The Many Things Mohawk I have Learned

My husband is Native Mohawk from upstate New York. Over the years I have learned many things that intrigue and interest me. I want to share a few of these with you.

* * *

There is no Mohawk word in his clan for goodbye. The closest is "dokshaw" (and I am not spelling this correctly) which means (loosely) "Later."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because we always hope to see our friends again. We don't recognize the word goodbye."

* * *


The Tree of Peace is a tall white pine that has been planted by the Onondaga, representing the great binding law which unified the five Nations. The cardinal points for north, south, east, and west are represented by four white roots growing from the Tree of Peace. The number four has great significance in Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) lore. Four also represents the four winds that blow. An eagle sits atop the tree of peace, watching over the five Nations, ready to cry out at the first sign of approaching danger. The eagle is considered to be a messenger sent by the Creator. The next symbol is that of a circle, representing unity and the cycle of life. According to Haudenosaunee lore, the Peace Maker made the Iroquois chiefs gather around the Tree of Peace, forming a circle by holding hands in order to keep the peace. The next symbol is a bundle of five arrows, each representing one of the five founding tribes of the Iroquois League. The Peace Maker demonstrated that one arrow could easily be broken, while a bundle five would remain strong.

All life is believed to have come from the Sky World, which is represented as a dome, or arch. In addition to the Tree of Peace, the Haudenosaunee often make references to the Celestial Tree, from which all lights in the Sky World originate. The Earth itself is represented by Turtle Island a giant turtle whose carapace features thirteen plates, each of which represent one of thirteen moons that make up an entire year. North-America (Mother Earth) is often represented as a turtle.

* * *

He speaks of "seeing thunder and hearing lightning".
"Don't you mean HEARING thunder and SEEING lightning?" I ask.
When you are in tune, even those things that are silent speak to you.
Even those things that are seemingly invisible can be seen.
I've thought about that a lot.
A beautiful thing to consider.

He often says, "There is a lesson in the leaf of every tree and every blade of grass has a story to tell." What I've learned is that even seemingly inanimate objects in this world have a spirit.

LISTEN. See what the Universe is saying to you at this very moment.

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He is an artist and author and many years ago, he dotted (he does pointillism) a piece titled "Living Spirit", shown at the top of this post. Here is his story that goes with this piece:
All things in life, whether animate or inanimate, have a spirit and these spirits speak to those who have the ears to hear. For the one who is able to hear this voice, the world and everything in it becomes a living, breathing being and things take on a life of their own.

There is a lesson in the leaf of every tree and every blade of grass has a story to tell. It is for each of us to learn to listen and hear this voice so that we may learn from the earth.

In "Living Spirit", the inanimate comes alive and the spirit screams its message to the old one who respectfully listens to its voice.
* * *

I hope I will learn to listen. To hear.
To hear the lessons of other cultures and incorporate them into my own.

...I hope you've enjoyed these tidbits from my husband, Ralph P. Brown.
To see more of his artwork, visit


Connie Baum said...

I understand from Ralph that in the Indian tradition our BREATH is sacred. The Creator gives us breath, and the Creator can take it away.

This makes it clear that what we say and how we use that breath, is sacred.

When I was little, I never learned what was really sacred in Sunday it because I did not listen?

Perhaps I was busy SPEAKING?

Thank you for these little mini lessons. Give Ralph our love.

Mother Connie