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Neal Powless

From Athlete to Academic, a Journey of Survival

Neal J. Powless, MS, NCC, and PhD Fellow at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, is a traditional member of the Onondaga Nation and Eel Clan.     As a Co-Producer for the Major Motion Picture “Crooked Arrows”, Mr. Powless was responsible for Native story line development, cultural sensitivity and procuring financial investments. He co-produced the NY Emmy Nominated “Game of Life; Heart and Soul of the Onondaga” a short documentary about the cultural origins of the game of lacrosse, as well as collaborated with ESPN on multiple film projects.

Mr. Powless has taught courses & presented across the country for nearly 20 years about Indigenous culture and value systems. He is the Co-Founder/Co-Owner of Indigenous Concepts Consulting, a firm that he currently runs with his wife, Michelle, to bridge Native American ideals and culture with organizations and individuals all over the world.
He is a producer and participant on the film: An Indigenous Response to #MeToo which is free on Vimeo. He has been screening the film and conducting community dialogues around sexual assault at college campuses and communities who have restorative justice programs. Also, in 2018, one of his PhD papers was published in the book Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Since 2014, Mr. Powless has been the Head Coach for the Netherlands National Lacrosse team that competed in Denver in 2014 and the 2016 European Lacrosse Championships in Hungary were they placed 7th. in 2017 he transitioned to the Netherlands National Box Lacrosse team. in 2017 they placed 19th in Europe, but in 2019 placed 8th in the world in the World Championships in Vancouver, Canada.
He was a 3-time All-American lacrosse player which led to his 7-year professional lacrosse career. He played for the Iroquois Nationals in 6 World Lacrosse Championships and made the tournament’s All-World Team in 2002. Mr. Powless has won a total of 5 Professional and National Championships in his career and was inducted into the Nazareth College Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and the US Lacrosse, CNY Chapter Hall of Fame in 2017.

He formerly served Syracuse University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and Career Services. Mr. Powless has a Masters in Counseling from Syracuse University and a BS in Psychology from Nazareth College. His current PhD researched is about Indigenous imagery in contemporary Major Motion Pictures.                                                                                                

He resides in Upstate New York with his wife, Michelle Schenandoah-Powless and their 4 children. 

Key Points About Our Chat

  • My whole life I had been an athlete and celebrated my gifts playing the sport of lacrosse, which was invented by my ancestors, on a professional and world stage. A mysterious lung illness not only ended my career in my prime, but it also took my life during an exploratory lung surgery. When I woke up in the ICU, I realized that I needed to make changes not only to my physical, but my mental, emotional, and spiritual being as well.
  • Grieving the loss of athletic competition, I had to reinvent myself as an academic. I submersed myself into counseling training, where I was forced to confront demons I had long ignored. I faced traumas like the grief I still held on to over the loss of my mother 5 years earlier, bystander silence of abused women and a disconnect I felt with my indigenous language and deeper understanding of my cultural stories.
  • When I opened those channels of my life, I was able to find the love I had always been searching for as I was approaching my 40th birthday. When I had finally worked through my traumas, I was able to love myself, and thus, love found me. This has transformed my previous work as a counselor, an Ombuds, a film producer, a public speaker and most importantly in my personal relations as a father and member of the 6 Indigenous Nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. I have expanded my knowledge within my culture to better understand healing practices that are thousands of years old that help me in my daily life. 

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