I feel like this post is actually a little behind. While I have been discussing various aspects of Haudenosaunee culture and their traditions, I have not given you, the reader, a solid foundation from which Haudenosaunee ideals are derived from. So, this post will survey a general discussion on the formation of the Six Nations: the Peacemaker, Hiawatha, The Great Law of Peace, and the New Mind. All of these people and aspects serve central functions within the Longhouse tradition and further scholarship cannot fully be understood without this background. Sorry for the delay!
Sorry I did not post today! I spent the day at a double-header for the Junior ‘B’s and Senior ‘B’s at Onondaga Nation Arena. I promise though tomorrow will have pictures and a proper discussion on the importance of lacrosse within Haudenosaunee culture!
Today I had lunch with Onondaga Community College’s Dr. Shawn G. Wiemann. While I do aim to record these conversations later on, I chose to take these first few days to get to know some contacts. Therefore, lunch with Dr. Wiemann was just that. We discussed our academic careers, my research and aspirations, his upcoming wedding, the passion (and practicality) needed for graduate school, and a wide array of other topics.
Dr. Wiemann shared a lot of the same values and beliefs as I do early in his career. It was refreshing to speak on these points together. And, as it is becoming a trend, I was faced with a variety of personal questions. I want to go to graduate school, but do I have the stamina to get my doctorate? How can I market myself to schools and grant committees? Dr. Wiemann also turned a previous question on its head and asked what I wanted out of this trip. It was a reflective moment where all of these questions came into a singular thought on what the “FUSE” grant actually meant for me. The grant offered me the opportunity to experience the true scholastic world; it is a foray away from the artificiality of the classroom.
I am learning things about myself that seemed so passive at home. Yes, I want to go to graduate school for Native American and European/American relationships during colonial and early republic America. Yes, I want go on to receive my doctorate, but I understand that it is a marathon and I may have to take a break. The passion is there, but it is not worth fatiguing myself. Although I am soft-spoken, this grant has taught me to assert and put myself out there; my academic work is amazing and it is worth your time and money! It is just as much a personal trip as a research occasion. That is what the FUSE grant means to me. It is this scholarly experience for young adults who haven’t had such an opportunity.
I do not want to take away from the work Dr. Wiemann himself is doing though. While he is extremely knowledgeable about the Haudenosaunee, he expertise lies outside the Six Nations. Dr. Wiemann’s dissertation, Lasting Marks: The Legacy of Robin Cassacinamon and the Survival of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, included the concept of wampum, but in a culture outside of the Haudenosaunee. It allowed me to see how other nations and peoples looked at a concept so central to the Haudenosaunee and how that may affect my topic. Dr. Wiemann is also extremely involved in community involvement and creating open dialogue between Native and non-Native peoples. His work and contacts in the field of my research will be invaluable for the rest of my time here. It was truly a pleasure meeting him.
The rest of my day was spend wandering and exploring the Syracuse University campus and the city’s downtown center. I felt compelled to soak in some of the history of the city while I was here. It was a good day.
Today I visited the Skä·noñh Great Law of Peace Center, formerly known as Sainte Marie among the Iroquois, for a brief presentation given by directors Dr. Philip Arnold and Sandy Big Tree. Dr. Arnold and Ms. Big Tree, together with the Onondaga Historical Association and a host of other sponsors, began re-purposing the formerly Jesuit-focused historical site into one that properly conveys the history of the Haudenosaunee. Today, specifically, Dr. Arnold and Ms. Big Tree presented to a group of Chinese cyclists known as the Chines Friendship Cross Country Bicycle Tour Group. I had the pleasure to sit in and visit the unfinished center.
The first thing you notice about the Skä·noñh Center is its location along the eastern bank of Onondaga Lake, a central point within the Haudenosaunee history. In Haudenosaunee tradition, Onondaga Lake served as the location of “the coming together of the Peacemaker, Hiawatha and the Tadodaho thousands of years ago” (Skä·noñh Center 2013). Apart from bringing three central figures of early Haudenosaunee tradition together, Onondaga Lake and the Onondaga Nation is home to the “Great Tree of Peace” whose roots, spreading in each cardinal direction and made of white pine, symbolize “peace and charity” (North American Indian Travelling College 1984). The veneration of this site then is important for two distinct reasons in Dr. Arnold and Ms. Big Tree’s presentation: 1) Sainte Marier among the Iroquois perpetuated misinformation about the Haudenosaunee tradition through the lens of Jesuit missionary work and 2) Onondaga Lake’s pollution and Onondaga land rights activism. While Dr. Arnold and Ms. Big Tree focused on remedying the former and recounting briefly Haudenosaunee history to the cyclists, other local groups have taken interest in the latter.
The work that the Onondaga Historical Association and the volunteers of the Skä·noñh Great Law of Peace Center is an important forward step for Haudenosaunee historiography; it is a concerted effort away from Euro-centrism. And it is here we see my research steps in sync with the modern historical movements of the Six Nations. To keep on subject, though, I will list some of the features the Skä·noñh Center will exhibit.
After removing the previous artwork and exhibits, which carried heavily symbolism of Native termination and bad omens, the artists contracted by OHA will begin moving their pieces into the Center. Some of the permanent exhibitions will feature the Haudenosaunee Confederacy creation narrative, the Thanksgiving Address, contributions of Haudenosaunee culture to the larger American culture (including democracy, feminism, and sports), and treaty making traditions. Without abandoning the initial Sainte Marie among the Iroquois and French missionary fort, the Center will also feature a replica of the fort and a small exhibit on Jesuit missionary work among the Haudenosaunee. For more information about Skä·noñh – Great Law of Peace Center, visit them at their website here. Exhibit renderings can be found specifically on their site at this URL.
The Center is set to open towards the end of 2015. I hope many of you can make the trip out.
All the best,
North American Indian Travelling College. Traditional Teachings. Cornwall Island: North American Indian Travelling College, 1984.
Sorry for the short post today. It was a busy day of getting things together for travel and some catching up on reading. I do not want to disappoint though on content, so I created the a bibliography page where you can see what I am reading as well as updating my “About” page with my revised grant proposal. With both tools, you can see where I started! And from there you can more clearly see where I am going.
Tomorrow should be filled with more material. Please stand by!
As I relaxed towards the end of my first day in Syracuse, my mind kept coming back to a question I was asked earlier in the day. A local professor with whom I met with for coffee politely, but bluntly, asked why I chose to focus on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and wampum. I answered nervously, wondering if I could possibly give a “wrong” response. He listened intently and afforded advice where he could. (Which, to be fair, was in a lot of places.) But the question remained: what do I hope to accomplish with this research? Who am I helping? What does this do for both the academic world and the larger public as a whole? This professor asked these questions and forced me to unpack my thesis with intent; scholarship surrounding the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has a complicated relationship with the members of the nations themselves.
First and foremost, I want to give a words of thanks: to the Office of Research and Creative Activity of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, my mentor Dr. Kent Blansett, the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library, along with my friends and family. Without their help, and the Fund for Undergraduate Scholarly Experiences, my plan to research the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on site would have been doomed from the start. I owe each of them my deepest gratitude.
Secondly, I wish to invite everyone to follow this blog as I progress through the next sixteen day, researching in and around upstate New York. With plans to post daily, I will keep this blog updated with video, testimony, oral histories, images, and reflections of my research experience. The digitization of such material will increase its availability to the academic world, students of Indigenous cultures, and the public at large.
In the months following, I will bring the materials listed above, as well as notes from secondary sources, together into a publishable article as a final product of my work. The paper will detail the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s use of oral tradition and wampum in pre-contact, colonial, and modern socio-political eras. I will then (hopefully) present my findings at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Creativity Fair, conferences, and classes.
For now, though, I must settle in to my temporary home and rest. There is much work to be done in the coming days. It would be my pleasure if you followed along.