Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Hiawatha and the Peacemakers by Robbie Robertson
A FIERCE SCREAM ECHOED THROUGH THE WOODLANDS.
An eerie steam crept up from the ground, and the smell of burning pine filled the air
Everything I had ever known had been burned to the ground. My wife and three beautiful daughters had been killed.
Only one man was capable of such horror: the evil Chief Tadodaho.
The Mohawk warrior Hiawatha is filled with rage and vows revenge upon the enemy. But as he broods and schemes alone in the woods, he sees what seems to be a vision, a strange man paddling a white stone canoe up the river. Hiawatha challenges the interloper.
"I-I-I KNOW OF YOUR PAIN," THE MAN STAMMERED.
"I HAVE COME TO TELL YOU OF THE GREAT LAW: FIGHTING AMONG OUR PEOPLE MUST STOP. WE MUST COME TOGETHER AS ONE BODY, ONE MIND, AND ONE HEART.
PEACE, POWER, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL BE THE NEW WAY."
At first Hiawatha is doubtful. Tadodaho is very powerful and very cruel. But the Peacemaker's message begins to change his heart, and at last Hiawatha agrees to go and speak for him to the chief, elders, and the clan mothers of the Mohawk. But the War Chief cannot agree to disarm for fear of their enemies, especially Tadodaho and his fierce Ononadago warriors. So Hiawatha and the Peacemaker agree to go to the other tribes, the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Oneida, At each meeting Hiawatha tells of his pain at the deaths of his family and his angry desire for revenge, but his new understanding that revenge only creates more war and more death. One by one, the Cayuga, the Seneca, and the Oneida join Hiawatha and the Peacemaker.
But the War Chief of the Mohawks remains unconvinced.
THE PEACEMAKER LED US TO A TALLEST OAK BY THE MOHAWK RIVER.
"I WILL CLIMB THIS TREE AND YOUR MEN WILL CUT IT DOWN. BUT I WILL NOT PERISH.THEN YOU WILL KNOW THAT MY WORDS ARE TRUE."
And when the Clan Mothers and the War Chief find the Peacemaker downstream, miraculously safe by his fire, they agree to go with the peace party to see Tadodaho himself. They approach his secluded and heavily guarded dwelling.
A FIGURE APPEARED IN THE DOORWAY. HUNCHED OVER, WITHERED, AND TWISTED, TADODAHO WAS A HORRIFYING SIGHT. SICKNESS FROM THE EVIL WITHIN HAD TAKEN OVER HIS BODY, SCALES COVERED MUCH OF HIS SKIN, AND SNAKES SLITHERED FROM HIS HAIR. A FORKED TONGUE PRODUCED A HISSING SOUND.
But the Peacemaker begins singing a beautiful hymn and asks Hiawatha to make medicine to cure Todadaho, to give him forgiveness that will set them all free. When Tadodaho's voice returns, the Peacemaker approaches him:
THE PEACEMAKER PLACED HIS HANDS ABOVE HIS HEAD AND CHANTED.
TADODAHO LET OUT A SCREAM AND THE SNAKES SLITHERED FROM HIS HAIR.
Then the Peacemaker leads them all to the base of a tall pine.
"PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS MUST COME TOGETHER AS ONE. BENEATH THIS TREE WE SHALL BURY ALL OUR WEAPONS OF WAR. IT SHALL BE CALLED THE TREE OF PEACE."
Robbie Robertson's new Hiawatha and the Peacemaker (Abrams Books, 2015) relates the history of the treaty that united the Five Nations in a peace that lasted for centuries, telling it as one of the hero tales of Hiawatha, known to most of us from Longfellow's poem. A noted songwriter with the famous rock group The Band, Robertson turns his skills to relating the story he first heard as a part-Mohawk boy, and his retelling of this legend is dramatic and symbolic in its universality and its advocacy of the power of forgiveness to confront evil. Adding to the power of this portrayal are Caldecott artist David Shannon's (of No, David! fame), monumentally strong oil paintings of great power. Historical and author's notes add documentation for further information and a related music Cd is included. This book is a first purchase for library collections. As School Library Journal's starred review says, "Hiawatha and the Peacemaker adds a much-needed, authentic Native American voice to children’s literature. Its message of peace and Shannon’s incredible art make for a winning combination."
For another, more personal legend of forgiveness and peacemaking, share this one with Joseph Bruchac's gently beautiful Cherokee legend, The First Strawberries (Picture Puffins).