by spiritual leader, writer, prof aid Friends of Ganondagan
Peter Jemison recalls sitting in a conference a few years ago and
hearing archaeologists claim that the Iroquois Confederacy was something
that came together in reaction to white colonists.
despite several U.S. founding fathers having written in their journals
that they admired the way the Iroquois operated as separate nations
and a confederacy at the same time one of the models of democracy
they emulated with the U.S. Constitution.
scientist worth his salt has taken a crack at defining who we are,
how we came to be in the Western Hemisphere and where we originated,
said Jemison, who is a member of the Seneca nation, one of the five
original Iroquois nations. Theres seldom an opportunity
for us to present views that are contrary to that.
Iroquois position is that the confederacy came into being at least
several hundred years before Native Americans in the Northeast had
contact with Europeans.
this spring the Friends of Ganondagan have chosen the origin of
the Iroquois Confederacy as the topic for a series of lectures.
The group raises money for and runs special events at Ganondagan
State Historic Site, the Native American-themed site in Victor,
Ontario County, that Jemison manages.
series three featured speakers are all Iroquois a Mohawk
spiritual leader; a Seneca college professor of Native American
studies; and a Tuscaroran artist, museum curator and writer.
first lecture is scheduled for Monday at the Rochester Museum &
Science Centers Bausch Auditorium. Thomas Porter, a Mohawk
chief and elder who started a traditional Mohawk community in 1992
in reaction to intra-tribal conflicts over gambling, will present
A Traditional Elders View of Oral Tradition.
each of the lectures will draw upon oral tradition of the various
nations that constitute the Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee, as they
call themselves), there also will be plenty of written and historical
second speaker, Barbara A. Mann, a Native American studies professor
at the University of Toledo in Ohio, will present astronomical evidence
to support her theory that the confederacy started precisely on
Aug. 31, 1142, the date of a solar eclipse viewable throughout Iroquois
country. The eclipse is featured in the oral history about the Huron
spiritual leader, known as the Peacemaker, who was credited with
uniting the formerly warring Iroquois nations.
said the powerful Senecas were holdouts. He convinced the
Seneca nation by saying, I will give you a sign in the sky,
Hill, the Tuscaroran artist and writer who speaks third in the series,
doesnt quite go along with Manns theories but hed
like to hear more about them. Yet, he said, the specific date
is less important than the sequence of events.
a State University College at Geneseo history professor said the
date may always be clouded in history.
matters is that you had this entity that existed prior to European
arrival, said Michael Oberg. The confederacy was not so much
a government, he said, as a ritualized way of coping with
internal violence. But it also set out codes of diplomacy
and protocol that European traders and explorers learned to emulate
from their earliest contact with the Iroquois.
why does any of this concern us today? Iroquois speakers say this
issue comes into play when their nations try to reclaim the burial
remains taken from their communities by collectors and archaeologists.
Some museums and educational institutions have denied repatriation
efforts when the remains date to a period prior to what they claim
was the starting date of the confederacy.
also an issue of giving credit where credits due, they say.
forcing a recognition that native peoples are important and have
made major contributions to the modern world, Mann said.