National Geographic : 1991 Oct
both hands in delight. Just as Okwaho enters the village, he looks back one last time, saying a silent prayer of thanksgiving to the forest. FIVE CENTURIES HAVE PASSED. As we walked through a dip in the meadow toward a farm pond, a blue heron flew out, its wide wings flapping in a slow beat. Looking down at my feet, I saw the late summer whiteness of thistle seeds-the same this tle that Hiawatha and the Peacemaker placed on the earth as a cushion for those who would gather in the shade of the Tree of Peace of the Iroquois League. Next to it I spied a solitary hawk feather with brown and white bands across it. As I held it, the wind rustled its breath-like edges. A hawk feather like this stood atop the cap of each chief who lived in this Mohawk village. Walking through the woods, I saw jewelweed, balm against the sting of nettle and poison ivy, the mottled orange-and-yellow blossoms bobbing above seedpods that burst at a touch to spin out their seeds; the three-leaved raspberry; the fox grape; and on one slope above the stream that flows into the Mohawk River, the leaves of ginger. All these plants, used then and now, are honored in the traditional Prayer of Thanksgiving. And this is what our Creatordecided. There will be plants growing on earth and each will grow and mature accordingto its own sea son. They will come from the earth and will mature and will be available as medicinesfor the people who move about on this earth. So go words spoken here long ago, thanking in turn the people, the earth, plants, water, trees, animals, birds, the Three Sisters; the Thunder ers-seen by the Iroquois as powerful beings guarding the earth from evil; the sun, moon, stars, and the Creator. So were those words spoken in this same place when Jake Swamp, a Mohawk clan chief, came Silent capture, swift retreat mark a raid by Abenaki Indians from the east, lying in wait for Otstungo women along a path to the creek. Despite the momen tary terror of such abductions, victims -especially women-were generally welcomed as new members of the com munities to which they were taken, sometimes hundreds of miles away. Most captives accepted their new roles, replacing tribe members lost to disease, nature, or battle.