AKWESASNE — A big-homemade sign emblazoned with "Niaweh Jake" is a heartfelt thank-you to a humble, eloquent and spiritual man, the late Chief Jacob A. Swamp-Tekaronianeken of Akwesasne.
"That kind of summed it up," said John Kahionhes Fadden, who saw the sign after attending Swamp's funeral Monday on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation.
Fadden was among the 1,000 mourners at the condolence ceremony for Swamp at the Mohawk Nation Longhouse in Akwesasne.
Swamp, 68, who died Friday in Massena, was a Wolf Clan Mohawk diplomat, author, teacher, chief, husband, father, grandparent and great-grandparent.
"When someone dies, a speaker from an opposing clan speaks about life and death and how we all face it and how that life continues on," said Fadden, a retired Saranac Central School teacher and director of the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota.
"In this case, the speaker was Richard Cook of the Bear Clan. It's all in Mohawk."
The 100-by-40-foot longhouse could not hold all the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), Native Americans from other nations and non-natives assembled to honor Swamp.
The Haudenosaunee spiritual leader Tadodaho Sidney Hill of Onondago was present.
Fadden cannot ever remember not knowing Swamp.
"I watched Jake evolve into a world traveler, environmentalist and carrier of the tradition," Fadden said.
"He's done a tremendous amount of work. I think the momentum of what he has done will continue even though he is gone. It will continue because of his large family and the many people he has touched.
"It's a tremendous loss and so abrupt, immediate and unexpected. ... I just feel sorry for Judy (Swamp's wife). He's touched all of us."
Swamp was a member of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs for more than 30 years. Globally, he shared his knowledge and the wisdom teachings of the Haudenosaunee.