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Seneca Filmmaker Top Grad, Commencement Speaker at Syracuse

Go Seneca! Native filmmaker is top grad and speaker at Syracuse.
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Seneca Wolf Clan filmmaker Terry Jones, a Haudenosaunee Promise Scholar, Udall Scholar and Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipient was the Syracuse graduation commencement speaker Friday at the Syracuse University College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).

In addition to those awards, Jones was also awarded the highest honor given at Syracuse University, the University Scholarship, which is only awarded to 12 students.

As the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college, Jones is already making waves as a Native filmmaker as his film, Give and Take earned him the Emerging Filmmaker award at the LA Skins Fest in 2015.

After the convocation, Jones’ mother, Alberta Jones (Seneca Wolf Clan), expressed what her sons impressive graduation meant to her: with a smile she said simply, “Everything”.

Photo: Alex Hamer

Alberta Jones, Seneca, Wolf Clan, Terry Jones, and his father Jimmy Jones, Seneca, Turtle Clan

Jones says he tried lacrosse due to expectations as an Iroquois, but he decided it wasn’t for him. “I was drawn to storytelling.”

He explained. “I never thought I was better than anyone else, I worked hard because I was afraid of not being good enough.”

His speech at the VPA convocation covered the range of his studies, include his study of art history and filmmaking in Italy, the Czech Republic and Los Angeles, and how he intends to contribute to the Indigenous community as he pursues a master’s degree in film studies.

“As a filmmaker and storyteller, my time here at Syracuse University mirrored that of a hero on an academic journey. I am a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians and my home is the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation about 60 miles south of Niagara Falls.

Photo: Alex Hamer

Alberta Jones, Seneca, Wolf Clan, Terry Jones, and his father Jimmy Jones, Seneca, Turtle Clan

“I would like to use my art as an agent of change. Like many communities, my Native home territory is confronted with many issues that diminish our quality of life. This includes loss of language, drug abuse, diabetes, environmental dangers, public safety and injustice. It is my hope that my future film projects will promote and facilitate dialogues that can change public policy.”

Some of Jones’ work can be seen here.