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A quiet and snow-covered gift

One of my favorite visualizations of the Rez is how quiet it gets in the winter. Close your eyes for a minute and dream it. The cold wind blows through the bare branches like calm waters flow upon the sea. The air smells like wood smoke and hickory bark. Off in the distance you can

One of my favorite visualizations of the Rez is how quiet it gets in the winter. Close your eyes for a minute and dream it. The cold wind blows through the bare branches like calm waters flow upon the sea. The air smells like wood smoke and hickory bark. Off in the distance you can hear nothing but the faint crooning of bushdogs and someone screaming at them to get lost. These are the sounds of home.

Once the snow falls it sets this insulated protective layer to the world we call Six. Its chilled blanket coats Our Mother and it seems as if she has become still again, peaceful and resting – like she has done her duty once more. Right then you can feel in the world that a shift has taken place, and suddenly calm falls over everything.

And in the cold nights when the moon is dark and the clouds part, look upward and you’ll see a million stars telling the stories of our beginnings – the spirits revealing themselves in the heavens. The place where we began.

This week I sat, along with many other supporters in a Brantford courtroom, waiting to hear if another Haudenosaunee mother would be pulled apart from her daughter for giving her Onongwatri:yo.

As soon as the judge came in that room, adrenaline was pumping through my veins. He stoically read through the evidence presented throughout the trial, touching on the perceived facts stated by those called to testify. On some points he agreed, on others he did not.
He carried on talking about “aboriginal” rights. “Ugh,” I thought. “I hate that word.” So many thoughts went through my head I started getting lost in what he was saying.

Then he paused, and asked a question. Simply, “Did Onongwatri:yo exist for the Six Nations before colonization?” Another bolt of adrenaline shot through me and inside of myself I was screaming, “Yes!”

Then he did something I never thought in a million years I would ever see a judge do. Ever. He took a moment in his court to explain that in fact the Six Nations people are not the Iroquois, but rather the Haudenosaunee people. With just that one simple articulation my heart was bursting at the seams. Here I sat watching this all unfold and I literally started to shake.

He went on and began to read the Creation Story to the entire court. He lowered his voice, and with a gentle loving kindness and reverence, he retold our beginnings.

“Soon after this new world had begun its transformation, the Sky Woman gave birth to a baby girl. The baby girl was special for she was destined to give birth to twins. The Sky Woman was heartbroken when her daughter died while giving birth to her twin boys,” he read.
He continued on, and as he read, a quiet, spiritual peace fell over the entire courtroom. “The Sky Woman buried her daughter in the ground and planted in her grave the plants and leaves as she clutched upon descending from the Sky World. Not long after, over her daughter’s head grew Corn, Bean and Squash. These were later known as the Three Sisters. From her heart grew the sacred tobacco, which is now used as an offering to send greetings to the Creator. At her feet grew the strawberry plants, along with other plants now used as medicines to cure illnesses. The earth itself was referred to as Our Mother by the Creator of Life because their mother had become one with the earth.”
He read some more but I didn’t catch much of it at all because once he began to read Our Creation, it felt like the Creator himself entered that room and was whispering behind us, “I will give you justice.”

I held my breath and when the judge finally said that the this mother’s decision to pursue Onongwatri:yo for her daughter is her “aboriginal right,” I, along with countless others, burst into tears right there in the courtroom.

Now I can’t account for everyone present, but for myself I shed two kinds of tears that day. Tears of relief, that mother and her daughter were safe. And tears of joy, for it was a rare and pure taste of justice from the mouth of a Canadian judge. Something we marginalized few rarely experience.

After the media circus that followed came to a conclusion and the naysayers got pulled onto something else to complain about – it began to snow. I did not find this a coincidence.

The air became chilly, the snow came and blanketed Our Mother once again. And like poetry the Creator covered Her in that quiet insulation of a job well done, as if to say, “Rest now a moment, for it is done.”

As I looked out my window that first snow-covered morning I couldn’t help but smile and believe that this snow was also a gift of thanks from Our Creator to the people. A gift of thanks for this child’s family, for the Sault family before her, and for all the people who carried on the work of standing up for these two little girls. And you know what? As I smiled I got the sense that ‘He Who Created Our Bodies’ was somewhere smiling along with me and saying to all, “Rest now a moment, for it is done.”

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Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow

Nahnda Garlow is Onondaga under the wing of the Beaver Clan of Six Nations. Nahnda has been a journalist with the Two Row Times since it's founding in 2013. She is a self-proclaimed "rez girl" who brings to the Two Row Times years of experience as a Haudenosaunee cultural interpreter, traditional dancer and beadwork aficionado. Nahnda is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.

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