The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, said to be the oldest democracy in what is now known as North America, was formed when the Peacemaker, with the help of Hiawatha, journeyed to each of the five nations to help promote peace. And next month, a group of Haudenosaunee members are going to embark on the same journey, following the footsteps and retracing the journey of the legendary Peacemaker, which will take them throughout Ontario and New York State. They will visit the very same sites that led to the formation of the Great Law of Peace which still holds strong and true throughout Haudenosaunee territories to this day.
This year’s organizer, Bonnie Whitlow told the Two Row Times in an interview, “The original organizer was Jake Thomas back in the mid-1990’s. Then after that it was Jake Swamp. I had the benefit of working with Jake Swamp. Back in those days it was easy. It was like the Great Law Recital on the road. We would go to the places where these events happened and recite it. He would tell stories at every stop, do translations and activities. The trip usually lasts around 10 to 15 days but now that both Jake’s are gone, we have to find pockets of knowledge along the journey where people know the Great Law.”
This year the Journey starts on July 13th and will go for approximately 14 days. It will start with a tobacco ceremony on Six Nations. The next stop is Tyendinaga, which is the birthplace of the Peacemaker. “We try to mimic the journey as much as possible. In some places, we can point to a spot and say this is where that happened.”
Asked on when the actual journey of the Peacemaker was, Whitlow stated, “Some anthropologists say the year 692, some say 1142, while others say as late as the 1700’s. But according to Elders, the current Tadodaho is the 52nd Chief, so then it becomes a number’s game and it can take you back as far as the BC era.”
Each participant must help raise funds in what Whitlow calls, ‘the dish with one spoon concept.’ “We’re trying to raise $10,000 collectively which will pay the speakers. Going into other territories and asking people to recite part of the Peacemaker’s Journey and to accommodate us, we want to offer them each a gift. So we all raise money together for this.” Apart from that, participants are also expected to raise their own money for accommodation, gas and food.
Whitlow stated there are 19 speakers lined up for the Journey this year, “One from each of the five nations territories who will be speaking in their own language. Mohawk will be spoken in Mohawk territory, Cayuga will be spoken in Cayuga territory etc. This year is the first time ever there will be a Peacemaker’s Journey where we will visit each of the Five Nations and have them each speak in their own language in their own territory.”
So far according to Whitlow, 15 people have confirmed to go on the trip with another 5-10 who will be doing part of the trip. “But the more people that go, the less cost we each have,” explained Whitlow. The Peacemaker’s Journey will also coincide with the Recital of the Great Law of Peace which is being held in Onondaga territory this year. “This journey is life-changing for many people,” stated Whitlow.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” explained Whitlow. “We try and do this every other year. I want other people to know that this event is happening and it’s not too late for them to join. It is a very unique opportunity to learn on the land where the events of the Peacemaker’s Journey took place. I want people to come and experience this amazing trip. It’s open to any ogwehoweh and it’s truly a unique journey.”
Past attendee Michelle Thomas, Seneca Bear Clan stated, “The most rewarding experience to me is when I see the participants going to Tully Lake which is the place where the Peacemaker first strung wampum shells. It has huge historical significance. The land throughout is healing, it’s a living history of who we are as Haudenosaunee people. We do everything in a sacred way. We are visiting our own ancestry and relatives on this Journey. It was life changing for me. I recommend this trip to all Haudenosaunee who want to know their history. It’s a place where our history really happened. It makes it real, anyone can benefit from it. I ask that people who are planning on doing the journey just be mindful and respectful and be open to that experience of healing. It’s very much a healing journey.”
For more information or to support the Peacemaker’s Journey, contact organizer Bonnie Whitlow at 519-717-3411.