Posts Tagged: the Great Peacemaker

The Rise of the Iroquois, Part IV – back to the other side

22 October 2014 Comments (1)

The legend of the Peacemaker ends with the creation of the Great League, when the first gathering of the Five Nations and their fifty representatives were presented with the insignia of their office and told about their duties and responsibilities. There was little that the Peacemaker’s wonderfully detailed constitution didn’t cover. Composed of almost hundred and fifty laws and clauses, it gave clear direction as to the way of conducting themselves and their nations in order to preserve peace and concord.

Longhouse

So all was well among the Five Nations for the time being, but what about the Peacemaker himself?

Evidently, he didn’t participate in the government he himself has created. The names of the original founders were to be passed down to their successors in the office – this was one of the laws – however, as typically, the elected representative would stay to serve his people for life, such direction did not create a problem. For example, the person who came to succeed the deceased Hionhwatha was to be called “Hionhwatha”, inheriting this great man’s name along with the vastness of his responsibilities. This is how we came to know the names of the original founders.

And yet, the Peacemaker’s name, although passed down to us as a part of his story, was never inherited, showing that he did not sit in the Great Council he created.

But then, where did he go?

Various versions of the legend did not address this question at all, concentrating on the First Gathering and the set of great laws he had delivered to be passed on to the future generation, instead. Some do mention that this great man went back the Creators, to the Great Spirits he came to represent here on earth. Does it mean that he died? Disappeared?

Two Clubs

If allowed to question the legend and the mysterious aspect of it, I think these questions are important. People were always people, and divine intervention or not, some might have grown jealous of the power this man had wielded. Particularly Tadodaho, who according to every angle and every version of the legend was not a likeable man, not above using violence and dirty means. Hionhwatha’s family and what happened to it prior to the Peacemaker’s coming, serves as an example; them and the fact that the Onondaga People were the last to join the League, difficult to convince only because of this man’s resistance. What if he tried to get rid of the Peacemaker after the Great Council began functioning, looking as though it is going to hold on?

And there is another aspect. Wyandot/Huron People, those whom the Five Nations came to call Crooked Tongues – the Peacemaker’s original country-folk – seemed to be as busy and not idle at all. Composed of four nations as opposed to the five on the other side of Lake Ontario, they were reported to form a confederacy as well, the one that might have been functioning on the similar basis. We don’t have knowledge of when exactly this confederacy was formed. Like with the Great League, the dates are jumping centuries back and forth, with no conclusive evidence, but unlike the Five Nations we don’t have an event as the full solar eclipse to help us out. Nor do we have a recorded story. Only the repeated claim that the Wyandot confederacy of four nations did exist.

Which bring us to another question. Why didn’t the Peacemaker try to bring his own people into the Great Law of Peace of his own creation. After all, according ot his own words it was open to every person or nation with a willingness and a right set of mind “… If any man or any nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace and make known their disposition to the Lords of the Confederacy, they may trace the Roots to the Tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the Confederate Council, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves…”

Why didn’t he make sure his own people had a place under the Great Tree of Peace?

Or maybe he did. Maybe he did try to bring his former people, the Five Nations’ sworn enemy, in and maybe this was what served as his downfall, or made him leave in any other way.

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

And so here he was, stuck with the strenuous task of organizing this important gathering, while the three most important people in his life were threatened, dangerously exposed.

“I’m not underestimating that poison-dripping snake.” Two Rivers’ voice cut into his thoughts, not calming or reassuring, not this time. “I’m watching him as closely. Just in case. But he is not as powerful as he used to be, Old Friend. So don’t fret about him that much. He can hate us all he likes, but he can do nothing to interrupt our work, nothing at all. Mainly because it will go against him, too, if something goes wrong. Having received such a high position in our Great League, he can’t jeopardize the entire thing. He wants it working well as badly as we do.” Sucking on his pipe, the Crooked Tongues man chuckled. “It’s good to be back. Running all over those western lands reminded me of our previous Awakening Season. We didn’t get much rest back then, did we?”

“No, we did not.” Making another tremendous effort, Tekeni tried to push his misgivings aside, if only for this short part of the morning.

“He may not be as powerful as before, yes, but he is still vicious and unscrupulous. He hasn’t changed. His pride demands that he lead our union, so if he finds a way to be rid of you in order to replace you as our spiritual leader as well as the Head of the Great Council, he would do this as quickly as you can say ‘Great Sparkling Water’.”

“Yes, I’m aware of that.” Two Rivers exhaled loudly, in an exasperated manner. “Credit me with more wisdom than that. I’m not a simple-minded child.” He studied his pipe, a skillfully carved and painted affair of many patterns, another gift from this or that grateful community, probably. “I’m not disregarding your advice, Old Friend. I trust your judgment more than I trust the judgment of anyone else on both sides of the Great Lake. I know you are right about Tadodaho. I know he would have gotten rid of me if he could. But the thing is, he can’t. He needs me. After the second, and maybe the third gathering, when it all works and all the laws are firm and solid, and our union looks like the unshakeable structure that it should be, maybe then he’ll decide that I may be of no use to him anymore. Then I will keep him in my eyesight, and I will be careful not to turn my back on him. But until then, I’m safe. He is too wise not to appreciate my usefulness for now.”

“Unless the opportunity to get rid of you presents itself, too tempting not to exploit, even if it might come too early to be of convenience.”

Oh, curse this persistent bad feeling to the underworld of the Evil Twin. Two Rivers was probably right. He was the wisest man of them all. He could see beyond the obvious and above it, flying like an eagle, seeing the great picture and the smallest details at once, his eyes as good as those of that magnificent creature, and his mind as sharp as the most polished flint, the best arrowhead. Wasn’t he the man who had brought this magnificent vision to life, giving his, Tekeni’s, people so many great laws and rules?

“This Crooked Tongues delegation may be that thing, that opportunity, to tempt the evil snake into pouncing, even if your dubious trip to visit the western people did not,” he muttered, hating his gut feeling and his logic, wishing they both would go away and leave him alone, so he could enjoy the company of his friend, or the warm arms of his woman at nights, without the nagging worry.

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.”

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.”