Mother Earth Speaks
Story by Danny Beaton (Turtle Clan Mohawk)
In Memory of Alicja Rozanska
How can we sell the land when it is not ours to sell? It belongs to our children and our children’s children. Our old elders always spoke this way wherever they went, at the dinner table or at our sacred gatherings, or even at a family restaurant if we decided to spend time alone. Most of our spiritual leaders were involved in protecting Mother Earth at home or for others. Our way of life was always the most important thing for us to share and talk about and our struggles. We were sharing information all the time because Mother Earth was being exploited everywhere. We had ceremonies and conferences on a regular basis on the reserves and in the cities back then. Yet there was always time to gather up and give thanks as much as possible. Everyone made time to be together and carry on our way of life with sacred ceremonies. Only thirty years ago, Mother Earth was in all the newspapers and media across North America, maybe even throughout the world; the earth was being destroyed back then.
The beauty of our elders, chiefs, and clan mothers filled our spirits and minds with memories and time, so we became one with the peace, power, righteousness, unity, and equality that our ancestors organized and built with the Great Law of Peace. Our communities were one of respect for our women, who were our real leaders and life-givers. Our people carried the stories and teachings that helped guide them through everyday life and cultural work. Many of our people were involved in human rights and environmental protection, trying to support the many issues affecting our homeland and traditional territories. For many of our people, 1990 was a time of healing and cultural restoration. Our elders had worked hard, so we still had our culture, our way of life to heal with and be real human beings. All the time, history had sacred events and hard struggles. The sixties and seventies had a profound impact, just as the coming of our white brother over 500 years ago. Many of our elders were involved in farming even at an old age; living off Mother Earth kept them strong and focused on issues that were affecting our traditional culture because in 1990, the traditional culture was still strong. Throughout this period, there was great awareness about the cutting of the Amazon rainforest and the melting of the ice caps in the Arctic. Scientists, environmentalists, and Indigenous peoples were finally being heard through the media. Everything our old elders were saying reflected what they were told by their elders and ancestors. The only way we could maintain our happiness back then was by fighting for Mother Earth and working together in unity. Our elders always had time to joke around too. Tom Porter was our happiest and funniest elder and kept us laughing when times were the hardest.
Tom Porter and John Mohawk started a great movement to restore Indigenous culture and ceremonies by organizing the White Roots of Peace in Akwesasne around 1970. Those were times of real hope in many ways. Peace, power, righteousness, unity, and equality were instilled again in the people and these were times of restoration and healing. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as The Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 3rd-14th, 1992. Indigenous peoples throughout the world were feeling something positive was happening with The Earth Summit, even though Indigenous peoples were not asked to participate. Indigenous peoples from Canada and the United States were feeling optimistic about the gathering of world leaders at a conference to talk about stopping the destruction of Mother Earth from mismanagement and exploitation. After some of our Indigenous peoples returned home, it became known that this Earth Summit could not agree on a plan to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that were the key to climate change and global warming.
Our elders gave us our culture, and their elders taught them and ancestors passed it to their kids. Our best elders are saying we need to teach our kids everything we know now because they are going to have to face what is coming at them in the near future. In the old days, all we needed to do was watch for ceremonies and environmental conferences and there were always plenty of traditional elders there sharing stories and culture, sometimes for a weekend or long enough to walk away energized and full of our sacred ways and healing. In the old days, we were always healing and planning on defending Mother Earth, protesting somewhere for Mother Earth and the tribes who were fighting for their native rights. Everything was alive thirty years ago; so many spiritual elders were strong and healthy, ready to share and lead ceremonies for the healing of our people and to honour Mother Earth in a sacred way. Our culture was growing back a few years ago and the newspapers were featuring Indigenous art and culture everywhere. I remember everything that happened thirty years ago. It was so incredible to be a part of something so sacred as fighting for Mother Earth and our traditional way of life. Our old elders were so gentle and strong, sharing their stories and culture, how they lived in respect with all creation, and sharing Mother Earth’s wisdom in our gatherings and conferences. Mohawk Bear Clan Ann Jock was adamant when she said, “Our Great Creator made everything.” She pointed to all the government buildings we were protesting in front of. Ann would bring her husband with her, Corn Planter, and all her family, who were traditional drummers and singers, all from Akwesasne, to show support for indigenous struggles happening all across Turtle Island, North America. We were gathering because our elders, chiefs, and clan mothers knew Mother Earth was in great danger of being raped by corporations with no vision for our children’s future. The respect back in the old days has been passed on now; the ceremonies and unity are still here in the people, but we must light the Spiritual Fire over and over so it burns strong in our hearts!
Revered and respected Mohawk Spiritual Leader Tom Porter Speaks
About 30 years ago in Unity with Ojibway Elders
“We are not supposed to be here in Kettle Point. Ojibway people are not supposed to be here on your own land. Mohawks, Cree, Apache, Onondaga, Pueblo, Zuni are not supposed to be here because they tried to assimilate us by their residential schools. The government and visitors did not want us to have our own territories. There was an institutional plan to take us out of their way a long time ago. There have been much pain and tears from all that has been done to us over the years. After surviving all that has been done to us Indians, Mohawks, Ojibway and all our Nations, I look at us and believe me when I say this: I consider us one of the 7 wonders of the world. After all the suffering we went through over the years, we have still passed with flying colors. In the old days we had no government grants or welfare checks. When we were poor, our grandmas and grandpas rolled up their sleeves, Mohawks and Ojibway, and they did what had to be done, so we could eat. We only had shacks back then, but they were our shacks and they belonged to us all. Indigenous people were the same way back in the old times. If it wasn’t for my grandma who took me with her everywhere, she kept me away from liberalism, the hippy movement and everything that was going on in them days and she said: ‘Let your hair grow long. Learn your culture, learn your langue, learn your Traditional Ceremonies.’ Twenty-two years ago, when I lost my grandma, it became the darkest day of my life because I lost the best friend I ever had or knew and I still remember her hands in my hair telling me what I had to do with my life. My grandma was a seer, a doctor, a clan mother. She chose leaders and made chiefs because of who she was. My grandmother said: ‘When the government comes and tries to take your kids, stick with your kids and don’t let them go.’ My grandma always knew what we should be doing, so when she finally crossed over I cried a lot, but remember she said ‘Don’t overdo it’, and when we laid her in her coffin all dressed in Mohawk head to toe, she looked like a shiny princess. She sat up to me in that coffin and she said: ‘Grandson, I want you to roll up your sleeves to the elbow like I did for 90 years and talk to your nephews and nieces like I did and never give up on them. Even if our chiefs or leaders make a mistake, do not abandon them. Always stand together for what our history is, what Our Great Creator gave us all’. We never stopped Thanksgiving Ceremonies to our Sacred Mother Earth, plant life, waters, four-legged, fish life, winged ones, or insects. All life is a part of the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois. Everything in the Universe is Sacred to our people. Thank you all for listening to what my Grandma said.”