Brookfield announced today that it has signed an agreement to donate land of extraordinary spiritual and cultural significance to the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge.
The approximately 100 acres of land, located adjacent to Cohoes Falls in Waterford, New York, contain the sacred site where Skennenrahawi, the Peacemaker, is said to have established the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, the world’s oldest united nations. (see story below).
Tom Uncher, Brookfield’s General Manager for New York East Operations said, “Brookfield recognizes that this land is part of our continent’s rich history and is pleased that the Hiawatha Institute has agreed to preserve and protect the land’s environmental, cultural and historical importance for future generations.”
Instrumental in securing the land grant is Brookfield’s Senior Advisor of Aboriginal Affairs, John Kim Bell. A Mohawk from Kahnawake, Mr. Bell is an internationally recognized symphonic conductor and composer and founder of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in Canada. Mr. Bell has raised millions of dollars to provide post-secondary educational opportunities to Aboriginal youth across Canada for which he has received numerous awards including the Order of Canada.
John Kim Bell stated, “returning this sacred and historic site to the Iroquoian People is a deeply meaningful moment in history for our people and I am proud as a Mohawk to have played a role in seeing this land returned to First Nations ownership. I am also very pleased with my colleagues at Brookfield for their willingness to work in such a positive manner with a First Nations organization.”
Also playing a key role in the historical event were Dr. Greg Schaaf, Director of the Center for Indigenous Arts and Cultures, in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the late Mohawk Nation Chief Jake Swamp, founder of the Tree of Peace Society on the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory in northern New York.
Karihwakeron Tim Thompson, Wahta Mohawk, and President of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge expanded upon the importance of this donation. “For the first time in over 300 years Haudenosaunee people will have undisputed title and complete access to an area which is considered among the most sacred places to Indigenous peoples in North America,” he said.
Karihwakeron noted, “It was at Cohoes where Skennenrahawi met the Mohawk people and persuaded them to adopt the Great Law of Peace and thereby become the first member nation in what was to become the world’s first, democratically based, united nations organization. That event, on the north shore of the Mohawk River, would change the course of human history.”
The Story of the Peacemaker and Cohoes Falls
(based on information from: www.iroquoismuseum.org/peacemaker.html)
Some say it was 800 years ago; a dark period in the history of The People. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations were at war with one another. It was a terrible time of cruelty, bloodshed and mourning. But then a remarkable man, referred to as the “Skennenrahawi” or the Peacemaker, canoed from the western shore of Lake Ontario near present day Kingston. He brought with him a message of peace and unity.
The first individual to accept his message of peace was a Neutral Nation woman named Jigonsaseh. Because it was a woman who was the first individual to accept his message of peace, the Peacemaker gave women an important role in the new confederacy that was to be formed. Jigonsaseh became known as “The Mother of Nations.”
The first nation to accept the Peacemaker’s message was the Kanienkehaka, the “People of the Flint” or the Mohawks. The Peacemaker traveled east and camped near Cohoes Falls.
He made fire so that the Mohawks in the nearby village would see the smoke and know that he was there and that he wished to confer with them. Mohawk runners came to his campsite to ask who he was and to find out what he wanted. The Peacemaker said that he was the one they were waiting for. He was the one who was carrying a message of Peace.
The Mohawks were uncertain as to whether they should trust this stranger or not and so they said that he would have to pass a test to prove that he had the power to carry such an important message. They said that he would have to climb a tree that was growing next to Cohoes Falls. The Mohawks would then cut the tree down and if he survived the fall, they would know that he had great power and they would listen to his words. The Peacemaker agreed to the test. He climbed the tree. The tree was cut down. The Peacemaker fell into the water and disappeared over the falls. The Mohawks waited and waited, but there was no sign of the visitor emerging from the water. The Mohawks were disappointed and went back to their village.
The next morning, a thin wisp of white smoke was seen in the distance. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the Peacemaker had made this campfire and that he was alive and well. He was waiting to be invited to enter the village. It was then that the Mohawks agreed to hear the Peacemaker’s message of peace and hope. Once the Mohawks embraced the Great Law other nations would follow. The Confederacy would grow to become the most powerful and influential Native entity in Native American history.
About the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge (HIIK)
The Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge (HIIK) is a newly established organization associated with Syracuse University. It was created in fulfillment of a dream first envisioned by the Oneida leader Shenandoah 200 years ago: his wish was to provide a place of learning where the essence of Native knowledge would be shared with the world in a school of higher learning.
A group of contemporary scholars, educators and community leaders have renewed the vision. The group consisted of delegates from the member nations of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois) Confederacy, the oldest democratically based united nations organization on earth.
They were there to do what they could to preserve the culture and traditions of the Haudenosaunee as distinct Native peoples while making available specific instances of our ancestral knowledge to anyone who has a desire to live in harmony with the earth by protecting the rights of those yet to be born onto the seventh generation.
Named after one of the creators of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy over 800 years ago, the HIIK will work in partnership with Syracuse University to offer degrees in areas of study ranging from music to forestry, philosophy to energy, all from a distinct Native perspective in an inclusive curriculum designed by aboriginal knowledge keepers and unique among all institutions of higher learning in North America.
Click Here for pictures of members of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge, Cohoes Falls and the ceremonial signing of the agreement
Information from Brookfield Power