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Do You Carry the Great Peace?

Do You Carry the Great Peace?Pinterest
Image Source: Mohawk Nation News

The story of the Peacemaker belongs to the Haudenosaunee; this summarized version aims to provide education and insight into the life and contributions of the Peacemaker and further; to the culture and traditions of the Haudenosaunee. The information presented was written with good intentions and with the upmost respect to the spirit of the Great Peace and the Great Law of Peace, to Haudenosaunee people and to all Indigenous peoples that maintain and protect traditional knowledge and ways of knowing.

When learning about the Indigenous history of Kingston and area, the name ‘Dekanawida’ (also known as the ‘Peacemaker’) may be spoken of or referred to by Indigenous knowledge keepers as “Kingston being situated on the lands of the Peacemaker.’

Who was the Peacemaker?

The Haudenosaunee oral culture speaks of a divine messenger born many centuries ago on the north shores of Lake Ontario not far from the City of Kingston.

Oral culture speaks of Dekanawida’s mother and his grandmother fleeing the danger and hostility of the warring nations of their southern ancestral homeland, and finding refuge along the north shores of the Bay of Quinte (ancestral lands of the Huron peoples). There is no mention in Haudenosaunee oral culture of the mother or grandmother having relations with the Huron’s and no mention of a father. In fact, oral culture speaks of a miraculous event of a child being born of a virgin - a messenger born from the Creator.

For many years, the Peacemaker grew up and lived life free from war and hostility; however, he became aware of the conflict in his mother’s ancestral lands to the south and he understood his inherent and great responsibility to travel to the south and end the wars to bring about peace among the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca.

Leaving the sanctuary of peace and tranquility in the north, Dekanawida traveled to the south and would soon find companionship from Haudenosaunee followers, such as Hiawatha who would help Dekanawida spread the word among the warring nations of the message of the ‘Great Peace.’ Traveling from community-to-community, the words of peace began to resonate within the hearts and minds of the people. The messages shared by Dekanawida had been heard; the nations at war with each other for many years gathered together for a historic meeting at Onondaga Lake and planted a ‘Tree of Peace,’ where they proclaimed the ‘Great Law of Peace,’ the binding law of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Literature identifies the Peacemaker as a leader, but for many Haudenosaunee he would become known by the people then (as he is also known now) - as the messenger of the Great Peace, sent from the Creator to end the unrest of the five nations (later six nations with the Tuscarora) and bring rise to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which endures to this very day.

Today, the words and the spirit of the Great Law of Peace are heard and spoken near and far in Haudenosaunee communities. Within the traditional Longhouses and within the family and clan systems the teachings of peace and relationship building are deeply engrained in the identity of the Haudenosaunee. To this day, upon greeting or introduction, Haudenosaunee people will ask visitors to their homes and communities, skennen'kó:wa ken? ‘Do you carry the Great Peace?’

NOTE: If you are interested in learning more about the Peacemaker, here is an excellent video from the Onondaga Historical Association.

The Peacemaker's Journey & the Great Law of Peace