Old French Fort re-emerging as Great Law of Peace Center

— 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.”

Cross-cultural experience

“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.

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