There are several groups that claim full ownership over land rights and traditional titles of the Haudenosaunee. We spoke with Loran Thompson to hear another teaching about the confederation of the Haudenosaunee people, the Great Law, and the people’s responsibilities within it.
TRT: What is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and why is it symbolized by “the circle wampum”?
Thompson: Our ancestors came through an education process. Four ceremonies were learned in this world. How do we relate with everything that supports us in this world? How do we respect it?
As time went on there was political differences. So some people say the Peacemaker came. The peace was brought to our people. A structure that brought a reality to our people as to how we can get along with each other, respect each other and yet be powerful. Be strong.
That was the second string that was given to our people. They try to place a lot of supernatural stuff to it. But this is all natural stuff. It’s learned behaviour of our people, historically. The Ceremonies were given. One line. The Law was given – all one line.
What our people did was they married those two issues. So they took those two rows and they interwove them so they became one.
The way our older people tell us that they are holding hands so tight that they are inseparable. You cannot take them apart. They will not come apart. This is all you need. You do not need anything more than those two issues to live in peace and harmony with all of nature in this world.
Now, they put that all together in a circle. And they put all of our politics strung up to those two, they’re tied to those two things.
All of the people in position – some people will say leaders – They’re not leaders. They are in position to do certain responsibilities. They are tied to the clans. Those clans are tied to the families. Those families are tied to the individuals and all of those are tied inside of that circle and it gives us strength. It gives us unity. It gives us power. It gives us everything that we’ll ever need. Those two strings are holding that all together. That is our country. That is our people all within inside. Everything that we are is on the inside.
TRT: How has colonization impacted the Confederacy?
Thompson: [The Confederacy] was strong to the 1700’s. When the white man got here. Our ancestors chose a word Waharaho – to say “he brought disease here”. You can also connect it with policies because his way of thinking was totally different than our way of thinking.
Even though a lot of their people came here and learned the language and learned the culture and became the inside of that circle. They were one with us but then they had their influences. They called them the 13 colonies. The pilgrims and all of that stuff. They started developing interests.
They came here for religious freedom. They wanted to have their own values in religion. But when they got here they saw the wealth that was here they saw the possibilities that was here and then they started deceiving.
TRT: Can you explain how?
Thompson: They couldn’t kill us all of because there were so many of us. We were powerful. They started deceiving us by making agreements. Our people always used Gayenerahgowah. The foundation of our people. The politics, if you will, of our people.
The structure of our people is at the grassroots, not at the top. The power is our people, the individual.
If you look at the centuries of the white man that he’s been here. He’s dedicated our thinking as to how to take the Indian out of the person. To change the thinking out of our people and to put his thinking into our minds. That is what we are going through. That is the problem today.
There are people who have gone outside of that circle today. In the world today are they indian? Yes they are Indian. But there is a term in todays standing: they are ‘ethnically Indian’. Within the circle we refer to those people as ‘Dehonadogohndo’.
In english they have terminated their original standing.
Their being has changed. They are still Indian but where they’re standing has changed. They have accepted the rules of another authority. They left the rules of Gayeneragowah.
There are some people that are out there, and understand — they are under duress. They have a gun to their head, they can’t survive without certain papers that the white man has put in place. That’s duress. You can’t put food on your table unless you have this paper or that paper. You’re under duress.
But then there are other people who are out there that are ethnically Indian that believe they are Canadian or American citizens. They are totally Deyohadogohndo – they no longer have any kind of standing inside the circle.
You gotta watch. Sometimes they’ll come back into the circle and do certain things inside the circle that will jeopardize your sovereign standing.
Watch for the second part of our talk with Loran Thompson in next week’s TRT.