OHSWEKEN – “On August 21, 2017, don’t look at the sun.”
It became a gag line for the media covering the total eclipse. “And whatever you do, don’t look at the sun.” A thousand times. Like people sit around looking at the sun anyway.
The August 21, 2017 total eclipse path crossed the central United States from Oregon to South Carolina. The event created an industry for protective eye-wear and tourism. Around here people were taking selfies, borrowed welding helmets, and toss-away shades.
The next total solar eclipse slides over eastern Canada on April 8, 2024. The path in 2024 will cross the southern tips of Ontario and Quebec, over Oneida of the Thames, Six Nations of the Grand River. The eclipse misses the Township of Tyendinaga, and the Laurentian Mohawks at Akhwesahsne, Kahnawake, and Kanehsatake.
So, expect visits from relatives from the other territories in seven years.
We say “orakwa” but generally the sun is a star known by the name Sol — hence solar. Sol is one of 300 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Mother Earth is one of 100 billion planets in the galaxy and has a 962-million kilometre orbit around Sol every 365 days at a speed of 110,500 kilometers per hour. The sun is even orbiting at the edge of the galaxy at nearly 800,000 kilometers per hour.
By the time you finish reading this article you’ll travel 200,000 kilometres through space.
In 1924, 250-billion kilometres ago, the RCMP under direction from Canada overthrew the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy that held council in Ohsweken at what has become known as the Old Council House. The reasons why the coup d’etat was successful include: dissatisfaction with the way the Chiefs were governing Six Nations affairs; nepotism by hiring their relatives; entitlement by living in expensive houses while mostly everyone else lived in log houses and shanties.
Six Nations in-fighting is not new and has a long history back to the 1700s. In this context Canada’s Duncan Campbell Scott carefully orchestrated the overthrow using the in-fighting. The main target was the Six Nation’s people.
From 1919 to 1923 the Six Nation people began organizing funding to “pursue the New York claim.” Bonds were issued by the Iroquois Confederacy. Levi General, the venerable Teskahi, presented the “Red Man’s Appeal for Justice” to the international court. These activities raised red flags.
At this time the so-called 99 year “Indian” leases began expiring in New York State. Chaired by Edward A. Everett, the New York State Indian Commission (NYSIC) operated from 1919-1922 and discovered the treaty relationship between the United States and New York State and Iroquois People — Indigenous legal title to six-million acres of land east of the Great Lakes.
The Iroquois Confederacy was overthrown in 1924 — two years after the Everett Report was completed.
What does all this have to do with the Solar Eclipse of 2024?
Some of our mystics inject paranormal and metaphysical meaning into what is largely a meteorological coincidence. Of course there’s symbolism in the true meaning of Little Red Riding, a childhood tale about a little girl escaping the big bad wolf. As is usual, tribal memory communicates a pragmatic sidereal sense that connects humanity to the stars.
Among our People there have been attempts to identify the actual date the Peacemaker elevated the Tree of Peace. This event is described as the time when the warlords, sorcerers, and cannibals who had driven their People to despair and ruin, flung their weapons of war under the roots of the Tree of Peace. Once buried, the underground rivers would carry war away forever.
“Ihse ratisenna’owannes, tesewahawi kanikonrohnsenshera ne senkhweta sewateriwayonhhatye,” the Old Ones said. ”Onen kati ihsi ehhenwakati eso yonowakthe. Onen kati kaohnke yakahawi tsi yehenwe.”
Our unity was linked to a solar eclipse in the 1100s. Also, after he left our country the Old Ones say Peacemaker was killed across the salt-water. That account includes an eclipse.
Does Sol care that it’s been a hundred years since the coup d’etat of 1924?
The question remains one of rebuilding unity among the Six Nations people. In the next seven years there could be a truth-and-reconciliation commission. In 2024 we could have a parade in downtown Brantford and invite people from all 17 “Iroquois” territories to participate. In 2024 we could have the biggest pow wow. We could have the biggest family gathering. Feasts. Dancing. Art exhibits. The biggest sports tournaments. Whatever the People decide.
We can add a lot of meaning to events like solar eclipses. But one thing is certain is you didn’t look directly at the eclipse, the sun comes out again. And life goes on.
In 2024 we can unite or just have some fun. We have nothing to lose.
Thohahoken Michael Doxtater is an educator from Six Nations.