If you were a collector of jurisdictional nightmare, then your holy grail possession would surely be the small Kanien’keha:ka — or Mohawk, as it’s called in English — community of Akwesasne. Transected by two provincial, one state and two federal boundaries (Ontario, Quebec, New York, Canada and the United States of America), Akwesasne is something of a “hotspot,” and not by coincidence.
I didn’t know Jake Swamp, but as the saying goes I knew of him. Few are the Kanienkehaka who don’t. Or rather — I must get used to this now — didn’t. This morning I was informed of his passing, in the very early hours of Friday, October 15.
Tekaronianeken, or Jake Swamp as he was commonly known, was born at Akwesasne in 1941. He was of the generation born under the old dispensation of colonial shame but arriving to the 1960s and ’70s with a sense of purpose and a strong, proud voice. As a young man, he had been taught by Christian priests in St. Regis to consider the Longhouse a Pagan menace. So often the case with the Haudenosaunee (“People of the Longhouse”), a woman made short work of that. His wife Judy gradually brought him around, and so one year during Strawberry Festival time he went to the Longhouse and listened, out of curiosity. That decision changed his life. Continue reading Jake Swamp, A Man of Roots