Indigenous students to design an art installation in honor of the Onondaga Nation

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Indigenous students and alumni have worked over the past year to establish a permanent mural on the Syracuse University campus that will honor the Onondaga Nation.

Several Indigenous student and former student organizations will work with SU officials to design and place the art installation, which the League plans to display on the Quad. The installation, announced this month, will recognize the League’s presence on land traditionally owned by the Onondaga Nation.

“We really wanted this to be something that wasn’t going to be outdated every day,” said Maris Jacobs, graduating from the 2019 class of the League who is Indigenous. “Something people would definitely notice and stop enjoying and learning more about.”

The recognition committee, which is made up of Indigenous undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, has been working on creating the facility for a year, Jacobs said. The committee recently selected Brandon Lazore, an artist from the Onondaga Nation, to create a mural for the installation.


“Part of that request was also to have a physical location on campus that has a lot of traffic, to have some kind of artwork honoring the land on which the League resides,” said Danielle Smith, a former member of the League member of the League. Onondaga Falcon Clan.

Ionah Scully, a doctoral student at the League’s School of Education and Cree Métis of the Michel First Nation, has been actively working on the proposal since last fall. Scully said they chose Lazore to design the installation because his work incorporates both traditional and modern elements.

Indigenous SU students are micro-assaulted and feel invisible on campus, said Scully.

After a series of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic incidents were reported to and around the League last year, Indigenous students, as well as Jewish students and #NotAgainSU protesters, submitted a list of demands and concerns to the League. administration of the League. The concerns of Indigenous students are still under discussion, according to one website monitoring of the university’s response to student requests.

One of the main concerns of Indigenous students was the lack of visibility of their community on campus. The art installation was one of the solutions offered by the Indigenous students, in addition to revising the recognition of League lands, which the university uses at events and gatherings to recognize its presence on the nation’s lands. Onondaga.

“I have always found that the recognition of the earth in big and small events is always forced because people often forget about it and then pull out a small card that has the recognition, read it, then put it away,” said Rhiannon. Abrams, a health and exercise science student from the Onondaga Nation.

The Indigenous students created a revised version of the SU Land Reconnaissance and also designed what the art installation would look like, created flyers and reached out to potential artists, Scully said.

Some SU students don’t even know that indigenous peoples occupy academic spaces, Jacobs said. Scully said they and other Indigenous students have heard people refer to Indigenous people in the past.

The mural will represent the continued presence of Indigenous students at the League.

“We’re still here, prosperous, growing up, sometimes suffering from colonization, but not because we’re indigenous, just because colonization hurt us,” Scully said.

Jacobs and Scully noted that the art installation will be the result of an initiative led by Indigenous students. Many Indigenous women were responsible for organizing the creation of the art installation, Scully said.

The college community is also to have a conversation about removing the Saltine Warrior statue outside the Carnegie Library, Scully said. The Saltine Warrior, formerly the League’s mascot, is a racist portrayal of Indigenous peoples that is harmful and insulting to the Indigenous community, they said.

Going forward, the committee plans to meet with Lazore with Pete Sala, vice president and director of facilities, and Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel, to discuss the size, cost and location of the facility, as well as the schedule for its installation.

“The fact that the university is committed to installing a permanent work of art that will hopefully be here forever is important to us,” said Jacob. “And it is honoring the recognition of the land and the Onondaga Nation.”


Contact Madison: [email protected]

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Joseph E. Golightly