In an ancient time, the Haudenosauneewere ruled by warfare and anarchy, and people lived in fear and hunger, preyed upon by powerful warriors and tyrants.
One day, a canoe made of white stone carried a man, born of a virgin, across Onondaga Lake to announce the good news of peace had come, and killing and violence would end. “Peace,” he said, “is the desire of the Holder of the Heavens. Peace comes when people adopt the Creator’s mind, which is reason.”
For years The Peacemaker traveled teaching the Path of Peace—that “all people love one another and live together in peace.” One by one he convinced each person, village and nation to accept his teaching. Hiawatha, an Onondaga, was his spokesman.
At last, all the people gathered at Onondaga Lake for the first Grand Council of the United Nations. There, The Peacemaker transmitted The Great Law of Peace—instructions to form a society and government based on liberty, dignity and harmony.
The White Pine—with five needles clasped as one—became symbol of Five Nations united as one confederacy. Peacemaker uprooted a white pine, exposing a deep cavern with a river at its bottom. He told warriors to cast weapons into this hole and the river carried the tools of war deep in the Earth.
Replanting the white pine, The Peacemaker said, “To bury the hatchet signifies the end of war, killing and violence.” We have remembered these words to this day.
“The Tree of Peace,” Peacemaker explained, “has four white roots extending to Earth’s four corners. Anyone who desires peace can follow the roots to their source and find shelter under the great tree.”
Atop the White Pine sits Eagle-that-sees-far to be ever vigilant to sound alarm when evil threatens. The Great Peace endured for centuries before Europeans came to the New World.
The story doesn’t end there.
On June 11, 1776 Haudenosaunee “forest diplomats” attended a Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Congress President John Hancock welcomed them as “brothers,” recognizing the long and friendly dialog between colonials and Haudenosauneeon freedom, law, democracy, and government.
The Onondaga chief who led the Haudenosaunee ambassadors bestowed on John Hancock the name “Karandawan“, meaning “Great Tree.” For decades Iroquois had counseled colonists in the art of union, urging them to unite.
Three weeks later, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and a new democracy was born.
This is how the Tree of Peace became a symbol of an emerging United States government. White Pine became the Liberty Tree displayed on colonial flags. Eagle-that-sees-far became the American Eagle, still a symbol of American government today. In the Peacemaker Legend five arrows were bundled together to represent the strength through unity. Today, on the U.S. Great Seal, the American Eagle clutches a bundle of thirteen arrows, representing the original colonies. American government was patterned after the Haudenosaunee.
As Tree of Peace, the White Pine is a unique symbol of government rooted in the Natural World, not human cleverness or power. Like the Old World’s Christ and Mohammed, Peacemaker was a New World spiritual messenger come to fulfill a Divine Plan.
As White Pine roots in the Earth, the Great Peace expresses a view that Law and Government are expressions of natural order. To the Haudenosaunee, Peace is Law—they use the same word for both concepts. Peace is also religion—marriage of spirituality with politics, Righteousness and Justice. It’s no abstract idea, but a way of life based on wisdom, graciousness and respect for Mother Earth and “all our relations.