May 09, 2014 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
When I was a kid, we called it the French Fort.
For most of the past two decades the fortified French mission overlooking Onondaga Lake has been known as Saint Marie Among the Iroquois. It’s now undergoing transformation into a Haudenosaunee heritage center called Skä•noñh: Great Law of Peace Center.
Skä•noñh is an Onondaga Nation greeting meaning “peace and wellness.”
“It’s going to be different, but it’ll be a good usage,” said Joe Ostuni Jr., who lives in Liverpool and serves as chairman of the Friends of Historic Onondaga Lake (FoHOL), a volunteer group which kept Ste. Marie open to visitors in the early part of this century after county budget cuts threatened to close it.
“Instead of focusing on the Jesuits of the 17th century as Sainte Marie did,” Ostuni said, “the Great Law of Peace Center will take a closer look at the Native American component.”
The brainchild of the Onondaga Historical Association, Onondaga County, the Onondaga Nation and local colleges, the Skä•noñh Center could emerge as an uplifting cross-cultural experience. Organizers are soliciting community input at a 7 p.m. meeting tonight, Wednesday, May 7, at the Skä•noñh Center, here in Liverpool at 6680 Onondaga Lake Parkway, and again at 7 p.m. May 13, at the Onondaga Nation Arena in Nedrow.
If you’re unable to make a meeting, visit survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e8zbv2hphs2h4yvh/startand submit your ideas in the “additional comments” section of the OHA survey or call 428-1864.
Last year, the OHA received a $50,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts under the Regional Economic Development Council for Phase II planning of the Skä•noñh Center. Phase III construction is expected in 2015.
Sandy Bigtree on board
Phil Arnold, an associate professor of religion and director of Syracuse University’s Native Studies Program, heads a 12-member planning committee also including OHA Executive Director Gregg Tripoli, who grew up in Liverpool.
Haudenosaunee representatives are Bradley Powless from the Onondaga Council of Chiefs, Beaver Clan Mother Wendy Gonyea, and Sandy Bigtree from the Indigenous Values Initiative.
Bigtree sang her way to local fame when she was 8 years old in 1958 as a member of the Bigtree Sisters vocal group also starring her older siblings, Norma and Jean. Years later Sandy fronted her own rock’n’roll bands and played with the Livin’ Ennd, which also featured Liverpool drummer Jan Fetterly. Sandy Bigtree was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame in June 2008.
Thanksgiving every day
Another artistic native woman, planning committee member Wendy Gonyea, is a poet who formerly taught social studies at the Onondaga Nation School and edited the Onondaga Nation News. She explains the Iroquois worldview this way:
“At the core of [our] way of life is a Thanksgiving that acknowledges all the elements that sustain us; the trees, grasses, animals, birds, air, sun, moon, stars, rains, the Creator and one another. An oral Thanksgiving is given daily by individuals, and at the beginning and end of all ceremonies, meetings and other gatherings. The minds of those present are brought together in common thought, a calming reminder of our place in the universe. We are not a force to subjugate others, but a part of this whole life plan to live in balance with the rest of creation.”
If the planning committee holds true to those values, the new Great Law of Peace Center could well develop into Central New York’s most forward-looking educational and historical institution; skanonhcenter.org.
Lake doc in progress
By the way, the OHA is also producing a documentary film called “Beneath the Surface: The Storied History of Onondaga Lake.” Check out the trailer at cnyhistory.org.
Gull ready to Bark?
Craving a crunchy and scrumptious wood-fired pizza? Well, the Barking Gull’s preparing to bake them any day now at 116 S. Willow St., on the southwestern corner of the basin block, down by the Griffin Visitor Center at Onondaga Lake Park. May 6 was mentioned as opening day, so stand by and keep your fingers crossed…
Jamie, Miss E & Mick
Live music rings out several nights a week right next door at the White Water Pub, at 110 S. Willow St. Pub owner MaryKay Manns has booked the popular songster Jamie Notarthomas there at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 8, followed by Miss E and Off the Cuff at 9 p.m. Friday, May 9, and the ever-feisty Mick Fury at 10 p.m. Saturday, May 10. And the White Water hosts an open mike at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday; WhiteWaterPubLiverpool.com; 314-7398.