The conference opened with remarks from Freida Jacques, an Onondaga Iroquois clan mother. She told us about her people’s deep spirituality. Instead of worshipping, they give thanks to everything in creation. People spend a long time enumerating all that they are thankful for: the trees that provide shade, nuts and fruits, and syrup; the four-legged animals without which humans would be so lonely; the four winds—the south wind that brings warmth, the north wind that brings the cold so that the earth can sleep and renew itself, etc. They like to say “I am thankful for what I have; I have what I have.”
The Onondaga do not have casinos. A casino would mean:
· Having to sign legal papers
· Having to give up a chunk of land
· People gathering not in thanksgiving, but in greed, the “antithesis of contentment”
When the colonists landed in America, they found flourishing societies where women had rights and power. The clan mothers selected the chief. Since clan members felt responsible for each other and shared everything, they could do without all the laws the colonist brought with them from Europe.
Freida Jacques expressed alarm at the level of violence in our culture. Her clan does not allow children to play games (especially video games) that involve killing anything, whether human or monster. They believe that killing in play is unhealthy, instills a lack of respect for life, and models unsafe behavior.