By Dan Smoke – Asayenes (NNNC)
On November 23rd, at the Oneida Community Centre, the first major fundraising dinner for a new Oneida Longhouse attracted 400 community members, Mohawk elders, and a Cayuga celebrity.
The Longhouse is a ceremonial building of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy or People of the Longhouse). The On^yota’a:ka (Oneida or People of the Standing Stone)is a member nation.
Organizers were able to raise more than $7,400. The evening featured speakers: Tom Porter, Mohawk elder of Fonda, N.Y.; Jan Longboat, Mohawk elder from Six Nations; and Gary Farmer, a Toronto-based Cayuga actor and multi-media producer.
According to organizer Ray George, “this great cause will bring our people together as extended families. These connections transcend political, territorial, and spiritual barriers.”
Tom Porter explained, “In our teachings, all the Six Nations must help each other. Especially when it has to do with the Longhouse. Whenever a Longhouse needs help, every community of the Iroquois has to come and help. That’s why I came here, to do my duty.”
For Jan Longboat the Longhouse “represents a place of spirit…a place of learning the languages and the stories.”
The Mohawk Nation is also going to be building a Longhouse on the Six Nations reserve, she said. “Our teachings of the Great Law tells of the power of the Good Mind. And that’s what the teachings of the Longhouse are all about. It’s to strengthen the mind, so that we can live a good life.”
In addition to speaking, Gary Farmer expressed his solidarity and support with a $400 donation to the Building Fund. Nick and Mary Deleary, who live on reserve, donated six acres of land.
The dinner catered by Ray and Norleen George and a host of volunteers drew compliments for the roast beef, turkey, corn soup and fried bread.
Dean George, emcee, is also the Chair of the Building Fund Committee. He said “all these people are busy people…But that’s how we get things done. If we want something done, we find the busiest person we can and ask them to help you, and they always will.”
Howard Elijah, an elder, is secretary of the On^yota’a:ka Nation Council. He said there are bi-weekly meetings to involve community members.
“This project is about breaking down barriers and the walls of factionalism. We didn’t put them there, so we have to sit down in our community to talk about our future together.”
He added, “This project has got a lot of support–even from the Band Council.”
Work has begun on the new larger Longhouse, which will be l00 by 40 feet. A hydro line is installed. The property is being prepared, the foundation laid, and the cedar logs purchased. More than $150,000 has been spent. More is needed for hardwood flooring, an open ceiling, and specially designed windows. Elijah added, “We’re building a cookhouse as well; almost the same size as the Longhouse.”
An opening is planned for the Strawberry Festival time, in June 2003.
According to Haudenosaunee protocol, the Confederacy will determine when the opening will occur. Elijah said, ” a ceremony has to be done to notify the other Longhouses…A ceremony to ‘move our fires’ will be conducted in which all the other Nations and every Longhouse will be represented and they will send their delegates to carry out the ceremony for us.”