Tree of Peace

Tree of Peace on Observatory Hill at UW–Madison This post is a reminder that the Tree of Peace on our campus is here to encourage unity and environmental stewardship. The tree provides us comfort, so please visit the tree if you need support.

The Tree of Peace on Observatory Hill at UW–Madison was planted in 1988 by Mohawk Elder Tekaronianeken (Jake Swamp, or Where Two Skies Meet Together), Wolf Clan and former sub-chief of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Tekaronianeken gave a prayer to the Tree of Peace when it was planted, reminding us about caring for one another and caring for the environment.

Separately, below is a Thanksgiving message shared by Jake Swamp in his book “Giving Thanks – a Haudenosaunee Good Morning Message.” When I would take 3rd and 4th grade classes to the Tree of Peace on Observatory Hill, I would share the message for why the tree was planted and read Jake Swamp’s message of giving thanks.

Peace Tree and marker Autumn 2021 The tree of peace is White Pine, the symbol for the Iroquois Constitution, known as “the great law of peace.” According to oral tradition, the leaders of the Iroquois Confederacy planted a white pine after its founding in the 15th century. Jake Swamp founded the Tree of Peace Society to spread peace among all peoples. As reported, he explained, “Many years ago, man depended on his own judgement and strayed away from the original instruction, giving birth to greed, jealousy, warfare and destruction.” He wanted people to return to their roots, for “when the creator made the world, he intended people to always live at peace with one another.”

The white pine is the living symbol of the great law of peace, the foundation for the Iroquois Constitution. The white pine, once used to unite the warring five Iroquois nations, marked “our willingness to work together for peace and protection.” At one tree of peace planting [not at UW], Chief Swamp closed the ceremony by encouraging each person to toss a pebble around the newly planted tree, symbolic of throwing aside feelings of hatred and prejudice. “We are teaching the young children to gather their minds as one and direct their thoughts to the earth,” he declared. “This tree will grow tall and straight, one heart, one direction. Our people will live together and make ourselves a symbol of peace.”

In October of 1988, The U.S. Senate passed a Concurrent Resolution to “acknowledge the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy ofNations to the development of the United States Constitution and to reaffirm the continuing government-to-government relationship between Indian tribes and the United States established in the Constitution.”

Chief Jake Swamp passed away in 2010, and the Tree of Peace at UW-Madison turned 32 years old in 2020. From his obituary, “When Skennenrahawi (the Peacemaker) established the Haudenosaunee Confederacy nearly 1000 years ago he set standards for leadership which were embodied in Tekaronianeken.”

Ó:nen ki wáhi.

Giving Thanks – a Haudenosaunee Good Morning Message

By Jake Swamp, Tekaronianeken (Where Two Skies Meet Together)
Wolf Clan, sub-chief of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation

The words are based on the Thanksgiving Address, an old ways message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants.  These words are still spoken at ceremonial and governmental gatherings held by the Six Nations – Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora.  Children, too, are taught to greet the world each morning by saying thank you to all living things.  They learn that according to Six Nations traditions, people everywhere are embraced as family.  Our diversity, like all the wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.

Akweton onkwesona entitewatkawe ne kanonhweratonhtsera.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne lethinisthenha Ohontsia.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Ohnekashona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Ohonteshona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Kakhwashona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Ononhkwashona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Kontirio.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Karontashona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Otisitenokona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Kaieri Nikawerake.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Ratiweras.

Teniethinonhwaraton ne Ahsonhthenhneka Karahkwa.

Tentshitewanonhweraton ne Otsistohkwashona.

Teiethinonhwaraton ne Kaieri Niionkwetake.

Tentshitewanonhweraton ne Shonkwaiatison.


Giving Thanks – a Haudenosaunee Good Morning Message (English translation)

To be a human being is an honor, and we offer thanksgiving for all the gifts of life.

Mother Earth, we thank you for giving us everything we need.

Thank you, deep blue waters around Mother Earth, for you are the force that takes thirst away from all living things.

We give thanks to green grasses that feel so good against our bare feet, for the cool beauty you bring to Mother Earth’s floor.

Thank you, good foods from Mother Earth, our life sustainers, for making us happy when we are hungry.

Fruits and berries, we thank you for your color and sweetness.  We are thankful to good medicine herbs, for healing us when we are sick.

Thank you, all the animals of the world, for keeping our precious forests clean.  All the trees in the world, we are thankful for the shade and warmth you give us.

Thank you, all the birds in the world, for singing your beautiful songs for all to enjoy.

We give thanks to you, gentle Four Winds, for brining clean air for us to breathe from the four directions.

Thank you Grandfather Thunder Beings, for bringing rains to help all living things grow.

Elder Brother Sun, we send thanks for shining your light and warming Mother Earth.

Thank you Grandmother Moon, for growing full every month to light the darkness for children and sparkling waters.

We give thanks, twinkling stars, for making the night sky so beautiful and for sprinkling morning dew drops on the plants.

Spirit Protectors of our past and present, we thank you for showing us ways to live in peace and harmony with one another.

And most of all, thank you, Great Spirit, for giving us these wonderful gifts, so we will be happy and healthy every day and every night.