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Onondaga Nation Chief Irving Powless Jr. dies at 88



Onondaga Nation Chief Irving Powless Jr. poses for a portrait in this 2008 photo. Powless died Thursday.

Onondaga Nation Chief Irving Powless Jr. poses for a portrait in this 2008 photo. Powless died Thursday.

ONONDAGA NATION — Onondaga Nation Chief Irving Powless Jr. died Thursday. He was 88.

Powless was the chief of the Beaver Clan of the Onondaga Nation. He was a leader on and off the Onondaga Nation as a lecturer, author, teacher, lacrosse player and protector of the environment, according to his family.

He served as secretary of the Onondaga Council of Chiefs for more than 30 years and was an avid historian of his people. Powless received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2009 from Syracuse University.

Former SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor described Powless at the ceremony as a historian, ambassador, actor, musician, veteran, defender of the environment and champion of justice.

“You embody the wisdom of centuries,” Cantor said. “As a key spokesperson for the Haudenosaunee nations, you have opened the minds of many to self-determination rights.”

To his family, Powless was a loving and supportive father and grandfather, who was quick with a joke and never let you forget that one time he knocked down the great Jim Brown with the hip check in a lacrosse game, said Neal Powless, his son.


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