Faithkeeper Diane Schenandoah to speak on importance of caring for natural world

Human beings are given many gifts, whether they’re seen as such or not. Being alive and experiencing nature — the wind rustling through the trees and birds chirping — are some of these gifts.

Artist and Faithkeeper Diane Schenandoah of Wolf Clan of the Oneida Nation in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy works to make sure all people are caretakers of the Earth.

Schenandoah will give her lecture, titled “Our Journey of Being,” at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy for the Interfaith Lecture Series Week Four theme “The Future of Being.” Activist Belvie Rooks, originally slated to speak for today’s lecture, will give her presentation at a later date. 

Schenandoah said she wants her audience to understand the role humans have to take care of not only their communities, but also their family and nature as a whole. 

“I’m hoping that more will come away with the understanding of our gifts that we’ve been given: the Earth, Mother Earth, all the things that she provides for us,” Schenandoah said. “There’s so many gifts that we’ve been given, and we run through our daily lives, we kind of forget about the importance of these things.”

The importance of preserving the Earth is vital, and Schenandoah said it’s disappointing to see the depletion of Earth’s natural resources.

“I did try to speak to a lot of elementary schools, as well, about the importance (of water supply),” Schenandoah said. “I always like to ask young people ‘Who brushed your teeth today?’ You’d like the water to come out nice and clean, and that water is an element that we need to give thanks to, and make every effort to ensure that our waters stay clean.”

Her mother was also a faithkeeper of the Wolf Clan, so Schenandoah learned early on the matters of diplomacy, responsibility and how to help a community grow and better itself. Schenandoah said her mother’s role as faithkeeper was a big influence on her decision when the community asked her to become the faithkeeper.

She works at Syracuse University as their Honwadiyenawa’sek, meaning “the one who helps them.” This is the first position of its kind at Syracuse and is part of their diversity and inclusion initiative after concerns were raised by Indigenous students.

“My work is grounded in my culture and traditional Haudenosaunee teachings, along with the techniques of hands-on energy work, art therapy, tuning forks, acupressure, dream interpretations and self-empowerment,” Schenandoah said.

Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno said she is delighted to bring in Schenandoah’s perspective of spirituality.

“Diane Schenandoah brings the gift of the spirituality of our Native peoples, whose Indigenous ways of being offer us a paradigm that can both transform humanity and ensure the continuing health of our precious Earth home,” Rovegno said. “We welcome Diane’s rich source of knowledge and wisdom to our conversation in this consciousness-transformative week.”

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The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.