Tag Archives: Haudenosaunee

Elshender:A Tale of a Poor Man

Artwork by Billy Frank Alexander

Artwork by Billy Frank Alexander


‘I will tell you how my ancestors in the spirit world first encountered the white man and had no reason to fear him for he needed protection and so we protected him. This land is good to people in the summer months but spring, autumn and winter can be hard. We teach the white man how to survive and we like what the white man brings with him. My ancestors saw a clever man in the white man and were happy to learn from him. The white man was happy to learn from my ancestors but then they grow tired and think that they know better. Conflict starts and the white man and Ongweh’onweh start to see things different. More white man come and build settlements for the white man on lands that my ancestors have lived on for a long time. We natives are no longer welcome in our own land. This is how the Six Nations begins because we seek peace with the white man – not war. We are happy to share our land for there is room for all but white man does not want to share. Together our brothers and sisters are strong and the white man finds it hard to treat us bad and take more of our lands. They still want to find ways to treat us bad but our unity keeps us safe. Long ago the six nations fight against each other as separate tribes and peace did not exist between us. Then the Peacemaker came and set out on his journey and met Hayo’wetha – you might know him as Hiowatha?’

Elshender: A Tale of a Poor Man


A few of the other passengers moved slowly away sensing that they were in the midst of a mad man and this helped to filter out some of the din from their ceaseless yapping. The water had lost the briny-waft that he’d begun to grow sick of during the weeks he’d spent aboard the Roderick. He was now able to smell the land around him. Trees were being burnt somewhere. Somewhere else, grass had been freshly cut. The water below him gave off a pungent, sweet aroma. His own bodily sweat mingled with these. Animal manure, be it horse, cow or whatever else lived on this land, made its presence known. The noise of the birds echoed from the trees on the river’s banks. Small animals darted in and out of the water as the swell from the boat pushed up to them and broke against the banks. Light reflecting ripples on the water gave away the presence of fish picking at food on its surface. The thwack of timber being cut in the distance could just about be heard as the steady pulse accompanying all the other sights, sounds and smells.

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