Faithkeeper: An Interview with Oren R. Lyons
Oren R. Lyons is a traditional Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan who was raised in the ancient culture and practices of the Iroquois on the Seneca and Onondaga reservations in northern New York State. An accomplished Native American leader, writer, educator, historian, activist, speaker, and organizer, Lyons has spent the much of his life working on issues concerning native indigenous peoples in North America and around the world. He has represented native peoples in many forums, including several at the UN focusing on the rights and status of indigenous peoples, the environment and sustainable development. Lyons is a member of the Seneca Nation and of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy in New York state.
David Kupfer: You've said that our present problem is our notion of what progress is in society. What do you think progress as if survival mattered would look like?
Well, a solution would be a collective approach. We're trying to do that, we have to do that at all levels. But in this system of commerce, it's a hard road to get the right synergy between people, nations and banks to work together. If you're not inclusive in solving any problem, it is not going to work. Inclusivity is exactly what is needed. All these birds are flying near everything you can see, they all have to be part of it. If they're not part of the solution, it's not going to work. I don't think the human beings would last beyond the trees because it keeps them civilized, it keeps them in check. if it's just about the human beings, it would just be just one big fight, no morality.
You need nature to keep the people calmed down. We need the sun. That's our oldest brother. If you're not inclusive, it's not going to work. And that's a serious problem with capitalism. Capitalism is private property. They have been trying to organized Indians to be private property owners forever. We still refuse. But I can see us breaking down now. I can see with the casinos coming in, there are really undercutting the Indian peoples. They really have become the Achilles heel for the Indian people. So I can see gold fever in Indian peoples eyes now, so that's a breakdown to the resistance. But it has taken a long time. Almost everyone in the world has gone down now and we are just starting to crumble. But I think that global warming is going to come so hard and fast that is not going to make a difference what you are.
How is global warming impacting native people, indigenous people?
It impacts poor people and indigenous peoples are almost always poor. So they're the first ones to suffer, in Africa and Haiti, people are already suffering from global warming and the Arctic is really going down fast. I get reports from Alaska, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Mongolia, the polar caps, its all the same, it is going down, going down fast. So fast that there's no transition, no transition for the ice culture to adapt and the animals are caught in it the same way as the humans are. The Inuit of Greenland say that they only give the White Bear 20 more years and the White Bear is now mating with the Brown Bear, so they know. Things are changing quickly. And meanwhile, here we are, trying to tell the intelligent people of the earth and they're not listening.
I would expect that in the next two years we are going to be involved in some very serious fires, bigger ones than what was seen this year, and there are going to be bigger storms, maybe one or two Katrina scale storms and that's going to wake the people up. And then from that point, we may have a chance, but the people have to be slammed hard on the side of the head to where they have to fear. It seems to be the only thing that they're going to respond to now. They're certainly not going to respond to common sense. It's going to take their own personal survival fear kicking in, and if that's what it takes.
Some years back in the early ‘80s, we were sitting at a campfire in Lakota country and all of the old guys, they are all gone now, the old guys Gilsenemy, Magiking, Red shirt, Bad One, Fools Crow, Shanandoah, Benyaka, all those guys are sitting around this fire and we were getting pissed off at the white guy and railing against what he is doing. And Bad One gets up, he was a spiritual leader, and he says well god dammit, look at us sitting here, it is pitiful, sitting here talking, like children. Why shouldn't we put our power together, our spiritual power and bring the rains, and flood them out. Bring the fire and burn them out. Call the winds, and blow them off the face of the earth. And we all looked at him and said whoa you better think about that one a little bit and Louis says well god dammit that is the only way they're going to listen.
Well we didn't do that. But the fire's here now the winds are now, the floods are here. Everything that he was asking for is here and why was he asking for it? Because it'll open up your mind. But you're not quite looking far enough. So it's going to take a couple more years. It will be two years less time than we have to adjudicate our own salvation, nevertheless that's the reality. So we are exercising some patience as we are waiting. You don't have to call them anymore, we had a string of 139 tornadoes up the center of the United States this past week. Nobody's ever seen that before, that's unprecedented. Doesn't that tell you something? If that doesn't tell you that we need to be changing from how you're living your life I would say something's wrong.
Is there much parallel between climate change and native prophecy?
Yeah, we know what's coming. We were told long ago what's coming. Long ago with the six Nations, in 1799 a man by the name of Banyandieo was a chief from the Seneca Nation. He was a drunkard and he was on the third time of his daughter was trying to keep him alive. She had him up in his cabin and he was trying to live. Everyday he saw a new day he would give his thanks, he was renewing all these things that he knew he hadn't been for doing a long time, and one day he heard a voice calling to the door, "come to the door." So he went to the door and there were three men standing there and they were very handsome men, middle-aged, and they said, you're a sick man, they said we are going to cure your sickness. One of the men said I want you to eat these berries to heal your sickness and he ate the berries and they said, we think you are the one that we want to carry this message, and he said why me? And they said well, we've been listening to your voice in the morning and you're recognizing what you need to do and we think you're the man.
Then they heard his daughter, who was scavenging for plants on the hill, and she saw her father by the door and she saw him fall and she hollered and they said, he'll be all right, he's coming with us. And so he was taken on a four-day spiritual journey, and during that time he was instructed on these elements that would destroy the nation. They said it is clear to us that we did not instruct you enough about what your brother brought across the water, and so we are going to tell you one last message, we want you to hear this message back to your people. Stay away from the strong drink. Second one is you don't need the Bible, you know your own way. Get back to your ceremonies. Third one was each breath, each breath. Tell your people this country is still your nation. That was 1799.
It was some years back I was driving to Santa Fe, I came up over the hill and down in the valley was an Indian casino and there was an ace, king, and queen and jack of hearts 16 feet tall. That is why the six nations don't have any casinos. There are now 250 casinos around the country there are 561 Indian nations in the United States of that 250, 10% make money, the rest are just barely breaking even or losing money. It's all about the location and it's a competition and it's big business. In order to have that casino you have to sign a compact with the federal government that says that they can come in and check your books and follow their rules. So you give up your sovereignty. Further than that you have to make the same agreement with the state you live in, which has always been our enemy. The state has always been after our sovereignty.
You think the casinos have been more costly to the native community than a benefit?
In the end, they're going to tax them all. They've just been here a short time. The government is in it for long-term fight. The United States is fierce and they don't even treat their own people right. You yourself have to fight taxes, fight intrusion, where are you going to go? The enemy is the government, so you have a very hostile government that is not looking out for you. So we knew about it long ago, different versions. Nevertheless, you're susceptible when you're poor, when you're hungry, when you've never had anything, when someone offers you something.
The global warming will be here before you see the end of that one, I'd rather see the end of that one than global warming, because global warming is going to be very serious. The first evidence of global warming is going to be disease because of the high population. Disease is coming because of its pandemic nature, they have been fighting it, just barely holding it back these past 10 years, but you can't hold it back. Once it hits it's going to shut down the system. You know when we had SARS, 350 Chinese died, probably more but they owned up to 350 and that shut down Hong Kong, shut down New York, shut down Toronto, nobody moved, everyone got scared. That's just the beginning.
When it comes, it going to be very Democratic, there is nothing you can do about it. It comes from people coughing, so every time I hear a cough I think about that, imagine sitting next to the person coughing on an airplane. Not only that but you see these birds here? They are going to carry it. You're not going to stop that. And they are carrying it now. I don't think people comprehend this. I know they don't, otherwise they would be acting differently. It's scary and they don't want to think about it, but you have to if you have children. After seven generations are they going to be there? It's up to us seven generations ago there was a chief looking out for me, otherwise I wouldn't be here talking to you. So they had responsibility back then and we have the same responsibility. There weren't 6.7 billion people in the world back then either.
We are way out of balance with what we do, and what we eat, how we exploit our comfort level. What's the biggest problem in the United States right now? Physically, it's fat people; just look around. If you travel overseas and come back and look around, you see them, including the people on the reservations. We are sick! What's it going to take? I don't know.
Last year the UN adopted a Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. What was the basis for the founding of that campaign?
The basis of it was the fact that we didn't seem to have human rights and we indigenous peoples didn't have a voice. At that point we weren't even called indigenous people. We were called other things like natives. In 1975, we met on Victoria Island off of B.C., and we decided at that time that we would call ourselves indigenous. We talked about aboriginal, we talked about native and we decided that when we were going to go public, we would call ourselves indigenous peoples. It became quite a problem later on internationally, that we were new to this whole idea and we were gathering to get ready to move into the international community.
After looking at the human rights declaration of the United Nations that was established in 1945 and ratified in 1948, we said well, it says there all peoples, and it wasn't us, we couldn't understand why and how could you exclude us? Because there wasn't any law, you couldn't see any rule, so we said well this is an issue and we need to go and address it, we're going to go to Geneva.
In 1971, there was a Guatemalan Indian leader and he had a vision that by the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, indigenous people would have a voice at the UN. And he began meeting with them, we met in 1972, 1973, and 1975, and in 1977 we went to Geneva. We started out, we had no standing whatsoever, we presented ourselves, indigenous people, we were invited by the NGO's, nongovernmental organizations international and that was a momentous occasion its historic now, there were 146 delegates and each one had a story, the varieties of where we came from, North, Central, South America, the difficulties we had getting the funds to get there, we had a heck of lot of support, vital crucial support.
And when we got there, the six nations, we were in these meetings all this time and just prior to spring of 1977 when plans were being made, we were going to go out to South Dakota to meet with our Lakota allies when one of our chiefs died, our titleholder. We had to turn around and go home. We were on our way, all the way to Wisconsin when we got the news that he had died. And we didn't go back.
We were engrossed with what was going on in our country, which was a lot in 1975. Russell Means came to one of our six nation meetings in July 1977, he asked to speak. I said okay. He said if the Six Nations doesn't go with this initial event, there's no use of any of us going. So when he put it in those terms, we decided well let's get back to business on this. We said okay.
We had to get a passport. Where we going to get a passport. Now we decided on not getting a US passport, but we needed some passport so we made one, we made our own passports and we issued them to the travelers, 28 of us, and we said it was going to be a test to see how they would accept us, because if they were going to accept our passports, they would accept us being there. Back in ‘75 you could do that, travel was like that. We were prepared for a fight, we thought, whoever wants to take us on, we are here. We spent four hours at the border. And we had only one day to prepare to make our statement. We came from North, Central, and South America -- never saw each other before. We had to come up with our message; we had to this across languages and we had to do this in one afternoon.
What are some of the implications now in terms of international law?
We weren't on the radar screen internationally; they were just a group of people who call themselves indigenous, and are now recognized 31 years later in the United Nations. We have a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and it's become part of the law of the UN. It is a UN document, so that's the result. Of course we had people from our nation attending Oxford in 1580's and 1600's. We're old timers. This is nothing new. We were the ones who had to meet all those people coming over. Six Nations was always in charge of land whether was in Maine or down to Virginia, our chiefs had to be there. Rick Hill has compiled a document of all the meetings where wampum was used in the last four centuries. When you go through there you start to see the genius of the Six Nations, how they kept online from one century to another, how they never varied and that's why we're here today, we still carry our own passport. we are in discussion with Homeland Security right now, we've had five meetings with them about our documents and we are as concerned about the border as they are. It's all about changing times.
Do you think it's possible to expect any ethical or moral behavior on the part of the World Bank or International Monetary Fund?
Not the World Bank, that's not their business. Their business is not morality, their businesses is money, there is no morality in what they do whatsoever. The World Bank is the U.S.A., it is not the World Bank, it is the U.S. It operates out of here, the people on the board are from here, it's a cover, so how can it have any morality to it? Morality is a problem for most banks.
I was in a meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Everyone wanted me to speak, it seemed I was the most popular guy there. I was asked by Dr. Schwab who had asked me to make a presentation to all the world corporate powers that were there, and I said I would, under one condition. I said we take the people I'm going to talk to up to the top of the Alps and keep them there for 24 hours, when they come down, I'll talk to them. He said that is a good idea, but they're not going to do that.
So he still talked me into going over there and I said I think I might have something that they'd be interested in hearing. So finally I wound up talking to their inner sanctum, their high-level committee asked me to speak to them. It was a very select group of powerful folks from Russia, the United States, Argentina, and other nations and corporations. I was a curiosity to them. I said before, you asked me a question let me ask you a question.
I said, I know that all of you corporate leaders know that the earth's resources are finite and yet you're running your governments and your corporations like its infinite, like there is no limit there. I said you know better than that. My question of you is why are you doing that when you know. Finally one very distinguished gentleman stood up to answer and said, well Chief, as a CEO, I have to respond to what my stockholders want and my stockholders want a profit. If I don't show a profit, I'll be fired. I said, the stockholders? You don't have anything to say about that? He said, well we are here to make money and that's what I'm supposed to do, and they watch what I do. So it is the stockholder's fault I asked and he said, well you could say they are directing the traffic. And so I asked, who are they? And he said, probably you. I said, I work as a professor at the University of New York, probably in my retirement there are stock investments, so he was right.
So I asked the question and it was me! I said, well let me respond a little bit to that. Let's take one of your businesses, you're always in competition, let's take the shoe business, Adidas, Nike, all you guys have a horse, everybody wants to be number one. They said, yes. So you are in a race to be number one. They said, you could say that. I said okay, so around the far turn, you are coming down to the finish line. It is not an electronic final line, it is a stone wall and you're looking at that, and I said, right now look at that wall, you're not pulling your horse, you are whipping him to get to that wall. Where is the common sense in that? They didn't really respond to that, they kind of agreed.
So after this exchange, I asked this man, do you have any grandchildren? He said yes, I have an eight-year-old grandson. I said, why I have a grandson eight years old too. So we were two grandpas talking about our kids. I asked him, when do you cease being a CEO and become a grandfather? And there was silence. He couldn't answer that. It's got very uncomfortable in there. He would not answer the question so finally somebody says, well Chief, we hear about Indian prophecies. Can you tell us a prophecy? I said okay, how about a guaranteed prophecy? Ever hear of a prophecy guaranteed? They said no, I said I can tell you one, being an Indian. They said okay, what is that? I said, you are going to meet next year and nothing will have changed. Guaranteed. That was the end of the meeting. What did I do? I bought a moral question into an economic forum and I was way out of line. They couldn't or wouldn't answer me because they would verbalized what they all know. And the World Bank remains the largest public funder of fossil fuel projects in the world.
And where the fossil fuels are, native people happen to live.
Well they're up there in the tar sands where native people live in the Arctic, they're down the Amazon, and where the Dineh, the Navajo Nation live. It is such a powerful economic leverage. In Canada, they fought them and fought them and fought them. Finally, they had a new election up there and they elected a new Indian government and they got bought off. They were tired of fighting, and now the natives are going to get money and the land will be raped.
What does it mean to be a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan among the Onondaga people?
A Faithkeeper is a sub chief. You have the titleholder and his partner is a sub chief. The Onondaga people are the only Indians to have sub chiefs called faith keepers. The principle chief that I'm sitting with now is my youngest brother, and he's doing very well, running ceremonies. I remember when the clan mother asked me to take this position in 1965, I said I just don't have what it takes to do that. She said just try, we need you. I said I don't speak the language that well, and I don't have the credentials. She said I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think you could do it. That clan mother saw. I was just a young man at that time. I wind up here 44 years later an elder, I have more respect for her as I get older even though she is long gone now.
How important are your nation's ceremony's to maintaining your culture?
The reason why we have ceremonies is to teach our people respect; that's why we have ceremonies, to keep our respect going. Six days of Thanksgiving. Six days it takes to run a ceremony. Every day different food, different speeches, different dances, different entities. Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Thanksgiving. Prayer, hours of it, songs, dances, hard work, you get tired, but its collective, you don't think about yourself, you think about everything, that's the attitude that people have to have. The New Age people, they want to come spend time with the Indians and have ceremony and then they go back and they say, I had a wonderful experience. Give me a break, if you think it is about having an experience, you are nowhere. But they don't know and they are trying, I see people really reaching for the spiritual thing but it's not transferable. It's a tough one. The people have surprised me, how bad they can be, how good they can be, myself included, I won't exclude myself on that. I'm not a spiritual leader. I am a runner, I do the best I can. A lot of times it's not adequate. I'm an elder just by elimination.
What is the tree of peace and its significance in your nation's history?
The tree of peace comes from the beginning of our Confederation. Peacemaker came, and he brought peace to the five nations. Some people say it took him 100 years to bring them altogether. Finally on the shores of Onondaga Lake, he gathered all the leaders and laid out the whole process about how people will be involved with governments and structure and rules, raising leaders and how clan mothers will be in charge of of the titles. And the 50 original men were chosen from the five nations were instructed. Each one of those men became an office when they died, so Tayoquai is a thousand year-old title.
Those 50 original men were instructed, and after he laid out the whole process governance, instruction, responsibility, he said, now I going to plant this great tree of peace, as a symbol of Ahoudianshone, the six nation confederacy, this great tree of peace will reach to the sky, he said, provide shelter and have four white roots that go into the four directions of the earth, and those people will know the place to go to follow the root back to the source, will come under the protection of the great law of peace. And he said this is a spiritual representation of the universal law. And he instructed leaders never to challenge those laws. He said, you cannot prevail, do not challenge those laws. Because you will not prevail.
So now here we are. A woman asked him after you've done all this, how long is it going to last? And he said, that's up to you. So it's up to us, it's up to you and me. You can't blame anybody for what's happening, it's in our hands. The last responsibility goes to the chiefs. When we have a condolence and we raise a new leader, the instruction comes to obey all laws, responsibilities to the Clan Mothers responsibilities to the faith keepers, responsibility to the Chiefs, and finally he talks to the people, and they have the most responsibility the people do. Not the leaders, the people.
That is what he says, you are the backbone of the nation. You are the ones that do the work. You are the ones that build the fires. You are the ones that gather. Not the leaders, the leaders help guide you. Now that goes for everybody. You turn around to America today and everyone's looking to Washington, asking, what are we going to do? Well that's stupid, Washington? Give me a break. That's the source of a problem. So it's going to be up to the people. You are going to have to build your communities and they are going to have to be self-sustaining, get to the high ground and get water, that's my instruction to you, high ground and water, don't be on the low ground.
The United States founders got so many ideas about democratic political systems from Native American, but what is in practice now is more in word than in deed, so what went wrong?
It started to go wrong right off the bat. In 1744 there was a meeting in Lancaster Pennsylvania. And the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia were there. They were arguing over land and the Six Nations were presiding at this meeting. Finally, it got around to one of the Onondaga Chiefs, and he said, you guys are never going to amount to anything if you keep arguing amongst each other. He said, why don't you make a union like ours. Look how old we are. Look how respected we are. Look how strong we are. Work together, make a union like ours.
The guy who was taking notes was Walter Golden, he was a speaker and note taker and historian. He was taking all those notes and they went down to Philadelphia to be put in a book, and guess who was the printer? Ben Franklin.
Franklin read that and said that's a good idea. Ten years later he called it the Albany Plan of Union. Twelve of the thirteen colonies, let's bring them all together and work together. And he asked the six nations to preside and a great leader called Hendrick Mohawk presided, to talk about democracy and governance. Very practical, very real. They wouldn't accept it.
There was a spy for the King of England at the meeting, and he sent a letter to the King of England saying King you better beware, they're having a meeting here about government by people, in 1754. You don't know your own history. This is all referenced in John Mohawk's book, Basic Call to Consciousness. So out of this came the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress called themselves the 13 fires and they called their assembly the grand council, and the first flag they made had a pine tree on it. These are all our symbols.
Up to 1775, they met with us at upstate New York, a place called German Flats, and they wanted us to join in their union in their fight with their father and our Chief said at that time, well it is a fight between father and son. We don't think it's a good idea to be involved. And they said good that was our second request, if you're not going to fight with us, don't fight against us. And the chief said well whoever is going to win, it will still be our problem, because they are going to want our land. So they made a treaty.
So they went back in the Continental Congress, made a wampum belt with this agreement. In 1776 they had a meeting on Fort Pit, that is now Pittsburgh, they presented this relationship and they said we like this so much, we will carry this through the Great Lakes, stay neutral, stay out of it. And they said to us then, you'll never have to fight we will fight for you; you won't have to raise your arms again. So that was the first treaty with the new United States with the Six Nations.
When George Washington saw that, he went ballistic. We need the Six Nations he said, they have got to fight with us or we're going to lose. So he dismantled that without telling us. We did not know that. They expunged all that from the history. They took it all out and you don't hear or read about it. A guy by the name of Morgan was doing the mediation, and his papers were discovered in a woman's house here in California, in Santa Barbara. So Dennis Banks gets a look at these papers, calls me and says, hey, you better come look at this, it looks real to me! And the pages of his field manual, which are in the University of Pennsylvania museum, the pages from 1775-1783 are torn out, those pages were in there.
So did we have something to do with the development of this nation? I would say yes. We were there, even after the revolution. If you go out to the headquarters of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Independence Hall, that green that is out in front belongs to Six Nations. Our camp was right there.
The Iroquois nation seemed to have had a spiritual center and moral authority. That doesn't seem to be the case in terms of what was created for this nation.
No, that's what we told them, you guys are starting out wrong, they said well, we have too many religions, we can't find one. Where are your women? No women involved here? Once they won that first fight, they reverted back to some European thinking.
What is the Great Law?
The Great Law of peace was the foundation that the peacemaker laid down when we gathered all the people there. That was our structure, that is what we abide by today, that is our governing structure.
What relevance do you think it has today with the U.S. government?
It's the democratic foundation of this country, but it is quite complex, it's a moral law as well. It's pervasive, it's in everything. It's our spiritual law, when we have our ceremonies, parts of this law will come up during the ceremony. It's ingrained in our way of life. It is a foundation of the Confederacy, it's a broad concept, it includes so many different things, it is our Constitution. It is a moral law, as well as instruction. We know it when we raise a leader and we go through that whole process, people are reminded all the way down to the last detail, it's a very long day. We have a wampum strings, we have a are a lot of ways to keep our process. We use them all when we raise a leader.
Our leaders are raised for a lifetime. When somebody dies or gets sick enough, then they are replaced, and that process is used again. So it's a continuing process, it doesn't have an election, how we select leaders, it the rules of our government, it is all in the great law, it's very complex, very profound. Also we have some help, we have the wampum belts, the rules are in there. Our condolence cane has the rules in there, they are very specific. We have ways it to keep track of it, when the planting season starts, then we rarely call a grand council, it's either before or after. During the growing season, the plant season, it is kind of a sacred time. We pay attention to that. The process is still there, it still completes how we raise our leaders.
Is agriculture still a major focus of your community?
Yes, corns, beans, and squash, the three sisters and the other leaders in the planting season. We have ceremonies around the lunar year, the first ceremony of the new year is maple and that starts when the sap runs and lasts until it stops. The next ceremony is for the planting, the next is strawberry, the next one is the bean, the next one is a corn, and the next one is the harvest. And then than midwinter, for 21 days, we say we wrap the year in a bundle. 21 days of ceremony. All Thanksgiving, all songs, all dances. You are really tired by the end of that time, everyone is tired but that's what we do.
Are there many other ways you pass on your culture?
That's the only way we pass it on. Its active, that is how we operate today. So Chief has a lot of work to do, no compensation, we don't get paid. We are still operating as we did 1,000 years ago, there was no getting paid idea back then. Cheap labor.
And being sovereign, how are your nation's relations with the US government?
We fight them tooth and nail all the time. They know who we are. We are the last traditional government in North America. Probably, maybe in the world. Maybe if you go way into the middle of the Amazon where the natives haven't met anyone yet, you'll find somebody there who runs themselves. As far as we know, we are the last of the last Chiefs. All the other Indian nations in the country are elected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We don't have any BIA on our nation, we don't allow the BIA on our land, and we don't take federal money. We are still who we are. They know us, they know us very well. The federal government knows us. I get followed from time to time, I see them, but they are in disarray.
The BIA is even out on the Navajo and Hopi land, they still have their tribal elders...
But they're not in charge, we are in charge.
Have you been successful at keeping your young people on the land?
We don't have enough houses now. Everybody's piling back. You guys are in a bad position here, you are in big trouble. No taxes back home. You're on the land. We haven't got enough room. Half our people live off the nation. They're all trying to get back on now, because things are collapsing.
How big is the nation?
We don't count numbers. That's the first thing they want to know, how many men do have. We have enough.
You were involved in the Global Forum on Spiritual Parliamentarian Leaders, what sort of the output did that group had?
They came to a final conclusion. It came down to four words: Value change for survival. If you don't change your values, you are not going to survive. Simple as that, and that's what came out of that. Values for survival. What values are you going to move to? Come to our values? Long-range. Seven generations. Behave yourself, get into the cycle of nature.
Any other thoughts how to transfer the reverence for life and nature that your people have, transferring that to other peoples?
The first thing would be just leave us alone. The only people you can really ask that would probably be the people of Six Nations now. Because everyone else has been taken over. If you asked that question to anyone else it would be, what are your values as a Presbyterian? What are your values as a Catholic? They are the ones that took over, the ones that took the language away, Christianized everyone, took our land besides. So you ask how many people have those values? Probably of the Six Nations just the Onondaga, the Oneida, and the Tuscarawas. The Mohawks have an elected system and a chief system, and the Senecas as well. The Cayuga's are wavering now, they want a casino. So just three nations left in the world. Tuscarawas are mostly Christian, but they adhere to all of our laws. The Chiefs are still there, they are very good fighters too.
Sometimes it seems our tenure here on earth is very much in question, how hopeful are you?
One of things we are instructed as leaders when we first take on this responsibility is not to take away hope from the people. As a leader, do not take away hope from the people. If you're going to bring hard news, you better bring something else with it. The news that we have today is pretty dire, I was telling you about Banyandieo, when he heard all this and showed him four days and showed him what's coming. After seeing all that he asked is this going to happen? And they said, yes it will and they said and he said if that's the case then what's the use? In 1799. And they said, you tell your people that the generation that allows this to happen is going to suffer beyond all comprehension. You don't let it be your generation. That's your instruction to the people.
So in other words, it's going to happen, but it can be held off as long as the people want to work for it. It's up to the people, it's in the hands of the people. It is up to us right now. It is this meeting here at Bioneers, this meeting of the good minds, people here are trying. Indians can't do much, there is just a handful of us. We do have some ideas and we do have some instruction. We still know how to pray, we still know how to keep those ceremonies. We were told as long as we keep the ceremonies and carry them out, we are going to hold on.
What was it that they tried to kill first thing when they got here? They took all of our paraphernalia, put it in a pile, and burned it, because we all had to be Christian. They were not able to do that. We are still here, I am not a Christian. We are holding the line, so every time we have our ceremony, it is on your behalf. People say, we want to come to your ceremony. We tried that one time, and it didn't work, but don't worry, what we are doing is on your behalf. The idea is that it gets done. The idea is that those thanksgiving, those ceremonies get finished and that's what we do. We do it on behalf of the whole earth, we do it on behalf of generations coming. We don't differentiate between black children or white children, its just children they are all the same. So we got a do it, that's what we do. It is quite formidable, we might be small but we are still here.
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