Chief Oren Lyons Jr. grew up on the Onondaga Reservation. Lyons learned his goalkeeping skills by watching his father, Oren Lyons Sr., knock down shots with some of the quickest hands in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. At 17, stories placed Lyons was in the nets against the awesome Angus Thomas, who had been banished for accidentally killing a player with his heavy shot. Thomas, trying to prove he was as good as ever, wound up and fired an underhand shot that slammed into Lyons chest and knocked him back into the net. Although Lyons landed three broken ribs that day, he walked away with much more: his manhood and the makings of a legendary goalie.
At Syracuse, Lyons was a third team All-American in 1957 and 1958, and an honorable mention All-American in 1956. A team co-captain in 1957 and 1958, Lyons won Syracuse University's Laurie Cox Award and the Orange Key Award in 1957.
Lyons played club lacrosse for the New York Lacrosse Club from 1959-65, the New Jersey Lacrosse Club from 1966-70 and the Onondaga Athletic Club from 1970-72. In 1988, Lyons was inducted to the Syracuse University Sports Hall of Fame. In 1989, he received the Howdy Myers Man of the Year Award and was recognized with the Syracuse University Letterman of Distinction Award. In 1991, he received the Howard E. Johnson Award and was inducted to the Upstate New York Chapter of the Lacrosse Foundation Hall of Fame.
Lyons is the honorary chairman of the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse team. He is Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and a leading advocate of American Indian causes. Lyons is a member of the Human Rights Division of the United Nations and one of the authors of "Exiled in the Land of the Free."