Home Outdoor education League’s First Indigenous Healer Aims to Create Safe Space for Indigenous Students

League’s First Indigenous Healer Aims to Create Safe Space for Indigenous Students


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After the #NotAgainSU protests in 2019, a group of Indigenous students approached the administration of Syracuse University with several requests, including the hiring of an Aboriginal healer.

Many students have seen a lack of support for communities with marginalized identities, Fourth year PhD student Ionah Scully. student, says.

“Having a healer who can keep this space for us is really important,” they said.

On July 15, Diane Schenandoah began her role as the League’s first Indigenous healer. The position aims to provide a safe space for Indigenous students to heal from emotional trauma, connect with their spirituality, and educate the campus community about Indigenous culture.


His role is only part-time, but students can book hour-long sessions with Schenandoah on Mondays and Tuesdays through The Arch’s Barnes Center, Schenandoah said.

Mario “Ma’ii” Villa, first year doctoral student. a student at the School of Information Studies, said he was glad the resource existed and wanted the League to promote it more.

Villa asked SU because of the school’s proximity to the Onondaga Nation. He grew up in southern New Mexico and is part of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. He is excited to use Schenandoah’s resources, but said the healing practices he grew up with are different from those in the Haudenosaunee culture.

“There are similarities because of the traditions,” he said. “But at the same time, we each have different ways of dealing with the universe.”

Schenandoah hopes she can empower students and help them recognize their inner strength in her new role.

“We believe everyone comes here with a duty, a purpose and a gift,” said Schenandoah. “Often times we are very uncertain or insecure and just try to find out. I think empowering students and giving them support and confidence is how we make peace. ”

I think empowering students and giving them support and confidence is how we make peace

Diane Schenandoah, the League’s first Indigenous healer.

Schenandoah is a Faith Keeper of the Oneida Nation, Wolf Clan. (The Oneida Nation is one of the six nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.) She is an alumnus of the League’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, graduating in sculpture in 2011. She has been a sculptor for 40 years, portraying its culture through it. masterpieces.

Regina Jones, deputy director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, was part of a search committee for the position. She said it was a tough decision, but Schenandoah was a good choice.

Jones envisions Schenandoah’s role as supporting Indigenous students on campus and educating the community about their values.

“We think of community, of care, of love and of helping others – that’s our reason for being,” Jones said. “I think part of that will be part of Diane’s hope as well. I think she has a lot of valuable tools to help not only Indigenous students but within our community as a whole to help them ground, balance and center.

Schenandoah’s healing work is based on traditional Haudenosaunee teachings. Much of her work is about energy, she said. She uses practical modalities such as tuning forks, art therapy, acupressure and dream interpretation.

“Clap your hands and run your hands really fast, then hold them an inch apart,” Schenandoah said. “Can you feel the energy between them? It is our energy. This is how I use people’s energy.

Indigenous healing has always been a part of Schenandoah’s life, and she never really saw it as a practice until she got older, Schenandoah said. After her son developed cancer around 2002, she met a local woman who offered to teach her Reiki, an energy healing technique. Learning the healing style has been an eye-opening experience for her in her work with energy, she said.

“I use my own energy, which I have been doing since I was a young child,” Schenandoah said. “My whole family did this. If someone was in pain or aching, we would gather around them, rub our hands together, create energy and put it around them.

When she discovered the position of the League’s Indigenous healer, her family encouraged her to apply. She was both honored and surprised when offered the job.

“We are all energy. People don’t realize how powerful we are as humans on this earth. We all have amazing gifts and minds and we don’t know how amazingly created we are, ”said Schenandoah.

On August 29, the Sunday before fall 2021 classes began, Schenandoah hosted an Edge of the Woods Gathering welcome event for the Syracuse community, an event she said her people would traditionally host for visitors. . Schenandoah felt there was a need to bring the tradition back to campus and welcome back students and faculty from around the world to the Haudenosaunee territories.

About 38 people – including faculty, staff, students and community members – joined, which makes it small but also meaningful, Schenandoah said. During the event, people performed traditional dances including foot dance and circle dance. The outdoor education center within the Barnes Center also opened the zipline for participants.

“It has become magnificent,” she said. “The sun was shining. It was just lovely.

Kateleen Ellis, a senior from SU, called the Barnes Center last week to make an appointment with Schenandoah. She is interested to see what Schenandoah can offer her when it comes to stress, anxiety, feelings of lack at home and other experiences – all of which Ellis said she had never told anyone before. .

As an Indigenous woman, Ellis said she felt comfortable with an Indigenous healer.

Schenandoah believes almost everyone has trauma somewhere in their DNA that needs to be healed. To help people heal, she is currently working on planning a number of other Healing-focused League community events, as well as events to educate people about Indigenous history in the United States. which is not taught in schools. If you don’t know history, it will repeat itself, she said.

But while Schenandoah’s official title in the League is that of Indigenous Healer, she sees herself more as a keeper of the faith.

“The title is an indigenous healer, but we’re saying the creator is the only healer there is,” Schenandoah said.


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