Jake Swamp, Tekaroniaken, a Haudenosaunee elder had a dream about a river and people who could not lift their heads, a hand touched his shoulder and told him, you have to help them. For years he sought to understand his dream and then the vision came to him. Indigenous Peoples need to grieve in order to heal.
The pain that stems from the atrocities committed against our people is still present in our communities. It is imbedded in our collective memory. We have passed on our traditions orally from generation to generation. We have passed on our pain as well. If pain is not dealt with, if we do not grieve, the pain will consume us. And so it is. We have abhorrent rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, incarceration, domestic violence, and child abuse.
In this time of great pain and confusion, Jake Swamp’s dream, his vision, evokes the need to heal and the spirit of hope for a new time to come. His dream and vision offers us a way to close the wounds that Indigenous Peoples have collectively suffered.
The following is the dream that elder Jake Swamp had and which has now been supported and sponsored by Indigenous Peoples from the East and the West of the United States and Canada, as well as from Indigenous Peoples from the rest of the Americas.
“In my dream I was standing there at the river. Looking across the river I saw many people walking toward the river on the opposite side, they were wearing white clothing and wearing red bandanas and belts around their waists. They moved slowly and very sad looking, as if troubled with head hanging and looking at the ground. As I was looking I saw a hand appear on my shoulder from the back. It was a man’s hand but I didn’t see him, I only heard his voice directed to me. He said, ‘onta:on enseia’takenha thikon,’ meaning, you have to help them. From that time I searched for the meaning of the dream. For two years I asked myself, what did it mean? Finally, one day I was teaching a group of youth the time when we received our clan system in ancient times. The teaching involved the river and how it was set up to remove grief. I started to think deeply and realized that our Indigenous Peoples are carrying a great burden of grief caused by the colonization of the past five hundred years. Then I thought of the Mississippi River. Would it be possible to bring leaders and elders to the river and have a Great Condolence Ceremony? For the past four years I had thought daily in how it could be done. Now it has become a reality and native nations from the South and Central America, the Western U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Northwest Territories would stand together on the Western side of the river. From the Artic North, Northern Canada, and the Eastern U.S. will stand together on the Eastern side of the river. There the Great Condolence Ceremony would be performed to console each other [in this New Time, the time of flourishment.]”
We know that the time for change has come. The healing process is underway, and Indigenous Peoples from across this continent have made every attempt to reunite so the borders imposed may cease to be an impediment for the Continental Unity of Indigenous Peoples from Abya Yala (the Americas).
The Elder Tekaroniaken Jake Swamp passed on to the spirit world on October 2010. He left us behind to fulfill the instructions of our ancestors. To honor his dream we are planning the Gathering at the banks of the Mississippi River so people can receive condolence, strength, and inner peace to reaffirm their right to walk the same way as our ancestors once did.