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Tonya Gonnella Frichner papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00703

Scope and Contents

Primarily professional papers including final reports, proposals, digital photographs, conference proceedings, presentations, and a variety of pamphlets and informational booklets. Major topics include social conditions and legal status of North American Indians, and related issues such as health care, environmental issues, land rights, and international rights of indigenous peoples.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1977 - 2014


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that she owns copyright, Tonya Gonnella Frichner has assigned the copyright in her works to Smith College; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Tonya Gonnella Frichner, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Tonya Gonnella Frichner was born in Syracuse, New York, the daughter of Maxine and Henry Gonnella. A citizen of the Onondaga Nation (Snipe Clan), she has devoted her personal and professional life to ensuring human rights for Indigenous Peoples, both within North America and around the world. Frichner graduated from St. John's Catholic Academy, a high school in Syracuse. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree, magna cum laude, from St. John's University in New York City in 1980 and her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law in 1987. Shortly after graduating from law school, Frichner served as a delegate for and was of legal counsel to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy at the UN Sub-Commission on the Human Rights/Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva, Switzerland. Also since 1987, she has sat on the Board of Directors and serves as legal counsel to the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Project, the national team of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. She sits on several other boards, including the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development and the Boarding School Healing Project.

In 1989 Frichner founded, and has served as President since then, of the American Indian Law Alliance, an Indigenous Peoples advocacy group based in New York City. The Alliance is a NGO with Consultative Status to the United Nations Social and Economic Council and Frichner has also served a three-year term (2008-2010) as the North American Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Simultaneously, she has taught Federal Indian Law, Human Rights Law and Native American History at several New York City-area colleges and universities, including City College, the City University of New York (1991-1999); Hunter College (1993); New York University (1994); and Manhattanville College (2000-2008). Tonya Gonnella Frichner resides in New Jersey with her husband, Herb Frichner, a businessman and Adjunct Associate Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her work, including the Harriet Tubman Humanitarian Achievement Award, the Female Role Model of the Year from the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Thunderbird Indian of the Year Award,the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the NY County Lawyers Association Award for Outstanding Public Service. She also received an honorary degree from Colby College in 2012. She died February 14, 2015.


7.068 Gigabytes

2.62 Gigabytes (11,182 digital file)

39.438 linear feet (38 containers)

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian



Lawyer; President and Founder, American Indian Law Alliance; Professor of Native American History, Law and Human Rights. Primarily professional papers. Major topics include social conditions and legal status of North American Indians, and related issues such as health care, environmental issues, land rights, and international rights of indigenous peoples.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request access to this digital content.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Tonya Frichner, 2012-2015.


Case files containing attorney-client privileged information from Frichner's work with the American Indian Law Alliance were transferred to the Alliance in November 2022.

Processing Information

Accessioned by Kathleen Banks Nutter and Jesse Kline, 2013

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Tonya Gonnella Frichner papers
Finding Aid
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:21-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-05-19: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2020-06-23: Additional born-digital content described
  • 2021-08024: Added inventory to accession 2015-S-0038 and updated dates
  • 2022-11-07: Updated to account for transfer of material to AILA

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063