Column: Onondaga faith keeper's work Nobel worthy
Column: Onondaga faith keeper's work Nobel worthy - Sunday, September, 2008
By JODI RAVE of the Missoulian
OSLO, Norway - On a recent trip to Norway, some fellow journalists and I
kept driving past the Nobel Peace Center in the central part of Oslo as we
made our way between museums and restaurants.
I thought of the incredible men and women who have been bestowed the Nobel
Peace Prize, including Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mother
Teresa. Those names have become household words.
While this year's nomination period has come and gone, another name may
soon likely join their ranks - Oren Lyons.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has been awarding the peace prize since 1901,
bestowing one of the world's highest honors upon leaders whose work
reflects a fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of
standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
On Oct. 10, the Nobel Peace Committee will announce the next Nobel Peace
Lyons, a faith keeper of the Onondaga Nation, is the most inspiring,
responsible, admirable, honest and intellectual leader I've ever seen. I
was recently reminded of his quiet yet influential leadership role when he
addressed a cross-cultural gathering of traditional elders and youth on the
The mission of our circle, number one, is peace - peace among ourselves,
peace among the nations, peace for our world that surrounds us, that's our
mission, said Lyons who shared his message among a group whose members
have been meeting since 1973, an initiative sponsored by the Bozeman-based
American Indian Institute.
The group's message is rooted in Native prophecies that foretell a time of
rapid change on Earth. The prophecies also assure that indigenous people's
ancient knowledge of nature will allow them to survive heavy burdens,
violent conflicts and large-scale world migration.
People are more aware now, said Lyons. All the things we've been saying
for years and years are beginning to pass.
The American Indian Institute is helping the traditional elders group share
their knowledge with non-Natives who want to restore balance to an Earth
ravaged by corporations and the individuals who turn to them for cheap
manufactured goods and unsustainable energy consumption.
This is now the time, the time when our message will resonate and the
world will respond, said Lyons, who acknowledged friends from Sweden who
arrived on the Flathhead Reservation to help spread the traditional group's
message to all parts of the globe. The Native message of peace and
restoration often falls upon deaf ears in the United States.
The whole world loves Indians - except in America, said Lyons, who has
been at the forefront of securing international human rights for indigenous
people for the past three decades. The fruits of that work culminated last
September when the U.N. General Assembly passed the Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Nobel Peace Committee has awarded its prize to a wide range of people,
a group mostly comprising humanitarians, human rights activists and peace
seekers tough on arms control or disarmament. Last year, the Nobel
committee awarded its prize to Al Gore and the U. N.'s Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, a team of world scientists that included the
University of Montana's Steve Running.
Who can forget the committee's reason for bestowing its award to the global
Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of
much of mankind, said the committee. They may induce large-scale
migration and lead to greater competition for the Earth's resources. Such
changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most
vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts
and wars, within and between states.
Those times are here.
Unfortunately, many of us have not seen nor experienced the effects of
climate change. But the Arctic ice caps are melting. Indigenous peoples in
the northern tiers of the planet are being forced to relocate to higher
ground as seas and oceans swallow up their homes and coastal lands.
Last October, I stood on the tundra landscapes of northern Norway where the
land should have been covered in snow. It was raining instead.
A select group of people can nominate peace prize candidates, including
members of an international court, a national assembly, previous peace
prize winners, board members of organizations who have won the prize,
Norwegian Nobel Committee members, former Norwegian Nobel Institute
advisers, university rectors, professors of social sciences, history,
philosophy, law, theology, or directors of peace research institutes and
foreign policy institutes.
A Native person from the United States has never been awarded the Nobel
His time is coming.
Reporter Jodi Rave can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or at