Posts Tagged: Wyandot

Historical Fiction and the Long Tails or Erie People

18 October 2015 Comments (0)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical Fiction and the Wyandot

12 October 2015 Comments (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 conflict around Lake Ontario

14 May 2015 Comments (0)

The confederacy of the Five Iroquois Nations was an outstanding political body, an impressive democracy that the world was yet to see anywhere around the globe for quite a few centuries to come.

The intricate set of laws that reached for every aspect of life, the complicated system of checks and balances that made sure no nation or individual people gained more power than the others, the direct and indirect involvement of people from every status and stance of the society, the equality of genders, all this and more manifested itself in the creation of the Great Peacemaker who had come to these lands maybe as far as eight centuries ago, crossing Lake Ontario, leaving his original people, the Wayndot nations, or Crooked Tongues, as they were referred by the dwellers of the other side. Known to us in many great details, the Great League of the Iroquois keeps drawing the historians’ attention.

But what about the other side?

Much less known, the Wyandot People seemed to be divided into four nations, organized in an alliance as well, maybe not as one political body with mutual set of laws and closer ties, but like any other alliance, an organization that was designed to meet economical, trading, and probably military needs. It is assumed that this alliance was formed later, much later, maybe as far as the 15th century, but with no concrete evidence pointing either way, it is difficult to determine.

What we seem to know for certain was the fact that both sides of the Great Lake did not get along, did not form an alliance, even though their ways of life were strikingly similar, even the languages they spoke belonging to one linguistic group.

And yet, temporary peace agreements might have been reached over the centuries of co-existence, and this is the possibility I wanted to explore in this and the following novels.

Back in the Great League’s lands, trouble was brewing. The notorious Crooked Tongues from the other side of Lake Ontario, rumored to now be organized into a sort of an alliance, were posing a threat, more so than ever before. And yet, the War Chief, out of all people, was the one advocating negotiations, insisting on seeking a peaceful solution to the generations-long hostility and war. His followers were puzzled, the opposition outraged.

Meanwhile, Kentika has her own troubles to face. Was it ever easy for a foreigner to fit into a new life? For a girl who never even fit in among her own people, the challenge was becoming nearly impossible. But then, on top of it all, the political trouble hit.

An excerpt from “The Foreigner”, People of the Longhouse Series, book #2.

“Oh, please.” Watching a group of people who went past them, unhurried and at ease, their voices carrying with the wind, as did their laughter, she waved a buzzing fly away. “The foreigners. I hoped they would leave before the ceremony.”

Her companion’s face lost some of its good-natured beam as well. “Yes, they better go back to their distant lands and leave our men and leaders alone. They can’t possibly try to suggest what has been whispered around the town. It would be too inconceivable.”

Seketa felt the remnants of her well-being evaporating. “My husband thinks they might be allowed to state their case before the Great Council, when our respectable elders are due to meet again, after the Cold Moons.” She watched the round, good-natured face closing up, turning blank, in too familiar of a fashion. She had seen it happening many times since the arrival of the accursed delegation. “There is no harm in foreigners speaking to our leaders. The laws of the Great Peacemaker provide for this opportunity, as much as for any other. Remember that should a nation outside our union make known their disposition to obey the laws of the Great Peace, they may be invited to trace the roots to the Tree of Peace, and if their minds are clean, and they are obedient and—”

“Yes, Seketa, I know the laws as well as you do. And yet,” the woman shrugged, “our War Chief is an outstanding man, trusted and admired, a leader our people have been following for quite a long time. He is a good man, that husband of yours, a great leader, and yet, he has been insisting on listening to all sorts of foreigners for too long. There will be no peace with the Crooked Tongues. We all know it, and but for his insistence, we would have been better prepared, less surprised with the escalation of things.” A rough, weathered palm came up, displaying the evidence of long summers of working the land. Partly successful, it managed to stop Seketa’s indignant protests that were about to erupt. “Yes, I know, I know. We all know that when these people came over to raid our lands again, after so many summers of quiet, your husband did not hesitate in retaliating, doing so brilliantly, yes, punishing the enemy hard. And yet …” The loud sigh was accompanied by another wave of large hands, this time palms up, relating gloomy doubt. “His heart is not in those raids, Sister. One can see that. He still hopes to achieve peace with the enemy, somehow. And it’s not a good state of affairs, not good at all. We need our War Chief to be aggressive, spoiling for a fight. We can’t have him thinking of peace, planning for this possibility while organizing his raids. He needs to focus on how to humble the enemy, how to hurt them. Not how to make them talk peace as they did for some very short time, after the Messenger of the Great Spirits left our world all those long summers ago.”

She wanted to close her ears, to push the words away, not to let them enter her mind, for she knew her companion was right. Brilliant in everything he ever did, from organizing the Great Council’s meetings to managing many smaller affairs of the entire union, he was just as good at making war. On the rare occasions he had authorized, and then organized the warriors’ parties to head across the Great Lake, he did it well, like everything he undertook.

And yet, this woman was right. His heart was not in the warfare. The persistent hope to reach an agreement with the Crooked Tongues, her and the Peacemaker’s original people, to have their representatives sitting under the shade of the Great Tree of Peace, taking a part in the greatest union, his most admired hero’s creation, oh, but these hopes did color his deeds, did influence his decisions.

She wanted to shut her eyes, or maybe scream in frustration. He was loyal to the memory of a man who had been dead for many summers, gone, disappeared. He risked everything in order to save this man once, but in the long run, it brought him no good.

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.

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