Posts Tagged: Mohawks

Would you marry me?

8 October 2015 Comments (2)

So what happened when the all-too-familiar scenario occurred in this or that Haudenosaunee/Iroquois town or village, when a certain pretty girl would catch a certain boy’s eye, refusing to leave his thoughts no matter where he went? Or the other way around, of course. Like everywhere else in the world, in the areas around Lakes Ontario or Erie love drew no bounds and spared no victims, in a habit of striking unexpectedly and just as one anticipated none of it.

So first of all, if you had an eye for a pretty girl and preferably before deciding to fall in love with her, you should have made sure that she wasn’t a member of your clan. Because even had she lived in another longhouse, village, town, or a nation belonging to the Great League, it wouldn’t do. The laws governing clans and their relationship were strict and uncompromising.

Two people of the same clan couldn’t marry, being considered blood relatives even if ten or more degrees removed. And no, each clan was by no means restricted to the same village or town. Stretched over settlements and nations, the clan system was one of the sturdiest pillars of the Longhouse People’s societies, as much as it was the part of life among its neighbors, enemies or allies, Wyandot/Huron, Erie, Neutrals and others.

You could be an Onondaga man, a member of a Wolf Clan, for example, but if you fell in love with a Flint/Mohawk girl who had happened to belong to her people’s Wolf Clan as well, a person you never ever met or set an eye upon before, neither on her not on her family, it didn’t matter, because by the law you two were considered related, ineligible for building a family unit.

In this love has no power.

However if you were lucky to fall for a beauty that belong to an entire different clan, even if she grew up in the longhouse next door, then you could go ahead with any marriage proposals and plans you wish.

So having ensured that the two of you are getting along nicely enough and your both intentions are dead serious, your next step would be your mother, or better yet, the Clan Mother, the respectable matron that ruled your longhouse – this part of your extended family as one longhouse would not represent the entire clan of this or that fairly large town. To obtain such important person’s permission and blessing was essential, and advisable as well.

Then, assuming that this respectable lady saw the wisdom of your choice and approved, you would leave it in her hands, to take the next step.

Wedding cakes were prepared from the same dough the regular bread was made, yet molded differently, they presented your claim fairly well. Shaped as two balls connected by a short neck, those forms were wrapped in corn husk and tied it the middle, then tossed into a pot of boiling water, to simmer for about an hour.

Twenty four such cakes were taken by the boy’s or girl’s maternal grandmother or the appointed grandmother of their longhouse to the longhouse of the desired party. The recipient, not the lucky chosen but again the Clan Mother of his or her longhouse, who usually would have been consulted beforehand, to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings, would taste the bread, then notify the mother of the desired party. The mother of the boy or girl is expected to honor her elder’s wish unless she has substantial objection. But if offered none, the proposed side would take the same amount of cakes and carry them back to the longhouse of the proposing side.

In the rare instance that the suit was rejected, “… it is said, the cakes would be left untouched and the humiliated proposer … would have no choice but to creep back in order to retrieve her baked goods. Some say that the rejected cakes were never eaten, but often stored to be pelted at the offending party, for misleading the proposers at the first place…”

However, if the cakes were tasted, then returned with beaming smiles, the marriage sanctioned and approved by all parties involved, the happy couple was free to move together with not much of a further ado.

Which meant that the lucky groom would be the one packing things, preparing to move to his new home. Not the other way around (very little in many men’ cases as those would be limited to their personal possessions, weaponry and clothing – everything else was the property of the longhouse they lived at before, belonging to the women of this dwelling).

Yet, it was not to say that the man would changed his clan’s belonging. A member of his original clan, his mother’s and not his father’s extended family, he would remain a part of it, but his children by the girl he married would belong to her clan.

The Iroquois society was one of the few that truly did not put a woman in any disadvantage while not treading on man’s right as well. As it was women’s duty to run a house and a family – the reality many other cultures had faced as wells – it was only natural that a woman would retain legal rights and not only the duties to manage her household most efficiently, without restrictions and the need to ask for permissions from her mate. He has his own duties to face, to provide for his family and to keep it safe, and in those areas he didn’t need to ask for his female partner’s permission as well. A well balanced relationship between the genders it was.

In the case it didn’t work out, the divorce was as easy as was the marriage. No special ceremony, especially if both parties and their families were in agreement.

Not always the case, of course, not where human feelings, convenience and matters of honor were concerned. Well, in this, women still had the upper hand, being the owner of their house or rather a compartment in their family’s longhouse. The reluctant man would still be shown the door at either entrance of his disappointed ex-wife’s longhouse. There was nothing he could do about it.

Yet again, having a right to throw their men out, women didn’t do that lightly, as thus she and her children would be left without a provider. With the house and her extended family’s support, yes, but with no one to hunt and fish, clear new fields or rebuild should the need to rebuild arise. Who wanted to depend on the extended family for such matters? So, as impatient as a woman may have grown with her chosen mate, many would resolve to solve their marital problems in other ways than the roaring ‘get out of my house’ dramatics.

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

She sighed, then, out of a habit, scanned the lake surface, always empty, bringing no hope.

“It’s nothing,” she said. “I changed, but it’s for the better. I was a silly girl before.”

“You? You were never silly. You were always serious, but full of life, of purpose. Now you are empty.”

She shrugged. “Why would you care? We are not children to play in the woods anymore. I’m of no use to you, full of life or not.”

He said nothing, peering at the lake, as though expecting the bright canoe to appear out of the misty vastness, too.

What if it did? she wondered suddenly, the wave of excitement washing her, beginning at her belly, slipping upward, toward her chest, tickling in her feet. Oh, they only thought she was empty.

She stifled a nervous giggle. If the canoe appeared, she would have to distract Hainteroh’s attention, take him away from the cliff, lure him back into town, then come here running. She squinted against the glow of the lowering sun.

“I talked to my mother,” she heard him saying. “Asked her to talk to the Grandmother of our longhouse.”

“Oh, why?” Feeling the twinge of well-familiar disappointment, she frowned. The bright bluish vastness was empty, as always, leaving her with the bitter taste in her mouth and her stomach as empty as the neglected lake.

“She’ll bring the cakes to the Grandmother of your longhouse.”

She caught her breath. “Hainteroh, no!” The lake temporarily forgotten, she peered at him instead, taking in his proud, eagle-like profile. He had grown to be quite a handsome man, she suddenly realized, having not noticed that before. “Please, make her not do that. Go now and tell her not to, before she brings the cakes to our longhouse.” She caught his arm. “Please. I can’t accept.”

He didn’t move, didn’t take his gaze off the water, but she saw his throat convulsing as though he had swallowed hard.

“Why not?” His voice was also colorless, empty.

She brought her palms up, careful not to scatter the precious shells. “I’m too young for that. I’m not ready.”

“You are not too young, Seketa! You’ve seen seventeen summers. Many girls of your age are taking a man into their lives. Look around you. Are your friends sleeping alone? Tindee and the other girls. Eh?”

She shrugged. “I don’t care what they do. I’m not ready.”

“Will you ever be?”

“I don’t know.”

“You liked the foreigner, didn’t you?” Now his voice took a growling sound.

She felt it like a blow in her stomach, her limbs going numb. “It has nothing to do with you.”

“So you did like him, that filthy, murderous savage!” Now his eyes were upon her, burning with rage.

She clenched her teeth against the suddenness of her own anger. “He was not filthy and not murderous. Don’t you ever say such things about him! He was good and kind and different. He was brave. He killed the giant brown bear with his knife! Think about it. He was decent and he was good.” She heard her voice piquing, turning loud and shrill, impossible to control. “Yeentso was the filthy, murderous lowlife. Not the Wolf Clan boy. But no one paid attention, no one cared. Because he was a foreigner, no one was prepared to let him show himself. No one was prepared to listen!” Drawing a convulsive breath, she tried to control her voice. It rang ugly and shrill, disturbing the sacredness of this place.

He peered at her, his eyes narrow. “No one but you, Seketa. You cared, you listened. You let him deceive you with his filthy lies.”

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?”

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!”

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.

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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