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DR. JOSE BARREIRO: Welcome, everyone. Welcome every one of you, and welcome
to the Swamp family, Jake, Judy, Skahendowaneh. We're so happy to welcome you to the National
Museum of the American Indian, and we're honored today by the presence of such a distinguished
American Indian family, a distinguished Haudenosaunee family. So thank you so much for coming. This
is a family of people that get out a lot, speak a lot.
Jake has been all over the world especially, Judy as well. Skahendowaneh's starting to
fill in the miles as well. Jake Swamp served on the Mohawk Nation Council for nearly 40
years and was called upon to travel the world, representing Iroquois diplomacy of contemporary
times. Also, he and Judy and family founded a major international NGO, the Tree
of Peace Society to carry the message of peace of righteousness to the four corners of the
earth. They are well-known people, but still we are very privileged today because it is
always a rare opportunity in a place like Washington, D.C. who hear from traditional
people who live the life, reside in a Native community. In this case, the Mohawk Nation
at Akwesasne, and are part of an ancient Haudenosaunee way of life that persists into the contemporary
institution of the Longhouse. So welcome, Swamp family. We're honored by your
visit. The six nations, also known as Iroquois, of
course use their own indigenous name, Haudenosaunee, meaning people who build the Longhouse. They
are the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Tuscarora, Cayuga and Seneca. Together, they comprise
a population of perhaps as many as 100,000 or so. Hard to know these census figures,
what's accurate and what isn't, 100,000 people residing in some 17 reservations and territories,
mostly in the geography of what is now known as New York State and
the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and also with reservations in Wisconsin and
Oklahoma. Influential way beyond their numbers, the
Haudenosaunee developed, as the late Seneca scholar, John Mohawk liked to put it, a way
of life that is a thinking tradition. That is an
intellectual tradition based on a clear perception of the world, translated into a philosophy
of life. Jake Swamp and his family naturally represent that philosophy, which is embodied
in a classic, human, oral and now written document called the Great Law of Peace. Among
the American founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin wrote about these early
treaties about the marvel of the forest diplomacy they represented, and went on to publish a
book of early colonial protocol, represented by the six nations. Consistently, as
we read the words of the interpreters of the early treaties, the first 200 years or so
of the colony, translating the recitations of the native chiefs, we hear the introductions
of the words of the condolence ceremony. Historically, this most American of diplomatic protocols
was used for the last time during the 1794 transactions at the
Treaty of Canandaigua, which was called for by George Washington, which in fact is known
as Washington's covenant. There is much history in all of this, very rich, very American,
and most importantly, very much alive. A living tradition, ongoing, creative, wise and useful.
We at the National Museum of the American Indian again are honored to
present the Swamp family and their messages because it appears very much that the world
needs to hear such messages. Some of you had an earlier
description of the program. We're going to reverse the order to start with the younger
generation, then ask for words from the woman's side of the house, and then go to our main
speaker, Chief Jake Swamp, president of the Tree of Peace Society.
So we're celebrating here today in particular the mounting this week of the Mohawk chief's
gustowa [phonetic], or head dress of honor and position
in the chief's council, which is to be found in the - - room at the entrance to our museum.
It was installed this week. This circular pathway of mounted - - conveying
the museum's core messages. It is a contribution of Skahendowaneh Swamp, gifted artist, gifted
practitioner in the Longhouse culture, and a speaker, faith keeper of the
Longhouse. Skahendowaneh was last year appointed to the inaugural chair in Indigenous Knowledge
at Trent University, a new chairmanship signaled to bring worldwide attention to the
university's already renowned Indigenous Studies Program.
MR. SKAHENDOWANEH SWAMP: [Speaking Native language].
I was asked to come here today to give an explanation for a piece of my people's teachings
that I've shared with this museum. As Jose mentioned earlier,
there's a new display in the Patomak [phonetic] Atrium where traditional Mohawk loyane [phonetic],
or a chief's headdress, is now available for everyone to look at. So I was asked to come
here today to give an explanation of this item. But first, in our ways, whenever we
gather for anything, the things that we are to do, the first thing we are to do
is offer greetings and thanksgiving to each other for arriving here safely and to all
of the natural world, beginning with the Mother Earth and everything that grows from
her, everything that she provides to us as human beings as we walk upon this earth. Then
we move onto the sky, to the sun, to the moon, the stars, the thunder beings, the winds,
and we give thanks to the four sacred beings who watch over us each and every day and every
night to make sure that we are safe as we dwell upon this earth.
Lastly, we send our greetings and thanksgiving to our original place of being, what we call
[Speaking Native language], the original place of life. That is where the creator dwells.
As I gathered my thoughts on what I would say today in relation to this traditional
headdress, there were some teachings that came to my mind that I
wanted to share with you. I thought it was a good idea to start off with our [Speaking
Native language]. First I'd like to mention where the word [Speaking Native language]
comes from. That word, [Speaking Native language], what it means. That word is what we call the
giving of thanks. It's central to our teachings as Haudenosaunee people belonging to the Longhouse
of one family, or [Speaking Native language]. The main root word of [Speaking Native language]
is [Speaking Native language]. And what [Speaking
Native language] refers to is our minds. After each and every passage, I ask that everyone
would gather our minds together as one, as we gave thanks to all of the natural world.
[Speaking Native language], as one we will all give of this thanks.
So as you notice my shirt here, I'm wearing this shirt. This is a shirt that I
wore at my wedding five years ago. You see the beadwork designs that are beaded throughout
my shirt. I wore this shirt specifically so I
could share some teachings with you about our designs. I took a few moments, and I walked
around the museum earlier, and I noticed that this design was on many items. What I wanted
to share with you about this is this comes from our creation story. They call it the
celestial dome. What it symbolizes here is there's a separation between the two
worlds, this world that we live in here, and that place that I mentioned earlier, [Speaking
Native language], the original place of life. And it's this separation. This is also a really
central idea in our teachings as Haudenosaunee people. We acknowledge it each and every day
of our life. This idea behind this symbol was so important to our people
that we actually designed our original Longhouses after it. If you see our original dwelling
places in pictures or drawings, you'll notice that our Longhouses were in a dome.
The symbolism of the Longhouse is there is no door. There are no walls. There is no roof.
The Longhouse is where the sun comes up, to where the sun goes down. That is the Eastern
and the Western door. The ground beneath our feet is the floor of this structure, and the
sky above us is that roof. So each and every day that we walk in
this world, we are always in this Longhouse, and one thing that was shared with me, as
a young boy and was taught to me throughout my life by my mother, who is sitting right
here with us, was whenever you go to Longhouse, always have a peaceful mind. [Speaking Native
language]. And so when I was growing up, I used to think
about that. If I thought of this Longhouse as being a building, I
would only think of carrying that good mind when I'm outside of those walls. But also
growing up with the teaching of this symbolism of this
Longhouse taught me to always have a good mind in everything I've done, everything I
do and everything I will do because I am always in this Longhouse. This teaching comes to
us from the Peacemaker, from the [Speaking Native language], which my father will speak
about later on. So in relation to the gustowa, in a similar
way, this symbol of the dome was also incorporated into the design of our
traditional headdresses, our gustowas. And I have--I brought my own today, and I wanted
to share some symbolism of this headdress, which I wear today. And in relation to that
word, [Speaking Native language], our original name for a gustowa, as I was told by my cousin,
Segohaneawa [phonetic], [Speaking Native language], and what that comes from is when
we split the feather, how the feather curls. And when we tie all these bunches of feathers
together, it is like creating a body of water upon our minds. And in relation to the tree
of peace, the symbolism of the great tree of peace, some of you sitting here may have heard the symbolism,
and I'll share a little bit about it. The tree of peace, the tree that was chosen to
be the symbol of an everlasting peace, is the [Speaking Native language], the tree of
great long leaves, or the great white pine, also known as [Speaking Native
language] or [Speaking Native language]. And from this tree, there are four [Speaking Native
language], or four white roots of peace that spread into the four directions. And this
tree was chosen because no matter what time of year, it is always green. And the symbol
of this is that no matter what time of year, no matter what year, no matter what day, there
will always be an everlasting peace. So today, I was wandering about, and I was
exploring this place, Washington, D.C., and I took my children to
a location where this white pine is planted. It was 22 years since I had been there, and
22 years ago, my father planted a tree next to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
You'll notice, if you look closely, there's one lonesome white pine growing there, and
it's to remind us of this peace, and I couldn't help
but see all those names on that wall that were sacrificed in the name of war. I looked
to my right, and I seen that white pine growing there. That's what I wanted to share with
my children, and that's what I wanted to take back from that place, which I had not been
since 22 years ago, when I was here, when it was planted. So it was a nice place to
come and revisit.
So another symbol of this tree of peace is that this tree was uprooted. They say it was
a young tree in its beginnings, and this young tree was
uprooted, and in the crevasse that was created by uprooting this tree, the weapons of war
were placed beneath the roots, and the symbolic river or this body of water was to take all
of those weapons of war away from our people forever.
So in a similar way when we wear these gustowas, those bad things that we may have on our minds,
the negativity that we may be carrying, grief,
sadness, when we wear these headdresses, those things can be washed away in a symbolic way.
So for that reason, I'd like to use the white feathers in my own gustowas. I've incorporated
it into my own headdress that I'm wearing today as well as the one that is now in the
gallery. The other symbolism of it is that in the [Speaking Native language],
or the five nations, there are the [Speaking Native language], who are where I come from
the People of the Flint, the [Speaking Native language], the people of the Standing Stone,
[Speaking Native language], the people of the hills, [Speaking Native language], people
of the mucky land, [Speaking Native language], people of the great mountain, and then in
the 1700s, the [Speaking Native language] joined our confederacy, following those great
white roots of peace. Each of our headdresses are different. For
the [Speaking Native language] people, our headdresses have three feathers upright. The
[Speaking Native language] have two feathers upright and one down. The [Speaking Native
language] have one feather up have one up and one down. The [Speaking Native language]
have one feather down. The [Speaking Native language] have one feather up, and
the [Speaking Native language] don't have a feather.
Another teaching that I got from my mother when I was inquiring about
this, my young mind when I used to ask a lot of questions, and she told me, each of our
nations around this world, everywhere, we have special headdresses that symbolize who
our people are. I asked her, how come our gustowas are different? How come there our
war bonnets? How come there are many different headdresses that you see?
She told me that that soul [Speaking Native language] will know who you are when you pass
on from this earth, and you will know what your nation is when you live in this world.
So these things were taught to me at a young age, and so today, it was a very nice feeling
to be able to go and visit that place that I had helped plant that tree so many years
ago. So now I'd like to--are you going to introduce--I'd like to introduce my mother.
She's going to speak a few words. [Applause]
DR. BARREIRO: Thank you, Skahendowaneh. I just wanted to say that Judy, as the woman,
is the heart of the family. Lifelong participant in Mohawk traditional culture from a long
lineage of women leaders, healers and clan mothers. Again, I think we're privileged today
to have a person like Judy Swamp here. In a culture where the women have the
special responsibility to select and place and impeach the men chiefs, I asked Judy to
talk about the qualities sought for in choosing and training and expectations of leaders among
the men and chiefs. Judy? [Applause]
MS. JUDY SWAMP: [Speaking Native language]. My Mohawk name is [Speaking Native language],
which means I take the leaves off the trees. My
English name is Judy. I'm not going to say the last name because that's something that
was given to us later on in life where we had to take our men's last names. But the
one thing that I would like to talk about is our women and how important they are in
our society. The women are the ones that gave birth, and we should be put up in high esteem
for that, but we also, as women, have to give a lot of respect and show a lot of respect
so ones coming up in the future will see that and try to follow that way.
I was brought up as a Longhouse person, [Speaking Native language], and for many years growing
up, I remember all the times that my mother would say, you stay around the house. I would
always find a way to get away and run barefoot toward the river where my uncle resided. Because
the way we grew up, my father was a farmer. He was a hunter. He was a fisherman,
and he was also an ironworker. So he was home till we put the gardens in, and then we would
be gone away to work. So we spent a lot of time with our uncle. He was a single
parent. What I remember the most was how during that
time, as a little girl, I was always one that was never satisfied with one answer. There
had to be several, but I didn't debate with him. I somehow took all his teachings to heart,
and he taught me a lot. He talked of the creation story, and he also told me, he says, you know,
I know you came here without your mother's permission because if you had come here with
her permission, you would have shoes on. And so there was no way that I could get around
him, but he let me stay. He said, your mother will be expecting you back in less than an
hour, so you make sure that--I don't want to hear no arguments, but I would like
for you to go home. He says, I'll walk you back.
I remember at that time, I must've been only about five years old, and
his house was the usual. You know, the road going to the neighbors or to family members.
But I remember even back then, that it was years later that I asked my mother, I said,
why is it that I keep feeling that I was there when my uncle got - - as a leader? And she
looked at me, and she says, no, you couldn't have been there. I said, but then I--then
I started to tell her what I had seen. She looked
real shocked at me, and she didn't listen. She didn't ask any questions, and I told her
a story of the condolence of my uncle. His name was Skahendowan, his Mohawk name, but
his title name was [Speaking Native language]. She told me, she says, you know, we have been
told these things, that they do happen. She said, I was pregnant with you.
You were not born yet. She says, your uncle was - - in June, and you were born in August,
but yet, I saw what was going on. I even described the old stove they used to cook
the corn soup. I remember the women with shawls on that start to hug and they start to cry.
And I asked her about it, and she says the reason why they cry was that they know hopefully
in the far future, that there would come a time when it would be a hardship to - - somebody,
that the ways of our people had started to die out. She says, I think
the reason you were shown this is that you have to keep that alive. So today, as I stand
here, I'm thinking of the role we have as people of a clan. Some of our people, our
family clans are here, and one of them is - - and her boys, and I am proud to know that
they are here to share this day with us. One of the things that we do know is as women,
that when we go and search for a leader, it doesn't take a day. It doesn’t take a year.
It takes a while because you look at so many things, and to me, it's always been the most
important to make sure that we get somebody who's honest, a person who's compassionate,
a person who is fair, and will not only allow favors for his family, but that he will deal
with things fairly, and a person who has to be of the right clan.
And there's I guess the thing is that the person has to be a very good person, and
he has to be a very good family man because when he is in as a leader, he has to look
at his whole clan as his family. So for 37 years, 38 years, my husband was asked by my
mother if he could take that role because he's Wolf clan, to take that role and sit
in as a leader for us until we found somebody. I think what we did is I think we went to
sleep because we found that he's a fine man, and when he went in, we left him in there
for 37, 38 years. But the reason that then we
had to look for a clan mother. My mother was a clan mother, and she had been put in not
very many years after my uncle was. We always looked at ourselves, the daughters
of our mother, that we were her arms and legs. When she needed things to be done, she would
look around, and she would say, can you do this for me? I need to get a hold of
this. So we all got used to as a family to look out for our mother and help her out.
Eventually she became sick, so she had to look around. She had to review her whole family
life. Who would be the next clan mother? Who could
take care of this family because you don't only look at your family in your home. You
look at your whole clan, and that's a big difference, especially today when we have
thousands of people in the Mohawk nation. It's almost impossible to be able to look
at each and every one. But you always welcome your clan with open arms.
Sometimes disagreements come about. You forgive, you forget, and you go on because we know
it's not a good example for the little ones. So when that happened, that she became ill
and she could no longer continue her role as a clan mother, I remember that day when
she called me, and she said, are you busy today? I said,
not really, what did you want? She says, can you come over?
We're not exactly that close in distance, but it was my mother, so I went. And she kind
of looked at my father. She kept looking at the door. Finally, he got up, finished his
tea and he went out. She looked at me, and we both sat down, and it took her a while,
and I just give her that time because I wasn't sure what she wanted
to say to me. What she did was she told me how she had become ill. She says, you all
know that I've become ill. I've been in and out of the hospital. She said, I have
a heart condition that won't ever really get better, and eventually I'll be gone, and she
says, I want you to accept that. She says, but before I go, I have a big job
to do, and that is to put somebody in my place. She says, I have a lot of daughters. I have
taught you well. Some of you are eligible to fill that space. I just looked
at her, and I kind of had an idea who she was going to choose. So she started by my
oldest sister, and she said, your older sister is already married to one of our leaders of
the Turtle clan, and I can't really ask her because she's already got a full time job
on her hand. She said, the next one has become Catholic, and the people would not accept
her. Our clan would ask questions about it. She went down, and when she got to me, she
looked at me and smiled, and she said, the reason why I more or less shooed your father
out was that him and I had a debate since 7:30 this morning. We've been debating. She
says, I cannot understand that you and him kind of butt heads quite a bit, and yet, she
says, when I told him what my plan was, he says, I'll tell you what I think, and she
just listened to him. He says, I think the best
one would be Judy, and she says, it really shocked me because you and him can never see
eye to eye on things. Why this time when it's a big responsibility, and I asked. I said,
could it be that he wants to punish me once and for all? And she says, I don't think so.
She says, he was very serious. Yet I knew as I sat there who she was
going to choose because when she got to her, she says, how many times have I walked the
road from here to her house down the road? How many times have I walked in her home and
they'll be eating because it's haying time? And there
would be all kinds of boys there. She says, I'd look at each one of the boys, and they'll
smile, somewhat shy and kind of - - turn away, and I would not always know who they are,
but your sister make them welcome in her home, no matter if there's 20 boys. She would feed
them all, and some would even stay overnight because they were there to help
because that's what her and her husband did. They had a farm. And their table was always
set for more than the eight children that she had.
So she didn't tell me then that she was going to choose her. She just told me that the reason
she disagreed with my father was that she says, you tend to--she said it in Mohawk.
[Speaking Native language]. I always try not to laugh about it when I think of that word,
and what that means is--the only way I could translate it is fanciful. That I
would always look for the brighter colors or something that's shiny, and she says, it's
not really a good thing to teach your people, to all walk around in all fanciful was how
she said it. I just smiled at her because I knew myself and I know she knew me well,
too. She says, I'll tell you one thing. I don't
want you to feel bad because I will put one of your sisters in this position.
I thought, how could I feel bad when you just lifted the world off my shoulder? And she
sat there, and she always not real, real serious, but she always had this calm look about her.
She looked at me, and she started to cry. I told her, don't cry. I think you're making
the right decision. What she laughed at me was that I knew and
I mentioned my sister. She says, how did you know I was going to choose her? I said, because
it's the one who's most suitable. But what happened as time went on was that she tried
for 12 years to get us together. We have to get somebody to take that position. I took
it temporarily. She says, it's a lot of work. I don't see you coming together to help as
much as all of you should. I said, all you had to do was ask. She said, I shouldn't have
to ask. We grew up with the same teachings. We have to all come together
and work together as one. Then I think back, and I thought of our mother's words of--she
said it many times of the kind of person that a man has to be before he can be that position,
and she told us, never make the mistake of putting a man who does not have no family
in that position because the reason why they're so
strong in family is that when you have a family, you more or less learn yourself without being
told that you look out for everybody else's children. If they're there, and it's
time to eat, you don't send them home. You call them in and invite them to eat with you.
If they have a dirty face, you reach out, get a wet cloth, wipe their face. If their
hair needs combing, you do it. She says, that's what we are as women. That's our role. That's
the most important role, that we always look after the children and we never let
them cry. She says, never let them cry in pain. Today,
as I look around me, I find that we are in that position, that the children are crying
because there's so many changes in our lives. So many things have come about in our communities
that myself at this time, I'm kind of--I don't know quite how to describe how I feel. Kind
of numb for a while, but I know when - - my mother
used to say, if I decide something, if I'm sitting down, I get right up, and I'm off
running. And that's the reason why she didn't choose me was that she says you might sometimes
forget that you owe this family. You owe your whole family the good things in life, and
if you run too fast or move too fast, you tend to forget some things.
So the day came when our sister told us we have to make a decision. We have to put a
clan mother in place, she says, because I don't think I can
continue. So they all turned around and looked at the other sisters, and our other family
members, our cousins. We invite a lot of them, but a lot didn't show. And they point to me.
And I thought of my mother, and I thought, all those years, she did teachings for us
so quietly that she never made it seem like work, but all of a sudden, I
felt like I shrunk about two feet, just a little person.
But I didn't want to disappoint anybody, so at that time, I accepted. Later on, was two
things that made me pull back, and one of them was that in my
job, one of the things I was doing was teaching the culture to the students, the many students.
And this young girl got up, and she asked me, she says, you know, she says, I look forward
to your teachings every time you come in. But the one thing that hurts me, and she started
crying, was that if you accept that role as a clan mother, she says, I don't think
I could forgive you for it. I just looked at her, and it hit me, that what she was saying
was true. She might have been only 16 years old, but she was telling me a truth that I
had not even really considered and looked at. That was that Jake and I are from the
same clan, and we're not even supposed to be married. People of the same clan do not
marry. And it hit me. I felt like somebody punched
me in the chest, and I looked at her, and I could feel the tears,
but I smiled and I thanked her for reminding me. She just looked at me, and she says, you
mean I'm only 16, but you're going to listen to me? I said, I have to because you're telling
a truth I have forgotten. So those are the many things that we learn
and that we are taught. In how to pick a good man. They say you always look at the person
who's always out there, always helping others. He
does not only take good care of his family but take good care of anybody who's around.
If help is needed, you don't have to go in and ask him to help you. He'll come.
He says, those are what we call the natural leaders. Don't overlook that. Don't be choosing
somebody who comes waltzing in with his ribbons and big headdress. You know, looking around,
trying to get attention because he'll fail you. Always look for those quieter ones, the
ones who think deeply, the ones that always think of the future, and doesn't dwell on
the past. So I guess that's what we did when my mother
had picked Jake. We kind of overburdened. And the one thing that I have to share is
how it was being his wife and during those years, I became almost a mother and father
in our home, but I'm determined, even now, I'm a very lucky woman for all
the times that the door opens and one of my sons or daughters will walk in because they're
very much at home, and it still has open doors. So I think it's time for me to give up this
time and have Jake take my place. [Applause]
DR. BARREIRO: Thank you, Judy. That's wonderful. It's the real
thing, huh? Well, Jake has informed me, and as the family has mentioned, he no longer
sits on council. He's been released from council after 37 years, but I still call him chief.
I've known Jake Swamp as the chief of the people since 1976, nearly 35 years, and I
don't think I can call him otherwise. Jake, I remember you during the dangerous, proud
and difficult days of the Racketpoint [phonetic] encampment back in 1979 to '81 when the Mohawk
women asked their chiefs to stand up for their sovereignty in the face of 400
trooper and vigilante rifles, and how you worked so diligently to bring that crisis
to a peaceful end. I think that's been your job, your role, your duty, many times as it
is for all of the council chiefs of the Haudenosaunee. I remember you in Geneva and Rotterdam and
other places where you have stood for the people, and since then, you have circled the
whole world, planting millions of trees and teaching millions the Haudenosaunee message
of peace. For that, I'm very proud to call myself your friend. Please welcome Chief
Jake Swamp. [Applause]
MR. SWAMP: Thank you, Jose, and I want to thank everyone for coming out today. I guess
I lost two inches in height when I broke my back years ago. Afterwards, I shrunk two inches,
and I'm always complaining about my long pant legs. Judy's always fixing them.
Today we're here to talk about the great law of peace. It is so evasive, meaning the peace
in our world, and we need to come to terms with how do we bring our world together into
one body, one heart, one mind. It is very extensive to talk about the great law of peace.
We went on a pilgrimage one time, which I led a group of people from
the Grand River, and elsewhere. We took along some busses, and we went back to where the
peacemaker was born, and we did the history. It felt so good to walk and to go to the
places where the peacemaker had been. Knowing at the same time what a terrible life he must
have led because beforehand, there was so many areas of violence that were happening.
The things that he had to encounter. When I think about those things, I think about
today, our world today. And back in 1984, I decided to go out
into the world, planting trees of peace because this would give me the opportunity to talk
about the great law of peace in front of different audiences that may be able to listen. Mainly
to gain new experiences of how do we come to terms with what's happening in our world.
And I have come to the conclusion that our world and its people have
80% in grief because people in grief experience different things in life. For one thing, symbolically,
when we have a great loss, it brings tears to our eyes for our vision. And when we
are teary-eyed, we have a blurry vision, not being able to recognize what's in front of
us. Secondly, whenever we experience a great loss,
our hearing becomes stopped. We cannot communicate clearly any longer, for our mind is positioned
on our losses. Therefore, it is hard to hear under those conditions.
When we suffer a loss, it is hard to speak because something grabs us in the throat.
And it lives there. And it's hard to speak because of that. So early on when we encountered the new people
that came to this land, they were carrying much grief in arriving here. Things had happened
where they came from. They were running away to find a new way of
life. So our ancestors were pretty knowledgeable
about feelings. So as these people and our people started to make agreements of how they're
going to live together, they used to always spend some time to address the areas of pain.
And they would say, our brothers, we haven't seen you in a very long time. Perhaps you
may have encountered an experience of loss in your life. But we cannot have an agreement
unless we have clarity between us. And so that's what they did. We call it the three
areas that must be covered, and that will bring clarity to everyone.
They say, we take you by the hand, and we reach to the sky. And we bring forth the purest
cloth that we could find. We'll bring it to you, and we will wipe away your tears. So
that your vision will be restored for the future. Then after they finish that, then
they'll go to the next one. They'll say, our brother, we'll take
you by the hand, and we will reach to the heavens, and we will find the purest and softest
feather that we could find, and we will go to
your ears, and we will move the [Speaking Native language] of grief from your ears.
Ask the great creator above to stand with you as the new sun rises tomorrow. That everything
that makes noise in the world will come to you again. The birds, as they sing their song.
The wind as it whistles through the branches in the leaves. You will
hear that again. That is important. Then he said, now, our brother, this is another.
He said, when you experience a loss, it takes away your voice for something gets stuck in
your throat, and it's hard to speak. Therefore, it's hard to communicate. He said, this is
what we're going to do. We're going to reach to the heavens up above, and we're going to
find the purest water, and we're going to bring that for you to drink. This pure water
will wash away that lump in your throat, and we'll ask the great creator in the universe
to give you the power that tomorrow morning as
the new sun dawns, you will stand there, and your voice will be restored. So those are
only three areas, but there are others that we have, especially when they raise leaders,
new leaders in our nation. And so I have found in my travels that indeed
there is about 80% of our people in grief, not knowing, not
noticing that they are carrying this from day-to-day. Till it has consumed them, and
it begins to become a great burden upon themselves. And so what do we need to do? Using the great
law of peace and its teachings, I share that around the world. And I try to bring comfort
to people who are in distress, for when people talk about the condolences, they suddenly
become aware of where they have been and where they need to go in the future. So I've been
very fortunate to learn these values and traditions through the - - teachings that
are constantly being recited by the elders. Now it's our turn. People my age, it's our
turn to teach our youth. And I think my son here has done a very good job in learning,
and I think we all, both of us owe it to my wife, Judy, who has had the strength to teach
us everything she learned because for me, I did not grow up with it.
I was a colonized person. And I had to go through much pain to find myself again.
But that's behind me now. Today, I'm working on a big project whereby we're going to invite
all the indigenous people to the Mississippi River in 2012, and I just got back from Ecuador
last week. I shared this knowledge with native leaders, the Mayans
and the - - and the native leaders in South America. They liked this idea of congregating
on each side of the Mississippi River where we will carry on a very great condolence ceremony
to address the pain of the past 500 years. For there is a teaching, - - condolence says,
when you put somebody in the ground, of course there's a mound that is created as you're
walking away. They say do not look back when you turn around from the grave. As you walk
away, look back into the future, do not look back for
you cannot change what's happened. This is how we look at indigenous people. We're walking
like that. We're walking sideways, trying to look back all the time. So when we live
like that, it's hard to share our gifts, our knowledge between each other. We're all isolated
in our different places, and we need to come together as one people again.
So that is the message I brought to Ecuador, and it will become known pretty soon what
is going to be happening. The others in Canada have already
accepted the challenge. We're going to the Arctic north. So today we busy ourselves using
the great law of peace, and there are other teachings in other cultures amongst the indigenous
people. They're very closely linked. Together we will start to share our knowledge with
one another. The Tree of Peace has been described, it's
true. The greenery represents the peace and never loses color through the seasons. The
four white roots go in four directions, which means it's going to spread the peace into
the four directions, to whoever may listen. The greenery of the tree and its branches
and it's - - , there are needles hanging on there with five tied together.
This is where the idea came from, to bring together the United States. The symbol of
the five nations tied together into one heart, one body, one mind was the teaching
that was given to the leaders who were putting together the Constitution of this country.
Hardly anyone knows in our country where the ideas of democracy came from. It came from
that place, the original tree of peace. The original tree of peace was applied to John
Hancock. They called him [Speaking Native language] because he understood the
principles. So they decided to give him that name, meaning Big Tree or Sturdy Tree. [Speaking
Native language] gave a speech in 1744 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and he was showing
the colonial leaders how to form themselves into an organization, and he was saying, such
as ours for we have been practicing this way for generations
and generations. Why can't you do it the same for yourselves because it is easier to settle
problems when you talk to one another, not when you bicker because the colonial
leaders were usually in conflict to one another. So when Benjamin Franklin went back to Albany,
New York, 1754, they called it the Albany Plan of Union, and the six nations went there
with their belts. And they explained to them once again. So you can trace how the independence
movement kind of started. By 1775, it was really evident that
these people are going to break away from their mother country, and they're going to
form themselves into an organization, such as what we have today as United States government.
I cannot stop there because when we look at the United States government, it is very young.
We have to look at the United States as we would look at a 17-year-old boy
that tends to get in trouble sometimes. So that's the way we look at the United States.
There's another thing, too. I was approached by a person in
India. He's a lawyer, and he purchased one of those books, and he said, now I know where
democracy really came from. He went around back into India, and he asked the judges and
the lawyers, the circle he wanders around in, and he asked them, do you know really
where democracy came from? No one knew, and that
blew his mind. He e-mailed me, and he said, nobody knew where democracy came from, and
we're going to help you now. We're going to let the whole world know. He said, there's
221 countries practicing democracy, and no one knows where it came from. So we have to
let them know. It's true, we've been kind of left out of
history. We have come this far, and people in general need to know these
principles and ideas. That way, we can all feel good about ourselves and go into the
future and build a real good future for our children. We always have to talk about our
children that's our future. We always talk about the future generations, wherever you
go, where Native people are, they're always doing that for their children, and their children.
Seven generation concept. That's a law that's been given to Iroquois leaders.
You must think seven generations ahead before you make a decision. What does
that mean? It means we're bringing security to the children that will be born into the
future. So that they may enjoy what we enjoy today. We have to be careful how we live on
Mother Earth, for our elders told us that certain things are going to occur. Sometimes
in our lifetime, sometimes in the future. Many
warnings were given and today one of them have come true. The oil is leaking in the
ocean. In the Thanksgiving address he gave us today,
it says to the thunder beings, we thank you for the water you bring
to us to quench the thirst of the earth. We also thank you for withholding those things
under the surface of the earth that were put there by the creator so that if they should
ever surface, they would bring much damage to the world. In other words, when we dig
up uranium and different things out of the ground,
we don't know what we're doing that's going to cause us many, many heartaches and pains.
So we have to listen to the elders who have been given the instruction, what to tell the
people. We have been given the prophecies, but when we talk about it in the public, sometimes
they say that's old wives tales. Well, when the truth hits,
that's when people become wary. You don't know how many phone messages I have received
already. Please come to this gathering. We need your help. Talk about your prophecies.
Talk about your culture. People don't know. But one of the safest and
easiest way to prevent this is to go by the teaching that we were given as children. They
said if you ever arrive at a river or a stream, and you're thirsty, you have your cup in your
hand. Do not go directly to that water to get your water. Look at the water first and
see which direction it flows. After you have determined that, then take your container
and you always dip with the current, in the direction of the current. Do not ever dip
against it, for it will come back on you. So that's a teaching we follow.
In anything we do in life, if we go with nature's current, we will never get into trouble, and
we can go on and on and on in our way of life. We have
done so many things against nature. [Loudspeaker announcement]
MR. SWAMP: I guess we're getting close to that time. I sometimes compare myself to them
toys where you wind it up, and I'm kind of used to standing up here for a couple hours,
but I guess what we can do with the remainder of our time is maybe we can ask for a question
period. Maybe someone has a question, maybe a lingering question.
That's a response I always get. [Laughter]
FEMALE VOICE: When you go to these other countries around the world, are you invited there by
their government, or - - ? MR. SWAMP: In this case, I went to Ecuador,
we went to visit the volcanoes. Recently one went off, and that's where we went. We went
there to do ceremonies to acknowledge the volcano because this kind of activity
is saying to us, you better acknowledge us. So we went there to be thankful to that volcano.
We know that's where life came from. We acknowledge that, and we left gifts and things
to there for the volcano. A very funny thing happened. It was kind of
something that there was an elder from Mexico. He had this contraption in his hand, and as
he was praying--when we got there, it was all covered with clouds. So as he was praying,
then the clouds started to split, and it opened up.
The whole volcano, we could see it. When he finished his prayer, then the clouds come
back together. I knew what it meant, that the volcano accepted our gift, but the volcano
covered itself again saying you better go and get to work. So that's how I understood
that. The only thing that's happening is I had pneumonia
before, and I had a hard time breathing. So I couldn't go on some
of those trip that went way up. But we got her done.
MALE VOICE: Have you decided where you're going to be holding your - - ?
MR. SWAMP: No, we left it up to the Ojibwa people who are the caretakers on the waters
and might be in that area. Yeah. MALE VOICE: - -
MR. SWAMP: Thank you. FEMALE VOICE: - -
MR. SWAMP: Yeah, right now we're working on that problem, hydro fracking. Yeah. And it's
a very bad thing that they pour that water down there.
So that's what I mean about how we're doing things in life. We're going to spoil the earth,
or we're going to destroy ourselves if we
don't be careful. We
go out there
and teach and keep teaching. One more. MALE VOICE: - -
MR. SWAMP: It
happened prior because the Seneca people liked war so much that the
peacemaker needed to give them a sign so that they could become believers. So there was
a total eclipse for three minutes, and they traced that back, the astronomer traced that
back to 1142. It was in the afternoon in August. I forget what day it was.
FEMALE VOICE: - - MR. SWAMP: What happened with that is the
Iroquois nations, as a confederacy, remained neutral. Then different people came from British
and Americans, enticing young men to join either side. But the agreement then had
was they would not kill each other if they met in battle. But it happened in Eriskiny
[phonetic], Battle of Eriskiny, and it was very bad.
So I want to thank all of you for being patient. Thank you.
[Applause] DR. BARREIRO: Well, I want to thank
everyone. One always hates to put a timeframe on elders' speaking, and this kind of an event
always calls for some limitations. I want to reiterate again that the condolence
ceremony that Jake and family spoke about was the primary protocol of treaty making
for 200 years, through the 1700s and the 1600s, and it was used finally in the last Treaty
of Canandaigua. The oral tradition that we see, and I won't read it now. I'd hoped to
be able to, but in a book that Franklin published of the treaties of that time, there are
excerpts from father to son to remember, and there's an excerpt to the British at one point
where they speak to the fact that even though it may seem to the British that the Iroquois
were not remembering and did not have writing and so they would forget these treaty provisions,
that in fact then the speaker goes into the philosophy and the practice of
oral tradition and the importance of getting it right. I'm just very thankful and very
honored to see a family that got it right. Thank you very much.