New book sheds new light to Haudenosaunee history

SIX NATIONS/LONDON – There is a new book on the shelves written by Six Nations’ author and educator Associate Professor Susan Hill, which sets out to offer some clarity to the murky and confused topic of Haudenosaunee Land Tenure on the Grand River.

Hill is a Haudenosaunee citizen — Wolf Clan, Mohawk Nation — and resident of Ohsweken (Grand River Territory). She earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Native Studies from Trent University, a Master of Arts in American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Michigan.

Her research interests include Haudenosaunee land history, indigenous research methodologies and ethics and native education. She is an associate professor in History and the Director of First Nations Studies at University of Western Ontario.

In The Clay We are Made of, Hill presents a revolutionary retelling of the history of the Grand River Haudenosaunee from their Creation Story, through European contact, to contemporary land claims negotiations. She incorporates indigenous theory, fourth-world post-colonialism, and Amerindian auto-history, along with Haudenosaunee languages, oral records, and wampum strings to provide a comprehensive account of the Haudenosaunee relationship to their land.

The book is soon to become a must read resource of valuable and well-documented history for the researcher or student of indigenous history, especially when it comes to the Haudenosaunee of the Grand River Territory.

Hill outlines the basic principles and historical knowledge contained within four key epics passed down through Haudenosaunee history. She highlights the political role of women in land negotiations and dispels their misrepresentation in the scholarly canon. She guides the reader through treaty relationships with Dutch, French, and British settler nations — including the Kaswentha/Two-Row Wampum (the precursor to all future Haudenosaunee-European treaties), the Covenant Chain, the Nanfan Treaty, and the Haldimand Proclamation — and details outstanding land claims. Hill’s study concludes with a discussion of the current problematic relationship between the Grand River Haudenosaunee and the Canadian government, and reflects on the meaning and possibility of reconciliation.

The 320-page work has raised the bar on the subject and reveals some new information as well, and is receiving rave reviews from such academics as Jon Parmenter, Department of History, Cornell University, and others.

Hill situates herself as a community-based scholar and yet manifests the ability, as Lakota historian Philip Deloria has recommended, ‘to look the Euro-American archive full in the face’,” says Parmenter, “It contains informed derived by close readings of Haudenosaunee tradition and untapped archival sources. This book maps out the story of the Grand River’s people in a fresh and compelling narrative that overturns many previously held assumptions about the extent of Haudenosaunee agency vis-à-vis the Canadian settler state.”

The Clay We are Made of is an impressive book packed with well documented information about the sometimes troubled relationship between the Haudenosaunee and the settler governments of Canada and the Crown.

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