Local News

October 21, 2010

Many recall Mohawk chief's legacy

Jake Swamp's drive, humility remembered




In 1984, Swamp established the Tree of Peace Society to promote the teachings of Skennenrahawi, "The Peacemaker," who established the Haudenosaunee Confederacy nearly 1,000 years ago.

Swamp planted hundreds of Peace Trees around the planet. In doing so, he modeled "The Peacemaker," who planted the white pine, the Tree of Peace, beneath which the weapons of war were buried.


Singer-songwriter Roy Hurd first met Swamp on a storytelling program. He wrote a song, "Bear, Turtle, Wolf: May It All Come To Be," for Tom Porter, Fadden and Swamp. The song's title references each man's familial clan.

On Hurd's "Forever Wild" CD, Swamp is the speaker on the older version of "Night Visit."

"It's really easy to see how many people Jake has touched," said Hurd, who attended the funeral. "It's a pretty significant person when people come from near and far to honor your passing as a witness. It says a lot about the man.

"Each person will remember Jake in his own way. Jake was an ambassador and passionate speaker about the people, Mother Earth and bringing that message to the people. Jake has never wavered from that path ever."


Don and Vivian Papson accompanied their teacher, Domingo Dias Porta, founder of the Movement of the American Indigenous Solar Cultures and rector of the Solar Order of Chichan Itzaab, on a visit to Swamp in the 1980s.

"He (Swamp) never said no," Mr. Papson said. "Whenever he was called upon, he responded. He had a sense of humor, and when he started praying, he connected. Through him, we were all connected to something much greater than ourselves."

Recalling Swamp's funeral, Mrs. Papson remarked on the oral tradition and its power even to a non-Mohawk speaker. The mourners were packed tight as a drum and silent during the hours-long condolence ceremony.

"This is a demonstration of a great man and what he means to people," Mrs. Papson said. "He was one of the first to have a truly global vision."

"Where Two Skies Come Together" is the English translation of Swamp's Mohawk name, Tekaronianeken.

"Wherever he went, he did that," Mr. Papson said. "He was bringing unity from here to wherever he went. We were happy we were able to send him to Ecuador. René (Burl) said when he started the Tree of Peace Society, one day he had a vision of people dressed in white with red sashes. That was in Ecuador. His vision was fulfilled."

Plattsburgh residents Bonnie Bijeau and Burl accompanied Swamp on the Ecuadoran pilgrimage, led by Porta during a June solstice celebration held in the High Andes.

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