War, Wampum, and Peace


Before the Great Law of Peace, which was established between the Five Nations and later Six Nations Confederacy, there was a time of war and turmoil across the territories. When the Peacemaker Deganawida set off to deliver the message of peace, he encountered two important people.


The first was a warrior who lost his wife and daughters to the ongoing wars and was given a ceremony of condolence by Deganawida. His name was Hiawatha, and the wampum belt to symbolize the unity of the Five Nations Confederacy would later be named after him. A title in the Mohawk Turtle Clan would also be named after him, Ayonwatha. This was because of Jigonsaseh, the second person whose path they crossed in their journey to spread the message of peace.


Jigonsaseh was said to welcome all warriors 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 at her home. Because of her influence and good standing among nations she was assigned an important role, which gave her the nickname “Mother of Nations”.


She went out each day for nine days, and the first animal she saw would become one of the clans in the new Confederacy. Each person who held these clans, regardless of their nation, would be considered family. This meant that a Mohawk and Seneca Turtle clan member would be considered family. Each family is matrilineal, which means that the children carry on their clan from their mother. The women hold the titles and choose who can hold them, and if they should be taken away. The ones that held these titles would be called Royaner, or what some would call Chiefs.

Not only was the clan system established for social stability, it also created a governance system which is still practiced and recognized today. There are nine clans within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as a whole, but the Mohawk Nation is divided into three different families which are Turtle, Wolf, and Bear. Each clan has three titles which are laid out in the Great Law of Peace along with their responsibility within the Confederacy.


The seemingly endless fight to be recognised as people should not be so, it has only been in recent decades that the non-Indigenous population of Canada has started to see and hear that there were already systems of governance in place long before any explorers set foot here.


The systems are still in place today and still as effective as they were thousands of years ago, with the messages carrying strong through the spirit of the people and the words of Ohenton Karihwatehkwen and Kayanere’kowa. This teaches us the tolerance and respect that we have for each other and allows us to continue conducting our business as United Nations under the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.


The colonial governments of North America are juvenile, and amount to a bully on a playground trying to get all of the toys and be the owner of all the sand in the box. They see governance systems that work, try to whitewash and implement them creating legislation where only they can benefit while committing genocide of the Indigenous population. The only problem is, the governance that works is ancient and doesn’t need to be changed.

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The Kanyen’keha:ka, or Mohawk People, are the Keepers of the Eastern Door of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. It is their responsibility to notify the rest of the Nations if there is anything or anyone approaching from the eastern territories of the Confederacy that may affect the Kayanere’kowa, or Great Law of Peace.


When the Kanyen’kehaka saw an encroaching settlement, they sent runners to the Onondaga Nation, who are the Firekeepers of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, to notify them of strangers approaching the land. With them, the new coming settlers had their families and were destructive to our “rooms'', or land.


In 1609 at Ticonderoga the Beaver wars broke out and there was unrest between the Haudenosaunee and French, with Samuel DeChamplain as their leader. The Dutch and English took the side of the Haudenosaunee which established a loyalty and basis for future peacemaking efforts. During this time, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy consisted of only the original Five Nations, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca.


Between 1613-1614 the Haudenosaunee came to an agreement with their Dutch allies, which was also adopted by the English and subsequent colonial government leaders such as George Washington. This agreement was called Kahswentha, or the Two Row Wampum. When the discussions began, the Dutch stated to the Haudenosaunee leaders they would be like our fathers and we would be like their sons. The leaders responded:


“You say that you are our father and I am your son.” We say, ‘We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers’.” This wampum belt confirms our words. These two rows will symbolize two paths or two vessels, traveling down the same river together. One, a birch bark canoe, will be for the Indian People, their laws, their customs and their ways. We shall each travel the river together, side by side, but in our own boat. Neither of us will make compulsory laws or interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.”


The Haudenosaunee recognized the way the Dutch recorded their laws and agreements and determined that the pen and paper would not stand the test of time. The wampum belt was presented as the Haudenosaunee contribution to the agreement. Wampum was used as it comes from the Quahog shells which were in abundance in present day New York State and the eastern coast of Turtle Island. All agreements going back to the Peacemaker were recorded using these belts which were proven to withstand the tests of time, ensuring that the agreements would never be forgotten.

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The belt was designed with three white rows and two purple rows all equal in width showing the equality between all Nations and the balance we need to maintain in creation. The white beads represent the river of life, purple beads represent the people of the Haudenosaunee and Dutch living side by side. One in their canoe and the other in their ship.


When Dutch asked a Mohawk leader what would happen if someone fell between the canoe and the ship, they responded that it would be up to that person. They would need to make their way to either the ship or the canoe, and live under those laws respectfully. The agreement has been kept by the Haudenosaunee to this date. There is room in it for everyone as proven in 1722 when the Tuscarora joined. When protocol is followed in wampums 1-11, the Kanyen’keha:ka are the ones to present the issues to the Firekeepers.


“When a case comes before the Onondaga, the Firekeepers, for discussion and decision, Atotarho shall introduce the matter to his comrade statesmen, who shall then discuss it in their two bodies. Every Onondaga statesmen except Hononwireton shall deliberate and he shall listen only. When a unanimous decision shall have been reached by the two bodies of Firekeepers, Atotarho shall notify Hononwireton of the fact, then he shall confirm it. He shall refuse to confirm a decision if it is not unanimously agreed upon by both sides of the Firekeepers. (wampum 12)


No chief shall ask a question of the body of chiefs of the League when they are discussing a case, question or proposition. He may only deliberate in a low tone with the separate body of which he is a member. (wampum 13)”


In the Onondaga national council, the party for the final decision is composed of only one individual, Hononwireton; who however has to follow the rule which is simply to confirm a unanimous decision or to refuse to confirm a decision which was not agreed upon by the two sides. The use of head man to confirm the decision is the same in all National Councils and is implemented on a larger scale in Grand Council situations.

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The language used in deliberations is much different than what would be used as speech outside the meeting. It is much more formal, meaning it is incredibly descriptive and paints a picture of what the speaker is saying. The Iroquoian linguistic group, and many other Indigenous Nations for that matter, have a rhythm when a speaker is talking that resembles the melody of a song; this is predominant when the Firekeepers are opening council. The reason for this is because our language was given to us so we could communicate with creation, and everything in creation has its own patterns, rhythms, frequencies, and vibrations. Through our language and songs we are able to connect with these elements enabling our ability to sustain balance.


The Federal government did recognize this, but as evil and something that was of the Devil. When residential schools were created, the priests and nuns that ran them would beat, starve, and murder the children who spoke their language. Their intention was to break the spirit of the people in any way possible through the destruction of our culture and heritage, so we would forget how dominant we are as the Original Nations of Turtle Island.


From the time we are born, our languages are the first words we hear. In the time while we are growing and developing we begin to become more proficient and observant and it reflects in our language use. To this day we are still struggling with the English language while trying to preserve Onkwawenna, our words. We speak low and respectfully so that no other minds may be disturbed and people are allowed to think for themselves.


This is empathetic toward the rest of the people, which shows that emotions of the people are always considered but are not what bears the most weight in the decision making process. Nobody is to speak above one another or out of turn for respect of the process in which Kayanere’ko:wa guides us. Active listening is taught from a young age to encourage free thought and the exploration of the world that surrounds us, thus more enabling us to maintain the balance of creation; both positive and negative energies and all frequencies that surround us. To listen and hear is to understand, there is power in silence.

The ability to communicate has always been somewhat lost on the settler population. Their mindset has them thinking they need to demand respect which affects the tone in which they are speaking. This is what causes all the delays in their so-called democracy. When you look in the houses of parliament in both Canada and the United Kingdom, you see people arguing and yelling at each other. All of them trying to demand respect in order to be heard.


The bad thing about this practice is that when things calm down, usually by order of the speakers of their houses, the subject is listened to but never truly heard. In their demand for respect, when they are listening to the opposing party, they are never listening for things that they can agree upon but what they can argue about at length in order to distract the public from the actual issues at hand.


Each side competes much like the aforementioned schoolyard bullies, building their partnerships with other bullies; in the case of Canada they’ve teamed up with Teal Jones, Coastal Gas Link, Recon Africa and the Pan American Silver Corporation. The only things on their minds is how they can have the most in order to be the best, while the rest of the people suffer. The government consistently bails out their bullies with the money from their owners, the banks, who also happen to insure and fund the very bullies the government is bailing out.


This sounds like a clash of worlds between the twilight zone and curb your enthusiasm, where reality is just one sick joke. Demanding respect is something foreign to us, much like infantile colonial policies.


Forever, our people are taught to speak softly but with purpose. Much of this is derived from our teachings of mutual respect. One cannot expect another to respect them whilst demanding actions from that person. It doesn’t make any sense and immediately cuts off your sense of accountability and credibility, making it seem like there is something to hide. The demand for respect comes with certain emotions, one of which is entitlement. When you speak softly with purpose it shows the mutual respect that is outlined in the natural laws.

When conducting business, you will notice that Indigenous people will always inadvertently simulate the same actions of the person they are speaking with in order to make them feel more comfortable. If the person is confrontational, then we may also seem confrontational without the intention of hurting or attacking someone. This all does stem from inter-generational trauma, but it is also something cultural.


When you speak with settlers who are on a decolonization journey you will hear them demand things and start doing things that make other settlers feel uncomfortable. This is both good and bad, because the journey to decolonization begins with communication and respect while doing so. We never tell people what to do, we show them and guide them. This is how we have been teaching since time immemorial. We never point, talk down, or intentionally put people down because this is disrespectful. Sometimes what may seem disrespectful to a settler is just us telling them the way it is, which for way too long has been questioned.


Now, it is time to do as we say. After years the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion took on advice that was given to them by me, and after I left they carried it out because they saw how it worked over and over again. They appropriated something, it would be different if they had acknowledged that their ideas of action come from an Indigenous person. Insulate Britain is asking for me to speak again because what I said made sense, it was logical and effective. Their actions in the United Kingdom worked because they took advice from the Indigenous people immediately.


Why can the so-called environmental activists do the same here? Is it because they demand to be personally respected first before the actual issues? How is it that in the place where modern genocide and colonization happened they can be further ahead with empathetic listening, communication, and respect? What needs to be realized is that each individual is insignificant to groups or other people, we are significant to creation in which we all belong.


We have thrived and are rising more now because of our ability to live in harmony with creation, respecting ourselves and others; and when doing business it shows. The ability to leave emotions out and get business over with lends more time to hunting, fishing, agriculture, and just living life in general. When a settler demands respect from an Indigenous person, it is guaranteed they will not get it. You need to give respect in order to receive it, so don’t put out what you do not want in return.

It comes across all the time in social media messages and comments as well, all of the blatant and sometimes covert racism. Like I mentioned last week it comes from the unwillingness to understand Indigenous people. Many messages have come in telling me how to run the company, saying that some things that are posted or written may cause more segregation.

The irony of this comment is that it is an attempt at keeping the status quo, where whiteness isn’t questioned but the tactics and operations of people of color are policed daily. Us asking for settlers to speak softly isn’t demanding them to change who they are, but respect who we are. Using this practice among themselves would make for an altogether better society.


Going back to what a white person is, that is someone who has yet to find their identity and reconnect with their roots. When implementing the practices of the land, they shed their whiteness and reveal more humanity. Suggesting to people of color how to do something better without them asking is a supremacist move that will no longer be tolerated. If it seems as though we are defensive, that’s because we are and have every right to based on the past 500 year history.


Telling us how to do something is entitlement and privilege, just like being able to hide subject matter in news feeds or not listen to a certain song or program. Settlers have the ability to move about without question, and when they are questioned it becomes a matter of personal safety and security. To be able to only worry about your safety and security at certain times, and to be able to avoid them is extremely privileged and entitled. The Black and Indigenous communities have never had such luxury, and consistently worry about safety for themselves and our families.


Indigenous peoples have to carry cards to prove they are actually from this land; something an occupying state would do to the population it wants eradicated. Going back to episode two and Hitler’s hard on for the genocide on Turtle Island, they may as well be making us sew our numbers onto our backs. Though we know now that there would be a pretendian behind us trying to steal that number for some reason, thinking it will give them access to more rights and maybe some money.

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Once they get their numbers they realize they actually lose rights and become a part of a segregated group that many in South Africa are calling an Apartheid state. These are people that make it harder for those with actual strong roots to reconnect, people like the fraud Shane Ortega. The black community should be outraged, because why doesn’t he want to honor and restore your cultures? The LGBTQ2S community should be outraged as well, because he’s just using you to amplify his ego; no self-respecting Indigenous activist is posting banana-hammock and bondage pictures without some kind of message to go along with it other than loving your tattoos.


From claiming to be Cherokee, to Mohawk, then finally deciding on Tuscarora Shane Ortega has taken thousands of dollars from the Black, Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, LGBTQ2S Community, and more just based on personal glory. His communication is equivalent to a settler demanding respect, he has been asked to stop by Mohawk elders and has been turned down by all Tuscarora tribes because he cannot show a connection.


All people from Haudenosaunee Nations can find a relative who can be traced to a community and clan group, even if they did not personally hold a clan. Anyone claiming our ancestry would have no problem doing this, it is laid out in our introductions. This is a symbol of respect, culture, and tradition. There are many like NDN Thunder, as Ortega calls himself on social media. When finding yourself, be careful not to appropriate. There is a difference between that and appreciation, and what Shane Ortega is doing is actually against the law in the United States of America where he is from. The former soldier should know better. He has since made his accounts private and changed his name 5 times


Sha'tekayenton Andrew Brant

Kenhteke Kanyen'keha:ka Ronyatonh, Ayonwatha

Founder CME Indigenous Media & Two Row Coffee Co. & Bakery

Founder of The Community; Kenhte:ke Kanyen'keha:ka Food Sovereignty Program

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