Chief Irving Powless Jr of the Onondaga Nation has died at the age of 88. Chief Powless crossed over in November; no official cause of death was given.
Onondaga Nation Chief Irving Powless Jr. poses for a portrait in this 2008 photo taken from a Facebook post.
Powless was the Chief of the Daha‘tgatdohs, Beaver Clan; a teacher , lecturer, author, protector of the environment, a historian for the Nation, served as the secreatryfor the Onondaga Coucil of Chiefs for many years, and played lacrosse.
Along with being a Chief of his clan, Powless served in the United States Navy during World War II along side his brother Everett on the USS Randolph. He worked for Conrail for over 30 years before retiring in 1989.
One of Poweless’ biggest historical moments was from his own personal history – the time he hip checked legendary football player Jim Brown during a lacrosse game, putting Brown on the ground.
A lover of the ancient Native game of lacrosse, Chief Powless founded the Onondaga Athletic Club where he also played. He is also a member of the Central New York Chapter Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Speaking on Chief Powless, son Neal said, “the greatest gift that he gave me was the gift to dream;” adding, “and a faith that everything was going to work out.”
The Onondaga Nation is one of the six Nations of the Iroquios Confederation who makes their home in the ecntral New York area.
Powless was an expert when it came to Onondaga Nation treaties, using his knowledge for legal battles with New York state. It was Poweless who won the Haudenosaunee Confederacy their non-taxable status. He also used his knowledge as a historian and treaty expert to ensure the Nation was not cheated out of its land claims.
Predeceased by his wife Helen; Chief Powless is survived by children Nancy, Barry, Bradley, and Neal; siblings Phyllis and Beverly; 10 grandchildren; eight great grandchildren; and many neices and nephews.