“Grand River teachings come home”: video series examines the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace

SIX NATIONS — A video series produced by Two Row Times, ‘Learning the KAIANEREKOWA — the Great Law of Peace’, has released seven new videos from the series to social media this month examining the cultural and political heritage of the Six Nations people.

Jonathan Garlow, publisher of the Two Row Times, produced the video series and has been releasing videos since 2020. Garlow, who is mixed-Mohawk and Potawatomi and raised at Six Nations, says more are on the way.

“Since filming my documentary, ‘Day Zero’, about the 2006 events at Douglas Creek Estates, and even before then, I’ve been searching after the truth about our people’s history. I wanted to know more about the Great Law, and I understood enough to know that we, the people of the Confederacy, weren’t being told the full story about our history and how we became a Confederacy. Either at Canadian schools or internally here around the kitchen tables at Six Nations,” said Garlow. “I had a printed version of the great law and I wanted to know the truth about the great law. Why is there different versions? What is the real great law?”

That truth seeking journey ended up being a five hour teaching day between Garlow, his two-man camera crew, and Tekarontake and Ateronhiatá:kon — an interview he says was a great experience, personally.

“I was taken through this incredible journey of laughter, tears and amazement,” said Garlow. “Theres’s something unique about the way they speak, in some moments their voice — was so powerful. Something rises up within them and you can tell that they are connecting with the ancestors. At times, my hairs were standing up. In this interview I didn’t have an agenda or try to get a certain angle. I wanted the unfiltered truth. So I filmed the experience of transmitting oral tradition from elders to nephews. I was personally a part of that living story where my genetics play into the whole thing that they are talking about. It was emotional. It was electric.”

What resulted is a beautifully nuanced and politically sophisticated discussion about Haudenosaunee issues and history internal to the people of the Confederacy, some of it done in the Mohawk language — and a perspective that is not often put before the camera. Garlow says this is something important to the political future of Six Nations.

“I should be able to take a critical look in the mirror without getting offended. Some of these items being discussed are very hard to talk about without people getting upset in some way so the fact that we were able to sit for so long and talk about things peacefully is very important. It’s not your boring old surface level history, it runs deep,” said Garlow.

The series was filmed at Jukasa Studios, who donated studio space for the project. “I have experience as a documentarian but I still needed a lot of help with the technical aspects,” said Garlow.

Jukasa Studios did the audio recording, Ian Maracle was the photography director and assistant camera was Wes Day.

“We didn’t have proper lighting. We just brought in every lamp we could find that was at the studio and went with that. It worked out nicely though it brings more of a campfire feel in a way.”

Tekarontake and Ateronhiatá:kon shared that some of the teachings they learned came from elders at Grand River, and that the dialect of Mohawk they speak is an old dialect that comes from the Mohawk Valley. It is the old Mohawk dialect that was the language the grand councils were held in and is now a minority dialect still spoken by some at Six Nations today.

“These are Grand River teachings come home,” said Garlow.

The video series is available now on the Two Row Times social media accounts and on YouTube.

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