Over the coming weeks, I shall be writing a series of articles concerning the Haudenosaunee, known also by the English renderings, “People of the Longhouse” or the “Six Nations Confederacy,” and by the derogatory Huron term rendered in French as “the Iroquois.” As I am myself a citizen of the Haudenosaunee, I will begin the series with some historical considerations written from my personal point-of-view. Along the way I will present something approaching a narrative of the Haudenosaunee, the intentions of which will be:
1. To promote an informed understanding of the Haudenosaunee people, both of the past and present
2. To situate current events in a manner which, I hope, suggests the character of present challenges, opportunities, and dangers
3. To instigate a candid and productive discussion among Haudenosaunee, who today are divided within and facing considerable pressure from without
4. To promote an honest and productive discussion between Haudenosaunee people and Canadians, at a time when very little of such a thing occurs.
The Haudenosaunee came about as a result of crisis. Long before Europeans arrived to this continent, we were well acquainted with warfare. On the verge of self-annihilation, we came to the conclusion that we must change our ways to survive. A man named Hiawatha travelled among the five warring nations — Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk — urging the message of peace he had learned from a man we now call the Peacemaker. With great effort he convinced the five nations to form a bond. This was the origin of the Haudenosaunee.
In many respects, those days reflect our own. This is a time of conflict, division, and violence. The Haudenosaunee is much weakened, and we are in some respects our own worst enemy. The articles I shall write will not avoid what I believe to be the difficult facts and unpleasant truths of our time. One ought to harbour as few illusions as he can. Nor will I pretend to have answers to the questions: it is the questions, in many instances, which interest me. I speak only for myself, and I ask questions because I am genuinely interested in listening. Questions prepare the way for discussion, and discussion prepares the way for understanding. Today there is too little understanding among people who desperately need it, and in this observation I include myself.
I feel as though everyone knows what is wrong, and no one knows what to do. At first glance this appears to be a desperate, even impossible place in which to be. This is also how an opportunity presents itself. Yet do not be under any illusion. What I am proposing is the most difficult thing of all, to step outside of one’s certainties and comforts for the purpose of meeting the other.
I hope you will come back and read what I have to say. Even more, I hope you will join me in conversation.
Next in the series: The Haudenosaunee — Part One: Origins