Follow along the story of the Wendat man Deganawida, also known as the Great Peacemaker, and Anishinaabe Warrior Hiawatha on the journey they took to spread the message of the Great Law of Peace among the Haudenosaunee (Five Nations, now six) Confederacy.
Nctr 94 calls to action
#47: We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.
implement Call to action #47
This project in an effort to showcase Traditional Indigenous Law and why Call to Action #47 needs to be implemented immediately. All Indigenous Nations across Turtle Island have their own forms of governance, it is time everyone learned about them. Logo for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation used with permission from the University of Manitoba.
Each day we will be sharing Wampums from the Kayanere'kowa, and it will take 110 days to do them individually.
We're doing this on purpose, because anyone can just go look it up. We want you to think about it, each and every one for the words they hold; showing the ancient roots we hold and the traditions that influence our thinking within our governance structures.
What led to this point, the first Wampum? The answer lies within the women, specifically Jigonsase who is considered the "Mother of Nations". When Deganawida and Hiawatha were on their journey they came upon her home where all were welcome, and there were to be no enemies when they sat at her fire and ate her food.
It was through her that the structure of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy would be through clan families who dealt with all the issues; the message of Peace which the Peacemaker carried was put to action through this meeting, and the exceptional oration of Hiawatha (after who the Confederacy belt is named).
As time the days go by, you will see the power truly does lay with the people. Women are the foundation of the Nations, and the titles of men lay with them and the women of the clan; always accountable for their actions.
a wendat messenger
The Peacemaker, Deganawida was born in what is now Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory on the Bay of Quinte, or properly called Kenhteke (which translates to "at the bay").
Traditionally we never named our locations after people, this is a colonial ideal, we named places after landmarks; this is consistent with all Territories.
Born Wendat, Deganawida grew up close with his grandmother during a time of war and turmoil; they say people were even eating each other. As he grew, he had a vision of Peace that could be spread throughout the land and end the wars. By this time everyone had forgotten the reason they were fighting and it was a circle of revenge.
When he grew, Deganawida crafted a canoe made of white stone and set off to deliver his message to whoever would listen. Along the way he witnessed blood in the water, human bones in piles, and a man crying on the edge of the water.
As he approached the man he introduced himself as Deganawida of the Wendat and asked if he could help him lift his spirit. The man agreed and introduced himself as Hiawatha, an Anishinaabe man who had lost all seven of his daughters and wife to the ongoing wars.
Deganawida performed what is called a condolence ceremony with Hiawatha and lifted his mind helped with the grieving process. When the ceremony was finished, Deganawida explained his journey to spread Peace among all Nations. Hiawatha was thankful for the ceremony offered to be his orator in return on the journey. This was a great help to Deganawida because it is said that he either had a speech impediment, or had difficulty speaking because of a deformity in his mouth.
The condolence ceremonies are an important part of the Confederacy structure and will get into that later on. As they continued on, their discussion was on a different level. That of which everyone had forgotten, people needed to remember what was important and needed to be fought for. Personal greed had turned people into literal monsters.
Wars are still raging, but it isn't among our own people. It's now the colonizers that have not only raped, murdered, enslaved, and pillaged people of color in the past, but they continue to this day. When Deganawida and Hiawatha were on their journey, war was a focus of their discussion. Not because they wanted to wage it, but because they could both strategize on how to end it.
Hiawatha was a warrior of the Anishinaabe people, and Deganawida carried a special gift from the Wendat people that needed to be protected. Together, they were still at a loss on how to spread their message effectively. They came across the home of Jigonsase, a Seneca woman, on the warrior path; all warriors were welcome to her home to rest and eat when they were on their journey. The only rule was there were no enemies between those who ate her food in her home.
foundation of society
When the two men presented their vision to her, she helped them by forming the clan system into an effective governance system. (Full story in Bay of Quinte Discovery Guide written by @andrewbrant87)
The clan system is the foundation of social, political, and spiritual existence of the Nations of the Haudenosaunee. Any member of a clan regardless of Nation are considered family.
Because of her influence and good standing among nations she was assigned an important role, which gave her the nickname "Mother of Nations".
Deganawida gave Jigonsase the task of assigning the men to different positions at the first Grand Council, and to women in the future the power as Clan Mothers to choose the Chiefs of the Longhouse.
To fight against the natural world is to be divided in your own body and mind, we are all dependent on Creation and need to be thankful (daily, not once each year). The position of the warriors and war chief are not to wage war, but seek peaceful resolution and defend creation at all costs.
Before this could happen, they needed to journey farther and find a Nation that would accept this message of "Peace, Power, and a Good Mind".
They needed to be powerful, and willing to die for what they believed in. They set out knowing exactly where their next destination would be.
Deganawida and Hiawatha left the home of Jigonsase rested, fed, and ready continue on their way. During their discussions they intended on seeking out one of the most frightening Nations of the time.
They knew they needed to seek as much help as they could if they wanted to see this vision of Peace through. They began their journey down through the Mohawk river valley and found themselves at the edge of Mohawk Territory.
When they arrived, they prepared camp again and started a fire. They let the fire pierce the sky, making it visible enough to see from the village of the Mohawks. Eventually, warriors came to see who was at the edge of the woods.
The edge of the woods ceremony is even older than the law itself, this is what was done when the men all met. Deganawida introduced himself as Wendat and carrier of a message, then Hiawatha introduced himself as an Anishinaabe man assisting with the message.
When they explained to the Mohawk warriors the vision, there was disbelief in how it was supposed to be effective; he was challenged to "work with creation" to prove his message was real.
Deganawida agreed to the challenge, and the Mohawks tasked him with climbing the tallest tree beside Cohoes Falls, now in present day New York State. When he reached the top, the Mohawks chopped it down and waited until sundown to see if Deganawida would return.Assuming he was dead, they left to continue about their business.
The next day, the Kanyen'keha:ka saw smoke raising once again and sought out the camp. Hiawatha was there with Deganawida drying his clothing and having a meal of fish he had caught while in the water.The Kanyen'keha:ka (Mohawks) then said they would bring him into their Village for a meeting after witnessing the determination he had to ensure this message was spread.
While there, Deganawida explained he needed the most fiercely respected warriors who had no problem dying for what they believed in. The task of spreading peace would not be easy, and it it said he spent a few years with the Mohawks before continuing the vision of seeking Peace.
The Mohawks were the first ones to accept the message of Peace from Deganawida and Hiawatha. Because of where they stood on the boundary of familiar territories they were given the responsibility of being protectors of the Kayanere'kowa, and Keepers of the Eastern Door.
to the western door
From the Mohawk Territory, the men continued with Mohawk runners on a journey to the most western of the Five Nations, the Seneca. Informing them of their relationship with Jigonsase and how the Mohawks have already accepted the message, after several years they agreed to join what would become the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The journey back toward the Eastern Door began with the first stop with the Cayuga. After several years, they also agreed to become the younger brothers and assist on the journey to deliver the message, or vision, of peace.
When they approached Onondaga territory, it was evident that they would need the help of one more Nation before they could truly get them to join. There was a powerful, evil medicine man who lived there in the swamps; he enjoyed war and the taste of human flesh.
Deganawida and Hiawatha arrived in Oneida Territory with the Mohawk, Seneca, and Cayuga delegates and spent several years teaching them Kayanere'kowa, as had happened with each other Nation.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy was nearly complete with one last stop in Onondaga territory. A journey of many years starting with one Wendat man spread like wildfire to the very being of Nations; ones that would now die for creation and work together rather than murder and pillage each other out of revenge for reasons long forgotten.
When they arrived in Onondaga, Deganawida gathered everyone and taught them a song which would help them approach Adodarho, the feared man in the swamps. The most powerful and vengeful of people in the surrounding Five Nations. It was time.
Swamp of remains
As Deganawida taught the song to the people, they could feel their minds becoming stronger, unifying even more in their determination to change the evil into a power that could save the people and all of creation. When they had all learned the song, without missing a beat, Deganawida began leading the way to the feared Adodarho. He lived in a swamp dyed red with the blood of his victims, with their bones on display as a warning to anyone who approached his residence.
His knowledge on the natural world and the medicine it contained was immense, and Adodarho used it to keep people away or kill anyone who approached. His hair was twisted with snakes living among the strands and his back was crooked; for being so powerful he appeared weak because he was a cannibal, one of the things which would be against the Kayanere'kowa. We are to live in Peace with each other.
Sing for the nations
The Mohawks, as protectors of the Kayanere'kowa and Keepers of the Eastern Door and one of the Elder Brothers were directly behind Deganawida along with fellow Elder Brothers the Seneca who are Keepers of the Western Door. Behind them followed the Younger Brothers, the Oneida and Cayuga as the roots that help maintain and support everything that happens among the Nations; composed of some the the deadliest and most honourable warriors in precolonial and modern history (ie: American Revolution).
As they approached and sang the song, Adodarho tried to fight back as much as possible. He did everything in his power to try stopping all of these people from approaching, but all of their minds we as one. There was no other power that could defeat a good mind and positive spirit of the people. The snakes in Adodarho's hair began to fall out, he started to regain his complexion, and his back began to straighten out.
an offering of power
Although his physical body had been nearly cured, it was his mind that needed more attention. Now that he was no longer in pain the Warriors from all Five Nations sang as Deganawida spoke to Adodarho, offering him something he couldn't refuse.
To ensure he could change the mind of Adodarho, he offered him something the most power hungry ego-maniac could ever ask for: power and control. Deganawida explained Adodarho would oversee the entire Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and be leader of all the Warriors.
During Grand Council, he would hold the title of War Chief, and sit back silently to oversee the proceedings of the Council. This too would be the role of the War Chiefs of each Nation, not to seek out and engage in war, but to listen to the people and only act when decided upon unanimously bu the women. The role of the Rotiskenhrake:te is to maintain peace at all costs, which means maintaining balance with themselves and all of creation.
The Minds are one
When Deganawida stated that before every council the people would give thanks to the elements. This to the Haudenosaunee was not a new concept, but one that had been forgotten during the times of warfare. This was to return to being a daily practice which is especially essential for the Warriors to maintain a good mind to better allow logical and free thinking.
Adodarho quickly grabbed at the idea of complete and total control, and after the entire system was laid out and described to him he realised that he had been tricked. The position he held had virtually no power or control unless in very particular matters such as process and procedure of Grand Council, all the power lay with the people and ultimately the women.
When Deganawida finished explaining the law, the songs ended and Adodarho accepted the Kayanere'kowa. Now it was time to assemble the first ever grand council, and so Jigonsase stepped up to fill her role as Mother of Nations.
Council of Women
As the Mother of Nations, Jigonsase gathered the women of each clan from all the nations. She appointed 49 of those women to be the head of the family as the Clan Mother. The Clan Mother and the family would be the ones responsible for the roles of Royaner, or in loose English translation the Chiefs.
Their responsibility in caring for the title meant that any Chief who disrespected or acted against the will of the clan or the people of their Nation or the Confederacy as a whole would be removed from that position, or dehorned, by the women.
All matters still to this day are brought to the Clan Mothers first to be deliberated upon among all the women. Every woman has a voice in the council, when they have agreed upon a matter it is then turned over to the men's council for deliberations. These matters could include anything from an imminent attack to replacing a Chief who has passed away or been dehorned.
council of chiefs
After the women were selected for each of the 49 Clan Families Jiugonsase selected the 49 men who would be the first sitting Royaner of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The first Chief had been selected, Tadadaho would be represented by the longest string on the circle wampum as the overseeer.
Each of the smaller strands are equal in length, showing the equality between the families within the Confederacy. The wampum is woven around in the circle pattern to show everlasting unity and strength.
The most popular wampum related to the Great Law of Peace is depicted above in the Hiawatha Belt. This symbolizes the unity of the Five Nations Confederacy when it was established. There are more wampumps related to this Law, and the circle wampum is just one example. It was through wampum that we were able to ensure continuity of our languages, cultures, through oral tradition.
Mohawks the Orators
Another reason Deganawida chose the Kanyen'keha:ka as the leaders of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was their impeccable oration skills. It is a tradition still held on to this day, and is shared now among all Nations. This skill was essential, because not only was there the circle wampum, but the white wampum belt which represented the chiefs and the place by the fire.
Pure white beads, nothing else. The third wampum that is associated with the Kayanere'kowa is the rafters belt, which is white with purple stripes on an angle. This belt is always left unfinished in the case of an outside Nation seeking refuge under the Tree of Peace. Such a case occurred around 1720 when the Tuscarora sought refuge with the Onondaga during times of peril in the Carolinas.
With 110 wampums, and several pieces that went along with it Deganawida ensured it rested with the Nation that would defend it with their lives and remember every word for as long as the sun rose each day.
When Deganawida, Hiawatha, and Jigonsase sat and spoke it was to insure that there would be continuity and everlasting peace. This everlasing peace is represented in the "Great Law Belt" with purple diamonds on top of each other representing the Tsyoneratase'kowa, or Great White Pine" (Tree of Peace) laying over white beads.
The words were the tools, the wampum is what held the words and guided the story to be so specific. Their intentions were that the peace would never be able to be broken. Deganawida said "one arrow on its own is weak, and can snap with very little resistance. Five arrows bound together is almost impossible to break."
As they discussed how logic would be be implemented, removing feelings and replacing it with empathy; to ensure that feelings would not effect any decisions but they were considered in the decision making process. Many years passed, and by the time Jesuit Missionaries arrived in Mohawk Territory the Kayanere'kowa was already considered ancient. The first thing the missionaries saw, is that colonization couldn't happen without extermination of the Mohawks and stopping the spread of the Great Peace.