Saturday, February 14, 2009

Celebrating Turtle Island!

Here is a dress that was inspired by the local Turtle clan teachings I have heard about from meeting Mohawk/Haudenoshaunee locals.

With a west coast accent on this turtle, I am learning as a textile artist the power of oral teachings can be expressed through animal images.

Although, I may not come from a cultural background that offer teachings from the symbolic turtle, I still have much I can learn from respecting the variety of teachings animal symbols offer from other Aboriginal cultures from across the country.

Photo by Nadya Kwandibens


Donna Meness said...

This dress reminds me how textile art can preserve oral teachings. When I look at this turtle motif I am instantly reminded of the Iroquois creation story. It is a visual reminder of our beloved motherearth- we call Turtle Island, what settlers call North America.

Oral teachings are layered, highly metaphorical stories that pack a great deal of information into a very simple form.

Stories are powerful & are cared for by different clans & some can only be told during certain times of the year or certain seasons or by certain people or families ...

Textile art preserves oral teaching because they can be used as a mnemonic tool for storytellers.

Donna Meness
Algonquin Nation
Kitigan Zibi Anishnebeg Community
lifelongmember of

Donna Meness said...


Legend has it that the Spirit Doctors who predicted the arrival of the white man and the near destruction of the Red People also foretold the resurgence of the Indigenous people seven lifetimes after Columbus. According to the Haudenosaunee the current population is the seventh generation.

The Mohawk prophecy states that the Onkwehonwe would see the day when the elm trees would die; strange animals would be born deformed and without the proper limbs; huge stone monsters would tear open the face of the earth;. The rivers would burn; the air would burn the eyes of humans; the birds would fall from the sky; The fish would die in the water; And humans would grow ashamed of the way that they had treated their Mother and Provider, the Earth.

The Haudenosaunee draw their inspiration from the Gayaneshakgowa, the Great Law of Peace, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Providing wisdom to its people and the inspiration for their Nations constitution. The Gayaneshakgowa states: " our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

That idea embodies everything the Haudenosaunee believe: that the environment is only temporarily entrusted to them and their actions within and upon it will affect it well into the future....And so their name was chosen, a name that reflected not only their philosophy but their dream of restoring and protecting the earth for their children and all who would follow in their path.

Finally, after seven generations of living in close contact with the Europeans, the Onkwehonwe would rise up and demand that their rights and stewardship over the Earth be respected and restored.

Donna Meness said...

Chief Joagquisho (Oren Lyons), Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, and a Chief of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Haudenosaunee or "People of the Long House."

Chief Oren Lyons talks about the responsibility each generation bears to pass on a healthy planet to the “seventh generation” to come.

“No tree grows by itself. A tree is a community. Certain plants will gather around certain trees and certain medicines will gather around those certain plants, so that if you kill all the trees, if you cut all the trees, then you’re destroying a community. You’re not just destroying a tree, you’re destroying a whole community that surrounds it and thrives on it and that may be very important medicine for people or for animals. … If you replant the tree, you don’t replant the community - you replant the tree. So you’ve lost a community. And if you clear cut, which is what is happening in America and Canada a great deal these days, and I guess around the world, then you are really a destructive force.”