Haudensonaunee Confederacy Chief, Daha’tgatdohs - Irving Powless Jr. passes on

Chief Irving Powless Jr., Daha’tgatdohs, Beaver Clan Chief, 88 years old of the Onondaga Nation walked on November 20th, 2017. He was born in Syracuse, the son of Chief Irving Powless Sr. and Cecelia (Tarbell) Powless who were active members of the Onondaga Nation.

A member of the Onondaga Nation Council, Chief Powless (Jr.), established an enduring legacy for his exceptional kindness and command of traditional law. He was an expert on Haudenosaunee and Onondaga treaties and shared his knowledge with ease and enthusiasm as a chief for his nation for nearly five decades.

He was fortunate in having the deep love of his wife, the late Helen (Jacobs) Powless, the support of his family and the universal respect of Native people across the continent. He was a man of exceptional natural gifts not the least of which was his famous quick wit, dry humor, and his ability to restore clarity and peace in times of stress. In return, he was a leader admired and loved across the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
Armed with the knowledge of his people’s treaty rights, he fought New York State and won, establishing the non-taxable status of the Haudenosaunee. He was active in research and action on land claims that included the U.S. government’s restoration of Onondaga Nation lands and upholding their treaty obligations. He never wavered in his belief that the Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee were independent peoples with the absolute right to self-determination.

Chief Powless was appointed as one of three delegates, alongside Faith Keeper Oren Lyons and (late) scholar, John Mohawk, by the Haudenosaunee Grand Council to speak about Haudenosaunee principles to the world. He was a scholar, author, avid hunter and leader who provided for his children and for those in need. He worked with the Onondaga Nation Council to obtain an addition to the Onondaga Nation School, a new health center on the Nation and to return sacred objects and wampum belts from museums to the Onondaga people.

He published several books, including his latest, “Who are These People Anyway?” A public lecturer and advocate for his people, he wanted the public and governments to have a better understanding of Native peoples.

A proud member of the CNY Chapter Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Chief Powless was a founder and lacrosse player for the Onondaga Athletic Club. He took great pride in being able to say that he was the only man to knock down Jim Brown in a lacrosse game.

He served in the U.S. Navy alongside his brother, Everette Powless, on the USS Randolph. He retired from Conrail in 1989 after 30 years of service.

During his eight decades of life he lived through the greatest technological, environmental and social changes in human history. He is now on his journey into the spirit world where he will be escorted back to the Creator’s land and met by Helen and his loved ones who have passed before him.

He is survived by his daughter, Nancy Powless and sons, Barry, Bradley (JoAnne), Neal (Michelle), two sisters, Phyllis Farmer, Beverly Powless and predeceased by his brothers, Hubert and Everette Powless. He has 10 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Calling hours took place at his home on Hemlock Road on the Onondaga Nation, Funeral services were held at the Onondaga Nation Longhouse.

The leaders and people of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy gathered at Onondaga December 3, 2017 to acknowledge the life of Rotianne Irv Powless. He passed into the spirit world on November 30 leaving his family and community in sorrow. When the Confederacy was formed by Skennenrahowi, the Peacemaker, he gave us words of condolence to be spoken at the funeral services of the chiefs, clanmothers, women, men and children. The following is what is said at the services of a rotianne (chief) of the League carried across the generations.

“Now we become reconciled as you start away.  You were once a chief of
the League of Five Nations, and the united people trusted you.  Now we release you, for it is true that it is no longer possible for us to walk about together on the earth.

Now, therefore, we lay it (the body) here.  Here we lay it away.  Now then we say to you, Persevere onward to the place where the Creator dwells in peace.  Let not the things of the earth hinder you.  Let nothing that transpired while you lived hinder you.  In hunting, you once delighted; in the game of lacrosse, you once took delight, and in the feast and pleasant occasions your mind was amused, but now do not allow thoughts of these things to give you trouble.
“Let not your relatives hinder you and also let not your friends and associates trouble your mind.  Regard none of these things.
“Now then, in turn, you here present who are related to the man, and you who were his friends and associates, behold the path that is yours also!  Soon we  ourselves will be left in that place.  For this reason, hold yourselves in restraint as you go from place to place.  In your actions and in your conversation do no idle thing.  Speak not idle talk, neither gossip.  Be careful of this, and speak not and do not give away to evil behavour.  One year is the time that you must abstain from unseeming levity, but if you can not do this for ceremony, ten days is the time to regard these things for respect.”