On Thursday, August 26th, as part of an effort to recognize the start of the fall semester and the opening the of the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC) at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello building, the United States, New York State, military, Haudenosaunee and Syracuse University flags in front of the NVRC were permanently raised by individual SU students, alumni, and staff during a small ceremony. The flags flying before the NVRC represent the University’s deep connection to the indigenous lands, its commitment to veteran service and its pursuit of knowledge.

Chancellor Kent Syverud, Vice Chancellor and Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) founder and executive director Mike Haynie, and Office of Veteran and Military Affairs Executive Director Ron Novack were all in attendance along were several other University leaders.

The ceremony paid significant homage to the University’s connection to the Onondaga Nation.  Tadodaho, Sidney Hill, who offered the traditional Haudenosaunee “Thanksgiving Prayer” and attended in recognition of the service on behalf of Indigenous men and women– who historically have served in the military at a rate higher than almost any other segment of the U.S. population. Sam Babcock, a WWII veteran and the oldest living veteran of the Onondaga Nation –also attended. In his honor, Suzanne Hill ‘20, Babcock’s grandniece and herself US Marine Corps veteran raised the Haudenosaunee Flag, which is modeled after the Hiawatha Belt.

This ceremony, which held in accordance with NYS and Syracuse University COVID guidelines, was also streamed for online viewing.

The Hiawatha Belt

The Belt represents the unity of the League of Six Nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the oldest continuously functioning democracy and matrilineal government in the world, for which the United States government was modeled. The six Nations are: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora, united under the Great Law of Peace.

The deeply rich symbolism embedded in the belt represents a multitude of ideas: 

  • The unification of the original five Nations, as well as the Tuscarora Nation which joined the Confederacy in 1722
  • The geography of traditional Haudenosaunee territories, the responsibilities and obligations of each Nation to each other, and the political protocols amongst the Confederacy. 
  • The capital where Grand Councils of all 50 Haudenosaunee chiefs from all 6 Nations meet as one to address issues impacting the Confederacy.
  • A pathway for other nations to find peace as any person or Nation willing to live by the Great Law of Peace may find sanctuary.

The Belt’s squares represent the Elder Brothers at each open end of the belt, Mohawk Nation, Keepers of the Eastern Door on the right, and Seneca Nation, Keepers of the Western Door on the left. The Younger Brothers, Oneida Nation on the right of center, the Cayuga Nation on the left of center, with the Onondaga Nation at the heart of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Onondaga are depicted by the great white pine tree.