The Great Peacemaker

The people of the four nations, or four directions will be gathered in One someday, returned to a greater truth and greater way of living that is currently lost to the world.
Sarah Schroeder

Sarah Schroeder

Nourish the Word

One of the culture heroes that has stood out the most to me is the Great Peacemaker of the Haudensosaunee (or Six Nations). I’ve read through quite a few versions of this story (and there are a lot!). So far, I’ve found the two depicted in The Constitution of the Five Nations, (one committed to writing by Seth Newhouse and the other prepared and agreed upon by a committee of Haudenosaunee chiefs) to be the most similar to the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ. These two individuals are born of a virgin mother, are raised from the dead, were healers, and instruct their people in the way and law of peace. In some versions of this story the Peacemaker is identified as Dekanawida like the ones in this post. In other versions he is identified as Hiawatha (a variation of spellings are used for both). Often, they are described as working together to bring about the confederacy of the Haudenosaunee. An online scan of the book can be read at this link.

 

Here are some short examples that bear a similarity to the life of Christ:

According to tradition, a woman was living in that neighborhood who had one daughter of stainless character who did not travel away from home, but remained with her mother constantly, and when she had attained the age of womanhood she had held no intercourse with any man. In the course of time, notwithstanding, she showed signs of conception and her mother was very much aggrieved. (P.65, committee of chiefs’ version)

It so happened that as the time approached when the daughter would deliver the child, that the mother dreamed that she saw a man whom she did not know, and that he said that he appeared as a messenger to her on account of her troubled mind, caused by the condition of her daughter who had in so mysterious a manner conceived a child. “I am here to deliver to you a message and now I will ask you to cease your grieving and trouble of mind, and the ill-treatment of your daughter from day to day because it is indeed a fact that your daughter does not know how she became with child. I will tell you what has happened. It is the wish of the Creator that she should bear a child, and when you will see the make child you shall call him Dekanahwideh. The reason you shall give him that name is because this child will reveal to men-beings (Oñg’wĕonwĕ’), the Good Tidings of Peace and Power from Heaven, and the Great Peace shall rule and govern on earth, and I will charge you that you and your daughter should be kind to him because he has an important mission to perform in the world, and when he grows up to be a man do not prevent him from leaving home.” 

Then the old woman, (Iăgĕn’tci) asked the messenger, what office the child should hold. The messenger answered and said: “His mission is for peace and life to the people both on earth and in heaven.” (P. 66, committee of chiefs’ version)

Dekanawida ascended the tree and it was chopped down. A multitude of people saw him fall into the chasm and plunge into the water. So they were satisfied that he was surely drowned. Night came but Dekanawida did not appear and thus were the people sure of his death, and then were they satisfied. The next morning morning the warriors saw strange smoke arising form the smoke hole of an empty cabin. They approached cautiously and peering in the side of the wall where the bark was loosened they saw Dekananwidah. He was alive and was not a ghost and he was cooking his morning meal. (P. 16, Seth Newhouse version)

 

South of the Onondaga town lived an evil-minded man. His lodge was in a swale and his nest was made of bulrushes. His body was distorted by seven crooks and his long tangled locks were adorned by writhing living serpents. Moreover, this monster was a devourer of raw meat, even of human flesh. He was also a master of wizardry and by his magic he destroyed men but he could not be destroyed. Adodarhoh was the name of the evil man. (P. 17, Seth Newhouse version)

The lodge of Adodarhoh was reached and a new singer was appointed to sing the Peace Hymn. So he walked before the door of the house singing to cure the mind of Adodarhoh. He knew that if he made a single error or hesitated his power would be weakened and the crooked body of Adodarhoh remain misshapen. Then he hesitated and made an error. So another singer was appointed and he too made an error by hesitating. Then Dekanawida himself sang and walked before the door of Adodarhoh’s house. When he finished his song he walked toward Adodarhoh and held out his hand to rub it on his body and to know its inherent strength and life. Then Adodarhoh was made straight and his mind became healthy. (P. 28, Seth Newhouse version)

So then Dekanawidah answered, “The Great Creator from whom we all are descended sent me to establish the Great Peace among you. No longer shall you kill one another and nations shall cease warring upon each other. Such things are entirely evil and he, your Maker forbids it. Peace and comfort are better than war and misery for a nation’s welfare. (P. 15, Seth Newhouse version)

As given by the peacemaker, the “Five Nations Confederate Lords” were told to remind the people in these words:

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. (P. 37-38, Seth Newhouse version)

I don’t think I need to point out what parts of the New Testament these are similar too. That they are alike is obvious.

It should be noted before the later version “prepared by the committee of chiefs appointed by the Six Nations’ Council of Grand River, Canada, and adopted by Council of Chiefs, July 3, 1900,” that this council acknowledged outside influence to their legends.

There is no doubt in the minds of the writers of this preface that many of the ancient traditions of the Six Nations have become much modified, and some have been long relegated to oblivion owing to the fact that in the earlier history of these peoples there were for a long time no members of the various nations capable of rendering these traditions in writing and thus preserving them intact to their posterity. 

It is a noteworthy fact that the League of the Five Nations (now known as the Six Nations) as constituted centuries ago by Dekanahwideh and his associates, has been followed in accordance with the rules of the confederacy as laid down by this founder of the league, and that the installation of the lords (chiefs) as rulers of the people as laid down in these unwritten rules hundreds of years ago is still strictly observed and adhered to by the chiefs of the Six Nations and their people. 

With reference to the origin or birth, character and doings of Dekanahwideh as herein chronicled, it will be observed that they present an analogy or similarity to Hebrew biblical history and teachings. This is portrayed strongly in the narration of the birth of Dekanahwideh and also in certain extraordinary powers which he is attributed to have possessed. 

There is little doubt that some of this influence was brought about as a result of the labors and teachings of the Jesuit fathers among them. In the early discovery of the Five Nations the Jesuit fathers made an effort to Christianize them. 

These precepts as taught and inculcated in the minds of the people by these missionaries have been assimilated to some extent and wrought into their own religious belief, as well perhaps as into the story of the traditional nativity of this founder of the Iroquois Confederacy. (p. 62-63)

I’ve read a very thorough book by Darren Bonaparte called, Creation & Confederation, that explores the evolution of this legend. He comments on this same thought in his book:

Undoubtedly, Christian teachings may have had some influence on the evolution of the confederation epic in the literature. Seth Newhouse didn’t learn to read and write from looking at cereal boxes; Christian missionaries probably had a hand in his education. The same holds true for the committee of chiefs, who acknowledged the possibility of influence to their introduction. They also state that their document was to be presented to the Canadian government to prevent the arrival of officials to conduct elections. Perhaps giving Tekanawi:ta Christ-like attributes may have been a subtle way of saying, “Keep your missionaries away too! We’ve already got a Jesus. We must not forget that the virgin birth of Tekanawi:ta has precedents not only in Christianity, but also in our creation story. Just as an earlier Onondaga version linked Aionwa:tha to Teharonhiawa:kon, the later confederation accounts make the same connection to Tekanawi:ta’s grandmother and mother. Like the twins of creation, he is the product of both flesh and spirit. Therein lies the beauty of a matrilineal society: you always know who your mother is, but your father can be anybody—including the supernatural. That being said, Christian teachings did have an influence on the development of the league tradition, as noted by the words of the late Cayuga chief, Jake Thomas, one of the confederacy’s most respected keepers of traditional lore:”…the elders feel that the Peacemaker made the Laws and united the nations before he went across the great salt water to the land of the white race. We feel that it was the same prophet that the white race call Jesus as he was reborn again from a virgin mother and gave the white race the good tidings of peace on earth. So this is according to the elders and what they talked about the founding of the League more than three thousand years ago.” (Creation & Confederation, p.88-89)

Darren Bonaparte later states:

It seems obvious that the creation story was an influence on the way the story evolved, but the Christian influence will probably be debated forever. What other influences may have played a part in the regeneration of this story? (C&C p. 94)

Even if the Christian influence is significant on the origin and attributes of the Peacemaker, it occurs to me that this may be a justified influence. The legend of the Peacemaker and the confederation of the Haudenosaunee appears to predate European influence. If the Christian scripture that reads, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of god,” was taught to those who had as their founder an individual referred to as a peacemaker, would it not make sense for them to describe his origin as the son of God’s is described, virgin birth and all?

I also believe it is possible that the coming of Christ as a mortal minister was known to them before it occurred, including His virgin birth.

According to Enoch, Christ was known to the very first man, Adam.

And as Enoch spoke forth the words of God, the people trembled and could not stand in his presence. 

And he said unto them, Because Adam fell, we are. And by his fall came death, and we are made partakers of misery and woe. Behold, Satan has come among the children of men and tempts them to worship him. And men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God. But God has made known unto our fathers that all men must repent. And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying, I am God; I made the world and men before they were in the flesh. And he also said unto him, If you will turn unto me, and listen unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all your transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of my Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, who is Jesus Christ — the only name which shall be given under Heaven whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men — you shall receive the gift of the holy ghost, asking all things in his name. And whatever you shall ask, it shall be given you. Genesis 4, paragraph 7

According to the Book of Mormon, Nephi saw the life of Christ, including his birth to a virgin woman, 600 years before it happened.

And it came to pass that he said unto me, Look. And I looked as if to look upon him and I saw him not, for he had gone from before my presence. And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth, and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceeding fair and white. And it came to pass that I saw the Heavens open, and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me, Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him, A virgin most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me, Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him, I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the Mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the spirit. 1 Nephi 3, paragraph 8

And hundreds of years before Nephi saw this, the “brother of Jared” came to know of Christ too.

And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord shewed himself unto him and said, Because thou knowest these things, ye are redeemed from the Fall. Therefore, ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I shew myself unto you. Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life; and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name. And they shall become my sons and my daughters. And to none of those now living whom I created have I appeared, for none have believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body which ye now behold is the body of my spirit. And man have I created after the body of my spirit. And even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh. Ether 1, paragraph 13

Still other versions of this tradition tell of a sign that occurred after Hiawatha’s message was given that persuaded the Seneca, who were the last of the original five tribes to join, of the truth of his message. The sun was darkened. The obvious Christian comparison is from the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke when the sun was darkened for three hours at the time of Christ’s death, after His message to the Jews was also delivered. As described in my previous post, The Eagle and the Days of Darkness, the sun was also darkened during a turbulent three days in the Americas from the time Christ died to the time He arose from the dead. Several months after which, the Prince of Peace ministered and taught those here, according to the Book of Mormon. Those He taught here succeeded in establishing a peaceful society.

And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people; and there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness. And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor no murderers, neither were there Lamanites nor no manner of -ites, but they were in one the children of Christ and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they, for the Lord did bless them in all their doings, yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away. And the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land. 4 Nephi 1:3

I think it’s possible a lot more was known about Christ by various peoples scattered to the four quarters of the world, from the beginning of mankind and down through the ages, than we acknowledge or realize.

Besides the greater balance of the sexes within the Haudenosaunee society and the Iroquoian language family in general (I have written a brief bit about this in another post), which appears to my eyes to be something from the Creator that was lost to Christianity, they have something else that tells me this people had truth from God that cannot have come from the early Christian missionaries.

The Tree of the Great Peace 

I am Dekanawidah and with the Five Nations’ Confederate Lords, I plant the Tree of the Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Adodarhoh, and the Onondaga Nation, in the territory of you who are Firekeepers. I name the tree the Tree of the Great Long Leaves. Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feathery down of the globe thistle as seats for you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords. We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the globe thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Peace. There shall you sit and watch the Council Fire of the Confederacy of the Five Nations, and all the affairs of the Five Nations shall be transacted at this place before you, Adodarhoh, and our cousin Lords, by the Confederate Lords of the Five Nations. Roots have spread out from the Tree of the Great Peace, one to the north, one to the east, one to the south and one to the west. The name of these roots is The Great White Roots and their nature is Peace and Strength. If any man or any nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace and make known their disposition to the Lords of the Confederacy, they may trace the Roots to the Tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the Confederate Council, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves. We place at the top of the Tree of the Long Leaves an Eagle who is able to see afar. If he sees in the distance any evil approaching or any danger threatening he will at once warn the people of the Confederacy.” (The Constitution of the Five Nations, p. 30, Seth Newhouse version)

The committee of chiefs’ version of this event in the same book further says:

The meaning of planting this great tree, Skarehhehsegowah, is to symbolize Ka-yah-ne-renh-ko-wa, which means Great Peace, and Jo-deh-ra-ken-rah-ke-wah, meaning Good tidings of Peace and Power. The nations of the earth shall see it and shall accept and follow them to the tree and when they arrive here you shall receive them and shall seat them in the midst of your confederacy. (P.101, committee of chiefs’ version)

The four roots bears at its heart the markings and beliefs of the medicine wheel, of course, but it’s combination here with a tree that joins people together in peace strikes me as similar to the parable of Zenos in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Zenos was originally part of the Old Testament that was discarded before Jesus’ mortal ministry in Israel, but was part of those records still at the time Lehi’s family followed the will of the Creator out of Israel in 600 BC, and which they took with them into the promised land they were led to. Part of that record is recorded in the Book of Mormon as the parable of a tree. I have a page on this site that has the parable in its whole.

The first similarity I see is the four separate roots reaching off into four different directions. Likewise, the parable has a mother tree, which the Lord of the vineyard takes as few as four branches (maybe more) from, and distributes these branches from the tree to four of the nethermost parts of the vineyard. These he plants separate from the tree, while he nurtures the roots of the original tree that he loved with branches from a wild tree. At first his experiment is successful and good fruit is growing from all the branches that have been separated from their mother tree, and even the mother tree is succeeding with the wild branches grafted to her, but after a while all of these begin to grow wild and bitter fruit. The Lord of the vineyard then takes the branches in the nethermost parts of the vineyard and returns them, grafting them back to the mother tree, just like the Peacemaker explaining that the nations of the earth will see it and shall accept and follow the roots to the tree and be welcomed there.

In a version of this tradition found in David Cusick’s Sketches of Ancient History of the Six Nations, published in 1848, David Cusick (of the Tuscarora tribe) refers to the four parts of the tree that reach to the four different directions as branches, just as in the parable of Zenos.

“…a great council fire was kindled under the majestic tree, having four branches, one pointed to the south, west, east, north…”

The parable of Zenos serves as a prophecy, similar to Dekanawida’s prophecy on page 101 of The Constitution of the Five Nations, and other native prophecies that the people of the four nations, or four directions will be gathered in One someday, returned to a greater truth and greater way of living that is currently lost to the world.

I’ve pointed out before and will point out again that the Wampum belt of Hiawatha, which serves as the basis of the Six Nations flag, resembles this parable to me in symbol, strikingly.

The Wampum belt of Hiawatha is said to represent the union of the original Five Nations through the Peacemaker’s efforts. The five tribes represented (in no particular order) are Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca.

Burying Their Weapons of  War

Another similarity is found here:

Then Dekanahwideh further said: “We have now completed everything in connection with the matter of Peace and Power, and it remains only for us to consider and adopt some measure as to what we shall do with reference to the disposal of the weapons of war which we have taken from our people. Then the lords considered the latter and decided that the best way which they could adopt with reference to the disposal of the weapons would be to uproot the great tall tree which they had planted and in uprooting the tree a chasm would form so deep that it would come or reach the swift current of the waters under it, into which the weapons of war would be thrown, and they would be born and swept away forever by the current so that their grand-children would never see them again. And they then uprooted the great tree and they cast into the chasm all manner of weapons of war which their people had been in the custom of using, and they then replaced the tree in its original position. 

Then Dekanahwideh further continued and said: “We have completed clearing away all manner of weapons from the paths of our people.” (P. 102, committee of chiefs’ version)

There is a figure in the Book of Mormon, a king of the Lamanites, who was taught and believed in the Creator and His son, who leads his people to also bury their weapons for peace.

Behold, I say unto you, nay, let us retain our swords, that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again, they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins. 

And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children. Therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations. 

Oh how merciful is our God. And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away, that they may be kept bright as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby. 

And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright as a testimony that we have never used them at the last day, and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall go to our God and shall be saved. And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth. 

And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood. And this they did vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren, they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother, they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness, they would labor abundantly with their hands. 

And thus we see that when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm and would suffer, even unto death, rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried the weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war for peace. Alma 14, paragraph 8

I do see a basis of truth and many things of value in the Haudenosaunee traditions. I see enough that fits in principle that makes me consider these teachings from different sources might be witnesses for each other of their basis in something true, but that is my opinion alone, and leave whoever may read this to search for and draw their own conclusion.

“And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 3:12

 

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you — not as the world gives, give I unto you.” John 9:9

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