Monday, January 30, 2006

The Iroquois Great Law of Peace

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I am Dekanawidah and with the Five Nations’ Confederate Lords I plant the Tree of Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Adodarhoh, and the Onondaga Nation, in the territory of you who are Firekeepers.

I name the tree the Tree of the Great Long Leaves. Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feathery down of the globe thistle as seats for you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords.

We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the globe thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Peace.

There shall you sit and watch the Council Fire of the Confederacy of the Five Nations, and all the affairs of the Five Nations shall be transacted at this place before you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords, by the Confederate Lords of the Five Nations.

Roots have spread out from the Tree of the Great Peace, one to the north, one to the east, one to the south and one to the west.

The name of these roots is The Great White Roots and their nature is Peace and Strength.

Dekanawida - Peace Maker

What is the Great Law of Peace?

The Great Law is the founding constitution of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. It is an oral tradition, codified in a series of wampum belts now held by the Onondaga Nation. It defines the functions of the Grand Council and how the native nations can resolve disputes between themselves and maintain peace.

The Peace Maker travelled among the Iroquois for many years, spreading his message of peace, unity and the power of the good mind. Oral history says that it may have taken him forty some years to reach everyone. Born of a Huron woman who was still a virgin, the Peace Maker, grew rapidly and one day announced that he had to journey forth to deliver a message from the Creator.

He selected a white stone canoe to carry him to the Iroquois as proof of the power of his message. But he was met with much skepticism and the men that he came across refused to listen to him. After Jikohnsaseh rejuvenated his spirit, he continued and was able to persuade fifty leaders to receive his message. He gathered them together and recited the passages of the Great Law of Peace. He assigned duties to each of the leaders. To honor the role of Jikohnsaseh, he selected women as the Clan Mothers, to lead the family clans and select the male chiefs.

Women were given the right to the chief's titles and the power to remove dissident chiefs. Jikohnsaseh, by hearing of her actions, taught me to respect women and honor their role. Women are the connection to the earth and have the responsibility for the future of the nation. Men will want to fight. Women know the true price of war and must encourage the chiefs to seek a peaceful resolution.

The Peace Maker then established clans among the Haudenosaunee as a way to unite the Five Nations and as a form of social order. It is said that after he had assembled the leaders together around the Tree of Peace, he bestowed Chieftainship and clan affiliation on the fifty men who stood in a circle. He would assign clans based upon the order of animals that he saw that day.

Some say that he sent each chief out into the woods and would report back on the first animal that they encountered, and that animal became their clan. A clan is a group of families that share a common female ancestry. Members of one clan are considered relatives and intermarriage in the same clan is forbidden. Clans are named after animals that have special assistance to the people - water (turtle, eel, beaver); land (bear, deer, wolf), sky (snipe, heron, hawk) Clanship identity is very important to the Haudenosaunee.

The Great Law is like a Great White Mat of Law upon which the Chiefs sit as they deliberate on the affairs of the nations. Burning before the assembled chiefs is the council fire, called "the great light," that never dies as long as the people believe in the Great Law. The kindling the council fire, considered sacred in that it purifies the words of those assembled, obligates the Chiefs to speak the truth. Also holding a council only in the daylight is another cultural mechanism to assure clear thinking. Meeting held at night are considered inappropriate and meant for foster dissent.

The Chiefs were to use the power of their mind to reason, to figure out what was best for the welfare of the people. The three main principles of the Great Law of Peace are: Righteousness (Good News), Civil Authority (Power), and also Mind (Reason) and the welfare work." We are to view the chiefs like a circle of standing trees, supporting the Tree of Peace that grows in the middle. They help to keep it from falling over. With each Chief was to be a helper, to keep the Chief standing tall.

Take the word Gaihwiyo, which has been translated in this document to mean righteousness. It's meaning is more like a wholesome doctrine that is good to be heard, because it teaches ethical behavior and communal values. But it also denotes the idea of justice, of being right because of the customs, manners, beliefs and ritualistic summations of the past experiences of the people. It is putting words into action.

The hardest part of the Great Law is to understand the meaning of the concept of peace. Peace is not simply the absence of war. In the Iroquoian mind, peace is a state of mind. Power, which can easily be thought of as military strength, but more appropriately, it means that one heart, one mind, one head, and one body allowed the Confederacy to remain united in the face of many enemies. Certainly, historians have painted a picture of the Iroquois as cruel expansionists. Iroquois fighting power was legendary.

So the question arises: how can the Great Law promote peace if one of the conditions is to have power over weaker nations? Power can be the united strength of the Confederacy, standing together, negotiating together. Unity of action allowed the Iroquois to enjoy great success in dealing with the warring colonial powers.But there is also a different kind of power in the Iroquoian universe. Each individual has a base spiritual power.

As you go through life as Haudenosaunee, experience different things, learn more, comprehend more and tap into other forms of spiritual power, your own spirit grows as well. The old timers called it orenda. Everyone is thought to have it to some degree. It effects how we do things. Good minds have strong orenda. So the ultimate power of the Great Law rests in how well the individual person develops their sense of self, but develops that sense in regard to the well-being of the others, in the clan, in the village, in the nation and in the Confederacy of the Six Nations.

Taken from the Haudenosaunee Website

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Looking Ahead At Tomorrow.......Part 3

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In My Life...........

I have learned that two wrongs don't make a right.


That sometimes being right doesn't matter........but being happy does.

I have learned that being happy has nothing to do with what's on the outside.


Everything to do with what is on the inside.

I have learned that life is too short to live everyday with worry and fear.


That to live means to live everyday with hope, courage and determination.

I have learned that being content with who you are has little to do with what other people think.


Everything to do with what you think and how you see yourself.

I have learned that sometimes in life we don't always get what we want.


That eventually we always end up with what we need.

I have learned that not all people in life are as honest and good as we would like them to be.


That it doesn't matter as long as we try to be the best people we can be.

I have learned that life is a never ending learning process.


That when we fail to learn a lesson we will continue to repeat the lesson until we do learn it.

I have learned that to depend on oneself is the only sure thing there is in life.


That depending on others can be one of life's biggest disappointments.

I have learned how to love.


That is one of the best things I have learned in my lifetime!

By Shelley Brant

January 21, 2006


1. All native land-claims in Canada and the U.S. are settled fairly and equitably.

2. Native people in Canada and the U.S. have an equivalent standard of living as the the rest of the country.......currently a higher percentage of Native people live below the poverty line compared to the national average in both countries.

3. All Native people living in First Nation and Tribal communities have safe drinking water.......currently a large percentage of First Nation communities in Canada have contaminated water.

4. No more suicides and sustance abuse in First Nation and Tribal communities....currently they are both higher than the national average per capita.

5. Healthy, prosperous, self-sustaining communities....with Self-Government agreements in place that do not detract from the inherent rights of Native people and implementation by a healthy leadership.

6. Recognition of all Native inherent rights by all levels of government in both Canada and the U.S.......currently the rights recognized are only due to Supreme Court challenges that see victory.

7. Education that is now sub-standard in Native communities brought up to an acceptable level equivalent with the rest of the country......currently in Canada it will take 28 years for the gap in education on First Nation Terrtories in Canada to obtain the equivelent education as the rest of the country.

8. Native seats in the Federal Governments of both Canada and the U.S......currently Native people have no representation or say over the programs, policies and laws governing Native people.

9. Unity and networking between First Nations in Canada and Tribal Nations of the U.S......creation of inter-Tribal and First Nation trade network to foster economic prosperity.

10. Transfer of all natural resources located on Tribal Nation and First Nation lands to each Native community.......currently the governments located in both Canada and the U.S. claim the rights to all natural resources located on Native lands.

11. Total independance from all levels of government located in both Canada and the U.S.........currently most Tribal Nations and First Nations communities rely on the Federal Government for transfer payments for all program implementation, membership registration, land use and tranfer, project funds and approval etc.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Looking At Today...............Part 2

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So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and Demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and Its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people and bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

"Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."

Tecumseh - Shawnee-(1768-1813)


1. In 1985 women regained their lost native status along with the first generation of children, which was taken from them when they married a non-native man. In 1985 Bill C-31 was passed with little regard to the impact it would have on First Nation Territories within Canada. Things like housing, schooling and small land bases for returning familes were not taken into account and as a result many First Nations have struggled to provide for a population which has doubled with very little increased government funding.

2. First Nations in Canada and Tribes within the U.S. are still among the poorest people in the country. In the year 2000, 700,000 native people in the U.S. lived below the poverty line.

3. First Nations and Tribes in the U.S. start to regain some of their lost languages, traditional customs and ceremonies.

4. In 1990 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimouly that Native Rights were not to be infringed upon by any government (Federal or Provincial) unless there was no reasonable alternative in the "Sparrow" decision.

5. In the U.S. 605 land claims have been forwarded for review, 287 of those claims have been settled and of 139 of those claims $290,000,000 was recovered. In canada 6 major land claim and Self Government agreements have been signed totalling 541,216 sq km and 1 billion 522.67 in monetary settlements.

6. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Native people living off Reserve can now vote in on Reserve elections via the Corbiere decision.

7. Residential School abuse of natives from all over Canada becomes public and a multi-billion dollar lawsuit is filed by the Assembly of First Nations in Canada on behalf of all Residential School survivors. The Federal Government negotiates a deal which is accepted, to pay every survivor still alive $25,000.00, after several years of claiming only those that suffered severe physical or sexual abuse were entitled to compensation.

8. Several Native standoffs take place including, Oka (Quebec) the Quebec Proivincial Police and Army are called in to storm the barricade - one police officer is killed, Gustafan Lake, 3 native men wounded and one killed and Ipperwash Provincial Park - unarmed man named Dudley George was killed by a police sniper who testified in court, while being prosecuted for manslaughter, that George was armed at the time. Police Officer Kenneth Dean was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of George and received only time to be served in the community. Deane lost his job with the Ontario Provincial Police and currently there is a Public Inquiry being held into what role the Provincial Government may have played in ordering police to disband the stand-off.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Looking Back On Yesterday.......Part 1

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My friends, for many years we have been in this country; we never go to the Great Father's country and bother him about anything. It is his people who come to our country and bother us, do many bad things and teach our people to be bad….Before you people ever crossed the ocean to come to this country, and from that time to this, you have never proposed to buy a country that was equal to this in riches. My friends, this country that you have come to is the best country that we have….this country is mine, and I was raised in it; my forefathers lived and died in it; and I wish to remain in it.

(Tashunka Witco, Tashunca-Uitco, "his horse is crazy" or "Crazy Horse")

This will be a three part series which will examine past and present legislation and key events in Native history and future direction.


1. In 1858 the Civilization of Indian Tribes Act was passed in Canada which gave native people who were educationally advanced and capable of looking after their own affairs the right to become Canadian Citizens. By giving up all native rights and being paid to no longer be an Indian they had the pleasure of actually becoming a citizen. This process was called "Enfranchisement".

2. Slavery of Native people existed in the U.S. until it was outlawed in 1864.

3. In 1876 the First Indian Act was established consolodating all native legislation into one act designed as the Supreme Law over Indians in Canada.

4. All Indian ceremonies were banned in Canada and the U.S.

5. It was illegal for Indians to enter a bar or consume alcohol.

6. Indians in Canada had to use seperate entrances at all public buildings.

7. Indians in Canada did not get the right to vote until 1960 and became Canadian citizens without renouncing their rights under the Indian Citizenship Act. Indians in the U.S. were given the right to vote in 1924.

8. It was illegal for Indians to raise money for a legal defense, obtain a lawyer or attend universtiy.

9. In 1966 the first Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada was formed.

10. Indian women were declared legally no longer Indians if they married a non-indian.

11. In 1969 the "White Paper" was introduced by former Prime Minister Jean Chretian, which would end all Federal Government responsibility over Indians and terminated special native status....a policy of total assimilation into Canadian society. This bill was defeated by a severe backlash of Indian people from accross Canada.

12. Native rights were finally recognized in the Canadian Constitution for the first time in 1982.

13. In June 1990 an ammendment to the Constitution known as the "Meech Lake Accord", which was to give French people in Quebec status as a distict society and ignored native distinct society status as well as Native rights to self-government, was defeated by a Native member of the Manitoba Legislature named Elijah Harper.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What Is The Truth?

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Brother: Why do we hate each other?

When we both bleed red?

Brother: Why does my spirit differ from yours?

When they were both given to us by the Creator of Heaven and Earth?

Brother: Why do you think your pain is any different than mine?

When we both feel that pain deep within our hearts?

Brother: Why do we fight?

When our skin is the same color?

Brother: Why do you think you are any different than me?

When we were both born red?

Brother: Does a name mean that we are not brothers anymore?

When the creator gave us the same roles and responsibilities on earth as red people?

Brother: Who decided for you that it was ok to hate your own people?

When the Creator is the greatest decision maker of them all?

Brother: We act in defiance of the Creator when there is any hate within out hearts!

Especially when that hatred is for our own brothers born to be united as one nation!

Brother: Hear my cry and heed my word......we are destroying one another!

It is time to recognize there is much work to be done among the many nations!

Brother: That work can only be accomplished together!

So let's cleanse our hearts of hatred for one another and move in unity in

the same direction!

By Shelley Brant

January 6, 2006

What is the Truth?

How can we determine what the truth is in our communities when most of the governments only want to deceive the people they represent?

When asked a straight forward question: you are either given no answer at all or an answer that is unsatisfactory. The leadership has a fiduciary responsibility to be accountable to the people it represents financially and in all areas of decision making. There has been so much corruption in our native communites that the lack of answers when asked to be accountable fosters further mistrust and breeds contempt of the overall political system . They lead from the top down as a dictatorship, believing that they are accountable to no one: when the healthy way to lead is from the bottom up and to do the will of the people within the community.

The political systems in our communities are broken and need to be fixed: they are based on nepotism; bias; divide and conquer attitides; political payoffs money or favortism; corruption; and greed. As you can see this is no way for any community to be led and you can also see why it takes native communties so long to succeed if indeed they ever do.

Until now very few communities have wanted to take these issues to task and resolve them. This stems from the fact that nobody wants to actually admit what really goes on and that there is anything to address. Some people have tried and have been labelled dissidents for trying to bring attention to issues within certain communities. The leadership has seldom if ever taken on the task of changing the way the political systems in our communities have developed and continue still to this day. When you step into a native community its like stepping into a whole other world: laws that apply outside do not apply in that community neccesarily; it is governed largely by a law or statute called the Indian Act; for some things there are no laws or policies in place, which leads to no contunuity or prevention of certain things.

When you have a mix of no laws and no leadership you have a community that is barely struggling to stay afloat and is merely existing vs growing and prospering. There is a bleek existance for people that live in these types of communities cause the rules are kind of made up as they go along and they are applied or not according to who you are and who you are related to nine times out of ten.

Lets hope that someday more people are willing to become involved in the process of change that will set our communities on the path of health and prosperity and out of dysfunction.