Students at Syracuse University (NY) in search of mental health support can now meet with Diane Schenandoah, a faith keeper of the Oneida Nation, also known as Honwadiyenawa’sek, or “one who helps them.” She is a member of the institution’s counseling staff, incorporating Indigenous teachings and techniques such as ceremonial rituals and hands-on energy work to foster healing. Her position is designed to provide Indigenous students with a safe space where they can cope with stress and trauma while also connecting with their spirituality. Plus, it’s to help the broader campus community learn more about Indigenous culture.

“It’s wonderful working with the young people here at Syracuse, and it’s helped quite a few of them define their centers for balance as we’re trying to understand our roles as human beings,” Schenandoah told Inside Higher Ed.

“It’s hard for Indigenous students to talk to someone who isn’t Indigenous regarding our mental health or about our culture because they wouldn’t understand where we come from and the energy we give off,” said Tehosterihens Wes Deer, a Syracuse senior who is studying communications and rhetorical studies.

“Hiring Diane is just one piece of a larger plan to the commitment that the university made years ago in having a strong connection with the Indigenous community,” Allen Groves, senior vice president and chief student experience officer at Syracuse, told the publication.

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