Photo source: Indian Country Today
We honor and mourn the passing of our dear friend and esteemed colleague Tonya Gonnella Frichner Esq., the great Native American lawyer and global freedom fighter for Indigenous peoples and Mother Earth.
We had the great honor and joy of connecting with Tonya in the mid-1990s when our late friend Sebia Hawkins first introduced us.
Tonya became a frequent Bioneers speaker and long-time ally. She was one of the most brilliant and courageous warriors for Indigenous rights throughout her life. Just being around Tonya made you feel loved and valued—she was among the kindest and most generous people we’ve ever known.
Tonya was a citizen of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Six Nations), and a member of the Snipe Clan.
As a lawyer and activist, her good work was felt around the world. She served as the Haudenosaunee representative to the UN for three decades. She was North American Representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and she was instrumental in the historic drafting, negotiations and passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Tonya founded the American Indian Law Center that has worked tirelessly for sovereignty, human rights and social justice for First Peoples. She taught extensively and received countless awards.
Tonya was one of a kind. We miss you, and we celebrate your life and legacy. We offer condolences and well wishes to her beloved husband Herb Frichner.
As Haudenosaunee Tadodaho Sidney Hill wrote in Indian Country Today, “She will return to the Mother Earth that she loved and cherished so well, with the respect, honor and love of our people.”