Project Description

Haudeonsaunee history, philosophy, and food

The Earth to Tables Legacies Project has been honoured to have Rick W. Hill Sr. as an advisor.  A Tuscarora of the Beaver clan, Rick is an artist, historian, writer and curator living at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, in so-called Ontario. He is the former Special Assistant to the Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Museum Director of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and project coordinator for Deyohahá:ge: Indigenous Knowledge centre at Six Nations, where he currently lives with his partner, Legacies collaborator Chandra Maracle, and his family.

Rick has created three videos of his power point presentations on the political and cultural history and current perspectives of the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy (French) or (in English) the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). The three videos include:

“Getting to Know Us”(15:34)

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).

“Living with Your Mother: The Great Dish” (15:01)

Through beautiful paintings, wampum belts, wooden and ceramic vessels, cradleboards and clothing, we learn more about the creation story, the original instructions, the Thanksgiving Address of greetings and thanks for all living things, and the ceremonies that honour these relationships.

The Great Dish with One Spoon Treaty offers a poignant lesson for all of us facing a global environmental crisis:
1) take only what you need, 2) share or leave something for others, 3) keep the dish clean.

With climate change, our ceremonies have to be strong enough to help us survive this change. Rather than look at the earth as a commodity, we have to realize the Earth is alive; she has expectations of us, and we have a responsibility to her.

“Life in the Longhouse”(24:19)

The Haudenosaunee are “people of the Longhouse”, a way of living under one roof, a metaphor for life. Rick suggests the longhouse reflects the characteristics of the culture: its clan-based system, matrilineal descent, cooperation, respectfulness, and peacefulness.

Haudenosaunee villages remained sustainable by moving every few years in an economy based on hunting, gathering and cultivating through mound agriculture (exemplified by the three sisters).   Rick shows us evidence of a tremendous biodiversity of corn, of beans, of squash, a diversity that has been lost in the industrial food system and in our diets.

This video offers very practical information about the planting, harvesting, and cooking of traditional Haudenosaunee food. We also see the centrality of gathering nutritious foods such as mushrooms, berries, nuts (and their essential oils).

Ultimately these tasks were shared, so that different families would bring different skills and foods to a cooperative living within the longhouse. Rick concludes that this should not be seen as a thing of the past, but rather as a way of life in the future.