It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wisdomkeepers of Native America

I recently read a book first published in 1990 called Wisdomkeepers: Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders.  The authors, journalists Harvey Arden and Steve Wall, chronicle in text and beautiful photographs their journey to “the land of the Wisdomkeepers, which lies “[j]ust off the map, beyond the Interstates, out past the power lines and the shopping malls, up that little side road without a sign on it … .”

A few insightful nuggets sifted from the mother lode contained in this book that fed the Condor in my heart learning to fly with the Eagle in my head:

“The Grandfathers and Grandmothers of tomorrow are in the children. If we educate them right, our children tomorrow will be wiser than we are today. They’re the Grandfathers and Grandmothers of tomorrow.” Eddie Benton-Banai (Ojibway)

“When we walk upon Mother Earth we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground.” Oren Lyons (Onandaga)

“I myself have no power. It’s the people behind me who have the power. Real power comes only from the Creator. It’s in His hands. But if you’re asking about strength, not power, then I can say that the greatest strength is in gentleness.” Chief Leon Shenandoah (Onandaga, Tadodaho of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy)

“The founder of Haudenosaunee government [the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy], whom we call the Peacemaker, intended that there be social justice in the world. No man was to be  more privileged than any other man. All were to be accorded respect.”  Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah (Onandaga), from her keynote address at the January 1990 Global Forum on Environment and Development for Survival

“There is no word for ‘nature’ in my language. Nature, in English, seems to refer to that which is separate from human beings. It is a distinction we don’t recognize.” Clan Mother Audrey Shenandoah (Onandaga), from her keynote address at the January 1990 Global Forum on Environment and Development for Survival
“He finally learned that wisdom comes only when you stop looking for it and start truly living the life the Creator intended for you.” Leila Fisher (Hoh)

“These are our times and our responsibilities. Every human being has a sacred duty to protect the welfare of our Mother Earth, from  whom all life comes. In order to do this we must recognize the enemy – the one within us. We must begin with ourselves.” Chief Leon Shenandoah (Onandaga, Tadodaho of the Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy)

“Throughout our travels in search of the Wisdomkeepers we kept seeing  aspects of that same sacred circle or sacred hoop – one of the fundamental symbols of the Native American culture. There’s the cycle or circle of the seasons, the circle of the ceremonies, the family circle, the circle of the community, the circle of Elders, the cycle of the generations,  and the circle of all life, of which mankind is only one aspect – all things one.” Harvey Arden and Steve Wall (Journalists), in Epilogue to Wisdomkeepers
To the Eagle, time is linear. To the Condor, time is cyclical. With the two flying together, time becomes a spiral, the cycles advancing inexorably toward … what? The Omega Point? God? The Tao?


  1. Thank you, Mike, for bringing the voices of the Wisdom Keepers to us. I am preparing a teleconference program to bring into being Peacemaker Circles -- and am using this great story of the vision and creation of a peaceful society by the Peacemaker (the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee or People of the Longhouse) as core content. I wish more people to know this peaceful society was studied carefully and known by Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and others and was used as a powerful model for our democracy and US Constitution.
    Like the Longhouse, Circles can help us cultivate cooperation and connection to co-create the peaceful society we want to live.
    Bless you and thank you for all your good work.
    Lauren Oliver, LaurenJOliver@gmail.com

  2. Lauren, thanks so much for this!

    The Great Law of Peace that formed the Iroquois Confederacy is a foundational inspiration for the National Peace Academy (http://www.nationalpeaceacademy.us), for which I currently serve as secretary-treasurer. In particular, at the bottom of the About NPA page is a discussion of our origins and a link to a document (http://nationalpeaceacademy.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/ESTABLISHING_NPA.pdf) that describes how the NPA came to be established. That document begins with a chronology (page 4), and that chronology begins with:

    "In the 1100s, the Iroquois Confederacy establishes the Great Law of Peace as its Constitution, which later becomes a fundamental resource for the framers of the U.S. Constitution. The following clauses specify the responsibility of the Confederacy’s leadership council (called “Lords of the Confederacy”) with regard to mentoring and demonstrating peace1:

    "24. The Lords of the Confederacy of the Five Nations shall be mentors of the people for all time. The thickness of their skin shall be seven spans -- which is to say that they shall be proof against anger, offensive actions, and criticism. Their hearts shall be full of peace and good will and their minds filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the Confederacy. With endless patience, they shall carry out their duty and their firmness shall be tempered with a tenderness for their people. Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgment in their minds and all their words and actions shall be marked by calm deliberation.

    "26. It shall be the duty of all of the Five Nations Confederate Lords, from time to time as occasion demands, to act as mentors and spiritual guides of their people and remind them of their Creator's will and words. They shall say:

    'Hearken, that peace may continue unto future days!
    'Always listen to the words of the Great Creator, for he has spoken.
    'United people, let not evil find lodging in your minds.
    'For the Great Creator has spoken and the cause of Peace shall not become old.
    'The cause of peace shall not die if you remember the Great Creator.'

    Every Confederate Lord shall speak words such as these to promote peace."

  3. P.S. The source for this quote is http://www.indigenouspeople.net/iroqcon.htm.