A Haudenosaunee Observation of Occupy Wall Street

Ray Cook, ICTMN Op-Ed Editor

The children of the West (Americans) are fighting amongst themselves (again) over distribution of a wealth that does not belong to them, a wealth derived from Indigenous lands. The opportunity to redefine wealth based on a more realistic view of the earth and an understanding of man’s place may be now.

There is a very old Iroquois prophecy called the The Two-Headed Serpent.

Stuart Myiow of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnawakeh told this prophecy, as did our ancestors. He’d say, “This is the Two-Headed Serpent Prophecy. We must remember this prophecy was told to the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy before the coming of the white man with his church and state [and the dispossession of the authority of women], so any rational person should contemplate what the next state of the prophecy is.”

“One day, a boy found a two-headed serpent whose skin had beautiful gold and silver stripes down its back; it was unable to care for itself; it was dying. This was because one head wanted to go left while the other wanted to go right.

The young boy brought the serpent to his village. The elders were very cautious of it but everyone loved its beautiful colors. The young ones said, "It's so poor. How will it survive? Surely it will die with the coming of winter." The elders said, "If you want to keep it, you will have to feed it!"

The children fed it insects but the snake wanted more so they fed it field mice, but the snake wanted more. They fed it rabbits and small birds but it wanted more! Finally, with this serpent getting so big, the elders began hunting our brothers, the beavers and otters, to feed the snake; but it didn't get enough.

The serpent began eating our dogs, then our food—the gardens and the deer, then all our spirit guides. That was not enough. The serpent began eating people. It ate children, the elders and any who could not get away. So horrible was it that it even ate our dead.

Soon, two-headed serpent began enslaving people. Along the way, it started eating the forest, and all the animals.

It ate holes through mountains and poisoned our waters with its defecation.

After Mother Earth there was nothing left for the two-headed serpent to consume, it started to eat into the Sky World. It was said that it would make its way out to our Grandmother, the night-time sun, and that from there it would attack our cousins, the stars.

It was also said that when the serpent would be near the end of its destruction, the Earth would fight back to cleanse herself.

At this time the serpent will be weakened by the natural powers released from our Mother's revolt, revealing what it really is.

Through its greed and insatiable appetite for destruction, one head would begin to eat the other and it would destroy itself and all it has enslaved to keep it alive, will revolt against it.

Then young boy would come and address the Clanmothers with a vision how to destroy the Serpent. With the power of the hair of the Clanmothers he would make a bow that would thrust his arrows straight and true into the heads of the serpent. When the serpent dies the young boy will climb atop the huge monster's belly and in slicing it open, the real people who were eaten up will be released.

When the serpent is destroyed, life will again be the way the Great Spirit intended and creation will blossom with a new vibrancy that has not been seen since the coming of the serpent.”

A scholar of the Haudenosaunee, John Mohawk, wrote in 1977: “A strategy for survival must include a liberation theology-call it a philosophy/cosmology if you will-or humankind will simply continue to seek more efficient ways to exploit that which they have come to respect. If these processes continue unabated and unchanged at the foundation of the colonizers’ ideology, our species will never be liberated from the undeniable reality that we live on a planet of limited resources, and sooner or later we will exploit our environment beyond its ability to renew itself.”

I don’t hear that kind of thinking among the “Occupy Wall Street” activists. Their concern is money, its accumulation and its distribution. All derived from extraction economies and the economy of war.

Do not expect to see many Haudenosaunee people at Zuccoti Park except as non-committed observers.

Before the Revolutionary War a policy decision was made among the Haudenosaunee Confederacy; we should not interfere in this domestic dispute, it’s like a fight between a father and son.

While we observe this family dispute, we should seek the diplomatic opportunities to argue for our own justice and our own restitution.

Predictably, allies will be sought; the demonstrators and their fathers will look for friends. Our response, in diplomatic terms, should be, if we become your friends do not ask us to hate your enemies; we have our own concerns.

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johnbird's picture
Thanks Ray. I agree, discourse and disagreement are very beneficial when the focus is on important and present ideas and issues rather than personalities. It is the way we, the Native American community, will come to some unified consensus about where we stand. I think we live in an amazing time of accelerating change and crisis that is also ripe with incredible opportunity for significant, real, and lasting change on a global scale. I'm an opportunity thinker, dreaming of the possibilities. You may call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.... :) Peace Always
greenspider's picture
I agree with you, John Bird. This is about so much more than economics, and definitely deserves the support of Indigenous peoples, whom are represented in many of the issues. This is a revolution that concerns all of us. Libertarians are afraid of this because they see it as an attack on Capitalism, but the truth is it is an attack on the theft of our national treasury. As tribal people we are very familiar with the Libertarian way, and once the power of greed and theft has been extinguished, I am sure there will be plenty of room for an "organic" libertarian society to flourish.
tekenikahentake's picture
As a member of Kahnawake and living in DC, I pass the occupancies at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza often. Do Iroquois [righteously] have a position on this phenomenon? I think keeping some distance is ok. After all, the bustling bureaucrats, think-tank denizens and lobbyists hustling along K Street at McPherson and the swarming tourists in double-decker gawking as they motor past Freedom Plaza and its elaborate encampment all preserve their distance from the "radical" and "unfocused" activists. In our way, we too are justified to have our distance although it's much more fundamental than the discomfit a conservative voter from Texas might feel at a bearded demonstrator. We have a museum with our "objectification" enshrined by the Smithsonian a few blocks away. And although the State Department avoids the issue, we still are international Indians. The demonstrators indeed have issues which are important for them and their culture to exorcise. Ours are different and their internal affairs should not bleed over and totally occupy our indigenous imperatives. Nia:wen Ko:wa
ancestorsheart's picture
sgeno hege, do:ges....i too believe that this the 7th generation, will be the one as in the great book they call the bible in revelation, where all things must be cleansed,,cleansed completely...we have done more to destroy mother earth in 50 winters than the way we lived for thousands of years...tho the ones in the longboats began our undoing, despite all our help.Tho it is true we spoke as 5 nations with 1 heartbeat...sadly i do not feel nor see it any longer..we must stand proper and remember who we are and stay away from others fights as you say unless they come to us for more than they have taken,,then and only then will i once again bear arms this time for the first nations people not just the good old usa as they say..i am a warrior..i joined to serve my people and the country to protect our land and our freedom..for that when we came home only our people welcomed us home..so as haudenosaunee people let us stand our ground and fight to protect our rights.justice and seek the restitution promised so long ago. this is all i have to say for now...jeff c great...grandson of sachem cornplanter.....onodowa gah ni geny ha de h haudenosaunee ...nyoh! onen my brother and family
beaver's picture
Love this piece!!!
johnbird's picture
Great article Ray. I love the story. Many thanks for sharing. The one thing I would disagree with is your point that OWS is just about the redistribution of money. The Keystone XL Pipeline protests and much of the Occupy movement in the Washington DC area has been more environmental than economic. I also think the global climate crisis is driving much of the global movement for change, even if this is not always consciously recognized. I also believe OWS is about social justice, making a statement the importance of people over profit. Many of the Occupy camps feed and house the most destitute among us when all others have turned their backs. They embarrass the Democrats and Obama on this issue, in my opinion. They have only been to eager to sell out the poor and working classes in favor of Wall Street money and favor. I do not see OWS as a domestic dispute. I see it more as a global dispute where the people of the earth are pushing back against the ruling oligarchy of the global economy and the governments of the world they influence or control with their money. I think it is what 2012 is going to be all about. In that dispute, I know exactly which side I am on. I guess we will see soon enough.
rezzdog's picture
Bird, I like your comments and Native folks should be having more of this sort of discussion (away from the feuding parties), in order to, when the time is ripe, to present a more uniform and consistent message. I see your point about D.C.'s focus being environmental, but environment is economics in the Native cosmology, but not, however, in the western sense. I maintain it is a domestic dispute. Even your comments exclude all nations but Obama's. Policy and paradigm changes in a centralized culture, such as the U.S., must come from the centralized economic and policy centers in order to be effective. OWS is not protesting to gain more support, they protest to change minds and policy. That sounds pretty domestic to me. Anyway, I enjoy the discussion and exchange of views like this, it is what we at ICTMN are all about. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Ray Cook, ICTMN Op/Ed Editor