PRESIDENT MORRIS’ INSTALLATION
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Barbara Jean Morris’ Oct. 5 inaugural address at her installation as SUNY Oneonta’s eighth president.
You might have noticed the symbol of a feather in a circle on my inaugural invitation, the cover of today’s program, and the banners behind the stages.
The Native American symbol of the circle best illustrates my desire for a community that is based on mutual understanding, respect, communication, and a shared commitment.
The feather is a tribute to my father. It is often described by native cultures (Source: Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemaker) that “Part of the role for the two-legged beside whom Red-Tailed Hawk flies is that of Guardian of the Earth Mother and her children.
“These individuals possess an astute awareness of the concept of the interconnectedness of all things and will have an inner reverence for all life. They are the souls who are involved in making the world a better place, whether locally or globally.
“Red feathers are not easily given and must instead be earned over time. Thus, the beauty and depth of the Spirit that shines brilliantly forth will be both an inspiration and guidance for others who may be just beginning or in the process of their own awakening.”
On the day and in the place my father passed, the red-tailed hawk laid its feathers. In honor of my father, I offer this adapted Cherokee poem by Bonnie Rae:
A moment in time is gone forever.
The wind is stirring,
My hair is blowing gently in the wind.
As I sit here on this highest hill,
I look into the valley below.
I see the herd, and the stallion in the lead,
His tail blowing free behind him
and his mare keeping pace beside him,
Mane flowing in the wind
as he races across the valley floor.
Softly, I hear a whisper in my ear –
O’siyo father, I hear you.
I know you are here beside me.
It has been awhile since last we talked.
I have missed you.
Your wisdoms and the stories of old,
I have longed to hear them once again.
Yes, they are beautiful, the horses below,
they are free as we once were, in the long ago.
The stallion has the spirit of the fire and
the swiftness of the wind.
Also the wisdom of mother earth to
lead his herd far from the dangers to grazing
that is pure and untainted.
He too must remember the camp fires
that used to glow in the night,
When our people and his kind
shared this beautiful land.
The time of peace and harmony.
Soon father, I will join you.
We will cross this land and remember
Ah, yes, I see brother hawk in
He too longs for those days as well.
Father, must you go soon?
I will wait for your return.
As father faded from my sight,
trees stir and I felt his touch upon my brow.
His words echoing in the wind –
Be well my child,
remember who you are…
As a feather drifted to land at my feet…