Historical Fiction and the Iroquois

Historical Fiction and the Long Tails or Erie People

18 October 2015 Comments (0)

The first serious military clash between the Great League of the Five Iroquois Nations and the Erie People (Erielhonan/Long Tails) is relatively well-documented. In his History of Ashtabula County, Ohio, written in 1798, Rev. S. D. Peet dedicates more than a whole chapter to the battle that might have shaped the following history of this entire region, taking place centuries ago.

Long Tails/Erie were a prominent nation who, until up to the 16th were reported to occupy the southern and eastern shores of Lake Erie, spreading as far out as Ohio River Valley. Having been an inseparable part of the Great Lakes’ demography, they played an important role in local politics and developments, a people that no one made the mistake of overlooking or omitting taking into account. Neither the Great League, not the Wyandot People confederacy, nor various smaller nations around both great water bodies made this mistake.

According to the reports, furnished mainly by the Great League and recorded by the wandering French missionaries centuries later—not perfectly reliable sources, the first having no objectivity in the story, obviously, and the second having no understanding of local mentality and cultural traits—the Erie People were powerful and warlike, feared by their immediate neighbors, even the members of the Great League, at least prior to its creation. Or so the story goes.

To the north and west, where the famous Onguiaahra/Niagara Falls are cascading today as spectacularly as they did centuries ago, Attiwandaronk People populated the land, a small confederacy of various sub-nations that were later recorded and known to us today as Neutral People. The Wyandot had mistakenly lumped them together with their Long Tails neighbors, even though those people were no Erie. However, the two powers would unite from time to time, enjoying a complicated relationship, especially in the face of the growing confederacies all around—the Wyandot and the Iroquois, in particular. It must have been unsettling, to watch such dominant neighbors uniting into powerful alliances. Not an occurrence farsighted people would choose to ignore.

So in this last book of the People of the Longhouse series – or rather the Great Peacemaker’s saga – I wanted to explore such a development, a large-scale war that might have defined the Great League’s path from those relatively early days, as judging by the later centuries, its political and military dealings and the vastness of its influence, the pattern of its expansion has been set for the earlier times.

The Peacemaker wished to have more people and nations sharing in the union of his creation; the various clauses and laws of his constitution, the detailed and very minutely documented Great Law of Peace, make it perfectly clear.

Yet only five original nations remained the members of the exclusive union up until very late post-contact times. Why? A fair question, as the neighboring people were not so dissimilar to the Five Nations, neither culturally nor linguistically. Still, something prevented even the Peacemaker’s native Wyandot from joining the Great League. Early military clashes? Well, it is one of the possibilities. The documented oral tradition supplying accounts such as the one I based The Warpath on suggests this direction.

Other challenges that the creators of the Great League or those who inherited this responsibility might have been facing were as interesting. At some point, they might have come to realize the possible flaws in their unheard-of political body, long stretches of peace as opposed to the threateningly uniting neighbors, lack of readily available warriors’ forces in case of emergency—no standing army, not among the Great Lakes’ dwellers—or even a certain lack of discipline and organized way of fighting among those who were used to raiding in small groups and in a sporadic manner.

All was not well in the lands of the Erie/Long Tails People, on the western shore of Lake Ontario and around Niagara Falls. Tucked between two growing unions, the mighty Great League and the newly formed alliance of the Wyandot to the north, the Long Tails tried to remain neutral, playing for time, doing little while earning no respect from their powerful neighbors on either side. However, there were some who were enraged by the shameful neutrality. Although Aingahon was not one of those. His reasons for hating the Great League were personal, his desire to take the warpath originating in a thirst for revenge. Leading a serious faction of rebellious elements from his town and its surroundings, he was determined to make the enemies of his people pay; still he got nowhere, until Tsutahi, the mysterious girl from the woods, had crossed his path, changing his world in ways he could never have foreseen.

Back in the lands of the Great League, the generation of younger leaders, Ganayeda and Okwaho – not to mention Ogteah, the newcomer facing new troubles and challenges – sensed the winds of change as well. The relationship between the Five Nations, conducted just like the Great Peacemaker’s legacy prescribed, wasn’t enough, not anymore. A closer cooperation between the nations might be needed, a mutual help and support, even if it came to sending reinforcements and fighting in wars that were not strictly theirs.

The War Chief’s sons’ way of going about pushing their plans was as unconventional as it was forceful and decisive. To bend laws and customs was not the same as breaking them.

Or so they thought, heading toward the inevitable clash with the notorious Long Tails from the west, a clash of proportions neither side could have foreseen or foretold.

An excerpt from “The Warpath”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #4.

“The Great League is not a stone giant,” he said, holding their gazes, sensing their need to hear more. “They claim they are one and many at the same time. One longhouse, five families, they say. But it is not possible, not on such a large scale. What works for clans and towns, doesn’t work for nations.” Taking a deep breath, he hurried on, feeling their attention almost physically. Even the strange girl stopped her knife-throwing exercise and was staring at him through her narrowed, nicely tilted eyes. “We’ve been warring against the Mountain People for many summers, long before their League was born. And even though the warring slowed down through the last decades, we’ve still raided an occasional village of theirs, while they raided ours.”

Another glance at the girl confirmed what he always suspected. Her darkening face and glazing eyes were an indication. Was her entire village destroyed, or only her family, he wondered, then forced his attention back to his audience. “And what happened through all these last summers’ warring. Did the Onondagas come to their fellow members of the Great League’s aid? Did the Flint People from the far east? No! None of them joined this war, just like these same Mountain People don’t travel to join the wars in the lands of the rising sun.”

The memory of the cheeky, violent, bubbling-with-life fox from that hilly Onondaga town made his stomach shrink like it always did, every time he remembered. That familiar mix of anger and warmth. She was such a strange-looking thing, a total foreigner, not even pretty or sweet, not feminine, not attractive in the usual sort of way, even though he did fancy her.

Had he wanted to take her away when the chance presented itself? He didn’t know, didn’t bother to face this question. The following events erased any such thoughts from his mind. The disastrous consequences, the pain of the failure.

“You say that if we start warring on our neighbors in force, their so-called allies would not come to their aid?” The voice of one of the men cut into his flow of thoughts just in time, before his anger turned difficult control.

“Yes, I say that, and I say that with a good reason. The Great League would not join our unworthy neighbors in their war, just like these same Mountain People do not go to war in the east.” He encircled them with his gaze, glad to put his mind on something he could deal with. “The Flint People, whom they call the Keepers of the Eastern Door, are warring against fierce savages from the lands of the rising sun. The Onondagas are dealing with the Wyandot, their recently ridiculously temporary peace agreements notwithstanding.

Those won’t last. We all know they won’t, and they know it too. So they must be busy watching the shores of their Sparkling Water.” He paused, but only for a heartbeat, eyeing them one by one. “No one will join our wars in the west. They will be too busy or too indifferent to do that.” Shrugging, he let his smile of contempt show. “Their Great League is nothing but a sham. It helps them avoid the opening of their old squabbling between each other, but it does little else, no matter how they try to make it sound like a great union of one people.”

They nodded thoughtfully, offering little in the way of an argument. But, of course. They weren’t his adversaries, all these hunters and warriors whose pride the current stance of uncertain neutrality hurt. These men were various and many, from all over the region, curbed by the councils, mainly the Town Council of Tushuway, Aingahon’s own town. Such a major settlement, led by cowards. Only a handful, one or two of the more careful elders, but those were influential people. And very headstrong.

The girl was still watching him, staring with her strangely tilted, disquieting eyes. There was something about her gaze, something ominous. The closeness, he knew. It was unsettling enough before, when she would gaze at nothing in particular, but now, filled with concentration, with an obvious thought process, it made his skin prickle. Like facing an animal, he reflected, a forest creature of unknown quality. Smart, dangerous, dedicated to purpose, some purpose.

Historical Fiction and the Wyandot

12 October 2015 Comments (2)

The alliance of the Wyandot People from the northern side of the Lake Ontario—Huron as we came to know them in the modern recorded history—got significantly less attention than the famous great League of the Five Iroquois Nations.

In fact, the little that we do know about these people, seems to come to us through their relationship with the Great League—a troublesome relationship at that—and their role in the later-day struggle for power between the English, French, and Dutch newcomers.

Not much information, and certainly with no detail that is unrelated to the mentioned struggle of powers, or the earlier times.

The mainstream notion places the formation of the Wyandot union somewhere around the 15th century, with the first two to join the forces being Attignawantans/People of the Bear and Attigneenongnahacs/People of the Cord. Probably larger and more dominant, these two nations might have initiated the union, with the remaining Wyandot, Tahontaenrats/People of the Deer, and Arendarhonons/People of the Rock joining somewhat later, either on equal terms or as ‘younger brothers.’

Yet, there are sources that dispute this claim. The greater reach of the modern-day’s science, archeological studies, and deeper cultural research already moved the date of the famous Iroquois Great League a few centuries earlier, from the same 15th century accepted until some decades ago all the way to the August of 1142. The evidence like the exact location of a certain key event combined with the NASA records of full solar eclipses of the area provided us with definite dates, as opposed to the earlier less definite hunches. When it comes to the Wyandot, though, the concrete evidence is harder to find, as no records of their earlier times seem to be available. All we know is the fact that they did have a union and that their enmity with the Great League of the Iroquois seemed to go back centuries and more.

No political body, this alliance might have been lacking in mutual government, but their largest settlement Ossossane was recorded to be ‘boasting’ its status as a capital of all Wyandot People. So maybe they were united more closely than we came to believe they were.

In this novel, the third book of the People of the Longhouse series, I wanted to explore the possible causes of this union’s formation and possible difficulties its founders had to face. Due to the glaring lack of records, some literary license has to be taken, sometimes lavishly—not a problem when it comes to a hardcore historical factionalist only too eager to welcome such challenge—but sincere efforts have been made to keep as close as possible to every available record or documentation, along with the historical and cultural traits of the nations involved and the general history that has been retold.

The question of who his mother was puzzled Ogteah, but not to the extent of bothering him for real. His other troubles, the results of his life as a gambler and a lightweight, breezy and free of responsibility, were the ones to land him in trouble time after time. The people of his own hometown frowned, more and more direfully as the summers passed, until his mounting transgressions made him leave for good, mainly to stop embarrassing his father.

A great leader and a very dedicated person, his father was working hard to create an alliance between their own people and their various neighbors, an alliance that was supposed to keep their side of the Great Lake safe from the traditional enemy, the notorious Longhouse People and their Great League’s threatening presence. Concerned with none of this, Ogteah wandered far north, settling in the lands of the people his father wanted an alliance with. Only to run into more trouble.

Gayeri wasn’t concerned with political developments, powerful leaders, or their less successful sons, either. No troublesome newcomers entered her thoughts or caught her attention, certainly not a good-for-nothing gambler with a mysterious past. Having survived a brutal kidnapping but determined to forget all about it, she was busy carving a new life in her new surroundings, set on ensuring that it would shelter her from any more dangerous happenings. Protection was her first priority, and keeping away from men was a large part of it. Large-scale politics were of no consequence, whether those of her former Longhouse People or her new Crooked Tongued countryfolk. Her personal safety was most important, at the expense of everything else. .

And yet, the formation of the four Wyandot nations’ union was to interrupt their lives, to demand their involvement and participation, causing them to influence each other’s lives more than any of them could have imagined or foreseen

An excerpt from “Troubled Waters”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #3.

“The gathering of our nations will be held with the coming of the new moon. It will not be delayed, and it will not be put off.”

Encircling his audience with a piercing gaze, Hainteroh fought the urge to lick his lips, his mouth dry, craving a gulp of water. He had been speaking for too long by now, orating, then answering people’s questions. So many of them, coming from far and wide, listening avidly, but with enough doubt clouding their faces.

His venture into the Deer People’s lands was not proving worthwhile, not yet. Maybe not ever. These people, enemies of his people until not long ago, were wary of their enterprising neighbors. The offer to stop warring was one thing. No one hesitated for too long to accept the temporary cease of hostilities. But a union, an actual union that should make their leaders meet on a constant basis, oh, that smelled of dependence to this smaller nation, he knew. They did not trust, neither his Bear People nor the powerful dwellers from the shores of another Great Lake, the People of the Cord.

“We should all join in this union, an alliance of brother-nations. We are brothers, and we belong together, not apart.”

From his elevated position, he could see them, a lake of faces, crowding the hill, pushing closer, trying not to miss a word. A good thing. The Deer People may have been a smaller nation, but their location made them important, their presence in the projected alliance imperative. Also, they didn’t look too small and insignificant when touring their forests, visiting their settlements. The town he had been trying to convince, the place who were ready to offer hospitality, was as large as his own, with as many longhouses and a sturdy palisade. Yes, better to have these people on their side.

“Like our longhouses, with our families living together, sharing much, yet maintaining their independence, having each a fire of its own, so will be our union, an alliance of nations, tied by mutual management, yet independent, accountable first of all to their own leading people, towns, and clans councils.”

He encircled them with his gaze again, seeking out faces of those who stood closer, seeing their interest, their attention, but their wariness as well. They weren’t ready to trust an outsider, a leader of the neighboring people, with a long history of violence and half-hearted agreements. His being neither one of theirs nor a total foreigner made him lose on both counts.

It would have made them listen more readily had he been a savage from across the Great Lake, or maybe a dubious ally like the Long Tails People from the mists of the southwest. The Peacemaker was right. No one was ready to trust one of their own. But for this man still being around! He pushed the irrelevant thoughts away.

“No nation will be forced into our alliance, or threatened into doing this. And yet, why not elect a representative, even of your town alone, to travel to Ossossane, to witness our gathering, if not actively participate? The Deer People will benefit from joining our union. They will not regret listening to our proposals.”

More humming voices, more fascinated murmuring. He suppressed a shrug. After addressing this crowd since the sun was high in the sky, he was beginning to repeat himself. Time to break the meeting.

Historical Fiction and the Mohicans

30 December 2014 Comments (2)

While having a fairly large amount of evidence as to the time of the Great Iroquois League formation, we cannot tell for sure when the Mu-hee-can (Mohican) People came to occupy the valleys of the Hudson River. It might have happened not many decades after the Great Peace of the Iroquois was established, or maybe a century or so later.

According to some of the legends, the Mohican People’s ancestors came to the Hudson River after much wandering, seeking the lost homeland of ‘great waters’, finding it in this mighty river that ‘flowed and ebbed like no other’. They came to call it Muheconneok, which roughly means ‘The Waters That Are Never Still’. Here they settled, to become known to their neighbors as River People, or Mu-hee-can, Mohican as we know these people today.

But the Great League of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee, People of the Longhouse) had spread to the west, a strong alliance of five nations, an amazing democracy and a regional power that no one could overlook or dismiss lightly. Wary of strangers, this powerful league did not hesitate when it came to waging war, in defending their towns and villages, or, like in many cases, taking the warfare into the enemy territory.

Out of the Five Nations, the members of the Great League, the Mohawks (People of the Flint) were the ones responsible for the eastern neighbors of the confederacy and their behavior. Carrying the title of Keepers of the Eastern Door in the metaphorical Longhouse of the Great League, these people took their responsibilities seriously. The wars between the Mohawk and the Mohican People were reported to last for centuries, relentless and uncompromising.

Although culturally similar to other woodland Algonquin People, the Mohican’s way of life might have been reshaped by the centuries of the constant warfare with the neighboring Great League (Iroquois). At some point, the Mohicans were reported to form an association of four or five nations as well, not a confederacy but an alliance, for defensive purposes probably, and to maintain trading ties. Unlike the Great League, there was no mutual government and no sense of political body with strict sets of laws proscribing everyone’s conduct.

Governed by hereditary sachems of matrilineal descent, the villages – fairly large settlements of many bark houses, or sometimes small to mid-size longhouses – were advised by a council of the clan leaders. All in all, these people had only three clans – Bear, Wolf, and Turtle.

However, the warfare with their powerful neighbors to the west demanded a higher degree of organization. Through later centuries, when their alliance had been probably already organized, a general council of sachems would meet regularly at their capital of Skootuck (or Shodac, eastward to the present-day Albany) to decide important matters affecting the entire alliance. In times of war, the Mohican council passed its authority to a war chief chosen for his proven ability. For the duration of the conflict, the war leader exercised almost dictatorial power.

Next to the villages, that were usually located on the elevated ground, fortified to their best, large cornfields would spread, the regular diet of maize, beans and squash supplemented by hunting and fishing, and collecting of forest fruit. For reasons of safety, the Mohicans did to move to scattered hunting camps during the winter like other Algonquin and usually spent the colder months inside their fortified villages and towns.

And so, these people continued to be a force to be reckoned with, with passing of each century more so, as it seemed.

However, at the time featured in this novel, the idea of such cooperation might have only been beginning to form, promoted by some farsighted leaders, probably, not yet to bear fruit.

They felt she was too spirited, too forward, too boyish, not as feminine and as graceful as a young woman should be. Their frowns followed her like a cloud, but she didn’t care. Other girls may have worked happily, danced beautifully, or sewn themselves pretty dresses, but they could not climb or run or swim as well as she did, the silly, giggly, empty-headed creatures that they were. The entire village may have been frowning at her, but when she spotted the enemy forces camping under the Sacred Hill, they had no choice but to listen.

Okwaho knew they were being watched. Whether by spirits or a wandering local, he could not ignore the feeling of the wary, frightened, hate-filled eyes staring out of the forest, burning his skin. But of course! Of course, the local woods distrusted them. He and his people were invaders, not coming to trade or engage in other peaceful dealings, but to raid these settlements. The enemies from the lands of the rising sun were bad, evil, impossible to understand. And yet… And yet, when the urge to prove himself lent him enough words to convince the leader of their party to send him and his friend on the mission of scouting the suspected hill, he could not have imagined what consequences this deviation from the well-planned road would lead them all into, the attackers and defenders alike.

An excerpt from “Beyond the Great River”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #1.

“When our forefathers came to the beautiful valleys of the River Whose Waters Are Never Still, they knew they had found a new homeland.”

The open challenge in his father’s voice brought Migisso back into the impressively large council house, stuffed with mats and decorations aplenty. What riches! The council house of their village was nothing but a few hastily constructed bark walls and a fireplace.

“The lands of our ancestors forgotten, we made the plentiful valleys of the mighty river our home, our only home. It is here where Father Sun blessed us and smiled upon us, showing his satisfaction. It is here where our forefathers were allowed to stay and build their villages.” The man’s gaze encircled his audience, open, imploring. “We are brothers, we who came here from the west. We are a family. We should never forget that.”

The speech was coming along well, if the grave nods and the creased foreheads were to serve as an indication. Migisso suppressed a shrug. They knew what Father wanted, and those who did not, were sure to understand now.

A cooperation, a union. The man had been struggling to make it happen for some time now, not always listened to, not always supported or understood, not even by his own fellow villagers.

Was it really that necessary to cooperate with the neighbors they barely knew, to establish some sort of a procedure? Migisso was not so sure about that, and neither were the others. The towns and villages of River People, those who came here some generations ago, were scattered throughout bountiful valleys and along the Great River, not warring, true, but not keeping close contact aside from occasional trading. Why would they? Every settlement made its own living, and there was more than enough of that. Why would they wish to seek each other’s advice, or give such if asked?

“We do live as a family, Brother.” The impressively tall man, the head of this town’s most important clan, nodded calmly, his face a blank mask. “As our clans are scattered among the villages and towns, so our settlements are spread along these lands. It is the right way of living, the way of our ancestors. Why would you wish to change that?”

“We need to keep closer ties, like the family we are. We need to protect each other.”

For a heartbeat, the leaders kept quiet, staring at the fire, each in their own thoughts. Remembering the raids, Migisso imagined, his own stomach constricting at the mere thought.

“Our villages and towns are living in peace with each other, exchanging goods and well wishes. These were the ways of our fathers, indeed, but it is not enough these days. The western beast has grown more aggressive, seeking to hurt, seeking to destroy. They have grown larger and bolder. The captives from their lands report strange happenings. These people have changed since the messenger of their evil spirits came to their lands. They have grown stronger and fiercer. We cannot contain them separately anymore. We need to unite.”

The other man’s eyes narrowed. “Does your village have captives of the enemy?”

Historical fiction and the Great League of the Iroquois

13 July 2014 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Peacekeeper

The after-story of the Great Peacemaker’s legend is not clear. Some versions refer to his disappearance briefly, off-handedly, stating that after bringing the Law of the Great Peace to the people, he went back to the Sky World.

Other versions do not mention his departure at all, concentrating on the events of the First Gathering and the elaborate set of laws he had given the people on this opportunity.

What is clear and agreed upon by all versions of the story is the fact that he did not participate in the government he created, did not sit among the fifty representatives he went to such great pains to guide and direct.

The names of the original fifty became titles, to be passed to each office’s successor and become his to use for the time the man would be expected to hold his position—a lifetime in many cases. These important dignitaries could be replaced by the Clan Mothers of the towns they represented, but there was no limited time for them to officiate if they did so in a satisfactory manner. Thus, the man who was chosen to replace Hionhwatha assumed the name of this great man, and the man who was honored to officiate as the Head of the Great Council was to be called Tadodaho as long he stayed in the office. And so on.

Yet, the Peacemaker’s name was not passed down through the generations. He was clearly not among the original fifty who had formed the first Great Council. A clear indication that he did not remain to see the confederacy of his creation functioning, blossoming as the years passed.

But where did he go?

Wyandot, or Wendat, people from across Lake Ontario—the Great Sparkling Water—or Crooked Tongues as they were honored to be called by the other side of the lake, his original people, were reported to have a confederacy as well. They were four nations of similar-sounding languages, and their union seemed to be of the same nature, maybe on a smaller scale, but not by much. There is no clear evidence as to the time their union might have been formed, not like with the Five Nations, thanks to the solar eclipse and the many recorded versions of the story, but we do know that such a union did exist.

So he might have died, or disappeared, but he also might have gone to his former people, to do for them what he had done for their enemies? It would be strange if, after declaring his intentions of bringing all peoples under the shade of the Great Tree of Peace, he would not have tried to do so starting with his own ‘Crooked Tongues.’

And even if he failed, as, historically, we know that there was no peace between the League of the Five Nations and the Wyandot (Huron) from the other side, he might have tried to do that at least, to attempt to unite his former people into a similar sort of a union.

With the Great Peace established, new laws delivered, and important agreements reached, Two Rivers and Tekeni could now sit back and enjoy the fruits of their work, watching the union of Five Nations alive and kicking, functioning, maintaining the Peacemaker’s wonderful vision. Or so they thought…

Tekeni had never trusted the power-hungry Tadodaho, now the Head of the Great Council. Yet, Two Rivers dismissed such warnings lightly, too lightly for Tekeni’s peace of mind. The devious man was up to something. Tekeni’s gut instincts screamed danger, but the Peacemaker kept waving his hand in dismissal, claiming that everything was under control.

And then, the Crooked Tongues entered the scene…

An excerpt from “The Peacekeeper”, The Peacemaker Series, book #4

She said nothing, her palm pressing his shoulder, giving warmth, but not enough of it. Nothing would fill the void the incredible man from across the Great Sparkling Water would leave when gone, back to the Great Spirits he clearly belonged to. He was their messenger, the temporary guest here.

“He didn’t finish his work, you know.” He felt silly, like a complaining child, whining about things he couldn’t have. “He said five nations was just a beginning. He went to see Long Tails from the west, somewhere upon the shores of another Great Lake. We barely hear of these people, but the People of the Mountains knew, and they told him. So he went there. Like in the good old times, but alone. I was busy organizing the Second Gathering.” It was easier to keep talking, it kept his grief in some sort of control. “And the Crooked Tongues, of course. He wanted to have them as a part of our union. He invited their delegation, but it was not enough, he said. Not a pitiful delegation from one or two towns. He wanted to go there in the summer, to organize them like he did with our people. Then we could talk to them properly, he said.”

Sighing, he smiled at the memory, not a happy smile.

“He said he did not believe I would like to come. I told him, damn right, I would never cross the Great Sparkling Water again, not if I could help it. But I would have now, you know? If it was the way to save him, to make him change his mind, I would be sailing our Sparkling Water before the sun was to kiss the treetops of the eastern side of it.”

The pressure of the gentle palm was gone.

“He wanted to go and organize the Crooked Tongues?” she asked, suddenly excited.

“Yes, he did.”

“Alone?”

“I suppose so.”

She coiled into her previous position again, pressing her knees with her arms, but not sobbing now, deep in thought.

“What?”

“Wait. Let me think!”

“Think about what, Kahontsi?”

“I think I may have a solution. But you won’t like it.”

“There is no solution.”

“Maybe there is.” Her eyes shone at him like two bright stars, their excitement barely contained. “Like the test of the falls, eh? It was wild, but was worth a try. And we did it. And it worked.”

He felt his own excitement beginning to stir. “Tell me.”

Historical Fiction and the Five Nations

23 September 2013 Comments (0)

I am happy to announce the release of another new book

The Great Law of Peace

Having proven the divine nature of his mission to the People of the Flint (Mohawks), the Great Peacemaker began working for real.

Backed by this powerful nation and their goodwill, he had approached their immediate neighbors, The People of the Standing Stone (Oneida), who had proven relatively easy to convince. The message of the Good Tidings of Peace fell on attentive ears, although it must have taken a few gatherings and more than a few arguments to make two enemy nations sit beside the same fire.

“They deliberated for three days, with the foreigner doing most of the talking,” went on the older warrior, scratching the sides of his bowl with the spoon in an attempt to fish out the last of the juicy pieces. “And they are still there, waiting for the representatives of the other towns to arrive.”

“Can’t they conduct their own people’s meeting without the Messenger holding their hands?” asked Jikonsahseh, raising her eyebrows high.

The men shrugged in unison.

The People of the Great Swamp (Cayuga) joined the proposed union of the nations eagerly, but their neighbors to the west, the fierce warlike People of the Mountains (Seneca) remained suspicious. They were divided anyway, following two different leaders, with Genesee River being a natural boundary. Yet, what united both disagreeing leaders was their mutual dislike of foreigners trying to pry into their people’s affairs. To speak to the enemies of yesterday? Oh please!

But the Peacemaker was not about to go away. Or to take a ‘no’ for an answer. Accompanied by the leaders of the three other nations, he sailed into the lands of the stubborn Seneca, to talk and to persuade, by another miracle if necessary.

The meeting might have not been very well going, as at some point the Peacemaker was reported to make “the sun disappear from the sky” . Indeed, in August 1142, around the possible site of this meeting (Ganondagan, near modern-day Victor, NY) a full solar eclipse have occurred according to the list displayed on NASA Eclipse Website. There were, of course, more eclipses recorded above this area – a century earlier, and a few centuries later too – but those were either not full or occurring at the wrong time of the year or a day.

This or that way, after witnessing such a terrible prove of the divine displeasure, Seneca People joined promptly, with no more arguments or debates.

The sun was a pitifully thin crescent, like Grandmother Moon on certain days. Oh, Mighty Spirits! Tekeni watched the strips of light, darting across the ground, alternating with patches of black, both moving fast, like attacking predators. It was as though the light and the darkness were fighting each other. The epic battle of the Celestial Twins?

He felt his heart fluttering, the stony fist gripping his stomach, squeezing with all its might. But for the presence of Two Rivers, he would turn around and run into the woods, to crawl somewhere quiet and maybe vomit in fear. The world was ending in front of his eyes, and he was not ready for this. It was one thing to risk his life, facing the death, fighting or sailing, or hunting a bear, but another to watch the world dying, collapsing on its own, with the Father Sun being devoured by a feral beast.”

With the backing of four powerful nations, the Peacemaker could turn to the last of the reluctant, the Onondagas. In the lands of the People of the Hills (Onondaga) all was not well. Tadodaho, the man responsible for Hiawatha’s family’s death, was still strong, still influential, still adamant in his refusal to listen to the message of the Great Peace. He was reported to be a powerful sorcerer, with twisted limbs and snakes for a hair.

The Peacemaker and Hiawatha went to see him alone.

According to many versions of the legend it was a long tedious meeting. The old sorcerer refused to listen. Snakes twisted in his hair, and his ears were closed to reason. The Father Sun climbed its usual path and was about to descend to its resting place and still the Peacemaker talked, refusing to give up.

In the end the old sorcerer was convinced. He allowed the Peacemaker to comb the snakes out of his hair, his twisted limbs straightened and he joined the Great Peace.

Judging by the Peacemaker’s wonderfully detailed, well-recorded constitution, it might not have been that simple. Onondaga People had definitely received a special place. The meetings of the Five Nations were to be always held in Onondaga lands, making its inhabitants into the Keepers of the Central Fire. In the Great Council these people were represented considerably more heavily than any other nation (14 Onondaga representatives as opposed to 9 of the Mohawks, 9 of the Oneida, 10 of Cayuga and 8 of Seneca).

Tadodaho was to preside over the meetings, having a position of an arbiter, and a power of veto. Not that the power of veto gave the Onondagas any clear advantage, as the voting was required to be always unanimous, thus granting every member of the council power to veto any decision.

Still, these positions of honor and additional power may have be the ones to tip the scales on that famous snakes-combing meeting. The Peacemaker was a great man with grand vision and a brilliant thinking. He might have thought of those concessions to lure the man he needed to join on his free will. In the end there was no inequality in the Great League’s procedures, honorific titles or not.

An excerpt from “The Great Law of Peace”, The Peacemaker Series, book #3.

He pushed the troublesome thoughts aside, concentrating on the elated mood of this town, talking to them and letting them talk. Hionhwatha had done a splendid work, he decided. He had clearly spent no time in idleness and gloom. These people wanted to join, with no special concessions even, but the real challenge was still ahead of him.

“Tadodaho is holding his town and the settlements surrounding Onondaga Lake in his firm grip. He is fiercer than ever, and by now, quite eager to meet you, to pit his strength against yours. He doesn’t fear me more than he should, so my life is in no danger. But yours is.”

“Then we shall give him his meeting.” Replete with food, Two Rivers sought out his pipe, always within an easy reach. He was relying on its calming effect too readily these days, he reflected, crushing the dry tobacco leaves, not paying attention to the familiar process. Of an old he had not been smoking his pipe at every opportunity.“Join us, and we will sail to Onondaga Town in a real strength, with our intentions peaceful but our spirits strong, unwavering, ready to face any challenge.” He forced a grin, missing Tekeni’s presence. For a change, the young man had chosen to stay on the shore, reinforcing the warriors who remained behind in order to guard their canoes. As though there was a need to guard their vessels, camping in such a friendly place.

“Maybe,” said the old leader thoughtfully. “Maybe we’ll do just that.” His grin spread, along with a slightly mischievous sparkle. “And to think that when we separated on the shores of Onondaga Lake you were no more than a strangely spoken foreigner with a few outcasts for followers. But look at you now! Two seasons later, you come to me, followed by four united nations, speaking our tongue, more sure of yourself than ever. And more impatient.” The glimmer in the dark eyes deepened. “You will need every grain of your patience now. While dealing with Tadodaho, you will have to be firm and confident, as unwavering as always, but this sparkle of arrogance I see in you now will have to go. You cannot force my people into your union, four nations or not. You can only persuade them.”

“Can Tadodaho be persuaded?” Momentarily alone, as, out of respect, people moved away, letting the two leaders converse in private, Two Rivers eyed the older man, pleased with the changes. The haunted, violent look was gone, replaced by the dignified bearing, the slightly amused, know-it-all twinkle new to the broad, wrinkled face. The old bastard knew what Two Rivers wanted to know, and he was not about to volunteer the information without making the visitor ask.

“Maybe he can be persuaded. Who knows?” The wide shoulders lifted in a shrug. “He has been waiting for you to come. Not much had been done around Onondaga Lake to make it ready against your arrival. The old fox is clearly playing for time, curious, confident in his ability to deal with you, to put you in your place or get rid of you. Curious and expectant. Maybe he has more wisdom than we credit him with.” Another shrug. “He could have gotten rid of me, could have swayed High Springs to his side, but he did not. Why? Only his devious mind knows. I think he is eager to meet you.”

“Then we shall grant him his wish.” Uneasily, Two Rivers shifted, leaning against the warm tiles of the bark lining the wall of the longhouse. “Maybe when he sees the size of our delegation, it will make him pause.”

“It won’t. He knows his strengths and our weaknesses. He knows that we need to make it as peaceful as we can, resorting to no violence, as tempting as the option may be. But, of course, we shall sail in a day or two. We have not much choice, do we? And we do have the power now.”

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