Cornell University's American Indian Program will honor elders Wilma Mankiller, former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, and Tom Porter, spokesman and chief spiritual leader of the Mohawk community of Kanatsiohareke, in Fonda, N.Y., on Friday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in David L. Call Auditorium of Kennedy Hall on campus. The event is free and open to the public.
The program will recognize and celebrate their decades of work with Native communities. Several prominent Native scholars are scheduled to speak about Mankiller's and Porter's work, including John Mohawk, Katsi Cook, Dagmar Thorpe and Debra La Fountaine.
Mankiller served as the first woman principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995. She also served as the founding director of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department, which received several national awards for innovative use of self-help for building housing and water systems in impoverished communities. She also co-authored Mankiller: A Chief and Her People in 1993 and was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
Porter has been a nationally recognized figure in Indian country since the 1960s, when he co-founded the "White Roots of Peace." Composed of Iroquois elders, the group toured the country sharing traditional teachings and encouraging Native people to embrace their respective traditions. Porter also is an inspirational speaker on the destructive effects of substance abuse on Indian families, communities and nations.
The presentation is part of a forum that will examine the trends and challenges facing Native communities in the 21st century. The forum, "American Indian Millennium: Renewing Our Ways of Life for Future Generations," will be from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 at Cornell's Statler Hotel.
The forum is being hosted by the Cornell American Indian Program's Akwe:kon Press/Native Americas Journal ; LifeWay, a project of Tides Center; and Indian Country Today . It is being supported by contributions from W.K. Kellogg Foundation, First Nations Development Institute Opportunity Fund, the Ettinger Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, French American Charitable Trust and Joshua Mailman.