Wednesday 7 December 2022
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“The Good Mind,” Film Featuring Onondaga Nation, to Premiere at Film Festival

By Staff


good_mind-300x222The Good Mind,” a new film featuring the Onondaga Nation, will premiere Feb. 27 during the 13th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Montana.

New York filmmaker Gwendolen Cates said the film is about the Nation’s relationships with ancestors, governments, and each other.

“Learning about the Treaty of Canandaigua was my moment of realizing the Onondaga Nation’s story needed to be told,” Cates stated. “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.”

The Onondaga Nation, one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee, is one of the few Native nations in North America which has retained its traditional government, and language, and a portion of its ancestral lands. “The Good Mind” follows Onondaga Nation leaders, as they continue the efforts of their ancestors to protect their sovereignty and culture, seek justice for the wrongs done to their traditional lands, and work to prevent further harm, Cates said.

Onondaga Nation leaders have frequently spoken about the need to ban fracking, take action on climate change, and called for the full clean-up of Onondaga Lake.

“This film takes on the amazing task of showing how, as a traditional 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,” Sid Hill, the Tadodaho, or sitting chief, of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) stated.

Cates earned the privilege of working with the Onondagas through many years of relationship-building.

Her first exposure to the Onondaga Nation was in 2000, while working on her book, Indian Country.

Then, following numerous short film projects, including the award-winning film “Guswenta,” a film about the 400th anniversary of the first treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in 2013, she created “The Good Mind.”

According to Cates, she also has an indirect connection to the Haudenosaunee, which she discovered while looking at the 1748 Treaty of Lancaster one day with Onondaga Nation Faithkeeper Oren Lyons.

“The treaty listed all of the parties present,” she stated. “Including the governor of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Shoemaker, a Quaker. I said to Oren, ‘That’s my ancestor!’ Seven generations ago, our ancestors were having meetings together.”

The proceedings of the Treaties of Lancaster were printed by Benjamin Franklin, who ultimately included many concepts from Haudenosaunee confederacy government in the Albany Plan of Union, which was the predecessor to the Constitution, Cates said.

“The Good Mind” is scheduled to be shown in the “Crystal” venue at the festival.