A member of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York joined the Hamilton community on Dec. 7 to help commemorate Samuel Kirkland’s birthday. A community lunch, sponsored by the Shenandoah-Kirkland Initiative, Chaplaincy, and other organizations on campus served as a celebration of Kirkland’s vision to connect with Haudenosaunee culture and the Oneida people.
Michelle D. Schenandoah, member of the Wolf Clan of the Oneidas and founder of Rematriation Magazine, spoke about the history of the Haudenosaunee people and her journey through life. She is the daughter of Oneida Nation Faithkeeper Diane Schenandoah, and granddaughter to the late Oneida Nation Wolf Clan Mother, Maisie Schenandoah.
“As indigenous people, it’s important to understand where we’re coming from,” said Schenandoah. “You have to know who you are and where you’re coming from in order to know where you’re going.”
Schenandoah lived and worked in New York City, integrating American Indian law and policy into her academic career. She holds a JD and LL.M. in taxation from New York Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. One morning, while bringing her son to school, Schenandoah was in a car accident and sustained a concussion that took her out of work for two years.
“I couldn’t do any strategic planning and I couldn’t bring back some memories from my past,” Schenandoah said. “All of a sudden I had a realization: I’m totally present, I’m in the state of nirvana.”
During this period of time, Schenandoah served as the president of the board of directors of the Seven Dancers Coalition, a Native American Coalition of Professionals from all over New York State. One day, she pitched her idea for Rematriation Magazine to the group.
“I’d be sitting on the train on my morning commute and watching people read newspapers and magazines in the morning,” she said. “I saw the Latina woman reading a Latina magazine and the black woman reading a black magazine, and I’d ask myself where my magazine was.”
To Haudenosaunee women, rematriation is a word meaning “Returning the Sacred to the Mother.” Schenandoah says indigenous women have started to change the narrative by sharing their own stories which have historically often been repressed and erased.
A platform to gather and heal from trauma as well as a way to bring empowerment to indigenous women, Rematriation Magazine has been going strong over the past few years, powered by a sisterhood of over 200 Haudenosaunee women.
Schenandoah ended her presentation with a reminder for students and faculty to always acknowledge and respect the land Hamilton is on.
“As you walk throughout the Hamilton campus, think about the Oneida people and the sacred connection we have with the land,” she said “Think about the relationship you have with the Oneida people as much as you have a relationship with the land.”