The Indigenous Values Initiative Archive of the Syracuse University Sustainability Project Grant and materials. This archive was created with permission. 

Exploring Haudenosaunee and scientific perspectives

The Ecology and History of Onondaga Lake:

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address as a pathway to stewardship education in the Onondaga Lake Watershed

Our partner
Skä•noñh – Great Law of Peace Center
6680 Onondaga Lake Parkway, Liverpool, NY

Background and description of the project

“We are thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life…”

The Thanksgiving Address begins every formal gathering of the Haudenosaunee people. In it, the speaker and listeners acknowledge the critical importance of earth, sun, water, birds, fish, medicinal plants, and other natural phenomena, including people, and affirm a relationship of gratitude and obligation to them all.

Our purpose is to explore and test a new curriculum about scientific and traditional ecological knowledge, focusing on Onondaga Lake and structured around the Thanksgiving Address and its values of gratitude and reciprocity. Participants will try out lesson plans, explore field trip locations, and brainstorm potential projects that could extend the learning outcomes to their schools or colleges.

Practical details

This grant concluded in January, 2018. We will publish a summary of our results and accomplishments shortly.

The Team and Consultants

  • Philip Arnold, Associate Professor and Chairman of Religion, Syracuse University, and   Director, Skä•noñh – Great Law of Peace Center
  • Rachel May, Sustainability Education Coordinator, Syracuse University
  • Robin Kimmerer, Professor, Environmental and Forest Biology and Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY-ESF
  • Elizabeth Folta, Assistant Professor, Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY-ESF
  • Freida Jacques, Onondaga Nation School, Turtle Clan mother, Onondaga Nation
  • Neil Patterson, Assistant Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY-ESF and Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force
  • Percy Abrams, Linguistics Instructor, Syracuse University, Member of Eel Clan of the Onondaga Nation
  • Jack Manno, Professor, Environmental Studies, SUNY-ESF
  • Catherine Landis, Ph.D. candidate in Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY-ESF
  • Tom Mackey, Ph.D. candidate in Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY-ESF


Videos of presentations at our Aug. 2 workshop:

High School Curriculum Resources Page

Middle School Curriculum Resources Page

Eames-Sheavly, M., and Cornell Cooperative Extension. 1993. The three sisters: exploring an Iroquois garden. Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, N.Y.

Manno, J., R. Kimmerer, F. Jacques, T. Joyal. 2006. The past, present, and future of the Onondaga way of life: draft document. ENS 696 Onondaga Land Rights and Our Common Future class, SUNY ESF.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2013. Braiding sweetgrass: scientific knowledge, indigenous wisdom, and the teachings of plants.

Ransom, J. 1992. Words that come before all else: environmental philosophies of the Haudenosaunee. Native North American Traveling College, New York.

NOON. 2014. Neighbor to neighbor, nation to nation: readings about the relationship of the Onondaga Nation with Central New York, USA. Various authors; published by Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation, Syracuse, NY. Revised and expanded 2014.