohawk, details his belief that the emerging American colonies used the model of the Iroquois Confederacy as the basis for the democracy of the United States.

An all-American lacrosse player in his youth, Lyons has served as the honorary chairman of the Iroquois National Lacrosse Team. In 1993, he was elected to the Lacrosse National Hall of Fame.

Contact: Division of Communications