Mohawk Nation News Series
What is a warrior? One does not become a warrior because he is a young person. Creation mandated this as a duty and responsibility. It is the most natural part of nature. It is based on the instinct to survive. All species, humans, insects, animals, birds and every species of life has this instinct. Without it, there would be no life. Spirituality is the natural spirit to live. It is not man-made.
Where is this reinforced in our culture? A warrior has to know our laws and ways. When he is asked, “Who are you?” Can he answer in his language? A warrior is brought to the people during one of the four appropriate traditional festivals. He receives his name through the naming ceremony. When his name is announced to the people, then he becomes part of the community. This is the political side of it. This is the first step in becoming a warrior.
Then he remembers how he was raised by his mother after his birth. How his relatives took care of him until his voice changed. Until that time he always had his grandmothers and grandfathers around him. They brought the philosophy and principles of our culture to him. The women fed him, clothed him and made him comfortable, strong and healthy.
As his voice began to change, it was a sign to the old ones that it was time to start the next phase of his education. His uncles on his mother’s side took him. He went through a fast to seek his protection and medicine. When he received it, then his medicine bag was made for him. After he receives it, this is his protection. His umbilical cord, which has been saved since his birth, is returned to him by his grandmother and placed in his medicine bag. Through his woman relatives, the soil of the earth is put into his medicine bag by his mother or grandmother. He always wears it to remind him of who he is and what is his protection.
Now he is ready to learn his duties, responsibilities and obligations to his people.
He begins his physical training. He trains before sunrise every morning. His uncles awaken him to start running in the forest as far and as hard as he can. He stops at high noon. His stamina increases every day. Finally he is able to run from sunrise until high noon without stopping. During that time he sees something different within nature around him. He sees the night creatures as they go to get their rest. He sees the flowers open up, the birds start to sing and the day insects come out. Every day he sees and learns something new. All the while he is building his body and developing his mind.
Once he does this, he is taken into other advanced areas of learning. He is taught how to defend himself, to wrestle and other endurance building sports and activities. For example, our people had a highly developed knowledge of the science of physical development. Our ancestors knew how to pass down this knowledge. The early Europeans were amazed at the highly advanced physical and mental development of our people.
The grandfathers and uncles teach him more about his responsibilities under the Kaianereh’ko:wa/Great Law of Peace. Prior to this it was explained to him by his women relatives in a symbolic way. The men then help him put the laws, culture and traditions into actual practice. As he gets older, he starts learning the adult version and its realities. Our people knew that our young people had to learn in stages.
Symbolism is deciphered and applied to his every day life, in governance, responsibilities and his continuing development. This is the path to becoming a warrior.
Each man is different. Each is an individual. Each has to learn how to work with others. The formula for working together has always been in the Kaianereh’ko:wa. When a young man proclaims he is a warrior, he must have this knowledge. He can’t go by assumptions. He has to learn and accept the truth and the reality of his responsibility. This is the most difficult part for people – to accept and apply the truth.
The Kaianereh’ko:wa is based on truth and nature. It is skenna, kariwiio and kastatsensera (peace, righteousness and power).
The thousands of years of knowledge, experience and answers are all there in the Kaianereh’ko:wa. It has traveled the proven path and retraces the steps of our ancestors. It doesn’t matter the time in history. Truths never change. One has to begin by respecting ourselves and knowing what respect is. All can learn to treat everyone with respect. But true respect is given to those who earn it. Respect can be shown to everyone no matter what opinion they hold. It is the respectable thing to do.
Today we have people who criticize the warriors. For most it is simply because they weren’t raised this way. For some critics it’s a political agenda. Circumstances have made it so our young and older men were not raised in the traditional way. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn these teachings. We shouldn’t criticize the warriors of today because they did not grow up with this knowledge. Even though some of the elders failed to teach them, they are doing the best they can to carry out their duties and responsibilities. They are putting their lives and safety on the line on behalf of our people. This criticism could cause great disillusionment.
In many of our struggles the warriors have lost their families, jobs, careers, and sometimes even their life. Remember Dudley George and all those AIM warriors who were killed, many through the agencies of the United States government. They were without exception doing what they could for the future survival of our people. They fought for our lands and our natural human rights. They did everything they could to protect us. We have to admire and respect these men and women, even though the colonist have labeled them as thugs, goons and terrorists. Our warriors have worked very hard to maintain peace. They have never gone out to kill or hurt anybody. They never caused the harm they’ve been labeled with.
We are being made ashamed of those of our young men who would actually stand and defend our nation, our government and our people. We are told to be look away from all those sacred values that were passed down to us by our ancestors. We should not turn our backs on those who stand for those values that were given to us thousands of years ago.
Today we are having difficulty dealing with those who have turned their backs on us. These people are like a disease, such as one that is causing so much wrong and harm to our people. They are like the diabetes that has affected 80 per cent of the Onkwehonwe people. We know the cause of diabetes. Very few change their eating habits which would start the process to recovery. It’s the same with our spies and traitors. We know how they are killing and hurting our nations. Just like diabetes, we know the cure. Yet we are not taking the time to rid ourselves of these diseases.
Something is holding us back. It is a germ that was implanted in our minds by those who came here from across the ocean. They knew that anybody who had a healthy mind could not be controlled. They needed to weaken our minds. We have to look at what we call the “brain”. It’s called “o-ni-gon-ra” meaning “it takes care of you”, “it watches over you”. The brain is the center of our survival. It controls everything. If our mind is strong, everything about us will become strong. Our ancestors knew that. Our mind should always be used to do what is good for all.
Due to this lack of knowledge among our people about our ways, we are encouraged to make decisions based on our emotions. The colonists have sent people among us who tell us, “Listen to our heart”, go on emotion, rather than using our brain. He doesn’t want us to exercise our brain. He wants us to think with our heart which is not an organ that is made to think. It is our mind that is made for thinking. Elders say, “Let us gather our minds together and become one mind”. They never say, “Let us gather our hearts together”. They know that is not the purpose of the heart. We use our mind to help us survive. Thinking is the traditional foundation of being a warrior.