Water Man Spouts

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah

Leon Shenandoah was the FaithKeeper of the Eel Clan of the Onondaga Nation, located in what is now Upstate New York near Syracuse. As such, he served on the 14-member Council Of Chiefs for North America's "Keepers of the Central Fire" at Onondaga. He was then selected by the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, to serve as the Tadodaho, or the head of the fifty member Grand Council of Chiefs.

The Haudenosaunee Grand Council of Chiefs is recognized by Native American peoples as the last traditional form of Indian government in North America. The Haudenosaunee are respected by "4th World Peoples" around the globe. Leon would come to national attention among the non-Indian peoples of the United States in 1971, shortly after he assumed the position of Tadodaho. The State of New York had decided to widen I-88 where it goes through Onondaga Nation Territory. Leon used his Condolence Cane to literally draw a line in the dirt, and announce that, "The United States stops here!" He led a month-long "sit-in" demonstration to keep the highway crews from being able to add a lane to the interstate on Onondaga Territory.

The sit-in drew national attention, perhaps particularly when former Beatle John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, joined with the Indians. Although the sit-in was both peaceful, and occurred on Onondaga Territory, the NYS government appeared to be preparing to escalate tensions when large amounts of heavily-armed state police were gathering to invade the sovereign Indian nation.

But suddenly, the inmates at Attica State Prison began their infamous riot. The same NYS Troopers who were preparing to invade Onondaga were sent to Attica State Prison. Dozens of people died when the police stormed he prison.

"Those bullets were meant for us," Leon would later explain. "The prisoners at Attica took the killing instead of us. They died and we lived."

Leon is featured in the book "The Wisdom Keepers," by National Geographic Senior Writer Harvey Arden and Steve Wall, Beyond Words Publishing, 1990. (Also see Leon in the 9-87 and 3-89 National Geographics.) In this book, Harvey asked Leon about violence and peace, and about power.

"I myself have no power," Leon said. "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 are asking me about strength, not power, then I can say the greatest strength is gentleness."

In October of 1985, Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. In part, he told the U.N. -- and the world -- that: "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 ....

"We must live in harmony with the Natural World and recognize that excessive exploitation can only lead to our own destruction. We cannot trade the welfare of our future generations for profit now. We must abide by the Natural Law or be victim of its ultimate reality.

"We must stand together, the four sacred colors of man, as the one family that we are, in the interest of peace. We must abolish nuclear and conventional weapons of war. When warriors are leaders, you will have war. We must raise leaders of peace. We must unite the religions of the world as the spiritual force strong enough to prevail in peace.

"It is no longer good enough to cry 'peace.' We must act 'peace,' live 'peace,' and march in 'peace' in alliance with the people of the world.

"We are the spiritual energy that is thousands of times stronger than nuclear energy. Our energy is the combined will of all people with the spirit of the Natural World, to be of one body, one heart, and one mind for peace."


At January 10, 2005 at 2:53 PM, Blogger coeur_de_lion said...

You know something? Remember that Lennon quote I have on my DU sig line? I wonder if he didn't borrow from Leon? Here it is:
"Give peace a chance, and remember Love. The only hope for us is peace. Violence begets violence. You can have peace as soon as you like if we all pull together. You're all geniuses, and you're all beautiful. You don't need anyone to tell you who you are. You are what you are. Get out there and (get peace, think peace, and live peace and breathe peace) and you'll get it as soon as you like." - John Lennon

The bit in parentheses sounds almost exactly like what Leon says in the second to last paragraph of your article:
' We must act 'peace,' live 'peace,' and march in 'peace' in alliance with the people of the world.

Did Lennon borrow from Leon or vice versa? Or was it just a case of great minds thinking alike?

Peace brother and good luck today. I'm off.

At January 11, 2005 at 4:03 PM, Blogger Me. said...

Wow, the last three articles you've written are terrific. I love that Ghandi quote. It is true so I will keep hanging on.

At January 23, 2005 at 1:38 PM, Blogger koho said...

Great post. Is "The Wisdom Keepers" still in print? Any other books to recommend in this vein?

At January 31, 2005 at 9:00 PM, Blogger Patrick O'Waterman said...

Yes, I've seen The Wisdom Keepers around. There is a paperback version nowdays. I believe I am on my 8th copy now; it is a book that when loaned is never returned.


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