Oren Lyons

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Oren R. Lyons Jr.
Born1930 (age 89–90)
New York, United States
NationalityAmerican, Onondaga
EducationBFA Syracuse University

Oren R. Lyons Jr. (born 1930) is a Native American Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.[1] Once a college lacrosse player, Lyons is now a recognized advocate of indigenous rights.[2]

Background, education, and athletic career[edit]

Lyons was born in 1930 and raised in the culture and practices of the Iroquois on the Seneca and Onondaga reservations in Upstate New York.[2]

Lyons served in the United States Army. He received an athletic scholarship to Syracuse University, where he was awarded the Orange Key for his academic and athletic accomplishments.[3] He graduated from the College of Fine Arts in 1958. A lifelong lacrosse player,[4] Oren was an All-American at Syracuse, where the Syracuse Orange men's lacrosse went undefeated during his graduating year.[2] After graduation, Lyons played for several teams, including the New York Lacrosse Club (1959–1965), the New Jersey Lacrosse Club (1966–1970), and the Onondaga Athletic Club (1970–1972).[2]

Upon leaving Syracuse, Lyons pursued a career in commercial art in New York City, becoming the art and planning director of Norcross Greeting Cards.[5] Outside of work, Lyons exhibited his own paintings during this time[citation needed]. In 1970, Lyons returned to Onondaga to be closer to his cultural heritage[original research?]. In recognition of his contributions over many years as a teacher of undergraduate and graduate students in the University at Buffalo, Dr. Lyons is listed as SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor Emeritus of American Studies in the UB College of Arts and Sciences.[1]


In the 1960s, Lyons joined the Red Power movement and joined the Unity Caravan, which traveled through Indian Country to foster dialogue about traditional tribal values. In 1972, he was a leader in the Trail of Broken Treaties, a caravan to Washington DC to convince the Bureau of Indian Affairs to honor its treaties with Native American tribes.[5]

In 1971, during a protest against the expansion of I-81 through the Onondaga reservation, Lyons met with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who wanted to help with their protest. The couple was there for Ono's exhibition at the Everson Museum of Art.[6]

In 1977, Lyons helped create the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth at a meeting in Montana. Since then, the Circle has gathered annually at a different site in Indian country.[7] In 1977, he also was part of the Haudenosaunee delegation to the first World Conference on Racism.[5]

"At first, I wanted to defend the Iroquois. Then my sights broadened to embrace other Indians. Then I saw this had to include defending indigenous peoples all over the world," Lyons said.[5]

In 1981, he traveled with Stephen Gaskin and Ina May Gaskin to New Zealand to attend festival at Nambassa, where he delivered a number of lectures and workshops. At Nambassa he coordinated with Indigenous Maori land rights activists on questions of indigenous peoples sharing his Native American experiences [8]

For over fourteen years he has taken part in the meetings in Geneva of Indigenous Peoples of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, and helped to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982[citation needed]. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, and is a principal figure in the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders. He was a negotiator between the governments of Canada, Quebec, New York State and the Mohawks in the Oka crisis during the summer of 1990.[citation needed]

Lyons appeared on a one-hour documentary Faithkeeper, produced and hosted by Bill Moyers[9] and broadcast on PBS, July 3, 1991. He appeared in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary "The 11th Hour" in 2007.

In 1992 he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations where he opened the International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples [10]


Lyons has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Syracuse University.[11]

He has been the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the National Audubon Society's Audubon Medal, the Earth Day International Award of the United Nations, and the Elder and Wiser Award of the Rosa Parks Institute for Human Rights.[1] Lyons serves on the board of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and is board chairman of Honoring Contributions in the Governance of American Indian Nations.[1]

Lyons is also remembered for his time as a lacrosse player. He is Honorary Chairman of the Iroquois Nationals.[2] In 1989 he was named Man of the Year in Lacrosse by the NCAA.[2]

His legendary performance as goalkeeper for Syracuse University, with Jim Brown on the undefeated 1957 national champion team, led to the induction of Lyons into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1992.[12]

Published works[edit]

Lyons has authored numerous books. He has also illustrated children's books in collaboration with Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Brulé Lakota). He is the publisher of Daybreak Magazine.[1]

  • Vaughan-Lee, Llewellyn, ed.; "Spiritual Ecology." Oren Lyons, contributor; "Listening to Natural Law." Point Reyes: The Golden Sufi Center, 2013.
  • Gluckstein, Dana, author; Amnesty International, epilogue; Oren Lyons, introduction; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, foreword. Dignity: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. powerHouse Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-57687-562-9
  • Jorgensen, William, ed.; Oren Lyons, foreword. Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development. University of Arizona Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8165-2423-5.
  • Lyons, Oren, Donald Grinde, Robert Venables, John Mohawk, Howard Berman, Vine Deloria Jr., Laurence Hauptman, and Curtis Berkey. Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations and the U.S. Constitution. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publications, 1998. ISBN 978-0-940666-50-4.
  • Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk, author, and Oren Lyons, illustrator. High Elk's Treasure. Holiday House, 1995. ISBN 978-0-8234-0212-0.
  • Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk, author, and Oren Lyons, illustrator. When Thunders Spoke. Bison Books, 1993. ISBN 978-0-8032-9220-8.
  • Ewen, Alexander, ed. Oren Lyons, author. Voice of Indigenous Peoples: Native People Address the United Nations. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publications, 1993. ISBN 978-0-940666-31-3.
  • Lyons, Oren, John Mohawk, Vine Deloria Jr. et al. Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the US Constitution. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publications, 1992. ASIN B002J47CW4.
  • Lyons, Oren. Wilderness in Native American culture. Boise: University of Idaho Wilderness Research Center, 1989. ASIN B00072A6JG.
  • Lyons, Oren, author and illustrator. Dog Story. Holiday House, 1973. ASIN B003BGS43K.
  • Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk, author, and Oren Lyons, illustrator. Jimmy Yellow Hawk. Holiday House, 1972. ASIN B001KRU62Y.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Department of American Studies Faculty: Oren R. Lyons." University of Buffalo, College of Arts and Sciences. (retrieved 26 Aug 2010)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Oren Lyons Jr.: Lacrosse. Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. (retrieved 26 Aug 2010)
  3. ^ Hope and Young 164-5
  4. ^ Hope and Young 164
  5. ^ a b c d Hope and Young 165
  6. ^ Kirst, Sean (22 March 2019). "'I think he liked our position': On the birthday of John Lennon, Oren Lyons remembers a friend". Syracuse.com. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  7. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ http://nlnzcat.natlib.govt.nz/vprimo/getHoldings?bibId=91409&pds_handle=
  9. ^ Brussat, Frederic and Mary Ann. "Film Review: The Faithkeeper." Spirituality and Practice. (retrieved 26 Aug 2010)
  10. ^ "Oren Lyons - Attraction". 11thhouraction.com. Retrieved 2011-11-02.
  11. ^ http://archives.syr.edu/awards/honorary_1.html
  12. ^ [2]. See also Gordon White, "Jim Brown's Best Sport Was Lacrosse," THE PILOT (www.thepilot.com), May 23, 2010.
  13. ^ "Books > Oren Lyons." Amazon.com. (retrieved 26 Aug 2010)


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