Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

FEATURE STORY

November 2010

 

 

Iroquois Prophecies Tell of Great Changes Ahead
by Doug George-Kanentiio

Those people living along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast can, if an old Iroquois prophecy is accurate, expect more powerful hurricanes to strike land with as much if not more intensity than Katrina.

Like many Native teachings the prophecies are meant to warn people that their collective behavior with regards to the natural world has consequences some of which are tragic not only for humans but other species of life.

One of the most influential of Iroquois spiritual leaders was Handsome Lake (Skaniateriio in Mohawk)
the Seneca prophet who instructed his followers as to how to accommodate life in which the Europeans would dominate at least until the time of ecological cleansing.

Handsome Lake was a title holder as a member of the Seneca Nation's national council. He was a veteran of many wars including the American Revolution and like others of his time resorted to alcohol as one way of responding to the diminishing of the Iroquois as a political power in the northeast.


Handsome Lake went into an alcohol induced stupor in 1799 from which he emerged a radically different man. He said he had received specific instructions from spiritual beings sent to him by the Creator; these teachings consisted of a series of rules which if adhered to would enable the Iroquois to survive as a people in difficult times.

The first requirement was to abandon the use of alcohol since widespread drunkenness had cost the Iroquois not only their pride but most of their aboriginal lands.  Territorial displacement meant they could no longer move about freely or hunt for those animals which had constituted a critical part of the Iroquois diet.
The people became ever more reliant on what they could grow on their small plots of land but even then the Europeans sought their demise.  Handsome Lake told the people this period of suffering and oppression would last for some time but would one day come to an end.  He told his followers to look for specific signs as to the coming of the great change.

These are some of the events which Handsome Lake and other teachers said would happen:
 

- A great plague will come and kill many people but its cause will be unknown: a second one will follow

- The earth will not permit food to be grown upon her for seven years resulting in great starvation
- Witchcraft will be openly practiced and some will boast of those they have killed
- Strange poisonous creatures will emerge from beneath the earth and cause many deaths as they contaminate the earth, sky and water
- Both moon and earth will stop revolving
- False prophets will walk among the people
- Two great spheres, one yellow and the other red, will fall upon the earth and many will perish
- The white veil which covers the earth will be broken and will cause the earth to heat and result in great, destructive winds
- The earth itself will turn with increasing speed and cause great harm to the people
- Many animals will leave this world and go into another as they are hunted to extinction and their food sources polluted and destroyed
- Medicine plants such as the strawberry will no longer flower or bear fruit
- The great trees such as the elm and maple will disappear
- The thunder beings will come from the east, there will be a great storm and they will not come back
- The Great Tree (Ohenhta:kowa) of the Confederacy will have its trunk hacked away and will fall but a few leaders will gather and prevent it from crashing to the ground
- Gambling and the desire for bright shiny things will lead many people astray from their paths
- Blood will be shed inside of our longhouse

As the Onondaga leader Oren Lyons says: "It is up to each one of us to do what we can to prepare for the cleansing.  What will you do?"

 

 

 


 

 

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