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Holy Road

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Surrounded by her loved ones, Mary “Maisie” Shenandoah, YakolihunyΛni, “She Teaches,” has passed into the spirit world. She was born July 12, 1932 on the Onondaga Nation Territory south of Syracuse, N.Y. Daughter of the late Mary Cornelius Winder and Samuel Winder, Maisie was a Wolf Clan Mother of the Oneida Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois) Confederacy in New York state. As a clan mother she had the duty of selecting leaders from within her clan, serving as a political adviser, spiritual leader and spokesperson for the Oneida people.

Primarily an educator and matriarch of the Oneida people, she was also a performing artist, tribal historian, an avid collector of Native American art and an astute businesswoman. Maisie operated a trading post, participated in American Indian gatherings throughout the country and organized hundreds of cultural and educational presentations in the northeast.

Throughout her travels she encouraged Native American people to look with pride upon their heritage and to assert their rights as indigenous nations with kindness and friendship. After her marriage to Onondaga Chief Clifford Shenandoah they moved their family back to the ancestral territory of the Oneidas in 1961 and re-established a dynamic Oneida presence in the region. Her life’s dream, as passed on to her by her mother, was to create a homeland for all Oneidas.

She was selected as Clan Mother in 1977 and fulfilled her duties for the next 30 years. Known as the “Matriarch of the Oneida people,” she passed on her passion for Oneida culture to her children, family members and countless numbers of Oneidas and travelers to the Oneida territory who found comfort in her home. No one ever left her house without enjoying a warm meal, her unique humor, generosity and hospitality.

She was profiled in many publications including the books “Wisdomkeepers” and “Wisdom’s Daughters.” She played a vital role in the Oneida land claims begun by her mother, Mary Winder and her aunt, Delia Waterman 80 years ago. She was a staunch defender of the treaty rights of not only the Oneidas but all Haudenosaunee and other Native peoples for which she was honored by the National Organization for Women.

Maisie Shenandoah is survived by her children Gerald Schenandoah (Cheryl), Wanda Wood Lyons (Laverne), Joanne Shenandoah (Doug George Kanentiio), Diane Schenandoah, Vicki Schenandoah (Matt Jones), and Danielle Schenandoah; her twin sister, Elizabeth Robert (Raymond), sisters Gloria Halbritter and Ramona Beglen; 20 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and hundreds of other relatives.

“Throughout the years I have experienced many difficult times, but the Creator has always given me the strength to continue on. I have witnessed moments that have caused great stress to our Oneida people. I have spent countless hours in defense of our sovereignty, land and traditional ways. One day we will again stand before the world as a people who have overcome great odds and survived as a nation,” said Maisie Shenandoah in “Wisdom’s Daughters.”

Friends and family paid their respects Dec. 2 – 4 at the home of Wanda and Laverne Lyons, 512 Main St., Oneida, N.Y. 13421. Her services were held at the Oneida Nation Longhouse on the 32 acre territory on Route 46, in Oneida, N.Y. Dec. 5, after which she was buried in the Shenandoah/Robert family cemetery overlooking Oneida Territory on Peterboro Hill, Forrest Avenue, Oneida. Call (315) 363-1655 for more information.