©Marilu Lopez Fretts/Four Directions Media
Tonya Gonnella Frichner walked on February 14, 2015. She will be missed by many.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner Will Be Missed By Many

Gale Courey Toensing

A citizen of the Onondaga Nation, whose Snipe Clan name was Gowanahs, Tonya Gonnella Frichner left peacefully during the first hour of February 14, 2015 surrounded by family members and friends in her New Jersey home after a valiant decade-long battle with cancer. She was 67.

RELATED: Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Monumental Figure in Indigenous Rights Struggle, Has Passed

Here are some of the comments ICTMN received as news of Tonya Gonnella Frichner’s passing spread:

Tia Peters, Executive Director, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples:

“She was a warrior diplomat, An amazing force for good to be reckoned with, Tonya’s vision, leadership and brilliant diplomacy on the international landscape has advanced human rights for Indigenous Peoples of the world and has changed lives and realities across the globe. She had a sincere grace, integrity, and style that no one could match. Her direct focus on Indigenous Peoples’ rights and in particular her decades of work for the security and well being of Native women and girls, has set a clear pathway for us all to learn from and to follow… May Tonya’s luminous spirit and energy stay with us for the collective good of all. No one can replace her. All we can only do is honorably mourn her loss and try our best to individually and collectively achieve her high standards of dignity, generosity, and respect in the future.”

John Dieffenbacher-Krall, Executive Director, Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission:

“I spent the better part of a weekend with Tonya in October 2010 when I helped arrange for her to meet with Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis at Indian Island and a number of Passamaquoddy leaders and community members at Motahkmikuk. Though these meetings preceded a speaking engagement she had at the University of Maine at Augusta on October 24 resulted in a demanding travel schedule for Tonya, she endured the many hours in my car with enthusiasm and extreme interest in learning about the political situation faced by the Penobscot Nation, Passamaquoddy Tribe, and Wabanaki in general.

“Tonya always exhibited the utmost grace, poise, and kindness. She was extremely intelligent and wise, but she had the remarkable quality of making anyone around her feel comfortable and at ease. My wife and son fondly remember her visit to our home. She always asked about Ann and Nick. Family was extremely important to Tonya. She was so proud of her heritage and identity while skillfully working in the colonial settler world. I and doubtless countless others will greatly miss Tonya. We can honor her best by continuing to pursue justice for Indigenous Peoples as she did in such an exemplary way.”

Andrea Carmen, Executive Director, International Indian Treaty Council:

“Our sincere condolences to Tonya’s husband Herb, who took such good care of her in her illness, and her family, friends co-workers and members of her Nation for this tremendous loss… We sat together at the UN General Assembly the day [the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] was adopted, and shared many other times of struggle, laughter and good conversation over the years. We both liked clothes and jewelry a lot, were about the same size, and traded some pieces though the years.

“I spoke with [colleagues and] we shared fond memories and stories about this incredible women who was beautiful inside and out, always had kind words, patience, respect and an understanding heart, and never wavered from her principles and passion for justice, rights and the spiritual basis for all of this work. The last time I saw her was at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, and she looked as engaged and vibrant as ever. I want to remember her just like that. Our prayers go out for her journey to the longhouse of her ancestors as she makes her way to join them in great honor, and to her family and wide circle of friends in their time of loss.”

Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale School of Forestry:

“Our condolences to Tonya’s family and to all who worked with her. We first met Tonya when we taught at Becknell University in Pennsylvania. Our good friend and lacrosse coach, Sid Jamieson, helped invite Tonya for a talk and discussions. She brought so much that was good, informative and challenging to that work. Every time I heard her she presented new approaches and fresh insights.”

Philip Arnold, Associate Professor, Religion, Syracuse University:

“Tonya was a remarkable person. She was deeply kind and respectful of everyone she encountered. She embodied the principles of The Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee. This proved to be her strength in negotiations among Indigenous Peoples and at the United Nations on their behalf. Through her warmth and determination she had a way of inspiring people to see the larger implications of their work toward justice for Indigenous Peoples and for Mother Earth. I am grateful to have known her.”

Tony Simpson, Australian indigenous rights activist, member of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs and author of Indigenous Heritage and Self-Determination: The Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

“We have lost to this lifetime a great colleague; a powerful, dedicated and accomplished leader of outstanding capacity.

“Her unwavering commitment to essential and fundamental principles was exemplary and inspiring. I had the privilege of knowing Tonya, as a close friend and colleague, having worked alongside her for over 30 years on the international dimensions of indigenous rights. I was delighted to have been able to accept her invitation to join the American Indian Law Alliance delegation as an advisor at various international forums on numerous occasions. The friendship that developed was deep and mutually supportive.

“Tonya leaves behind a great legacy of achievements. She will be missed, not only by her close family, colleagues and friends, to whom I offer my condolences, but by the broader indigenous and human rights community at large.

“I'm particularly regretful about not being able to make it to New York from Australia for the funeral services. Instead I send my heartfelt prayers for Tonya’s transition to the higher planes.

“With love, respect and in peace and friendship, I say... farewell… my friend Tonya on the paths ahead.”

Read more about Tonya below:

RELATED: Tonya Gonnella Frichner: ‘Mother Earth Is a Relative, Not a Resource’

RELATED: Video: Gonnella Frichner Delivers Doctrine Report to UNPFII

RELATED: Mixed Reviews on United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Progress

RELATED: Tonya Gonnella Frichner Among Honorary Degree Recipients at Colby College

RELATED: UNPFII Panel Discusses Doctrine of Discovery

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