Tadodaho Sid Hill and Faithkeeper Oren Lyons of the Onondaga Nation hold the wampum belt made by President George Washington for the Canandaigua Treaty. The treaty is among the issues explored in The Good Mind.
“The Good Mind” explores the culture and governance of modern Indigenous peoples surrounded by New York State
Published June 8, 2016
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK — A new documentary film featuring the Onondaga Nation will be shown twice during the Lake Placid Film Forum. “The Good Mind,” by New York filmmaker Gwendolen Cates, follows Onondaga Nation leaders as they continue the efforts of their ancestors to protect their sovereignty, their culture, and the environment while seeking justice over ancestral lands that were stolen in defiance of a treaty with George Washington. The Onondaga Nation, one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee, is one of the few Native nations in North America that has retained its traditional government and language, and a portion of its ancestral lands.
“This film tells our story,” states Sid Hill, the Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). “It shares how as a nation we still raise up our leaders in our traditional way while maintaining our responsibilities to Mother Earth and our communities, as we have done for over a thousand years, and how we have remained relevant in a modern world.”
The movie explores the Onondaga Nation’s role in many of the environmental issues of our day, from Onondaga Lake to fracking to climate change, as well as the importance of lacrosse and the importance of traveling on their own passports. The movie also provides deep insights into the Onondaga Nation’s Land Rights Action, which was filed as a petition with the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in April 2014 after legal remedies were exhausted within the United States’ court system.
“Learning about the Treaty of Canandaigua was my moment of realizing the Onondaga Nation’s story needed to be told,” said filmmaker Gwendolen Cates. “George Washington promised recognition and protection of Haudenosaunee lands, and the cloth payments for that treaty still arrive at Onondaga every year. But New York State in defiance of the Canandaigua Treaty stole most of the Onondaga Nation’s lands. Onondaga Lake, where the Peacemaker brought together the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca Nations to form the Haudenosaunee confederacy over 1000 years ago, was so badly polluted that it became a Superfund site. And yet the Onondaga Nation continues to work with their neighbors to protect the lands from further degradation.”
Cates first met Onondaga Nation leaders in 2000 while working on her book, Indian Country. Numerous short film projects ultimately led to the creation of The Good Mind, including the award-winning film Guswenta about the 400th anniversary of the first treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in 2013.
“The Good Mind” will be shown on Friday June 10th at 9:15 PM and Sunday June 12 at 4 pm at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA) at 17 Algonquin Drive. A Q&A session with filmmaker Gwendolen Cates and Jake Edwards of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs will follow each screening. Additionally, there will be a panel discussion Saturday morning at 11 AM at the High Peaks Resort titled, “Inside the Making of a Contemporary Documentary: THE LAST GOLD and THE GOOD MIND,” featuring Cates, along with Brian Brown, director of THE LAST GOLD.
Tickets to each screening are $10 per person, available at the door, or online at www.lakeplacidarts.org. The Lake Placid Film Forum is marking its 15th anniversary and takes place from June 8-12.