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Published: Tuesday, 7/4/2006

Voice of the 'Indian way'

ONE of the best things to be said of someone at their passing is that he or she left the world a better place. And so it was with Joyce "Snowfeather" Mahaney, a woman of courage and conviction who grew up on an Indian reservation in North Dakota and later moved to Toledo, a place where native Americans remain a distinct minority.

However, few Toledoans today are unfamiliar with Mrs. Mahaney. They knew her as the founder of the American Indian Intertribal Association, and they knew her as a persuasive voice in the community, and in The Blade's Readers' Forum, for causes important to her people.

As willing as she was to stand up on behalf of all native Americans, she always articulated what mattered most to her with solemn dignity and simple truths.

We recall an incident five years ago during excavation work for a stockade fence at Fort Meigs State Historic Park, when human remains were accidentally unearthed. The bones, believed to be Native American remains as much as 1,400 years old, were excavated and shipped off to a Columbus laboratory.

"That's desecration," Mrs. Mahaney said. "It's so disconcerting. Archaeologists forget that those bones were human beings. They keep them in boxes in basements. We get very offended by that. Those are our ancestors. They're not lab animals."

Her reverence for those who have gone before is a quality more of us should embrace.

Mrs. Mahaney was also a wonderful educational resource. She established an annual pow-wow that continues to teach adults and children alike about her culture and heritage, what she called the "Indian way." May her work live on, along with her memory.

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