by Doug George-Kanentiio
“I think no institutional achievement of mankind exceeds it (the Confederacy) in either wisdom or intelligence” John Collier, US Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1933-1945.
One of the great things the Rotinosionni Confederacy has done is to follow its lawful obligations to offer refuge, care and support for individuals, bands and nations in need of a safe place. It is central to the teachings of Skennenrahowi to insure the Great White Pine connect the skyward and the earth that all may see and the Four White Roots shall extend to the ends of the earth so that all may follow and receive shelter beneath the tree.
“”All the different nations, all of the nations, will become just a single one, and the Great Law will come into being, so that all will be related to each other, and there will come to be just a single family, and in the future, in the days to come, this family will continue on.”
Skennenrahowi, the Peacemaker, 12th century ACE
Many Iroquois teachers and leaders have taken this message to heart. They have taken the responsibility to share the Peacemaker’s message with the world; whether it was Jake Swamp planting trees of peace in Australia, Leon Shenandoah addressing the United Nations, Alice Papineau explaining Iroquois culture to the Dalai Lama or Ray Fadden in his various charts and pamphlets which exposed with lies told in American and Canadian schools. They all emphasized the great contributions Native people made to the world and revealed how human beings may yet find universal peace and ecological harmony.
One of the charts compiled by Tehanetorens (Ray Fadden) and his students at the St. Regis Mohawk School was a listing of native nations who followed the white roots and were given refuge. This was true not only for nations but bands and individuals who had the option of becoming naturalized citizens of the Confederacy. Eunice Williams was one such person, born of English parents but became a Mohawk. Colonel Louis Cook was another, born of a black slave and an Abenaki woman but accepted at Kahnawake. Mary Jemison, born Irish, became a Seneca citizen whose descendants now number in the thousands. Major John Norton, Scottish, was given a Mohawk name and clan. He used his status to lead military units during the War of 1812. His actions saved Canada against the American invaders.
Tehanetorens’s list was extensive and served as a reminder to his students that being Mohawk meant their ancestry was diverse. The aggressive adoption and citizenship policies of the Confederacy blended together many strands of people and enabled the Iroquois to survive prolonged warfare and waves of pandemics.
At list of refugee nations includes:
Neusicks from the Carolinas
Wayatanokes from the Miami Nation
Pequots from Connecticut
Leni Lanape from New Jersey
Saponis from Virginia
Wenroes from the Niagara Peninsula
Malicites from New Brunswick
Cherokees from Georgia
Wappingers from the Hudson Valley
Abenakis from the lower St. Lawrence River
Narragansetts from Massachusetts
Susquehannas from Pennsylvania
Shawnees from Pennsylvania
Tutelos from Maryland
Mahicans from New England
Montauks from Long Island
Sauks from Indiana
Palatine Germans from the Rhineland
Scots from the Highlands of Britain
Stockbridge Indians from New England
Brotherton Indians from Connecticut
Potawatomis from Michigan
Hurons from Ontario
Nipmucs from Rhode Island and Massachusetts
Montaignais from eastern Quebec
Catawbas from Alabama
Nottaways from Maryland
Conoys from West Virginia
Tuscaroras from the Carolinas
So when someone asks “what is a Mohawk, what is an Iroquois?” you can cite the above and say, with confiidence, we are the Onkwe, the people, born of many nations and like the plants of a well tended gated, the fruit and flower of the world’s oldest union of free human beings.