So, the man from the lands of the Crooked Tongues stepped into his canoe and sailed away, leaving his town and his people behind, never to return.
The Great Sparkling Water (Lake Ontario) lay ahead, glimmering enigmatically, offering a new beginning. He sailed across it without hesitation, knowing the risk he was taking but willing to endanger his life in order to be listened to. The Tidings of Great Peace were more important; his message needed to be delivered.
His arrival did not go unnoticed, however. According to every version of the legend a man of Onondaga settlement, a hunter, was there, watching the approaching canoe, wide-eyed. It was reported to be made of white stone, a miracle that the observer beheld with a held breath.
In his turn the Crooked Tongues man, the future Great Peacemaker, might have been surprised, even startled. Whether sailing a stone canoe or a regular one, he must have hoped to be more prepared for this first encounter with his prospective followers. After a long day of incessant rowing – to cross the Lake Ontario was quite a feat for a lonely man – he must have been in a need to rest and wash and gather his senses.
Yet, he kept his presence of mind and addressed his first listener in a grand fashion, asking for the man’s reason to be there instead of explaining his own wandering of the foreign shores. Obviously taken aback the man claimed to hunt for a living, but also complaining of the “strife in his settlement”.
When asked who he was in his turn, the Peacemaker said: “It is I who came from the west and am going eastward and am called Dekanahwideh in this world.”
“The puzzlement upon the man’s face grew, as he brought his eyes back, to meet Two Rivers’ gaze. “My companions are back there, in the woods,” he said. Another heartbeat of hesitation, a nervous licking of lips. “Who are you?”
Grateful for Tekeni’s prompt translation, whispered hurriedly behind his back, Two Rivers let his gaze thaw a little. “It is I who came from the west and am going eastward and I am called Two Currents Flowing Together in this world.”
It came out well. The man seemed as though about to take a step back. With the translator at hand, he could really make his speech as flowery as he wanted to. It was a blessing. “You will now return to the place from whence you came. And I want you to tell your leaders that the Good Tidings of Peace has come. They shall hear from me soon.”
The man’s face lost its color. “Who are you?” he whispered, eyes wide.
Then he instructed the man to go home and tell everyone about the Good Tidings of Peace and about the arrival of its Messenger. Awed by the sight of the stone canoe, the man did as he was told, disappearing into the woods.
Next, the Great Peacemaker approached the old woman Jikonsahseh, who was living alone, feeding the warriors who happened to pass her dwelling. Reportedly, the wise woman made no difference between the warriors’ parties, greeting them all to her home, no matter what nation they belonged to or where their destination lay. In her small way she was probably emulating that peaceful existence and the brotherhood between the Five Nations that were yet to be born.
Did the arrival of the Peacemaker surprise her? Maybe. By all accounts of the story she was glad to greet him into her sanctuary, open to his words and ideas. He must have spent there some restful days, talking to her and maybe formulating his immediate plans. He had promised to make her the Mother of the Five Nations and, indeed, when the time came he rewarded her with this honorable title.
“So you are coming from the lands of the Crooked Tongues,” said the old woman, her face kind in the light of the small fire.
He nodded, hiding his grin. Tekeni had told him all about this nickname, referring to the peoples from his side of the Great Lake, all peoples. “Yes, I’m coming from the other side of the Great Sparkling Water,” he confirmed.
“I see.” The woman nodded, studying him. “The Messenger of the Good Tiding of Peace, eh?” Her eyes flickered, challenging. “A presumptuous mission. And a difficult one.”
He wished he could speak with no need to translate. “It’s time people stopped warring on each other. It does no good; neither to my people nor to yours. It’s time they talk.”
“Oh, it is definitely the time to talk.” The woman grinned lightly, her eyes sobering. “But will they be ready to listen? You would need to talk to many deaf ears, convince many closed minds. The hunger for blood is clouding their judgment, the hatred and the thirst for revenge is weighing upon their souls like a mighty mountain, impossible to move.”
Then he sought out legendary Hiawatha, who, according to some versions of the story, was greatly feared, a self-exile who had leftthe community after his family died as a result of sorcery his rival, Tadodaho, was not above to restore to. He was reported to be a violent man, who would eat human flesh upon an occasion. No one dared to come near his lonely dwelling.
According to other versions, Hiawatha had met the Peacemaker earlier through his life, was shown the error of his violent ways and so went back to his Onondaga community to bring the idea of Great Peace, but then evil Tadodaho had managed to spoil his efforts by killing his family.
This or that way, after staying at Jikonsahseh, the Peacemaker sought Hiawatha out and was able to help him change his heart and overcome his resentment and sorrow, enlisting his support and loyalty, instead.
“So what do you want? Why did you come here?”
“I came to talk.”
“No one comes here to talk. Tell me the real reason.”
He stood the intensity of the dark gaze. “That’s the reason. Others don’t see what I see.”
Something flickered in the depths of those eyes. “What do you see?”
“I see a man who needs change. I see whole peoples who need change. They don’t have courage to admit it. You do have courage. You tried to change things already.”
Oh, but for a chance to make a better speech! He suppressed the familiar frustration, aware of the effort it took him not to shift his gaze. The intensity behind his opponent’s eyes was nerve-wracking.
“You can offer me nothing.”
“How do you know before you hear?”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to help me stop the war.”
The eyes peering at him widened, then narrowed. The pressed lips began to twitch.
“You what?” The hoarse laughter erupted, rolling between the walls, making the man cough. Breathing heavily, he reached for the bowl, gulped the remnants of the water, then laughed again. “You talk strange. It must be the Crooked Tongues’ thing. I thought you said…” More laughter.
He waited patiently, watching the man, seeing the nervousness, the uncertainty. Oh, he wanted to hear more, he wanted to hear it all. The rudeness, the coarse toughness, the derisive laughter were just a show. Deep inside, this man was lonely and scared. He needed the change, he needed the direction.”
This deed being accomplished, the Peacemaker, then, went to the lands of the Mohawks (People of the Flint) where he was greeted civilly, but with a certain amount of doubt. Interviewed in a polite way, he was asked about the nature of his mission. However, even when promised that the hostile neighbors were already approached and willing to listen, the doubts of his hosts did not disperse.
Finally, one of the leaders proposed a test of power. The divine nature of his mission required a proof. Why won’t the Messenger of the Great Spirits climb the tree that stood upon the edge of a cliff facing roaring waterfalls? If the tree was to be cut down, falling into the worst of the rapids, and the messenger was to survive, then it would have proved beyond doubt that the Great Spirits wanted his message to be delivered. An impossible feat, but if he returned on the next morning, he would be listened to and followed. A promise he must have found difficult to resist.
And so it was done. The tree was chopped, to disappear into the swirling mist.
An excerpt from “Across the Great Sparkling Water”, The Peacemaker Series, book #2.
They were curious, but mainly by his bravery at coming here. They were not prepared to listen, not to a foreigner. But if he survived the fall into the cascading mass of furious water, they might. As though anyone can survive the dreadful falls, the wild torrents and the sharp rocks lining its bottom.
And yet, there was a quiet pool just a little way behind the first rapids, had whispered Tekeni when they lay on their mats beside the dying fire, waiting for the night to dissolve. Satisfactorily large and deep, it offered a chance of survival. With some preparation and a benevolence of the Great Spirits, the test of the falls might be overcome.
He remembered the youth’s eyes, peering at him through the smoke-filled darkness, anxious, their fear unconcealed. Careful to keep his voice low, Two Rivers questioned him all about it, and about the plan. A precarious, desperate solution, but they had no better one. The people of Little Falls were no fools.
“But they will not see through our ploy, if we will challenge them, will make this jump to seem even more impossible,” whispered the youth, his words gushing like the rapids themselves, anxious to be said. “There is nothing mysterious, or spectacular, about a simple jump. But if you demand to climb the tree for it to be cut and fall into the falls, well, this might give their storytellers a tale to retell through the long winter moons to come.”
“And the tree will help me to reach the pool somehow?” he asked, warmed by the youth’s open concern.
“Yes, it will. Anowara, this boy who used to be my friend, says it’s inclined just the right way to start falling into the direction we want.” Tekeni’s eyes glittered, their tension obvious. “So you will have to be careful to climb it from its eastern side, to add your weight and make it fall in a right way for sure.” He frowned. “I will check that tree first thing in the morning, of course. Just to make sure Anowara knows what he is talking about.”
“And then, well, it’ll fall as close to the pool as possible, and you better jump when it’s half way down, directing yourself into the deepest of the water.” His frown deepening, the youth shifted, leaning on his elbow, trying to keep still. “And Anowara and another boy will be there, in their canoe, ready to fish you out should you not make your way down there smoothly enough to just swim to the other side of the rocks.”
“And what will the town folk see? The divine messenger jumping aside half way down the road, to be fished out by a few youths?” He forced a grin. “I’m not sure it’ll be their idea of the miraculous survival.”
“They will see nothing. Midway through the jump it will be all swirling mist of drizzle and sprays. One can’t see the bottom of the falls from the cliff you will be jumping off of.”
He remembered his stomach twisting so violently, he was afraid he would vomit right there, in the compartment of his kind, open-minded host. Breathing deeply, he made the spasm subdue.
“It will work. I’m sure it will,” he said, but Tekeni’s sigh sounded anything but encouraging, so he smiled at the youth, doing his best to reassure him. “Our mission is in its early, beginning stage. There is much work to be done, and I will not leave you to do it all alone.”