Getting to Know Us

Haudenosaunee Primer Video #1

Digging In
Digging In: Facilitating Dialogue and Action
Key Themes and Terms
Catalyzing Connections
Decoding Questions
  • Description: What stories are told? How did you feel reading them?
  • Personal Connection: How can you connect this story to your personal experience or stories in your family?
  • Common Themes: What social issues/themes are raised in these stories? Is there a common issue shared across contexts?
  • Social Analysis: What are the historical and social processes that created this situation?
  • Planning for Action: What can be done? How does this inspire me to change my actions?
Specific Questions
  • This video is presented as a dating game. What did you learn that you did not know before? How would you answer each of the same questions?
  • What was the geographic reach of the Iroquois Confederacy historically? How and why has it been reduced?
  • “Our ancestors are buried in this land…our memory is connected to our memory.” How is this relationship to the land similar to or different from your connection to where you live?
  • What impact did the residential schools have on children in the U.S. and Canada?
  • How are longhouses different from the homes we live in today?
  • How do ceremonies and song connect people to the Earth and to each other? How are those songs different from contemporary music?
  • What did the Peacemaker and Hiawatha offer to the confederacy? In what form did they communicate the Great Law of Peace?
  • How have the Haudenosaunee defended their treaty and sovereign rights? What strategies have they used?
  • How was the historical treaty-making process with colonizers both problematic and healing? What are the meanings of the Two Row Wampum agreement and of the Covenant Chain? What is the status of these treaties today?
  • Why did Rick quit being an ironworker? How do the buildings ironworkers construct reflect a deep social contradiction?
  • What is the spirit of Haudenosaunee art, what values does it represent, both in the past and in the present?
  • How does the Haudenosaunee passport respond to the history of colonization?
  • What are the basic ideas of his Haudenosaunee ancestors that Rick would like to recover?
Hands-On Activities

Rick recalls the songs sung while pounding corn.  Ceremonies, songs and stories accompanied all aspects of the food cycle – whether for growing, gathering, hunting or fishing. Do group research on songs that relate to food activities in your area, and practice it together.

In the hunting practices of the Haudenosaunee, nothing of the animal was wasted. If your group includes carnivores, prepare a meal (or two or three) from a whole chicken. See how many different dishes you can make from the animal.

Intergenerational and Intercultural Dialogue

Use the dating game questions from the video to explore the diverse cultural histories within your group, either as dialogues in pairs or in a group circle.

What Indigenous groups live in your territory? What can you learn about its history and food practices? How would they answer Rick’s dating game questions?

Individual and Collective Action

Many of the core values and practices that Rick presents in this video were brutally attacked, prohibited, and disrupted through a process of cultural genocide led by colonial powers. Research that history in your own context. In Canada, learn about some of the efforts to defend the land and culture (such as the Oka crisis, Idle No More movement, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, land claims and pipeline protests, etc).

Continuing the Conversation
Continuing the Conversation
Patty Loew

Patty Loew, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern University and a professor in the Medill School of Journalism. A citizen of Mashkiiziibii  (Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe), Loew is a former broadcast journalist in public and commercial television and the author of four books.

Is there anyone who doesn’t love a good story? The Haudenosaunee have a cultural treasure in Rick Hill, who is a master storyteller. Watching Hill’s video reminded me of the stories my own Ojibwe uncles were forever telling my cousins and me. The stories were told so often that we knew them by heart.  They became cherished memories and with the passing of that generation we tell them to our own children as a way to connect them to our collective past.

Native people know the power of narrative and the beauty of circular storytelling.  Hill moves seamlessly between history, agriculture, spiritual beliefs, and environmental activism. Sovereignty underpins every story, from the meaning of the Two-Row Wampum and Chain of the Covenant to lacrosse and the Oka Standoff. So does gratitude and appreciation for beauty. Hill’s reverence for the traditional food of the Haudenosaunee people and the reciprocal relationship he sees between humans and seeds is clear in his stories.  There is kindness and humility in his voice.  This is the power of Native storytelling–of the oral tradition.  Could words on paper ever convey such cultural strength and texture?

I was particularly moved by the question, “What fictional place would you most like to go to? ‘The SkyWorld,’” Hill tells us and adds that he hopes it is not fictional. This—the oldest of his stories– gives us insights into Haudenosaunee values and how his people see themselves connected to all life. The oldest story affixes to the future—the ability of the Haudenosaunee to adapt to new ways. In closing he tells us he hopes that we will leave enriched.  We absolutely do.

Digging Deeper
Digging Deeper: Resources for Further Research and Action
Books and Articles
  • Coates, Ken. (2015). #IDLENOMORE: And the remaking of Canada. University of Regina Press.
  • Coulthard, Glen. (2014). Red skin, white masks: Rejecting the colonial politics of recognition. University of Minnesota Press.
  • The Kino-nda-niimi Collective. (2014). The winter we danced: Voices from the past, the future, and the idle no more movement. ARP Books.
  • Manuel, Arthur, & Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson. (2015). Unsettling Canada: A national wake-up call. Between the Lines
  • Monture, Rick. (2014). We share our matters: Two centuries of writing and resistance at Six Nations of the Grand River. University of Manitoba Press, 
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2016) A knock on the door: The essential history of residential schools. University of Manitoba Press in Collaboration with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The Earth to Tables Legacies collaborator Rick Hill has created three videos of his power point presentations introduce us to the history, philosophy and food legacies of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy (French) or (in English) the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). Watch the first video here:

Rick brings his special humour to the task of introducing the Haudenosaunee to settlers by adapting the typical questions of a dating game. Through this device, he weaves his personal story with the creation story, the original instructions, the construction of the Iroquois Confederacy, the treaties that still guide us, the impacts of colonization, forms of resistance, and the food practices all shared through various forms of artistic expressions (many of his own creations).