From the chpter "On Wisdom" 

  The PeaceMaker SiTe  

includes resources for peace education, non-commercial and other news sources from around the world, and links to information on non-violent conflict resolution..


Chicken Soup for the Soul Stories for a Better World

from the book

Chicken Soup for the Soul®
Stories for a Better World

Used here by permission ©2005

This page created on 10 November 2005

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A Peacemaker’s Journey

Many generations ago, the Iroquois people lived in a state of perpetual war throughout their homelands in what is now New York state. Even though the Iroquois were the closest of relatives, they were merciless in their battles against each other. The people lived in a state of fear so overwhelming that they refused to leave their palisaded villages without a heavy guard. Hastily planted crops were often left to decay in the tilling fields because of frequent raids, while ambushes in the nearby forests prevented the men from hunting, resulting in widespread starvation. Many Iroquois abandoned their homes, with some seeking refuge north of Lake Ontario. In one of these bands of refugees, a very special child was born. The Iroquois came to know him as Skennenrahowi, which means “Peacemaker” in the Mohawk language.

When Skennenrahowi grew to be a young man who stuttered, he informed his family that he was to undertake the great mission given to him by the Creator: to carry the Great Law of Peace to all Iroquois people. He was to return to Iroquois territory with a message of hope that would end warfare among the People of the Longhouse: the five Iroquois bands of Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas. He departed from the Bay of Quinte in a canoe he had built, crossing broad Lake Ontario like a great bolt of lightning. Once he reached the eastern shore of the lake, he encountered two hunters and told them that a new day would arrive when warfare among the Iroquois would end.

He began his travels, soon entering Seneca territory, where he encountered a powerful female leader named Jikonsahseh. Through reason and his good mind, he persuaded her to embrace the Great Law of Peace. In return for her conversion, Skennenrahowi established the role of clan mother, which gave Iroquois women political and social power without parallel in the world.

Skennenrahowi made his way east where he met Aiionwatha (Hiawatha), a leader of the Onondaga Nation. Aiionwatha, a great orator, was also convinced to accept the Great Law by becoming Skennenrahowi’s principal disciple. Others were alarmed by the new way, including another Onondaga leader, Tadodaho, a severely deformed man who was known for his treachery. Tadodaho decided to break the spirit of Aiionwatha by having the peace advocate’s seven daughters killed. It is said Aiionwatha’s grief over their death was so great that it caused the animals to flee before him.

After wandering mindlessly for days, Aiionwatha came to a small lake. Aiionwatha picked up snail shells that he made into a string, declaring that he would only heal when someone took the string and spoke the words of condolence that he needed to hear. Those words were stuttered by Skennenrahowi, the Peacemaker. With the shells he collected, Aiionwatha developed wampum, a sacred memory device subsequently used to record Iroquois history, which includes their Great Law of Peace.

Relieved of his sorrow, Aiionwatha renewed his efforts to convince the Iroquois to abandon warfare and accept the Great Law of Peace. Gradually, working with Skennenrahowi, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas and Senecas were persuaded to join together in a league of peaceful People of the Longhouse. Only the Onondagas remained apart since they were under the firm control of Tadodaho. To convince the sorcerer of the power of the Great Law, Skennenrahowi brought together the leaders of the new league to the western shores of Onondaga Lake. Joining together, and with everyone singing a song of peace, they set out in their canoes to challenge Tadodaho. He used every power he possessed in attempting to destroy the delegation, only to see them safely reach his shore. Using their most powerful words, Aiionwatha, Jikonsahseh and Skennenrahowi straightened the crooks in Tadodaho’s back, thereby bringing about his acceptance of the Great Law of Peace. In recognition of Tadodaho’s peaceful leadership, he was made the central speaker for the league.

Now unified, the People of the Longhouse raised a tall eastern white pine next to Onondaga Lake. This tree was to be called the Great Tree of Peace, the branches of which touched the sky for all to see. Its four gleaming roots extended to each sacred direction around the Earth. Skennenrahowi instructed the Iroquois that any individual or nation seeking an end to war may follow the roots to the Great Tree, where they would receive shelter. On top of the Great Tree, he placed a mighty eagle who was to cry out if danger approached the people. Beneath the Great Tree, the leaders of this Confederacy of Iroquois Nations formed a circle by holding hands, pledging to uphold the Great Law of Peace. Thus, the world’s first “united nations” in North America was created by the Iroquois People to promote freedom, liberate mankind from the horrors of war and secure world peace.

Subsequently, the unity of the league inspired the Founding Fathers of the new United States, who saw the Iroquois demonstrate their unity with a bundle of arrows that cannot be broken as a collective. Today, the eagle that sits atop the tree of peace is depicted holding the bundle of arrows on the currency of the United States of America.

Joanne Shenandoah