Posts Tagged: Iroquois

Atenaha, the Seed Game that even the deities played

15 June 2014 Comments (0)

So, you are a man and had a busy day behind you. Not something as demanding as trailing along with your peers on a hunting expedition – such enterprise could take days – but just a regular daily activity, clearing a new field at the demand of your Clan Mothers, or chopping firewood, or working on a construction of a new longhouse. Enough activity to make you tired physically but not mentally; not enough to make you sneak into your longhouse’s compartment to catch a good nap on one of the lower banks.

As the Father Sun would be rolling down, progressing toward his resting place, you might get start enjoying this well deserved rest, engaging in throwing games with your equally tired but restless peers. After all, you all have already completed your chores, washed in the nearby stream and ate the warmed meal prepared by the women of your family in the morning. So it might be the time to have some idle fun.

Atenaha – a seed game – required little accessories and not much preparation or skill. Like dice it was a game of luck, mainly, to pass an idle afternoon. With blanket, folded and thoroughly smoothed, acting like a game-board, eight small wooden, or carved out of elk horn, disks, burned or blackened on one side each, and a pile of seeds or beans, forty in amount , you and your friends were set to go.

The first player would grab the stones, shake them thoroughly, then throw, making sure none slipped between his palms while mixing them vigorously (such misfortune could see the player losing his round no matter what his throw brought).

The array of the dice upon the blanket would determine the players’ achievement per round. If the stones spread out displaying their blackened sides, all eight of them, you would whoop with joy and earn twenty points, sweeping twenty seeds/beans out of the central pot and into your private stockpiles. This was the luckiest throw.

Still, if your discs would spread on the blanket all displaying their unpainted sides, you would probably not be heard complaining. Ten points such throw would earn you is not likely to see you desperate.

Seven painted/unpainted sides would give you four points, and six would still see you collecting two seeds out of the pot. Nothing to boast about, but not the total failure, either. Any less than that – five painted as opposed to three unpainted, or the other way around, and so on – would earn you nothing, but the loss of your round. Not the end of the world, but you might still get thoroughly angered.

So at this stage the players would be fully engaged, enjoying themselves, most probably ignoring the ominous glances of the passing-by ever-busy Clans Mothers – the elderly women who ran the council of each longhouse and who were bound to frown on such idle pastime. Yet, the players would be too busy for that now, using one hand to throw, and the other to hide their winnings. In many versions of the game a lucky throw would earn the participants another round ahead of his peers.

And so the game would continue until the pot with the seeds empties. By this point some would have hoarded high piles of beans, while the others would sport smaller heaps, or nothing at all. A player without earnings could continue but usually not for long.

Because at this point the game changes.

If before each earned point was compensated out of the central pot of seeds, now it would have to come out of the piles owed by the fellow players. So if you had nothing left but it was your turn to throw and you were lucky enough to earn a point or two, you would be off for a passable re-start.

But if it was someone else’s turn, you would be very likely kicked out of the game the moment your companion earned even the minimal amount of points, because everyone was required to cache in. For example, a throw of all-whites – worthy of ten points as you remember – would require the remaining players, say three of them, to give the lucky winner each three or four seeds. If you have nothing to give, you were out. But the game would go on. Also if you had two seeds instead of the required three, out you would go as well, bankrupted, with what you had left behind divided between the rest of the players.

This is the point when the game turns into a race against one another, with the ultimate victor being the person who remained in possession of all seeds.

The end of the game.

Time to collect the bets, if anything was wagered against the victory, to go home and store your newly acquired goods. Or to engage in a new round of game. Like anywhere else around the globe, the People of the Longhouse (the Iroquois) were fond of gambling.

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

Are you going to fall asleep on us, you vigorous player?”

His companions’ laughter made Hainteroh concentrate.

“Didn’t notice it was my turn.” Collecting the marked stones, he smoothed the surface of the folded blanket, making sure it was ready for his throw.

“Of course you didn’t notice. When one is staring into thin air the way you were, one is prone to missing the goings-on. What were you dreaming about?”

“Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

Their renewed laughter did not make him angry, not like it would have only a few seasons earlier, in his previous life, when unimportant things had mattered. Back then he would have challenged anyone who dared to laugh or tease him, especially in front of his peers. Today he just shrugged, shaking the stones briefly, throwing them over the smooth surface, watching the marks, his heartbeat not quickening. The outcome of the game did not matter either, any more than their amusement with his wandering attention did.

“Your throw.” Indifferently, he pushed the stones toward the man to his left, collecting the dry seeds out of a large bowl, the four seeds that his throw had earned him.

“Don’t you care if you win or lose?” asked one of the others, a tall man with a spectacular scar running down his left cheek. “You will fall asleep on us for real in the end.”

Hainteroh shrugged. “No, I don’t.”

“What do you care about?”

“Other things.”

“Like what?”

He stifled a yawn. “Important things.”

The stones landed upon the folded blanket again, some rolling outside it, some slowing among the wrinkles. Two painted, six unpainted. The man beside him cursed. His stack of seeds was meager, and the addition of only two more did nothing to encourage his spirit.

“So what are the important things you do care about?” insisted the man with the scar.

Hainteroh fixed his gaze on the rolling pebbles, the throw of a youth to his left forceful, making the stones scatter outside the blanket.

“Same as yours.”

“How do you know what I deem important?” The man was watching him, challenging, not about to give up.

“I don’t.” He shrugged again, not feeling threatened. “For myself, I want to kill as many of the filthy lowlifes from across the Great Sparkling Water as I can.” He met his interrogator’s gaze. “I want to burn down their towns and villages and make them suffer for real.” Shrugging again, he narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you want that, too?”

The youth’s curse distracted them as the stones came to a halt, displaying five painted against three unpainted sides. No seeds were to be collected for such a throw.

“Bad turn.” The fourth player grabbed the throwing stones. “But it’s your fault. You don’t toss the poor stones with such violence. One needs to give them proper time to mix between your palms, to feel your warmth. That will reassure them, make them feel calm and unthreatened. Then they will roll and try to do their best for you.” As they listened to the pleasantly monotonous rustling, the man grinned in a slightly condescending manner. “As for the enemy from across our Sparkling Water, you all may need to gather your patience and hold onto your temper as best you can.” A glance shot at Hainteroh was openly amused. “Which won’t be easy for some of you, young hotheads that you are.”

“What do you mean?” He didn’t watch the pebbles as they spread upon the blanket, in a neat pattern, as though prearranged, but the gasps of the others told him the throw was good, maybe too good.

The Maple Ceremony

2 June 2014 Comments (0)

Haudenosaunee People (Iroquois nations) did not spare on festivals and thanksgiving events, ready to celebrate the beginning of each season or each new agricultural undertaking, ready to thank the Great Spirits for their generosity and their good will.

The winters were harsh, difficult to endure, especially for the people used to spend their time outdoors. Although having plenty of venting holes, one above each fireplace that dotted long corridors, longhouses could grow suffocating in the closed, smoke-filled air, when every opening was shut tight against the frequency of the blizzards, forcing people to huddle inside. The smoke spread around, stinging people’s eyes and making them cough. No wonder that with the coming of spring, many would plunge into the joys of the outside life, eager to celebrate the rebirth of the world with a beautiful Maple Ceremony.

The Maple Moon fell around the first month of the spring – early to mid March – in time for the maple trees to give plenty of the wonderful sap for the people to enjoy (Haudenosaunee people lived according to the lunar calendar, counting 13 moons of 28 days each). Some claim that the Maple Ceremony was the first official ceremony of the year, the one to start the new cycle of seasons (although the Midwinter Ceremony is more likely to contest for such title), because the returning and raising sap relayed the Great Spirits’ continues benevolence, showed that the kind deities were not tired watching over their creations, not disappointed and not aloof. Pine, hemlock, elm and basswood were esteemed; the maple trees were revered.

So, through the Maple Moon people would pour out in groups, armed with knives and carrying wooden containers, or sometimes, baskets and jars. Each tree would be cut reverently, carefully, as to not to wound the generous forest dweller, but only to let the sap trickle. The maple trees were not to be harmed. The cut needed to be two or three fingers deep and, at least, a palm long. Otherwise, the sap would be difficult to collect. Then a flat stick would be driven into the gush, directing the sticky flow into containers and tabs, collecting the sweetish liquid.

Later on, the collected sap would be boiled in clay vessels, to be used as sweetener and energizer, in all sort of cooking and sometimes, as a medicine to fortify aching stomachs. Sometimes the sap might have even been fermented and used as intoxicant according to Arthur C. Parker, who admits to only one source mentioning such use through the years of his research.

After many days of such happy activity, a Maple Sugar Festival was held in order to thank the Creators. People would perform sacred dances and the faith-keepers would give thanksgiving speeches, burning tobacco, letting its fragrant smoke rise to the world of the Sky Spirits, carrying people’s gratitude to the creators of this earthly world.

The faith-keepers were respectable people of the society, entrusted with many aspects of spiritual representation, organizing and conducting ceremonies, but these were not their primary duties. There was no equivalent of the priest title among the Five Nations. When it came to private lives, everyone thanked the Creators the way he or she felt fit, with no outside intervention or guidance, unless specifically asked for.

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

“So tell me, sister,” the girl smiled, revealing a row of large, even teeth. “How long were you forced to live among the savages of the Flint?”

“Two moons.” Frowning, Onheda took the flat stick off the gash in the maple tree, making sure that not a drop of the precious sap was still seeping. Satisfied, she cleaned the stick and measured the amount of the collected liquid in her jar.

“Two moons is a long time to survive without being adopted,” commented the girl, shooting a gaze full of curiosity at Onheda. She bent to pick a greenish strawberry that hid among the bushes and eyed it dubiously before giving it a hesitant bite. “How did you manage to get away?”

“I slipped out in the middle of the night.” Absently, Onheda caressed the cut bark, muttering a silent prayer, thanking the old tree for being so generous. Pine, hemlock, elm and basswood were honored, highly esteemed, but the maple trees were the special gift of the Right-Handed Twin himself. Its returning and raising sap let people know that the new span of seasons had truly begun, with the Great Spirits’ blessing, benevolence, and goodwill.

The eyes of her companion did not stir, sparkling with expectation. The girl’s name was Hanowa, and she was a funny, restless, sweet little thing. “Weren’t you afraid to make the matters truly bad for you by running away?”

Onheda raised her eyebrows. “They didn’t seem to take it badly. It’s not like their entire warriors’ force was chasing me all the way to our lands.”

The girl giggled. “That would be a sight I could do without. And surely you, too.” Her eyes sparkled again. “But how did you manage to live there for so long without being adopted?”

“Oh, well…” She fought the urge to tell the stupid fox to mind her own business, proceeding toward the next maple tree, instead. “It was their fault, actually. They took their time. I thought I was adopted, and then, all of a sudden, that annoying women from that longhouse I lived at told me I was not actually adopted, demanding that I do things to make it happen.” Onheda snorted. “Such an annoying ground snake she was!”

“What did she want you to do?”

“Well, all sorts of things. She said I was not adapting well. She wanted me to be nice to people. But I was nice, I was! Not to all of them, but to some.” She shrugged. “They were all right, all things considered. But not all of them.”

“There are quite a few Flint people’s women in Onondaga Town,” said the girl thoughtfully, fishing a long knife from the basket she carried. “But our clan has none, so you are lucky, I say. There was this young man – a very good-looking boy at that – but he fell in love with a girl from the nearby village, and when the Grandmother of her longhouse agreed, he went to live there.”

The girl laughed. “To the deep disappointment of more than a few cute-looking foxes from all over the town, I say. He was truly good-looking and nice. I would have fallen for him myself had he not been from our longhouse.” Another bout of laughter. “I bet you would be running back to your High Springs if he were still there. You must hate them all really badly, to take such a terrible risk like running away.”

Taking the knife from her chatty companion, Onheda frowned, studying the tree.

“I don’t hate them all. I met good Flint People, too. In fact, I have a really good friend among them.” She studied the bark closely, looking for signs. “He was captured too, and he lived among the Crooked Tongues, imagine that. He ran away too, and now he is back in his Little Falls.”

But maybe not anymore, she thought hopefully, her stomach twisting. Maybe he is on his way here, he and the Crooked Tongues man, rowing against the current, hurrying to visit her people, to bring them the message of the Great Peace, hurrying to find her like he promised. What would he do when he heard that she was not at Jikonsahseh’s? Would he be disappointed? Hurt? She hoped he would.

“Among the Crooked Tongues?” cried out the girl, aghast. “Oh, Mighty Spirits! I would take my own life if captured by those savages.”

“They are no savages,” said Onheda returning her attention to the tree she was scanning. “Didn’t you hear about the Messenger?”

The Rise of the Iroquois Part III, Haudenosaunee, the People of the Longhouse

27 February 2014 Comments (0)

With the People of the Flint (Mohawks) firmly behind him, the Great Peacemaker could now begin implementing his plans full time.

First the National Council of his current hosts has to be organized, to be conducted in the way of the town councils, with its representatives being nominated by the Clan Mothers, promptly replaced should the chosen man be noticed neglecting his duties.

Next, the neighboring nation, the People of the Standing Stone (Oneida) was to be approached. Surprisingly, the People of the Standing Stone gave the Peacemaker no trouble, joining the union promptly and with great excitement. In a matter of a few gatherings the old enmity of long moons and summers was forgotten, to be replaced by a brotherhood and a firm agreement. The laws of the Peacemaker’s constitution were strong and uncompromising.

Yet, not every nation received the message of the Good Tidings of Peace with enthusiasm. The Onondaga People were still unheeding, still resentful, with Hiawatha, encouraged by the Peacemaker, back and struggling, but Tadodaho proving difficult, impossible to convince, or even intimidate, into listening.

To the west, the People of the Great Swamp (Cayuga) greeted the changes most eagerly, but their neighbors, the powerful People of the Mountains (Seneca) wouldn’t hear any of it. They were divided too, with two prominent leaders agreeing but in one thing, as it seemed – in their resentment of foreigners presuming to manage their people’s affairs. To convince the People of the Mountains another miracle was needed, but by this time the Great Peacemaker seemed to be growing impatient.

So it was August 1142, when he arrived at Genesee River, a river that crossed Senecas’ lands, making a boundary between the two parts of the nation.

The gathering was called, with both leaders coming promptly, but with their minds closed to reason. The argument that ensued must have been long and tedious. Seneca people seemed to be wary of the idea of peace and mutual management alongside with the people considered their bitter enemies for long summers that passed.

And then the sun began disappearing from the sky.

The list of fulltime solar eclipses shows that, indeed, one such occurred over this area in August 1142 (and again somewhere around 1451), according to the list displayed on NASA Eclipse Website.

Whether it was the Great Peacemaker’s doing or not, upon seeing such a terrible phenomena, the People of the Mountains brought forward no more arguments. Having recovered from their fright but awed beyond reason, they joined the proposed union with no further delays.

Which left the Great Peacemaker free to deal with the Onondagas and their difficult Tadodaho.

According to many versions of the legend, the Peacemaker and Hiawatha went to see the evil sorcerer together, armed with their words and little else.

The daylight hours passed while they talked and talked, with the evil man refusing to listen. Snakes twisted in his hair, and his body was contorted, terrible to look at.

Finally, after many persuasive speeches the stubborn leader deigned to see the reason, agreeing to join the Good Tidings of Peace. At this point the Peacemaker was reported to comb the snakes out of his difficult adversary’s hair, making the twisted limbs straight again.

Whether it was that simple, or was the Peacemaker forced to bargain, offering much in exchange for a partnership and cooperation, we don’t know. The various legends say nothing about the actual terms.

What we do know is that the Onondaga People received many concessions, having gained an advanced position in the union that was to prosper for the centuries to come.

There was no inequality in the wonderfully democratic set of law proposed by the Great Peacemaker, still the Onondaga enjoyed a very prominent position, indeed, with the gathering of the Great Council being held permanently in their lands, giving them a certain measure of power while authorized to summon the Great Council’s meetings. The closing word was always to be theirs, with the Onondaga representatives being the last to sound their opinion on any issues deliberated by the council.

It was a sort of vetoing powers, but the proceeding of the council rendered that advantage useless. With the unanimous voting being required, it came to every member of the council having a power of vetoing any decision, anyway.

And so the Great Council of the Five Nations was born then and there, to survive for centuries and to give the later-day’s European newcomers their version of the modern-day USA constitution.

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

Unable to stop himself from doing so, Tekeni looked up, a stony fist squeezing his stomach. What started as the dark crack on the edge of the blazing sun was now a blot of ominous blackness, swallowing the shining deity like a snake devouring its prey, unhurried, sure of itself. He almost shut his eyes, his senses clinging to the familiar voice, so calm and well measured. Didn’t Two Rivers notice that something was amiss?

“You are the fifth family, the keepers of the western door. Without you, our longhouse will not be whole.”

Most people were staring at the sky now, some gaping, some pointing, murmuring, looking around, their fear unconcealed.

“It all sounds very well,” the younger leader’s voice boomed, overcoming the growing hum. “But what happens if we refuse to join? Will the Great Spirits direct you to gather the warriors of the four nations in order to force us into your union? What will you do if we refuse to guard the western door of your metaphorical longhouse?”

Two Rivers got to his feet, looking suddenly tired, almost exhausted.

“I think the Great Spirits are not trying to conceal their displeasure,” he said quietly, his jaw stubbornly tight, but his eyes clouded, thoughtful and oh-so-very sad. “Listen to this.”

Gesturing widely, he pointed toward the forest behind their backs. Not a chirp of a bird came from between the swaying trees. Even the insects kept quieter now, as though afraid of the darkness.

“What does it mean?” the people were shouting. “What is happening?”

“The Great Spirits are displeased.” Two Rivers’ voice rang calmly, but there was an obvious tension to it now.

Unable to fight the urge, Tekeni came closer, but whether to protect his friend in case someone decided to attack him, or to seek the safety beside the man who seemed to be doing all this, he didn’t know.

The cold was growing, definite now. And so were the shadows. He noticed the flowers down the clearing were closing up, as though the night were nearing.

People were rushing about, openly afraid, peering at the sky, murmuring prayers. Two Rivers stood there alone, watching the sharpening shadows, his jaw tight.

“Your dream?” whispered Tekeni, stepping into the void surrounding his friend. Even their people kept away from the Crooked Tongues man now, stealing terrified glances.

The warm palm rested on his shoulder, heavy and reassuring. “Yes. But it is going to be all right.”

The distant shadows loomed over the western side of the lake, like a gathering storm.

“What is happening?” He swallowed, hearing his own voice husky and high, full of panic. The urge to run away welled. It was obvious that the Left-Handed Twin was coming to claim their world for himself and his underworld minions and followers, the bad, poisonous uki and the giants that were still reported to roam the earth. The cry of an owl confirmed this assumption. An owl in the middle of the day?

“I don’t know,” Two Rivers’ voice shook now too, his self-assurance gone. “I wish I knew!”

Lacrosse – the sacred game to please the creators

4 February 2014 Comments (0)

Wandering around upstate New York early in the previous millennia, you might have enjoyed hospitality of many towns and settlements spread all over the land.

Haudenosaunee people, whom we today know as various Iroquois nations, lived there for centuries, growing crops of maize, squash and beans, farming, hunting and fishing, while maintaining one of the worlds’ earliest democracies through a remarkable set of laws that, centuries later, was used as an inspiration for USA modern-day constitution.

Their towns and villages were not excessively large, usually up to a few thousand or less citizens, dwelling in several longhouses – a sort of apartment buildings – hosting up to ten and more families belonging to the same clan.

The system worked well, leaving people with much time for entertainment, from betting games to various contests, with lacrosse being the most prominent and demanding, a very serious competition.

Originally this sacred ballgame was designed to please the Creator, the Right-Handed Twin himself. According to the legend it was played for the first time before the earth as we know it was created, in order to determine who will control the world, the good Right-Handed Twin, or his negative Left-Handed sibling. The good won, as always, and people never forgot, recreating the game to honor their benefactor, giving thanks to their benevolent creator.

The game of lacrosse demanded a great skill and lasting endurance. In order to score a goal you needed to catch the ball, a heavy affair made of wood or stuffed deerskin, into the net at the edge of your playing stick, carrying it to the other side of the field, against the attempts of the rival team to stop you or make you lose your cargo. Like in the Mesoamerican ballgame, one were not allowed to touch it with his hands.

The game was fairly violent, sometimes causing serious injuries, even though in the official games the players would wear a protective gear of additional clothing and padded baskets as helmets. Still one was expected to play fearlessly, displaying one’s stamina, strength, courage and quick thinking.

If you were lucky to catch the ball firmly, preventing its slipping from the basket-like net on the end of your playing stick, you then would dash for the other side of the field, hoping to score. Or you may try to pass it on to the other members of your team, if your rivals were truly determined to prevent you from doing that.

And yes, your the opposite team would be desperate to stop you or make you lose the ball before reaching the boundaries of their marked goal posts, which could be of various sizes, sometimes quite a vast space, or sometimes just a simple mark of a rock or a tree. But large or small, the ball should have been landed there, between the marked boundaries, in order to win a point.

To participate in such game was an honor, and a privilege. To watch it was equally thrilling. The power of this competition, which has various names throughout various Haudenosaunee-Iroquois nations, with the word “lacrosse” being the most incorrect one, a mistaken term invented by French missionaries of 18th century, was a vigorous contest beyond being simple entertainment. It was believed to purify the soul and the body, testing its limits, pushing to exceed, bestowing gift of healing upon those who came to watch and cheer. This game made the creators smile.

Official contests could be held between towns and nations – solemn affairs of thanksgiving speeches and tobacco offerings, strict rules, hundreds of players and the dignity of the involved nations at stake. But as often, spontaneous games would break on the sunny afternoon, played at the open grounds of a town or a village, a friendly competition accompanied by almost no formalities. Life was not always stern and Haudenosaunee men, like anyone else on earth, welcomed the opportunity to exercise and relax, to show their skill or impress the girls.

An excerpt from “Two Rivers”, The Peacemaker Trilogy, book #1.

Pushing another player out of his way, Tekeni leaped ahead, seeing the momentarily clear path. His shaft shot forward, as his eyes estimated the distance. Oh, yes, he was going to trap this ball, to catch it safely in his net, to make a run for the opposite team’s gates, and maybe, with a little luck, to score.

Racing on, oblivious of the cheering crowds, he turned sharply without slowing his step, catching his balance, ready to face the descending ball. It was coming down fast. For a fraction of a moment, he could see it clearly, a coarse, round thing made out of a stuffed deerskin, heavy enough to inflict damage if one wasn’t careful.

Blocking the sunlight, it made its way toward his outstretched arm, making it unnecessary to get into a better position, not even to tilt his body. It was going straight for his shaft. He caught his breath and felt the silence as the watching crowds went still, holding their breath, too.

Then, as the ball was about to land in his net, his arm shot sideways, driven away by a force he could not comprehend for a moment, the pain in it paralyzing, making him gasp. As the heavy body of another player slammed into him, he felt the grass slipping under his feet, jumping into his face, revoltingly damp, permeating his breath. From the corner of his eye, he could see the ball crashing into the earth just outside the field, cumbersome, powerless upon the ground.

“You will be out of the game before you know it!” shouted someone angrily.

Recognizing the voice of Ogtaeh, a player from his team, Tekeni wiped the mud from his face, blinking to make his vision focus.

“It was an accident,” answered Yeentso smugly, a thin half smile twisting his lips.

He was a tall, broadly built man of twenty or more summers, the best player of the opposite team.

“It was no accident!” fumed Ogtaeh. “I saw it all!” He turned to the surrounding players. “You all saw it, didn’t you?”

“Well, it might have been an accident,” murmured someone. “The slippery ground and all.”

“The slippery ground in your stupid dreams.” Spitting the remnants of the earth from his mouth, its taste mixed with the salty flavor of blood, Tekeni came closer, trying to pay no attention to the pain rolling up and down his arm. “He collided with me on purpose!” He took another step, glaring at Yeentso, seeing the hated face so very close, every scar, every speckle, every bead of sweat upon it. “And you hit me with your shaft to make sure I did not catch this ball, you dirty piece of excrement.”

The high cheekbones of the man took a darker shade.

“You better watch your tongue, wild boy,” said Yeentso, leaning forward.

The Rise of the Iroquois, Part II – across the Great Sparkling Water

3 November 2013 Comments (0)

It might be that somewhere around 1141 the man who would be known to us today as the Great Peacemaker crossed Lake Ontario, arriving at the lands of the Onondaga People.

On the southern side of the Great Lake he had been greeted by a hunter of one Onondaga settlement, who happened to pass by. The Peacemaker must have been surprised, not pleasantly so. After a long day of strenuous rowing, he was most likely counting on some solitude, an opportunity to rest and prepare his plans. Yet, he did not lose his presence of mind. His mission, indeed, was of the divine nature.

Among the Onondagas not all was well. Two of the most prominent leaders of this nation could not agree with each other – Hiawatha and Tadodaho, two bitter enemies, uncompromising in their struggle for domination, although Tadodaho, being a powerful if an evil sorcerer, had recently gained the upper hand by killing the entire family of his rival and driving the man into a self-imposed exile.

Some of that the hunter had probably related to the visitor from the other side of the Great Lake. Haltingly and not sure of himself, the man informed the stranger of the struggle and the troubles, while eyeing the newcomer with a certain amount of awe as the canoe of the man seemed to be made out of white stone. The first miracle.

But the conversation was difficult, with the two man speaking related but different languages, barely understanding each other, so in the end, according to the legend, the Peacemaker told the hunter to go home and tell the people of his town about the Good Tidings of Peace. While he himself went off, to visit this same Hiawatha.

On his way he happened upon the lonely dwelling of Jikonsahseh, an old woman who was feeding the warriors, no matter what nation they belonged to. This one turned to be easy to convert to his case.

Yet, Hiawatha was proving more difficult. A weathered warrior and leader, deranged with grief at the loss of his family – his beloved wife and three cherished daughters – he wasn’t prepared to listen too readily.

The Condolence Ceremony that was born out of this encounter served the Five Nations Confederacy proceedings for many centuries to come. “Wipe away the tears, cleanse your throat so you may speak and hear, restore the heart to its right place, and remove the clouds blocking the sun in the sky.” Apparently, the Peacemaker had found the right words to say in order to ease the pain of the grieving man.

Having secured the help of the Onondaga leader, the Peacemaker proceeded into the lands of the Flint People (Mohawks), where he has been required to prove the divine natures of his mission by climbing a tree for it to be cut, falling straight away into the worst of the waterfalls. If on the next morning he was to return, he would be listened to, had promised the local leaders.

And so it was.

The Crooked Tongues man had climbed the tree, which was chopped promptly, to disappear into the roaring mists. Fascinated and saddened, the people watched for some time, then went back to the town with their hearts heavy. They too had craved the changes, and the death of the courageous man robbed them off this sparkle of hope.

Yet, the smoke climbing from behind the nearest field on the next morning told them that the foreigner was not gone. As instructed, he had come back, to be listened to this time. Like he had been promised. After such miraculous survival, how could they not to?

An excerpt from “Across the Great Sparkling Water”, The Peacemaker Trilogy, book #2.

Kahontsi was the first to see the tree coming down.

The thundering of the falls above their heads did not let them hear a thing, but she saw the shadow flying across the spraying mist, saw the dark silhouette cutting the air.

“It’s coming down,” she screamed, but the boys needed none of her precautions, paddling vigorously, to avoid the crushing touch should the tree make it all the way toward their relatively calm hideaway.

“It’s not coming our way,” called Tsitsho, ceasing to paddle, but just stroking the water now, making sure their canoe did not sweep into the second rapids.

Relieved, they watched the old tree hitting a rock, jerking aside, changing direction, bouncing against other protruding obstacles. Then the realization dawned.

“The foreigner,” she gasped. “He fell into the falls!”

Frowning, Anowara shouted to his friend and began paddling more vigorously again.

“We’ll get as close as we can, and see.”

However, the spitting torrents revealed nothing but more of their usual white foam and some split branches, carried into their pool now.

“Oh, Great Spirits,” whispered Kahontsi, her chest squeezing with fright. “Please don’t let this man die, please keep him safe, please.”

She should have offered a gift to the spirits, she knew. Or maybe a really decent prayer, accompanied with tobacco offering on the night before, or when the dawn just broke. Hastily muttered words when it was already too late were of no help. They would only serve to offend the Spirits.

“Look there!” Tsitsho’s scream tore her from her reverie, making her gaze leap.

“Where? What?” Anowara was asking.

“There, by that rock, behind the second waterfall.”

She shielded her eyes against the splashing sprays, leaping to her feet, making their canoe nearly tip. The both youths glared at her direfully, but she didn’t care, her eyes searching the sleek rocks and the swirling water around them. The second waterfall? By the large rock?

“Get the boat as near as you can, and we’ll take a look,” shouted Anowara, assuming control. “Kahontsi, for all spirits sake, sit down already!”

But she ignored what he said, as her eyes caught the movement – a head coming up, struggling against the current, to be pulled back again.

“There, there, I saw him,” she screamed, then realized that they were paddling in that direction already, with Anowara leaning forward, scanning the water, ready to dive.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5