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Ellen McCauley
Poet
In 1964, my cherished grandmother took me on a 90-minute bus trip from Elmira Heights to Syracuse. That journey took me through a portal to another dimension. My ten-year-old self gasped at the tall buildings, the stores, and how I loved the amazing zoo! Right then I knew I’d settle in Syracuse one day.

Coming home, I asked my Gramma what “Onondaga” meant. I still recall the vivid portrait she painted of those who have lived here beyond the reach of memory. Growing up, we didn’t have much, but my beloved mother preached hard work and education. In 1972, her love and advice propelled me to Lemoyne College. I have happily called Syracuse my home ever since.

A long-time fan of the Syracuse Poster Project, I was eager to write a poem when I read this year’s theme, choosing the “spirit of ancestral guidance.” It’s my belief that one can’t speak of the “spirit of Syracuse” without honoring our indigenous women and men. Although not Onondaga myself, my own family spirit guides have taught me the value of each person and of the earth we live on, lessons lived by the Onondaga Nation and mirrored in the shadows of their ancestors.

From the fog,
the sound of ancient drums.
Sheltering mist embraces spectral dancers. My people

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