Presented by Roy Cook
The Iroquois are one of the largest Native American tribes in history.
As you may already know the Iroquois Confederacy is made up of six Indian
Nations: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora.
The Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony is in either January or February depending
on the moon cycle. When the new moon appears the spiritual year begins
and five days after, the ceremony starts. The celebration lasts 9 days
with a lot of traditional events, as well as choosing new council members
for the next year.
Each tribe celebrates a little differently. The usual custom is to first
begin with a "Stirring of the Ashes" ceremony to symbolize thanks
for all the blessings bestowed during the previous year. There is also
a public naming event where all the children who were born that year are
given their Indian names.
The two traditional
Indian celebrations for this season are The Bear Dance and the Feather
Dance. The Bear Dance is a dance to curing medical problems. Both men
and women participate in the dance which somewhat resembles the actions
of an actual bear. This Bear dance can be performed publicly or privately
for a sick person to cure them of their problems and any misfortunes that
have had over the past year. The Feather Dance is a more cheerful dance
to bring in the New Year.
One of the highlights of the Midwinter Ceremony used to be what was called
The White Dog Sacrifice. It is no longer done! Instead today, instead
of a dog, they use a white basket. The Midwinter Ceremony ends with a
speaker who gives a brief thanksgiving address. It is also at this time
that the new council members are introduced to the crowd at the longhouse.
The rest of the tribe's members are now purified and released from the
burden of their dreams. And a new year is now welcomed.
The Peach Game is often played around this time to predict the success
of next year's harvest of fruits and vegetables. Supposedly based off
of a game played by "The Creator" and his evil brother as they
competed with each other during the creation of the earth, it symbolizes
the good luck that he has given to mankind.
Six peach stones (peach seeds smoothed to an oval shape) are either burnt
or blackened on one side. Then they are put into a bowl and shaken. It
is a game of chance a lot like dice, or flipping a coins heads or tails,
and works similarly to a fortune teller. It's played in two teams and
beans are used as points. The first team to lose all of their points looses
the match. Men usually play against women. One clan can play against another
clan. The game can go on for as long as two days! Bets are often placed
also on who will win.
Gaming has long been a tradition in most Native American tribes. Most
other Americans only are aware of the gaming changes and casinos since
the 1980s. The six Nations have entered into the modern form of
gaming to their benefit in many cases.
In 1988, Congress formally recognized but limited the right of Native
Americans to conduct gaming operations with the passage of the Indian
Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). States lobbied vigorously for IGRA and for
the compacting provisions over tribal objections. The IGRA requires tribes
to negotiate with states concerning games to be played and regulation
while it ensures that tribal governments are the sole owners and primary
beneficiaries of gaming, and legislatively recognizes tribal gaming as
a way of promoting economic development for tribes.
Since the passage of IGRA, states have continually challenged IGRA, not
satisfied with their role in negotiating with Tribes as separate and equal
sovereigns and have demanded more regulatory control. Thus, as the Tribes
are beginning to build infrastructure, schools, hospitals and roads, states
also demand access to the tribes' gaming revenues. Even the National Indian
Gaming Commission (NIGC), which regulates specific forms of gaming, can
infringe on tribes' rights as it promulgates regulations. Over the years,
several tribes have initiated court cases charging states with "bad
faith" negotiation under IGRA, as well as to fight NIGC's regulations.
Some have won, others lost.
Indian Nations are currently meeting with members of Congress and various
state representatives to address concerns and look for ways to continue
an economic development tool that benefits Indian and non-Indian people
Tribes realize that the success of gaming is not an end in itself. Rather,
it is a bridge to help regain what was once ours long ago -- true self-respect,
self determination and economic self-sufficiency. Many tribes are looking
beyond gaming and diversifying their economic base with other businesses.
The skills and resources tribes are amassing in gaming will help assure
our future and our children's future.