Syracuse University

Oren Lyons

Oren Lyons ’58, H’93 is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation and a Chief of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee, "People of the Longhouse."

Lyons attended Syracuse University on an athletic scholarship, where he was awarded the Orange Key for his athletic and academic accomplishments. A lifelong lacrosse player, Lyons was an All American at Syracuse and, together with his teammate Jim Brown, led SU to an undefeated season during his graduating year. He was later elected to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame and serves as honorary chairman of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team.

Upon graduating with a degree in fine arts, Lyons became the planning director for Norcross Greeting Cards, began exhibiting his own paintings, and became a very successful commercial artist. He accepted a teaching position with the University of Buffalo and was named a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor Emeritus of American Indian Studies.

In 1977, Lyons was a founding member of the Traditional Circle of Elders and Youth. This council of respected Indian leaders meets annually to provide an avenue for Native American culture to inform and contribute to contemporary cultural and political debate.

In 1982, he helped establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations. He is the recipient of the United Nations NGO World Peace Prize. In 1992, he addressed the General Assembly, where he opened the International Year of the World's Indigenous People. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, is a frequent participant in human rights issues in Geneva, and recently received Sweden's prestigious Friends of the Children Award, along with his colleague, Nelson Mandela. Among his other honors are the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, the National Audubon Award, The Earth Day International United Nations Award, and the Elder and Wiser Award of the Rosa Parks Institute of Human Rights.

Lyons is the subject of a PBS documentary by Bill Moyers and recently appeared in Eleventh Hour, a documentary on the state of the natural world and climate change, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. He is the author of several books, including Exiled in the Land of the Free, co-authored with John Mohawk, and has  illustrated several children's books.