Meet the Indigenous Values Initiative Team
Philip P. Arnold is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Syracuse University, as well as a core faculty member of Native American and Indigenous Studies. He is the Director of the Skä·noñh—Great Law of Peace Center , which repurposes the site that formerly celebrated the Jesuits coming to Onondaga Nation Territory in 1656-58. The new Center now tells the ancient story of the formation of the Longhouse tradition known as the Great Law of Peace at Onondaga Lake and its influences on American culture. The Skä·noñh—Great Law of Peace Center is a collaborative enterprise between the Onondaga Nation, Onondaga County, the Onondaga Historical Association, Syracuse University and 4 other educational institutions in the Syracuse area. His books are Eating Landscape: Aztec and European Occupation of Tlalocan (1999); Sacred Landscapes and Cultural Politics: Planting a Tree (2001); The Gift of Sports: Indigenous Ceremonial Dimensions of the Games We Love (2012) and Urgency of Indigenous Religions (University of New Mexico Press, forthcoming). He is a member of NOON (Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation), an organization of the Syracuse Peace Council. In 2007 he organized the Doctrine of Discovery Study Group to discuss the legacy of Christianity in the destruction of Indigenous peoples. He is the President of the Indigenous Values Initiative, which is a non-profit organization to support the work of the Skä·noñh—Great Law of Peace Center and other organizations and initiatives to educate the general public about the indigenous values of the Haudenosaunee.
Sandy Bigtree, Bear Clan, is a citizen of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. She is a founding board member of the Indigenous Values Initiative, (501C3) which fosters collaborative educational work between the academic community and the Haudenosaunee to promote the message of peace that was brought to Onondaga Lake thousands of years ago. It is this message that continues to influence American Democracy, the Women’s Rights Movement, and the Environmental Justice Movement. She helped organize the: “Roots of Peacemaking” educational festivals in 2006 and 2007; the “Doctrine of Discovery Conference” in 2014; and co-edited the Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) educational booklet. She was an original Planning Committee member of Skä•noñh: the Great Law of Peace Center and currently sits on the Educational Collaborative committee. In 1984-85, she was the Administrative Assistant to the American Indian Law Support Center at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, CO.* In 1980-82 she performed with Native Americans in the Arts theatre troupe (an affiliate of the American Indian Community House) at LaMama, NYC, and toured the northeastern US. From age 1-30, Sandy performed weekly on radio, TV and other venues around Central New York. The Sandy Bigtree Band was well known throughout the 1970s. In 2008, Sandy was the recipient of the Syracuse New Times “Hall of Fame” Sammy Award. Show business is a “tradition” that began with her grandfather Mitchell Bigtree’s escape from Thomas Indian Boarding School to join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Europe. His most memorable performance was at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Betty Lyons (Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan), President & Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), is an Indigenous and environmental activist and citizen of the Onondaga Nation. Her native name, Gaen hia uh, meaning ‘small sky,’ was given to her by her Snipe Clan mother and has developed her love for the earth from her deep connection to her culture. Growing up Ms. Lyons learned a deep respect for the earth and the responsibility to protect it. Ms. Lyons worked together with the NOON organization (Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation) to educate and teach local communities about the culture of the Onondaga Nation to further a better understanding and to bridge the gap between the communities. Ms. Lyons has participated and organized rallies and demonstrations pushing for a ban on fracking in New York State, until a ban was achieved in December 2014.
Betty Lyons has worked for the Onondaga Nation for over seventeen years as a Public Relations Representative, Manager of the Onondaga Nation Arena, and as Executive Assistant to Tadodaho Sidney Hill. She has been an active participant at the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) since the first session in 2001 and has coordinated the opening ceremonies. For over 10 years, Ms. Lyons was the President of Onondaga Minor Athletic Club where she organized and managed over 15 youth sports team programs.
Betty Lyons graduated from Cazenovia College ALA (2013), Bryant Stratton College Graduate of Paralegal Program Magna Cum Laude. She is also the hardworking mother of Garrett and Sid Jr.
Jake Edwards (Onondaga Eel Clan) lives on the Onondaga Nation. He maintains the continuity of our longhouse oral teachings. He was appointed by the Grand Council of Chiefs (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy) to the Haudenosaunee External Relations Committee to respectfully work on political and governmental structures beyond the borders of Haudenosaunee Country. Jake is a board member of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples and a board member of the Indigenous Values Initiative, he is instrumental in preserving cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples. Jake was one of the primary voices leading the 400th anniversary (1613 – 2013) of the Two Row Wampum Campaign, paddling the waterways from the Onondaga Nation to the United Nations in NYC. He actively reminds people of the significance of our treaties and reflects upon decisions that will protect the people into the seventh generation. Jake explains how wampum laid the foundational principles and structure of the United States Constitution.