Sjisäwishék’ Youth Invited to Sing at United Nations ForumAlmost half a century ago, Haudenosaunee leaders from the Onondaga Nation began their fight to have indigenous issues addressed at the United Nations. In July of 2000, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was formed, and its first meeting was held in 2002. The Permanent Forum meets annually for two weeks to discuss indigenous issues related to the economic and social development of culture, the environment, education, health, and human rights.
This April marked the 18th annual forum at the United Nations. But for the first time, the Onondaga Nation’s Sjisäwishék’ group was invited to the Permanent Forum to perform Haundenosaunee women’s dance songs! The Permanent Forum appreciated the intentions of the children, and what the youth were accomplishing by honoring and learning more about their culture and learning their language. Being invited to the United Nations to sing these songs was an overwhelming distinction, and provided the children with the opportunity to honor the Haudenosaunee who fought to have indigenous issues addressed in the United Nations so many years ago.
Sjisäwishék’, or, “Keeping the fire strong”, was created by a group of Oñgwehoñ women with the intent to empower youth by teaching them about culture, healthy coping mechanisms, and how to build strong bonds within the community. These children represent the Onondaga Nation’s future, and their knowledge, health, and well-being strengthens the survival of these teachings.
Sjisäwishék’ has incorporated a community connection by teaching youth how to cook traditional foods, make their own traditional clothing, and how to sing women’s dance songs, as community members have been brought in to share their knowledge. The youth have also had the opportunity to meet children in other Oñgwehoñ youth groups, and share knowledge. Sjisäwishék’ has been building a connected feeling of family amongst the members, as well as with the community.
The Onondaga Nation School students who were involved in performing women’s songs at the United Nations were: Sophia Hill (eighth grade), Kaidence Cronin (sixth grade), Makayla Girvan (sixth grade), Chevelle Cronin (third grade), Sid Hill Jr (third grade), Adrianna Paige (second grade), Gia Elm (second grade) and Kori Elm (kindergarten). For more information about about the visit (including youth reaction), please click here.