Onondaga Faithkeeper Oren Lyons Speaks to the World
This week in Japan, there is a convening of a consortium of groups that study religion worldwide with members from more than 40 countries and regions. Its World Congress takes place every five years to promote international collaboration among religion scholars. The Onondaga Nation from Central New York will provide an earth-conscious message which resonates strongly with the Japanese people. According to the Syracuse Post Standard, Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper Oren Lyons will speak several times at the 19th World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions in Tokyo, including at a session about religion, education and sustainable development, sponsored by the United Nations.
From the Post Standard article:
[Faithkeeper Oren] Lyons said he plans to challenge Christian leaders at the conference. He said he will seek a response from the Roman Catholic Church in particular for what he sees as centuries of discrimination against native cultures. "I'm going to ask them why they don't recognize indigenous religions as equal to theirs," Lyons said.
Lyons blamed papal bulls, or edicts from the Vatican, for marginalizing indigenous populations. The edicts, which date to the 1700s, cleared the way for Europeans to claim indigenous lands as their own. Indigenous people have been persecuted in their homelands ever since, he said. "If you're looking for world peace, you have to start at the beginning, which is recognizing that everyone is equal," Lyons said.
The panelists will focus on the Onondagas' struggle to protect their tribal lands from pollution and will explain why indigenous religions place a strong emphasis on environmental stewardship.
In 2000, part of a message delivered to the U.N. Millenium Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders included a reminder to leaders of the world that there could be no peace as we wage war upon "Our Mother, the Earth." Responsible and courageous actions must be taken to realign ourselves with the great laws of nature, the essence known as the spirit of life. This spirit encompasses the spiritual powers and the great order of the universe, believing that all life is bound by the laws of creation. Faithkeeper Lyons wished us to understand that these spiritual laws transcend generations and are vital to not only moral law, but to our very survival. He made a plea, in 2000, for sanity in leadership and responsibility to future generations.
That plea is repeated in 2005 by the current Land Rights claim brought by the Onondaga Nation against the state of New York, arguing the state wrongfully sold tribal land and polluted its environment.
The water is precious to the Onondagas. They are concerned about the state of Onondaga Lake and Onondaga Creek because of the religious and spiritual significance of those waters. There were events that occurred along those waterways which were sacred to the Haudenosaunee people. At a meeting in Syracuse this week, speakers from the Nation reached out to their neighbors and reminded us that the Creator gave us the gift of water. We are water. We are the rain. We are the stars which, from their own place in the universe, dampen the earth. What we do to the water, we do to ourselves and generations to follow.
It is painful for the Onondagas to see people in government not telling the truth and acting irresponsibly.
It is not in line with moral values for our leaders to "cover up".
Oren Lyons is sharing that message with people all over the world this week. He's educating the world about the Haudenosuanee belief system and its ties to the environment, and he hopes to dispel myths heard all too often in the Western press about Native American culture.