******I OFFERED and THE OFFER WAS ACCEPTED*****
Comp Tickets for our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters.
Management almost had a cow but the reasoning I thought behind this philanthropic offering was staring us in the face â€“ loud and clear. We were half empty and so the theater was half empty too. We were in towns trying to pick out the last of the audience that had never seen HAIR. It was another brilliant Michael Butler strategy to comb the U.S.A. in small towns and cities and draw every last dollar out.
So Michael (Light) Brown, Mr. Grayson, Venusâ€™ manager and Lyle Kâ€™ang (Claude & Berger understudy) had an agreement to be host to the tribe. You know, the hand-woven beads on the raw-hide shirts and blouses, the bags â€“ shoulder ones and the ladies were so magnificently dressed it would make grown men cry. Hereâ€™s a short recollection â€“ sit back and enjoy!
We are just beginning that journey again!
Venus HAIR Tribe Visits New York Onondaga Tribe
Lyle Kekahi Kâ€™ang & Julie Mahina W McKay
How vividly I (we) remember the meeting, in 1971, when the Venus Touring Company tribe met with the Onondagas in New York state â€“ just south of Syracuse. Here is one main reason why we are so grateful to this nationâ€™s first inhabitants on Thanksgiving: The United States Constitution, which has its roots in Native American practices as far back as 1000 years ago.
These are precious thoughts about the autumn day we first met Faith keeper Oren Lyons and the Onondagas in their Long House in the Onondaga Creek Valley, just south of Syracuse, New York. The tribe extended an invitation to the entire Venus Touring Company during its run in Buffalo.
In the crisp autumn coolness, outside their traditional Long House, nearly 100 men, women and children, warmly and eagerly greeted us, as one-by-one we stepped down from a chartered bus that had brought us from Buffalo. Inside the football field-sized meeting house, infused with the fragrance of burning cedar and sage, we were treated with dignity and respect. We shared dances, songs and stories, and were graciously fed a meal of tasty venison stew and aromatic sassafras tea. We sit across from the Chiefs. I stare – not rudely, out of respect, just stare.
My vibratory frequency increases, is it the tea or am I on too something here. The Chiefs do not look away – should our eyes not meet, maybe its disrespectful? We stare some more – finally one of the Chief’s smiles back – we smile – our smiles interchange, mingle and speak â€“ my heart speaks – we are one.
NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY:
It is now widely believed, yet tragically not written in most history textbooks, that when Americaâ€™s Founding Fathers searched for an example of effective leadership and human liberty upon which to model society and unite the thirteen colonies, they found it right in their midst. It was the governmental structure of the Iroquois.
Many scholars and historians now agree that the worldâ€™s oldest democracy was NOT dreamed up by Americaâ€™s Founding Fathers, hatched in the British Empire, nor invented in ancient Greece, as most of us are taught, but had its roots in the central part of what is now New York state.
During an Indigenous Peopleâ€™s conference (â€œThe Iroquois Great Law of Peace and the U.S. Constitutionâ€) at Cornell University two decades ago, 200 scholars, historians, anthropologists and traditional chiefs agreed that the U.S. Constitution was modeled after the Iroquois â€˜Great Law of Peaceâ€™. At this historic gathering, organized by the universityâ€™s North American Indian Studies Program, it was concluded â€“ for the record — that the oldest democracy on earth is the Six Nation Confederacy of the Iroquois, which is said to have existed in our country as early as 900 A.D, well before the writing of the American Constitution.
â€œModern democracy was first established here, and is not the evolutionary result of European political theories. The modern age of democracy had its origin in the vast recesses of this continent, and from here it spread throughout the world. American democracy owes its distinctive character of debate and compromise to the principles and structure of American Indian civil government.” These words from The Chair of the English Department at Castleton College, Bruce Barton.
According to historian David Yarrow, â€œthe first Europeans who came to the New World observed strong, well organized communities of the Iroquois League.â€ Yarrow adds, â€œIt is no coincidence that the U.S. Constitution strikingly resembles, in both principle and form, the â€˜Great Law of Peaceâ€™ of the Six Nations Confederacy of the Iroquois League. This powerful alliance of five nations controlled a vast sweep from the St. Lawrence Valley, south into Pennsylvania and west to Illinois.â€
The Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations, originally consisted of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca â€“- five nations. But the Tuscarora people migrated from the south and joined the Confederacy in the early 1700s, bringing to six the number united by Haudenosaunee traditional law, cultural values and beliefs.
The Venus Touring Company came face-to-face with the Onondagas back in 1971, after being invited to their Long House. During that memorable gathering we shared stories, songs and dances. Sassafras tea and venison stew were served to us with loving graciousness.
We learned during that visit, and want to share it with all who will listen, that these beautiful Native Americans are the decedents of people to whom all of us owe immense gratitude.
How and why did these first-nation inhabitants become such a well-governed and peaceful people? As we understand it, the story goes something like this:
The Seneca, Cayuga, Onandaga, Oneida, and the Mohawk had been warring against each other for a long time. There was great bloodshed. These people (the 5 nations) had apparently forgotten their traditional ways. Their cruel and destructive actions saddened the Creator. So, Creator sent a messenger to the people to help restore peace. In this traditional story the messenger is referred to as the â€œPeacemakerâ€.
The Peacemaker carried Creatorâ€™s powerful words of peace to the five nations. It is said Peacemaker traveled in a stone canoe to show to the troubled people the truth of his words. In order to spread Creator’s message to the warring people, Peacemaker sought out the warring leaders of the five nations.
The story continues: While searching for these leaders, Peacemaker came upon a woman. Because she had no alliances, she had been providing shelter and food to any warriors who were in need. The Peacemaker told the woman about Creatorâ€™s message, and said her well-intentioned actions saddened Creator. So, after listening to the words of the Peacemaker, the woman agreed to follow Creatorâ€™s wishes.
By this time the Peacemaker’s message had begun to spread and was beginning to change the minds of many of the Five Nations people. One of those who had accepted the good words from Creator, and decided to help the Peacemaker, was Haionwhatha (who we know as Hiawatha).
Meantime, one of the most feared men of the five nations was an Onondaga man named Tadadaho. He was said to be so evil that his body was deformed and twisted. Snakes grew from his head. Upon hearing of Creatorâ€™s message Tadadaho, was determined to stop the efforts of the Peacemaker. As the story goes, Tadadaho killed Hiawatha’s daughters.
Hiawatha was, of course, grief-stricken. Because he was so sad, he became unable to continue spreading the Creator’s words of peace. But while in this time of grief, Hiawatha found words to help console others who lost loved ones. He devised a method to remember the healing words by stringing purple and white fresh water clamshells together on strings. And that is when the first Wampum was made.
Time passed. And once Hiawatha’s mind was clear again; he and the Peacemaker confronted the evil Tadadaho. By this time, the message of peace was unstoppable. Peacemaker had gained the support of 49 leaders from all of the five nations.
It is at this point in the story that they Peacemaker and Hiawatha “combed the snakes” from Tadadahoâ€™s hair. Tadadaho accepted Creator’s message â€“ becoming the 50th chief to accept the new peace.
The peace union was symbolized by uprooting a great white pine tree and throwing their weapons into the hole. Then a mighty stream washed away the weapons of war. After the weapons were gone, the tree was replanted and the Peacemaker placed an eagle on top to warn the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) of any dangers to this great peace.
So, Hiawathaâ€™s wampum belt was made to record the event of the Five nations joining together in peace. Each nation is represented, with the Onondagas symbolized in the great white Tree of Peace.
The peace story ends with the tree being replanted and Peacemaker saying these words:
â€œUnder the shade of this Tree of Peace … there shall you sit and watch the Fire of the League of Five Nations. Roots have spread out from the Tree of Great Peace … These are the Great White Roots, and their nature is Peace and Strength. If any man or any nation shall obey the Laws of Peace … they may trace back the roots of the Tree … They shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Great Evergreen Tree.
It was done. The Peacemaker had successfully spread Creatorâ€™s words; words now known as the â€œGreat Law.â€ The Peacemaker also showed the new Haudenosaunee people how keep the process going from leader to leader. The Peacemaker bestowed the power to select the new leaders to the women, namely the Clan Mother. So, it is now the responsibility of the women to keep close watch on the people to look for who will make a good leader. In this way the Chief and the Clan Mother work together for the people.
According to historian David Yarrow, â€œtoday the League of Five Nations remains one of the best examples of democracy, self-government and libertarian society on Earth. Through it we continue to gain wisdom and inspiration needed today to confront intensified challenges to peace and survival.â€
Seneca traditionalist, writer and lecturer John Mohawk, in his Foreword to the recent version of Dr. Wallace’s White Roots of Peace, sums it up this way:
â€œLong ago on the Onondaga Lake shore a man proposed peace was a possibility. It was a radical idea at the time, as it is now. He proposed justice could be achieved, that there would be no true peace until justice is achieved. He proposed because human beings are rational and have a potential to use their heads, these things are possible. His vision contained many principles, and what nearly amounted to a faith based on the process of thinking.
â€œHis efforts carried an obscure group of Indian peoples to the center of the world stage of history. It was a major building block which enabled the Haudenosaunee to become one of the most politically and philosophically influential peoples in history.
“The ownership of the thinking which took place then, and the generation of thinking which needs to take place now are our job. That’s what we’ll find when we follow the roots to their source. The White Roots continue to represent a tradition of thinking about ourselves as a species, and the responsibility to use our minds so that we continue to survive and create a good world for our children seven generations into the future.”
Historian Yarrow writes, â€œIt is no coincidence that the U.S. Constitution strikingly resembles, in both principle and form, the Great Law of Peace of the Six Nations Confederacy of the Iroquois League. . . However, the greatest Iroquois role was neither military nor economic, but government. At that time, the Iroquois League was the oldest, most highly evolved participatory democracy on Earth. Although known for military prowess, Iroquois power was not founded on the force of arms, but rather on the arts of peace and reason. A profound understanding of the principles of peace and human freedom lay at the foundation of Iroquois government, allowing them to foster genuine, effective statesmanship.
â€œAfter the white man came, during a century of neocolonial strife, [the Iroquois] loyally protected the infant English colonies, showed them the way to union, and helped prepare American people for nationhood. The Iroquois excelled in the arts of statesmanship and diplomacy.
â€œBy the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Iroquois had practiced their own egalitarian government for hundreds of years. The Iroquois reputation for diplomacy and eloquence reveals they had securely evolved a sophisticated political system founded on reason, not on mere power. But the Founding Fathers found their best working model for their new government, not in the writings of Europeans, but through their direct contact with the Iroquois League; for the Great Law of Peace provided both model and incentive to transform thirteen separate colonies into the United States.
Yarrow points out that: â€œthere is evidence that Thomas Jefferson adopted the specific symbols of the Peacemaker legend. The Tree of Peace, writes Yarrow, became the Tree of Liberty; and the Eagle, clutching a bundle of thirteen arrows, became the symbol of the new American government.
â€œThe Great Law of Peace laid out a government â€˜of the people, by the people and for the peopleâ€™ with three branches. The Onondaga, the Fire keepers, are the heart of the Confederacy. Similarly, the U.S. presidency forms an executive branch.
â€œThe League’s legislative branch is in two parts: Mohawk and Seneca are Elder Brothers who form the upper house, while Oneida and Cayuga are Younger Brothers, similar to the Senate and House of the United States Congress. The Iroquoisâ€™ equivalent of a Supreme Court is the Women’s Councils, which settle disputes and judge legal violations.
â€œIn 1776, the Continental Congress promoted peace with the Indian nations by following the custom of the Iroquois “forest diplomats.” As in the Peacemaker legend, the war hatchet was buried beneath the Tree of Peace and prayers of peace were offered through the sacred pipe.
â€œMembers of the Continental Congress before the Revolution met with Iroquois ambassadors to learn how they governed themselves. Today the Iroquois League remains alive, the last surviving sovereign nations of Native Americans in North America. Its capital still sits at the center of New York State in Onondaga Countyâ€
Yarrow continues, â€œAmong Indian tribes in America, Iroquois are special in that they remain autonomous, independent nations. Yes, nations, not “reservations” as many Americans mistakenly believe. Under international law Iroquois reservations aren’t U.S. lands, and aren’t subject to federal, state or local laws. Rather, they are foreign nations within the United States and Canada, who exercise their own self government on their own national soil. They’re a distinct culture and race with their own language, religion, history, families, communities, and government.â€
For all these things, and for so much more, we thank the Onondagas and the other members of the Iroquois Nations who made it possible for us to become who we are as individuals, and as a country. Our feelings about peace and love, harmony and understanding are tied tightly to ‘The White Rootsâ€™ which represent thinking about ourselves as one species, and gives us the responsibility to use our minds so that we will we continue to live and create a safe world for our children and our childrenâ€™s childrenâ€¦.. Seven generations into the future.
Peace and Mahalo.