“We honor our elders to think where we have been, so we can know where we are, so we can know where we are going,” said Angaangag Lyberth, an elder of the Inuit Nation.
The gathering of over 200 people on Friday at the David L. Call Auditorium to honor the elders Wilma Mankiller of the Cherokee Nation and Tom Porter of the Mohawk Nation marked the beginning of the three day “American Indian Millennium: Renewing Our Ways of Life for Future Generations” conference. The conference was attended by Native people from across the globe.
Introducing the elders, John Mohawk, Seneca historian and Professor of History at SUNY Buffalo, said “You cannot preach integrity to people. How wonderful it is when we have leaders who show us that — who show us who we are.”
“When we were young we thought we were going to flip-flop this world upside down,” said Porter, the co-founder of the White Roots of Peace, a group of Iroquois elders who toured the country in the 1960s promoting traditional teachings and encouraging Natives to embrace their respective traditions.
“Whatever efforts we made, all the battles we went through, I would not trade it in for this, that or anything,” he added.
“Our honor is to be able to help people,” said Mankiller, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985-1995. Both received a traditional piece of Iroquois pottery as a recognition of their years of service to their communities.
Matt Fellman ’02, who attended the keynote event said “White America would be much better off if we had leaders with integrity like Tom Porter and Wilma Mankiller.”
American Indian struggles with identity, health, education, land, the future, and spirituality were highlighted during the three day conference.
Sherri Mitchell, of the Penebscot Nation, related her own conflict to a panel on Health and Reproduction: “I was doing the work, had the car, the clothes, the trendy friends, and I was going home at night and crying. My identity was tied up with my ability to live in that part of the world.”
“The important thing today is to remember that as Native people we have always been here and we always will be” said Migizi Pensoneau.
The conference was organized by Jose Barreiro, Director of Communications and Editor in Chief of Akwe:Kon Press/Native Americas Journal, Dagmar Thorpe, executive director of Life Way, and Tim Johnson, Executive Editor of Indian Country Today. A video webstream of the conference will soon be posted on www.nativeamericas.com.
Archived article by Peter Norlander