There once came from the North Country, to what is now the upper western portion of New York State, a young man of Huron birth. He was called Deganaweda. Even as a child he talked of a peaceful way of existence and of harmony among the tribes. He spoke of the importance of the heart and called for an end to war- like ways and sacrifices of blood. But he found only deaf ears amongst his own Huron people, for they were war-like and not given to the ways of peace.
Our story begins when Deganaweda began a pilgrimage that would eventually bring his teachings to the five tribes of the Haudenosaunee and later, six when they were joined by the Seneca peoples. He helped them create a confederation of tribes, under a form of self-ruling government, in which there would be no royalty, no tyranny, no need for war. This unification of the tribes would later be referred to as the Great Iroquois Confederacy. Which would include the Mohawk, Onandaga, Tuscarora, Cayuga and Oneida people, who would later be joined by the Seneca and the Mohican. The Mohicans would later be all but wiped out by the Huron's, leaving the Confederacy composed of six nations as it is described in our history books. In the confederacy Daganaweda's words were welcomed with enthusiasm and discussed around the council fires of the elders. During his pilgrimage Deganaweda met Hiawatha. Hiawatha, it is said, lived as a hermit deep within the forest. He lived alone, holding a great bitterness in his heart. He grieved over the slaughter of his family by the bloodthirsty Onadaga chief. It is said that Hiawatha had even taken to cannibalism. Deganaweda was challenged by a Grandmother to share his teachings with Hiawatha. She told him that if he could convince the angry Hiawatha, the beast of the woods, to walk in peace and harmony, then perhaps there was something to this wisdom. If he succeeded in changing the heart of this beast, then all the tribes would surely listen to him.
Both Deganaweda and Hiawatha taught that the human race was one great family. They taught of love and unity, with reverence for the Creator of all mankind and the sacredness and honour of all life. The way of the Great Peace was established. It was a great plan for social order that cantered its strength around the family fire. They taught of the inner balance of male and female within the self and in all relationships, the importance of the Mother/Father Principle. This teaching was to spread through the many single-family firesides. In the Great Peace it was taught that from these single families would come the basis of authority, leadership and the strength of the people. A natural order of social living was encouraged that allowed for the spiritual expression of all individuals. This concept was intrinsic to the integrity of their society and the establishment of the Long Houses that exist to this day.
In the way of the Great Peace, women are the keepers of the family lineage and as the bearers of life, they teach the knowledge of harmony and balance within the family. The tribe is the extended family, and neighbouring tribes should be considered relatives who are necessary for a healthy genetic evolution, an extended family, if you will. The balance within the whole of a society originates with the individual. The balance of male/female within the individual expands to the relationship between man and woman, and then into relationship with their offspring. This then expands into the extended family. All women are mothers to all the children, as are all men their fathers. The tribe was a living ecosystem for human consciousness, a living heart.
Women had equal status within the tribal council. They formed the Council of Grandmothers that looked out for the survival of the family structure above all things, for without the family structure, the people could not continue. No major decision that would affect the tribe as a whole was ever made by one individual of either gender, or any singular council; all councils were accountable to the Council of Grandmothers. Thus, they had devised a matriarchal system whereby no structure of dictatorship could arise and seize power from the people themselves. There simply was no position that allowed for the rise of a tyrant within their society.
Deganaweda met with Hiawatha and spoke with him from his heart, for he was filled with the Great Spirit and had no fear. This meeting with Deganaweda caused a transition within Hiawatha's being. They became inseparable, and from the wisdom taught to him by Deganaweda, Hiawatha became a renewed human being. A great friendship grew between the two, and Hiawatha became Daganaweda's chief disciple. It is said that Deganaweda suffered from a speech impediment; he had stuttered since childhood. For this reason, Hiawatha became known as the chief spokesperson for Daganaweda's Great Peace-- the Kia ëneri Kowa.
The teachings of the Great Peace likened all war to quarrelling amongst children. Spiritual teachings were intermingled with the teaching of balance in the social order. In this culture there was no separation between living an abundant, full life and the expression of spiritual practice and beliefs because social laws were created out of an evolved spiritual understanding of human nature. In this manner, human beings learned to live in harmony with nature, thus they dwelt in a state of harmony within themselves. For nature was the kingdom with which humankind shared their dream. Mankind and Womankind were seen as spirit alive in the flesh. There was One Creator, One Father. There was one Mother. From this union came forth all their children--the human race.
So powerful were these teachings that the tribes of the Algonquin peoples formed the Iroquois Confederacy. It is from this Confederacy that much of the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence came. It is from the doctrine of life expressed by the Iroquois Confederacy by which the invading white Europeans forged the foundations of the American constitution, the basis of all Western Democracy
The Great Prophet, the Peacemaker would spend many seasons with the Haudenosaunee people they who would later be known as the Iroquois Confederacy establishing the ways of the Great Peace. All things must change and the Peacemaker would not be amongst the people forever. He heard the call to move on along his journey but before he would go he would deliver his final message to the people. It was time for him to fulfil his agreement here that he had long ago made with Creator. The people were very saddened by the announcement of his departure from them.
He met with the People one last time upon the shores of the Bay of Quinte, near what is now Lake Ontario. All the tribes were asked to send representatives to participate in a great ceremony to show their integrity and their commitment to the Great Peace. At this ceremony it is said that the people who represented each tribe of the confederacy buried their weapons of war into a huge pit over which they planted an evergreen tree.
. This tree represented the Tree of Life. Its branches reached to the heavens, to the Father. The tree and its roots represented the five tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. The tree would grow, and send its roots deep into the earth to draw its nourishment and strength from the Mother, as did the people. The tree of life was planted upon an island in the lake, which was mostly white granite. The White granite represented, as did the white shells of the wampum belt a blanket of purity, the Mothers most pure mind. Some say that this tree is still alive today.
Wrapped within her robe of purity and wisdom, the Mother protects that original dream and wishes of those who participated in this great ceremony. Deganaweda spoke to them of Three Great Double Ideals, upon which they could build their foundation of self-government:
1. Ne Skin. Purity of the mind and of the body are tied together through the experience of the flesh. It is called the Human Drama, which is our dance through this life. Harmony between groups of people, for all of our human existence is realized through mastering the experience of relationships between each other. Inner harmony and peace, and the true union with creator, the source of all life is realized through maintaining of the balance of the spirit, while it is alive in the flesh. Our purpose along our path is the expression of divine love of the Creator and the divine Mother through our actions, and emotions given and received through our expression of that divine love. For all has been given to us, without question, that we might reflect that which we receive from Creator and the divine Mother which is unconditional love.
2. Ne Gaiihwijo. Righteousness in deeds, action, as well as our thought should be the premise for all conduct. Our action is the expression of our true thought. Our actions often times speak louder than our words, for it is through action the inner self, the true state of being is expressed.
When we maintain a state of most pure mind, we deal with life's events with open heart. Thus we are acting as the expression of the Creator. In this manner we maintain a justice and equality in dealing with human rights, in integrity of spirit. The superior quality within all beings is the expression of Creator who always speaks through the human heart.
Remember always it in the heart of a thing that its spirit can be found, and within its spirit is the very essence of the Creator. Creator's deeds being from the heart are always righteous and Sacred. Our actions thus applied are filled with the power of that which is Sacred. The state of Sacred, by its own decree is the state of most pure mind. Although often silent, and sometimes soft in its action this path is for us never without power. Consider this truth, is not the Creator realized within all things? What thing exists that is not by the decree of the Creator?
. Ne Gashedenza. It is good to maintain within your society a force that councils a skilled power for the self-defence of the people. This force must always be tempered by employing the guidance of your spiritual understandings of the higher reason of the mind. All actions taken must be of righteous intent. All things that can be called righteous are the results of the balance between the physical and the spiritual, there are no exceptions.
Therefore, when differences arise, as they will, the councils between your peoples must always be held with both the spiritual leaders and the military leaders present. The views of these councils should then be presented to the Sachems, who are your spiritual elders. They in turn must answer always to the Council of Grandmothers. The council of Grandmothers represents the social order of the people. In your societies all relationships are born from the foundation of the family fire--Mother, Father, and their children. Brother, sister, nephew, niece.
This structure is of the Mothers own design and purpose, and will reach out through your society like the roots of a great tree, seeking its strength and nourishment from the Divine Mother herself. Without the purposeful maintaining of the family fire your social order would quickly fall into disorder and decay. You are all extensions of this family fire, which is your strength when the times of change and calamity overcome you. Standing together you have the strength to withstand the storms that will come. Standing separately, without order you fall easy prey to the forces darkness, which are born of fear out of chaos, and as a people you would vanish like leaves before the wind.
We are all, in the end, brothers and sisters of one family, the children of one Mother and one Father. The balance of the male and female must be maintained within your relationships. It represents the balance of the Mother and the Father in the very process of creation, from which all of life is manifest.
In this way the Great Peace shall be established. In this way it shall be a living dream of the people that shall be handed down from Mother to Daughter, and as the bearers of life they shall pass it from Father to Son. And this peace which is born of the heart, and the people who live through this heart shall be forever. For they shall be in rhythm with the heart beat of the Divine Mother, which never ceases.
He told them that they had done well living in accordance with the Great Peace. He told them they would know much abundance, and they would be happy for a while. However, he also told them they would have great trials in the days ahead of them. He told them that a time was coming in which many of them could start to forget the principles of the Great Peace. A time was coming when the way of the serpent would rise from seeming sleep upon the land.