Manataka American Indian Council
De-Kah-Nah-Wi-Da and Hiawatha Bring Peace
Iroquois mother living near the Bay of Quinte had a very special dream: A
messenger came to her and revealed that her maiden daughter, who lived at home,
would soon give birth to a son. She would call him De-ka-nah-wi-da (De-kah-a-wee-da).
When a grown man, he would bring to all people the good Tidings of Peace and
Power from the Chief of the Sky Spirits.
De-ka-nah-wi-da was born, as the dream foretold. He grew rapidly. One day he said to his mother and grandmother, "The time has come for me to perform my duty in the world. I will now build my canoe."
When it was completed, and with the help of his mother and grandmother, he dragged the canoe to the edge of the water. The canoe was made of white stone. He got into it, waved good-bye, and paddled swiftly away to the East. A group of Seneca hunters on the far side of the bay saw the canoe coming toward them. De- ka-nah-wi-da stepped ashore and asked, "Why are you here?"
The first man replied, "We are hunting game for our living." A second man said, "There is strife in our village."
"When you go
back," De-ka-nah-wi-da told them, "you will find that peace
prevails, because the good Tidings of Peace and Power have come to the
people. You will find strife removed. Tell your Chief that De-ka-nah-wi-da
has brought the good news. I am now going eastward."
The men on the lakeshore wondered, because the swift canoe was made of white stone. When they returned to their village and reported to their Chief, they found that peace prevailed.
After leaving his
canoe on the east shore, De-ka-nah-wi-da travelled overland to another
tribal settlement and asked the Chief, "Have you heard that Peace
and Power have come to earth?"
"Yes, I have heard," answered the Chief. "I have been thinking about it so much that I have been unable to sleep."
De-ka-nah-wi-da then explained, "That which caused your wakefulness is now before you. Henceforth, you will be called Chief Hiawatha. You shall help me promote peace among all the tribes, so that the shedding of blood may cease among your people."
"Wait," said Hiawatha. "I will summon my people to hear you speak." All assembled quickly.
"I have brought the good tidings of Peace and Power from the Chief of the Sky Spirits to all people on earth. Bloodshed must cease in the land. The Good Spirit never intended that blood should flow between human beings."
Chief Hiawatha asked his tribe for their answer. One man asked, "What will happen to us if hostile tribes are on either side of us?"
"Those nations have already accepted the good news that I have brought them," replied De-ka-nah-wi-da. Hiawatha's tribe then also accepted the new plan of peace.
When the Messenger departed, Hiawatha walked with him for a short distance. "There is one I wish to warn you about because he may do evil to you," confided De-ka-nah-wi-da. "He is a wizard and lives high above Lake Onondaga. He causes storms to capsize boats and is a mischief-maker. I go on to the East."
Hiawatha had three
daughters. The eldest became ill and died. Not long afterward, the
second daughter died. All of the tribe gathered to console Hiawatha
and to help him forget his great sorrow. One of the warriors suggested
a game of lacrosse.
During the game, the last of Hiawatha's daughters went to the spring for water. Halfway there, she saw a beautiful high-flying bird of many bright colours. She called for the people to look at the bird. Then the huge creature swooped down toward her. In fear, she started to run back to her lodge. At the same time, the people came running to see the bird. Hiawatha's daughter was knocked down in the confusion. They did not see her and she was trampled to death.
"Has the wizard sent that bird and caused the death of my daughter?" wondered Hiawatha. Deeper in sorrow, he decided to leave his tribe and go away.
A few days later, he met De-ka-nah-wi-da, who commissioned him a Peacemaker. Henceforth, Hiawatha would spend his time going from village to village and spread the good Tidings of Peace and Power, so that the children of the future would live in peace.
The Mohawk Nation was the first to accept the peace plan, and they invited Hiawatha to make his home with them. One night De- ka-nah-wi-da appeared outside Hiawatha's sleeping room. "It is now urgent," he said softly, "that you come with me. We must go at once to another settlement. I have been there before and I promised to return."
On their way, they came to a large lake. De-ka-nah-wi-da asked Hiawatha to choose between paddling across the rough water and flying over it. Remembering the warning about the wizard, he chose to fly over the lake. De-ka-nah-wi-da used his supernatural power and turned both of them into high-flying birds.
When they reached the opposite shore, they resumed their natural
bodies. Then they journeyed to the top of a very high hill to see the
one chief, the great wizard, who had not yet accepted the good news of
peace. Upon seeing him, Hiawatha was startled--the wizard's head was a
mass of writhing snakes. His hands and feet were claw-like and
twisted. He used his power to persecute others.
After a long time of discussion and gentle persuasion, Hiawatha noticed that the wizard began to smile! He exclaimed, "I do want to accept your plan of Peace and Power." At once the wizard began to change. His hands and feet straightened. Hiawatha combed the snakes from his hair. Soon other chiefs arrived to help in the wizard's regeneration.
De-ka-nah-wi-da then asked all the chiefs and their chief warriors and assistants to meet on the shores of Lake Onondaga for a Council. Hiawatha, Chief of the Mohawks, asked the Oneida, Seneca, and Cayuga chiefs to bow their heads with him before the reformed wizard, who was the Onondaga Chief Atotarho (A-ta-tar'- ho). This showed their acceptance of him and their willingness to follow his leadership when called upon.
The Messenger stood before the Council and explained a plan for the Constitution of the Iroquois League of Peace:
us now give thanks to the Great Chief of the Sky Spirits, for our power is now
complete. 'Yo-Hen, Yo-Hen,"' he said, meaning praise and thanksgiving.
The Great Spirit created man, the animals, earth, and all the growing things. I appoint you, Atotarho, Chief of the Onondagas, to be Fire-Keeper of your new Confederacy Council of the Five United Iroquois Nations.
Warrior and Chief Mother will now place upon your head the horns of a buck deer,
a sign of your authority.
"Hiawatha shall be the Chief Spokesman for the Council. He will be the first to consider a subject and to give his opinion. He shall then ask the Senecas, Oneidas, and the Cayugas for their opinions, in that order. If not unanimous, Atotarho's opinion will be considered next. Hiawatha shall continue the debate until a unanimous decision is reached. If not accomplished within a reasonable time, the subject shall be dropped.
us now make a great white Wampum of shell beads strung on deer sinews. Each bead
will signify an event and create a design of memory. We shall place it on the
ground before the Fire-Keeper. Beside it we shall lay a large White Wing. With
it, he can wash away any dust or spot--symbolic of destroying any evil that
might cause trouble.
"We shall give the Fire-Keeper a rod to remove any creeping thing that might appear to harm the White Wampum or your grandchildren. If he should ever need help, he shall call out in his thunderous voice for the other Nations of the Confederacy to come to his aid.
Chief shall organize his own tribe in the same way for the peace, happiness, and
contentment of all his people. Each Chief shall sit at the head of his own
Council and matters shall be referred to him for final decision.
"In the future, your Annual Confederacy Council Fire shall be held here at the Onondaga village of Chief Atotarho. It will be your Seat of Government.
us now plant a symbolic tree of long leaves destined to grow tall and strong. It
will represent your unity and strength. When other nations wish to accept the
good Tidings of Peace and Power, they shall be seated within the Confederacy
Council. Atop the tall tree will proudly sit an all-seeing eagle to watch and
warn you of any danger.
"Let each Chief now bring one arrow to form a bundle of arrows. Tie them together so tightly that they cannot be bent or broken apart. Place the bundle of arrows beside the Council Fire as another symbol of your unity and strength.
"Let us join hands firmly, binding ourselves together in a circle. If a tree should fall upon the circle, your circle cannot be broken. Your people can thus be assured of your unity and peace.
"If a Council Chief should ever want to remove himself as Chief, then his Horns of Authority shall be placed upon the head of his hereditary successor.
Chiefs must now decide what you will do with your war weapons," said
Hiawatha then led the thoughtful discussion of the subject. The men agreed to dig a deep chasm where there was a rushing river beneath. Into this river the chiefs and their chief warriors threw all of their armaments of war. Then they closed the chasm forever.
De-ka-nah-wi-da reconvened the Council and stated:
charge you never to disagree seriously among yourselves. If you do, you might
cause the loss ofany rights of your grandchildren, or reduce them to poverty and
shame. Your skin must be seven hands thick to stand for what is right in your
heart. Exercise great patience and goodwill toward each other in your
deliberations. Never, never disgrace yourselves by becoming angry. Let the good
Tidings of Peace and Power and righteousness be your guide in all your Council
Fires. Cultivate good feelings of friendship, love, and honor for each other
"In the future, vacancies shall be filled from the same hereditary tribes and clans from which the first Chiefs were chosen. The Chief Mother will control the chiefship titles and appoint hereditary successors. New Chiefs shall be confirmed by the Confederacy Council before the Condolence Ceremony. At that time, the Horns of Authority shall be placed upon the head of the new Chief.
"All hunting grounds are to be in common. All tribes shall have co-equal rights within your common boundaries. I now proclaim the formation of the League of the Five Iroquois Nations completed. I leave in your hands these principles I have received from the Chief of the Sky Spirits. In the future you will have the power to add any necessary rules for the safety and well-being of the Confederacy.
"My mission is now fulfilled. May your Confederacy continue from generation to generation--as long as the sun will shine, the grass will grow, the water will run. I go to cover myself with bark. I will have no successor and no one shall be called by my name." De-ka-nah-wi-da departed from the Council Fire.
Chief Spokesman and Lawgiver Hiawatha arose before the Council and stated, "Hereafter, when opening and closing the Council Fire, the Fire-Keeper shall pick up the White Wampum strings and hold them high to honor all that has gone before. He will offer praise and thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. In Annual Council, the Chiefs will smoke the Pipe of Great Peace.
"If a chief stubbornly opposes matters of decision before the Council, displaying disrespect for his brother Chiefs, he shall be admonished by the Chief Mother to stop such behavior and to act in harmony. If he continues to refuse, he shall be deposed.
"If a family or clan should become extinct, the Chief's title shall be given to another chosen family within his Nation, and the hereditary title will remain within that family."
All of the Chiefs of that first Council Fire agreed with Hiawatha's plan as a part of their new Constitution.
Chief Fire-Keeper Atotarho arose before the Council with his arms outstretched, holding the White Wampum strings high in praise and thanksgiving to the Holder of the Heavens. Herewith, he closed the historic first Confederacy Council Fire of the Iroquois League of Five Nations. "Yo-Hen, Yo-Hen!" he solemnly concluded, "thank you."
The Five Chiefs then smoked the Pipe of Great Peace!
Read "The Great Law of Peace of The Longhouse People"
The Constitution of the Six Nations Confederacy
COMBING THE SNAKES OUT
OF ATOTARHO'S HAIR
By Kahn-Tineta Horn, Mohawk
A TRANSFORMATION FROM WAR TO PEACE
Both the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of the United
States of America are founded on the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of
Peace. We, the carriers of the Haudenosaunee traditions consider it our
to remind the world of the basic principles and spirit of the Great Law for
bringing peace and harmony to human relations.
In our teachings, there was a man named Atotarho. Atotarho is described as a powerful evil man who spread fear and death everywhere he went visually he is represented with snakes coming out of his head and as having a crooked and misshapen body. He was a cannibal, a sorcerer who killed and maimed people for his pleasure and caused dissention, exploiting people to feed his own selfish greed. The world was at war. Sound familiar?
Long before the Europeans came to North America, two men, Dekanawida and Ayonwatha taught the warring nations about the Great Law of Peace which brought peace and established the Confederation of Five Nations. Over 200 nations allied themselves with the Confederacy and accepted the terms of equality and peace.
How did Dekanawida and Ayonwatha straighten Atotarho out and comb the snakes out of his hair?
When Dekanawida was trying to bring peace to the warring nations by forming the Confederacy and showing people how to work together, he had trouble convincing the Onondaga to join because they were lead by Atotarho. Atotarho enjoyed the power and fear he put into people.
Dekanawida and Ayonwatha sang him a song to help him calm down. They massaged his aching, crooked body and then started to gently comb the snakes out of his hair. As they did so, they taught him about the Great Law of Peace.
Dekanawida and Ayonwatha worked gently and with great patience. As Atotarho began to relax, he was transformed and became straight, strong and whole again. Atotarho, after he was pacified, became head of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Atotarho learned the ohenton kariwateken, the words of thanksgiving that come before any gathering of the people. As he began to understand his place in the universe a universe where everything and all people are interconnected and equal - he could no longer exploit the fears of others.
Instead of removing him from any position of power in the new confederacy, he was given the opportunity to act as chairman, listening to everything everyone else had to say and presiding over discussions. He acted as a peacemaker and diplomat, listening to all the positions carried from the people by their representatives. He made sure that relations were conducted in a friendly and respectful manner. This position still exists in the modern day Confederacy.
In this position, he does not represent anybody or any nation. He does not force others to follow his way. He is a mediator for all of the nations and for the Great Law of Peace. It is understood that because he had been so crooked to begin with, he understood the opposition and imbalance that could occur among people.
The person who sits in Atotarho's place cannot be in two canoes at once - that of war and that of peace - he would fall into the river. Their paths naturally go in opposite directions. Atotarho realizes that if you have everything, you have nothing. He knows the importance of keeping balance within the circle where everyone is equal.
Where is our Atotarho today? Is there anyone who knows how to comb the snakes out of the hair of our most recalcitrant warring leaders so we can have peace? Have we forgotten the lessons of the past? Why is America at war?
We are all like Atotarho. We are living in a time of violence and
destruction. We all have snakes in our hair. Our minds are crooked and we are wasting our energies. But we all have power. We have the power to look after each other, to comb the snakes from each other's hair, to straighten aching bodies and to learn the soothing songs of peace.
There is no need to go back to the time before Atotarho learned the Great Law of Peace. We must bring back the principles that Atotarho learned.
We must not be afraid. We must take on the responsibility of making sure that all people are cared for. We must give up our positions of dominance and remember our connectedness to all people and all things. We must remember the small condolence where we wipe our eyes with the softest cloth so we can look at reality. We must take an eagle feather and gently wipe our ears so we can listen and hear what is really being said. We must drink pure water to soothe our rasping throats so our words are soft and clear, without sharp edges.
We must ask ourselves, are we ready to hear the message of Deganawida? Are we strong enough to learn from the past? Surely we have suffered enough. The mountains are cracking. The rivers are boiling. The fish are turning with their bellies up. We must leave the millennia of death and destruction behind. We can link our hands together in peace. We have the United Nations already, let's use it!
We can make the world safe and beautiful for everyone. The Indigenous spirit can come back. Our brothers and sisters from all parts of the world can teach us. We can burn our good medicines and call on Creation, so Deganawida's message returns like a light from the east. We can respect each others' differences and live in harmony together.
Now is the time for us to take responsibility for our future and the future generations. We must use our voices and speak up! Act out! We are not powerless. We have to let people know that we all have the power to do something about this conflict and misunderstanding!
Kahn Tineta Horn, Kanienkehaka is a mother and grandmother and a long time Mohawk activist from Kahnawake territory in Canada. She took part in the 78 days stand off at Kanesatake/Oka in 1990. She is the Director of the Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with Native Peoples and she coordinated the Free Wolverine Campaign. The Manataka American Indian Council is honored to feature this most remarkable and fearless defender of American Indian rights and freedoms.
The Great Law of Peace of The Longhouse People
The Constitution of the Six Nations Confederacy
The Great Peacemaker
K. Lauren de Boer, Executive Editor of Earthlight
"It’s a campaign of fear and consumption," states rock star Marilyn Manson, "Keep people afraid and they’ll consume." This lucid insight into the connection between our mass media news diet, the incitement of fear, and consumerism emerged in an interview with Manson in the recent film, Bowling for Columbine. Manson was the brunt of criticism by many community members and the media for somehow inciting the kind of violence that led to the tragic 1999 incident in Littleton, Colorado where two Columbine High School students killed twelve students and a teacher using handguns.
Why direct blame toward Manson? Because of the rock lyrics he writes. And yet, asks Manson, who has more influence on violent behavior, [former] President Clinton, who was shooting bombs overseas, or himself, just a guy singing some rock and roll songs?
On the same day of the shootings at Columbine, the film’s maker Michael Moore points out in his interview with Manson, President Clinton ordered the heaviest bombing assault yet in Kosovo.
"What would you say to the kids who did the shooting at Columbine," asks Moore. Manson responds: "I wouldn’t say a thing. I’d listen to what they have to say. That’s what no one did."
Bowling for Columbine is a gutsy, often disturbing probe into the absurd cycle of fear prevalent in American culture today. Our obsession with guns, suggests the film, is the same irrational obsession driving the U.S. war economy. Our violent, fear-filled society is one marked, not coincidentally, by addictive over-consumption. Not long after September 11, George W. Bush evoked the fear of terrorism and the virtues of being a good consumer practically in the same breath.
The phenomenon of misplaced fear in American culture is not uncommon, asserts sociologist Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. From overblown crime statistics to exaggerated germ scares to plane wrecks, a wide array of groups–including businesses, advocacy organizations, religious sects, and political parties–benefit and profit from promoting fear. Glassner’s book, at its essence, raises important questions about how misbegotten fears find their way into the public psyche through a process driven by power and money. He writes: "Samuel Taylor Coleridge was right when he claimed, ‘In politics, what begins in fear usually ends up in folly.’ Political activists are more inclined, though, to heed an observation from Richard Nixon: ‘People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.’ That principle, which guided the late president’s political strategy throughout his career, is the sine qua non of contemporary political campaigning. Marketers of products and services ranging from car alarms to TV news programs have taken it to heart as well." Glassner’s book continues with an exploration of how the "vendors of fear tap into our moral insecurities and supply us with symbolic substitutes." (1)
The kind of insecurity and fear exploited by the current U.S. administration may be good for business in the short run, but it’s bad policy in the long run. Human energy, when manipulated by fear, can become distorted and destructive. Fear can incapacitate and paralyze us, keeping our energy in check. But when the energy does assert itself, it can do so in horrendous ways. Addictive consumerism, adherence to narrow beliefs about the nature of reality, and desperate clinging to what deadens us are some of those. Conformity to fabricated and obsolete worldviews, such as one that sanctions the bombing of other countries to protect our hegemony over resources like oil, is another. Giving in to despair is yet another.
HEROES AND VILLAINS
The heroes we choose and those we villify can define us in powerful ways. We live in a country where Al Qaeda and Sadaam Hussein have taken on mythic proportions as villains, and where violent characters like Rambo and Dirty Harry are the touted heroes of presidents. In a revealing essay from Mennonite Life (December, 2001) entitled "The Original Peacemakers: Native America," author James C. Juhnke points out that U.S. history textbooks highlight the warriors, not the peacemakers of the original Americans, despite the fact that, like all human communities, Native Americans were people of both peace and war."The notable Indians in the master narrative of American history are the military heroes–men such as Pontiac, Tecumseh, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull," writes Junhke. "Sherman Alexie, popular Native-American novelist and poet, put a cogent question in the mouth of one of his characters: ‘When are the Indians ever going to have heroes who don’t hurt people? Why do all of our heroes have to carry guns?’" White Americans, the article points out, build historical monuments for the Indian warriors, not for the peacemakers. (2)
In some respects the emergence of a character such as good child-wizard Harry Potter as a hero in these times seems like a good sign. By depicting a world where good triumphs over evil, one recent oped states, the Harry Potter books give us strength to face real enemies.
Yes, maybe. However, a story motif of good triumphing over evil can as easily justify a campaign to invade Iraq as it can inspire one to do battle with a carefully discerned internal demon or, say, the destructive impact of voter apathy on democratic society. A tale doesn’t automatically impart wisdom simply because it depicts the triumph of good. In fact, many traditional myths depict not the decimation of evil, but its transformation. Good and evil are interconnected forces in the cosmos; their encounter is part of a dialectic that ultimately brings about the overall restoration of the whole.
THE TRUE FACE OF EVIL
Not surprisingly, one such story comes from Native America, the original peacemakers and arguably the earliest practitioners of participatory democracy on the planet. Part of an epic Iroquois legend, the story of the Great Peacemaker, speaks powerfully to our current situation, both in terms of the disturbing fervor for war and the need for hope in people with a conscience of peace. Furthermore, the legend has added power and relevance in that it looks to our past as a nation, to the influence of the Iroquois Confederacy on its founders.
Philosopher Jacob Needleman provides a stirring rendition of the legend in his recent book The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders. The following passage is a condensation of Needleman’s account, which draws on an unpublished retelling of the Onandaga story of Creation by Maril Rianna Blanchard.
The part of the legend we are most concerned with begins at a time when human beings cannot live in peace. There is strife and contention between nations. In Needleman’s words, "There is no place, no structure, no condition within which the forces of Earth and of the human can confront each other in a way that allows a harmonizing, uniting, and peacemaking force to act from within."
The Creator sends the Great Peacemaker to aid the human beings. The Great Peacemaker sets out on a quest to end violence among human beings with the message of "peace that is power." He is said to bring a "New Mind" to the nations. This is something they readily accept, Needleman elucidates, because they "glimpse something infinitely more honorable than war…the field of life in all its vibrancy, a call to serve what is far greater than oneself."
But there is one very powerful chief, Atotarho, who does not accept the message. Atotarho is an intimidating figure who "eats human beings," whose body is crooked in seven places, and who has snakes in his hair. He utters a great bloodcurdling cry: Hwe-do-ne-e-e-e-e-eh–!, which means "When will this be? It has not come yet!"
"The actual identity of Atotarho," writes Needleman, "and the story of the struggle with him throw astonishing light on the meaning of the democracy created by the Iroquois Confederacy and on the mystical pragmatism that lies at the root of our own American democracy."
Atotarho represents a concept of evil that the Western mind is at odds with, one which speaks, not to the age-old batttle between good and evil, but to the human propensity to defeat peace by giving into despair. "Atotarho is not the figure of evil who simply opposes out of an irredeemable black heart," writes Needleman, "[He] is evil as inability–incapacity to hope, incapacity to try...When he is defeated, he is defeated by being awakened to his own power of love and wisdom...Human evil is goodness acting under a wrong thought; human evil is love acting under a wrong fear, a wrong striving; human evil is the power of the spirit under the yoke of a despairing master."
True to the matrilineal nature of Iroquois society and to their Constitution, the delivery into the world of the Great Peacemaker’s message is mediated by a woman. Women have equal participation in Iroquois governance. And it is the women–the clan mothers–who appoint the chiefs of the nations and who have the power to depose them. Because the woman is the first to accept and understand the message of the "peace that is power," the Great Peacemaker gives her a new name: Jigonhasasee, meaning "New Face." "It is in your countenance," he tells her, "that the New Mind is manifest."
Having the blessing of Jigonhasasee, the Great Peacemaker then goes to none other than Hiawatha, perhaps the most well-known figure of Iroquois legend. Hiawatha is a "weak and degraded figure" when he finds him. Like Atotarho, he eats human beings. Hiawatha is given a "New Mind," as the nation chiefs, when he looks at his own reflection in a kettle of water and sees the Great Peacemaker instead. Hiawatha sees his own greater potential in the Great Peacemaker, and commits himself to bringing the message of peace to Earth. Eventually, Hiawatha and the Great Peacemaker go to confront Atotarho, who continues to utter the great cry of despair. Atotarho alone stands in the way of the Great Peace.
Hiawatha, whose name means He Who Combs, must comb the snakes from Atotarho’s hair. Atotarho, who has been consistently cynical, hears the words of the Great Peacemaker when he says that peace, justice, and health will only come when humans are ready to accept them. Hiawatha, with the aid of the Great Peacemaker, is able to break through Atotarho’s considerable resistance as they deliver to the evil chief the Great Law of Peace. They are able to awaken within Atotarho his own sense of power and wisdom. Hiawatha combs the snakes from Atotarho’s hair and his mind is made straight; despair has been defeated.
The Great Peacemaker plants the Great Tree of Peace, a white pine, whose roots extend throughout the world. All the nations bury their weapons of war beneath it. Peace reigns when Atotarho, now with a New Mind, goes on to become the great chief of all five Iroquois nations. (3)
NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE UP
Ultimately, the Great Peacemaker legend provides a basis for faith, for moving us past despair. To give into despair is to succumb to fear, the ultimate source of all human violence. Evil is the incapacity to hope or to try, we learn from the story, and so the question becomes: Do we continue to utter Atotarho’s cry of despair or do we use the energy of dark times to renew our inner commitment to a peace for all life, to inner peace, to peace in all directions, as the roots of the Great Tree of Peace depict? How we bring about peace in our own lives, how we choose to be exemplars of a planetary sustainable peace is the "radical" (from Latin, radicalis, for "root") action which lays the foundation for a transformation of collective consciousness.
In our time when we are at war with the planet itself, the tale of Hiawatha, Atotarho, and the Great Peacemaker has meaning not just as a tale of peace between nations, but for peace with the Earth. We are "cannibalizing the Earth" through our overconsumption and resource extraction and require a "new mind" to bring about Pax Gaia.
New Mind refers not just to calm passivity, but to "peace as power," which means we are in right relationship not only to our inner nature, but to the energies of Earth and Cosmos, even to their more troubling aspects of chaos and uncertainty. This requires faith of a kind which can only come to us from a desire for justice for the entire Earth Community.
Coming from such a place of power, how might we move beyond a culture of fear in dark times?
– A vibrant and functional democracy depends on the honest dissemination of information. The corporate media, in its rightward drift and easy compliance to political power, is failing the general populace. Citizens groups might start running interference and holding the corporate media responsible for perpetrating violence and consumerism under the guise of news and entertainment. We can start by being conscious of just what they are serving up as our media diet. We can boycott toxic news and demand that they stop creating a culture of fear.
– Don’t let consumption define who we are. True peace is to see ourselves as citizens, not simply consumers. We are human beings in a communion of Earth’s subjects.
– Develop our powers of listening–to young people, to Earth, and to our inner sense of peace. We also need to believe in the wisdom of our young people. In The Soul of Politics, Jim Wallis tells the remarkably hopeful story of the Gang Summit in Kansas City in 1993 where warring barrio gang members came together on their own initiative, listened to each other, and not only worked out a truce, but talked about "transformation and rebuilding." "New visions will require new visionaries," writes Wallis, "And they will most likely come from ordinary people who are willing to become a part of the changes they seek for the very ordinary circumstances of their lives and their society. And that will be the extraordinary thing." (4)
All lasting change begins with people talking to each other, with public square diplomacy, with community.
– Have faith that alternatives to the corporate political parties are not only possible, but that the time is right. Paul Ray, in a paper entitled "A New Political Compass," states that there are a group of "new progressives" constituting 36% of the population who are not yet truly represented by a political party (see page 16). Dennis Kucinich, while a Democrat, is one Washington politician who represents the "political north". Ray characterizes the political north as the Wisdom Culture Paradigm.
– Practice a spiritual ecology of peace. This practice gives us the basis for moving beyond a world of fear, violence, and war because it is a practice based in the embrace of all life and an acceptance of the forces of ecology at work in our lives. This includes chaos, uncertainty, and surprise. Spiritual ecology, through a practice of quieting and attuning our mind to rhythms outside language brings peace because we are in accord with the present moment. Fear of the future falls away.
– We need stories. The Peacemaker legend is one story of a particular people which has some potential for our time. However, telling our sacred Universe Story, seeing ourselves in a meaningful role within that unfolding, is a powerful force for peace within. We are the heroes of that story, the source for peace in the world. Accessing that source and creating in ourselves a New Mind is the Great Work of our time.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent revolution inevitable." If we commit ourselves to creating peaceful change by not giving into despair and a culture of fear, we practice the spiritual ecology of peace. We take the step of faith that will make violence and war obsolete as solutions to conflict.
1. Picture "Stone Canoe" Sye Parker www.geocities.com/sye_parker/DeKahNaWida_Peace2.html
2. Glassner, B. Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, (Basic Books, 1999), p. viii.
3. Juhnke, James, "The Original Peacemakers: Native America," (Mennonite Life, Dec. 2001), vol. 56 no. 4.
4. Needleman, J., The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, (Tarcher/Putnam, 2002)
5. Wallis, J., Soul of Politics: Beyond the "Secular Left" and the "Religious Right", (Harcourt Brace & Co., 95).
6. Sculpture: Artist - Jud Hart http://www.judhartmanngallery.com/index_1.html
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