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Staff and Board

Betty Lyons

Betty Lyons, (Onondaga Nation, Snipe Clan)

  • President & Executive Director

Betty Lyons, President & Executive Director of the American Indian Law Alliance (AILA), is an Indigenous and environmental activist and citizen of the Onondaga Nation. Her native name, Gaen hia uh, meaning ‘small sky,’ was given to her by her Snipe Clan mother and has developed her love for the earth from her deep connection to her culture. Growing up Ms. Lyons learned a deep respect for the earth and the responsibility to protect it. Ms. Lyons worked together with the NOON organization (Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation) to educate and teach local communities about the culture of the Onondaga Nation to further a better understanding and to bridge the gap between the communities. Ms. Lyons has participated and organized rallies and demonstrations pushing for a ban on fracking in New York State, until a ban was achieved in December 2014. Betty Lyons has worked for the Onondaga Nation for over seventeen years as a Public Relations Representative, Manager of the Onondaga Nation Arena, and as Executive Assistant to Tadodaho Sidney Hill. She has been an active participant at the annual United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) since the first session in 2001 and has coordinated the opening ceremonies. For over 10 years, Ms. Lyons was the President of Onondaga Minor Athletic Club where she organized and managed over 15 youth sports team programs. Betty Lyons graduated from Cazenovia College ALA (2013), Bryant Stratton College Graduate of Paralegal Program Magna Cum Laude. She is also the hardworking mother of Garrett and Sid Jr.

Roger Drew

  • Research and Policy Advisor

Roger Drew has a bachelors degree focused on social justice and women’s studies and a graduate certificate in non-profit management. Before joining AILA in 2013, he had worked for years in social justice and human rights organizations and movements. He sits on the Board of Directors of the WESPAC Foundation, a 40 year-old social justice organization in Westchester County, NY. Among his awards and recognitions he is a past recipient of WESPAC’s annual Peace and Justice Award for his commitment to supporting youth activism.

Matthew Gonnella (Onondaga Heritage), International

  • Research Associate

Matthew attends Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire where he is graduating in May of 2015. Matthew is majoring in International Relations and Spanish with a minor in French. He is a three year captain for the Men’s Varsity Cross Country team and plans to attend to law school upon graduation where he will specialize in international law and human rights.


Chief Oren Lyons, Chairman (Onondaga Nation) is Faithkeeper, Grand Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee; an international activist for Native sovereignty; and Director of the Native Studies Program, SUNY Buffalo.

Herb Frichner, Treasurer, is an established fashion marketing entrepreneur with years of experience in the fashion industry. Mr. Frichner conceived, developed, operated and owned Panache New York, Ltd. for over thirty years; a fashion forward coat, rainwear and outerwear company targeted to the upscale, sophisticated, tasteful female consumer. He was frequently quoted in media venues and is considered a fashion marketing expert. Mr. Frichner has served as an adjunct associate professor in the Fashion Merchandising and Marketing Department of the Fashion Institute of Technology for the past thirty-five years and for a five year period as an assistant professor of marketing at Parson’s School of Design. Throughout his career, Mr. Frichner was a conscientious and socially responsible entrepreneur committed to philanthropy and a contributor to the welfare of consumers and society as a whole.

Leo Nolan III Leo J. Nolan III, M.Ed., (Akwesasne Mohawk Nation) was raised on the Onondaga Nation and has more than 40 years of experience in Indian health care and education. Mr. Nolan also plays a key role with the Center in developing partnerships with tribes and organizations that share similar values and goals and assisting in fund raising. Mr. Nolan retired from IHS in 2011 after 25 years the last 12 as the external affairs director. Mr. Nolan began his federal government career with the Indian Education Program and then the Department of Education, and has also worked at the BIA’s Indian Education Program, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and in the State University of New York system. Mr. Nolan is from the Onondaga Nation and is an enrolled member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation and has degrees from Syracuse University and the Pennsylvania State University. Mr. Nolan is also a Board Member of the Iroquois Nationals.

Brian Thompson MD.

Sandy Bigtree is an enrolled member of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. Born in Syracuse, she performed weekly on local radio & TV from age 3-18. Her band performed locally, throughout the 1970s. In 1980-82, she toured with the American Indian Community House’s theater troupe in NYC, also appearing at LaMama Theatre. From 1983-1985, she was Administrative Assistant to the American Indian Law Support Center at the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, CO. This experience clarified the unique sovereign status that the Onondaga Nation holds internationally, which sets them apart from the federally imposed Bureau of Indian Affairs governments that are under the “guardianship” of the US. Since returning to Syracuse, she has helped organize the “Two Row Conference in 1999,” “Roots of Peacemaking in 2006” and “Doctrine of Discovery Conference in 2014” She co-edited the NOON Booklet, is on the Planning Committee for Skä·noñh—the Great Law of Peace Center, and is a board member of the Indigenous Values Initiative.