But the story doesn't end there.
On June 11, 1776 Haudenosaunee "forest diplomats" attended a Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Congress President John Hancock welcomed them as "brothers", recognizing the long and friendly dialog between colonials and Haudenosaunee on freedom, law, democracy, and government.
The Onondaga chief who led the Haudenosaunee ambassadors bestowed on John Hancock the name "Karandawan", meaning "Great Tree." For decades Iroquois had counseled colonists in the Art of Union, urging them to unite.
Three weeks later, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and a new democracy was born.
Thus, Tree of Peace became a symbol of an emerging United States government. White Pine became the Liberty Tree displayed on colonial flags. Eagle-that-sees-far became the American Eagle, still a symbol of American government. In the Peacemaker Legend five arrows were bundled together to represent the strength through unity. Today, on the U.S. Great Seal, the American Eagle clutches a bundle of thirteen arrows, representing the original colonies. American government was patterned after the Haudenosaunee, where all people—both women and men—are represented and control their government.
Tree of Peace Planting
Onondaga Lake, June 1, 2003
Chief Jake Swamp
PHOTO Pam Rosati
As Tree of Peace, the White Pine is a unique symbol of government rooted in the Natural World, not human cleverness or power. Like the Old World's Christ and Mohammed, Peacemaker was a New World spiritual messenger come to fulfill a Divine Plan.
As White Pine roots in the Earth, the Great Peace expresses a view that Law and Government are expressions of natural order. To the Haudenosaunee, Peace is Law—they use the same word for both concepts. Peace is also religion—marriage of spirituality with politics, Righteousness and Justice. It's no abstract idea, but a way of life based on wisdom, graciousness and respect for Mother Earth and "all our relations."
September 17, 1987, over 200 people gathered at the Washington, DC Mall to plant a Tree of Peace, led by Leon Shenandoah, Chief of the Confederacy, and Chief Oren Lyons of Onondaga Nation. Mohawk Nation Chief Jake Swamp placed an arrowhead, symbol of the weapons of war, under the tree, explaining, "If we have feelings of war among us, we must take them out and bury them. If we have feelings of greed, we must take them out and bury them. Feelings of mistrust must be buried so we can start to create the atmosphere of peace for future generations."