The “Tree of Peace”
by Madeline (Mattie) Schmitt
The Tree of Peace, depicted in the drawing by John Fadden (Mohawk, Six Nations Museum, reprinted here with permission), has its origin in the legend of the Peacemaker, described so well in the Iroquois Book of Life: White Roots of Peace by Paul Wallace. The Tree of Peace drawing shows the weapons, including the Evil Mind, of the warring nations of the Iroquois [Haudenosaunee] buried under a white pine tree, a symbol of the formation of the Confederacy at Onondaga, when the nations agreed to stop warring against each other. As White Roots of Peace explains, peace was not just the absence of war; it was the Law. The word for “peace” was the same as for “the Law.” Peace is “a way of life, characterized by wisdom and graciousness” [White Roots of Peace, p. 27]. Other symbols in the drawing convey elements of this way of life: shelter under the tree’s branches, four roots extending in all directions to embrace people who wanted to follow a way of a life of peace, power and the Good Mind, and an eagle at the top of the Tree to watch over this way of life, poised to defend it. This was the message of the Peacemaker, captured in the symbol.
A number of years ago, at NYYM Summer Sessions at Silver Bay, Chief Jake Swamp (Mohawk) planted a Tree of Peace in the circle by the Inn. Although Chief Jake Swamp passed into the spirit world in 2010, and the Tree of Peace Society established by him to plant “peace trees” widely has also faded away, the Tree of Peace is a living symbol of the Confederacy’s way of life. It speaks, also, to Quakers fundamental spiritual grounding. May the Tree of Peace continue to grow and spread its roots in all directions.
See thetrackingproject.org/native-communities/remembering-jake-tekaronianeken-swamp/ and search for “Tree of Peace Society” on wikipedia.