In a world where war is entertainment, killing is sport, & betrayal is do we make peace?


from the IROQUOIS

Iroquois Confederation of Peace

by Terryll Nemeth

In the The Great Law of Peace: New World Roots of American Democracy, author David Yarrow states that Iroquois power was not founded on the force of arms, but rather on the arts of peace and reason. He further states that the Iroquois had a profound understanding of the principles of peace and freedom.

The Iroquois called themselves the Haudenosaunee, which means People of the Long House, because they held their joint governing council in an elongated house with six smoke holes in the roof. Located in northeastern North America, the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois are made up of six nations including the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by the founding fathers, drew much inspiration from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of nations. Canassatego, a great Iroquois chief, advised the assembled colonial governors on Iroquois concepts of unity in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1744 and said the following.

"Our wise forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and by your observing the same methods, our wise forefathers have taken, you will acquire such strength and power. Therefore, whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another.

The Iroquois chiefs also were invited and attended a meeting of the Continental Congress on June 11, 1776, while independence was being debated. There was a speech delivered. The chief addressed the delegates as brothers, and told them of his peopleís wish that the friendship between them would continue "as long as the sun shall shine and the waters run." The speech was also hopeful that the new friends and the Iroquois would act "as one people, and have but one heart." The Iroquois chiefs presence in Congress, so near the time of American Independence, attest to the fact that the Iroquois had a definite productive impact on the founding fathers.

It is said that Benjamin Franklin shared what he learn from the Iroquois with the other founding fathers, when he demonstrated that one arrow could easily be broken by the hands of a man, but the combined strength of six arrows could not. It is thought that this image was one that served to strengthen the resolve of the founding fathers and unite the States.

The Iroquois have a legend that forms the basis of their spiritual, civic and community traditions. The Peacemaker legend is an inspiring story which describes a people entrapped in violent bloody feuds who, guided by a spiritual teacher, abandoned war and adopted a Path of Peace. Author David Yarrow, states:

"It's a mythic tale of struggle between good and evil, order and chaos, and the triumph of Reason. Itís a morality play depicting the transformation of humans rising above suffering and tragedy to establish a higher order of human relations. Itís also a practical guide to establishing unity and balance amongst diverse human communities. Itís a successful model of how to distribute power in a democratic society to assure individual liberty."

The essence of the Peacemaker legend follows as told by Mohawk chief Jake Swamp at the planting of a Tree of Peace in Philadelphia in 1986. "In the beginning, when our Creator made humans, everything needed to survive was provided. Our Creator asked only one thing: Never forget to appreciate the gifts of Mother Earth. Our people were instructed how to be grateful and how to survive. But during a dark age in our history 1000 years ago, humans no longer listened to the original instructions. Our Creator became sad, because there was so much crime, dishonesty, injustice and war. So Creator sent a Peacemaker with a message to be righteous and just, and make a good future for our children seven generations to come. He called all warring people together and told them as long as there was killing there would be no peace of mind. There must be a concerted effort by humans for peace to prevail. Through logic, reasoning and spiritual means, he inspired the warriors to bury their weapons and planted atop a sacred Tree of Peace"

It is said that the Tree of Peace given by the Peacemaker symbolizes the Great Law of Peace. The symbol is a great white pine, and it is said to shelter all nations who commit themselves to Peace. Beneath the tree are buried the weapons of war of the original five nations. Above the tree is an eagle that sees far. Also, four long roots stretch out in the four sacred directions, and they are called the white roots of peace. The Peacemaker invited any man or nation desiring to commit to the Great Law of Peace to trace the roots to their source, and take refuge beneath the Tree of Peace. The Peacemaker's teachings stressed the power of reason to assure righteousness, justice and health. Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, an Onondaga, states that the Great Law of Peace includes freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right of women to participate in government.

The seed-idea underlying all Iroquois philosophy is that peace is the will of the Creator, and it is the ultimate spiritual goal and natural order of things. The prayer below comes from the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. The prayer is based on the tradition of interconnectedness that the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee possess. This prayer is said to be the backbone of the Iroquois culture. The prayer expresses the belief that rather than take the world for granted, it must be respected, and that we must thank all living things in order to align our minds with creation and the Creator. Usually, a faithkeeper is selected to share the prayer of thanksgiving at the opening and closing of social, government, and ceremonial events. The prayer is comprised of three levels:

Spiritual Forces on the Earth, Spiritual Forces in the Sky, Spiritual Forces beyond the Sky

The Spiritual Forces on the Earth are:
the People, our Mother Earth, the Waters, the Fish, the Grasses, the Plants,
our Sustenance, the Animals, the Trees, and the Birds.
Throughout the year we bring our minds together as one
We give thanks to one another
All year long she gives us all that we need

We give thanks to our Mother Earth
Everyday it quenches our thirst
We give thanks to the waters In winter it replenishes the lakes.
We give thanks to the waters

During the year they purify the lakes
We give thanks to the fish
When the wind turns warm a green blanket appears
We give thanks to the grasses
In early summer the flowers turn sweet
We give thanks to the medicinal plants
In early summer they help us survive
We give thanks to the food plants
In midsummer we dance for the green corn
We give thanks to our sustenance
In midsummer we dance for the red beans
We give thanks to our sustenance
During the winter their pelts warm the soul
We give thanks to the animal creatures
Since early times they have been our companions
We give thanks to the animal creatures
In early spring we are glad they reappear
We give thanks to the animal creatures
At one point in time it became a symbol of peace
We give thanks to the trees
At the end of spring the sap will flow
We give thanks to the trees
In early morning they carry messages
We give thanks to the birds
In times of danger he warns the people
We give thanks to the birds
In the summer they sing sweet songs

We give thanks to the birds Spiritual Forces in the Sky are:
the Four Winds, our Grandfather Thunder, our Elder Brother Sun, our Grandmother Moon, and the Stars
Throughout the seasons they refresh the air
We give thanks to the Four Winds
In early summer they bring the falling drops
We give thanks to our Grandfather Thunder
Every morning he brings light and warmth
We give thanks to our Elder Brother Sun
Every night she watches over the arrival of children
We give thanks to our Grandmother Moon
In the night their sparkle guides us home
We give thanks to the stars
The Highest Spiritual Forces beyond the Sky are: our Protectors, Handsome Lake, and the Creator
All the time they remind us how to live
We give thanks to our protectors
At one point in time he brought back the words of the Creator
We give thanks to Handsome Lake
Everyday we will share with one another all of these good things
We give thanks to the Creator.
- Prayer of Thanksgiving, Iroquois Confederacy

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