WORDS FOR WAUSAU EVENT COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS OF WOMEN’S RIGHT TO VOTE
Sheku Sk^n^ko.ka/Hello, Are you in the Peace.
Yaw^ko Thank you to Dorthy Miller for inviting me to speak and to Carolyn Michaski who helped me decide on a topic.
Haudenosaunee People – Longhouse People refers to five, later six, Indigenous Nations who shared a matrilineal culture and a language group and came together as a powerful representative democracy here on Anowalko Owe.no.te/Turtle Island/North America, before the discovery and colonization of the continent. The Haudenosaunee or Longhouse People is the name we call ourselves. Many of you may know us as the Iroquois, though that name was given us by French colonists. The Haudenosaunee homelands are centered in upstate New York and along the border into Canada. The five sovereign Nations of the original League of the Haudenosaunee are West to East: Seneca/ Cayuga/ Onondaga/ Oneida/ Mohawk. In 1723, the Tuscaroras moved North to escape pressure from colonizers and sought protection under the branches of the Tree of Peace. Making the Haudenosaunee a confederacy of Six Nations.
The Oneida of Wisconsin moved from New York in two waves in the 1820’s. We are Haudenosaunee People – our traditional ways are Longhouse traditions.
Haudenosaunee People provided models for the women who organized the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY in July of 1848. “A convention to discuss the social, civil and religious condition and rights of Woman.” Among the organizers was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who insisted that the right to vote must be included and boldly stated “We hold this truth self evident; that all men and women are created equal.” As an Oneida woman I was taught that all human life comes into the world through woman and she is therefore the center of our culture. Because a woman values all her children, the roles for children of both genders are equally important. We all have an equal voice in this matrilineal structure.
Lucretia Mott, a Quaker minister, was a strong force for abolition and the other main organizer of the event.
In 1852, they were joined in Syracuse, NY, by Susan B. Anthony and Matilda Joslyn Gage, an author and newspaper editor, who often wrote articles about her Haudenosaunee friends and neighbors. When women in New York State began to organize for their rights, they took their cue from their Indigenous neighbors. Haudenosaunee women ignited the revolutionary vision of early feminists by providing a model of freedom and agency. Euro-American women were inspired by Native women’s control of their bodies, that they owned the land, that they participated in religions ceremonies, that they had custody of their children through the Mother line, that they engaged in satisfying work such as raising corn, beans and squash, and they lived in an environment devoid of rape or domestic violence.
Early feminists were amazed to see that Clan Matrons raised up the chiefs, held them responsible in position and removed them if necessary. Finally, it was stunning that both Men’s Council and Women’s Council consulted one another about concerns and each had equal voice in decision making.
“Matilda Joslyn Gage was adopted into the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk Nation, and was given the Mohawk name “Ka-ron-ien-ha-wi,” Sky Carrier. “This name would admit me into the Council of Matrons, where a vote would be taken as to my having a voice in (deciding) the chieftainship,” Gage wrote [in 1893]. The same year Gage was arrested for voting in a school board election in her hometown of Cicero in Onondaga County, New York. While offered the possibility of decision-making rights in her adopted nation, Gage was arrested for voting in her own community!” writes Sally Roesch Wagner, author of Sisters In Spirit – Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists.
Stanton, Gage and Anthony wrote several volumes of the History of Woman Suffrage. The way was long. Seventy-two years passed before the 19th Amendment became law. None of them lived to see it happen.
Sojourner Truth joined the women’s movement in 1851, her children are fighting hard for equality in our streets today.
We are the right people to take up the challenges for racial and gender justice, today. We are who is here and now and ready to embrace the challenges we face now. Let us listen to one anothers’ voice and create a better world for all of the future faces that are coming. Working together let us heal the wounds of the past, advance all of the children of Mother Earth. Let us sustain Mother Earth and heal her wounds. We have a special challenge during this Pandemic to care for one another by wearing a mask and social distancing. We have a special challenge to protect the vote that those who came before us fought so hard and long to obtain. We are equal, sisters all. We are wise and caring and we are ready to do our part. Together we can bring back the circle of life to balance and unity.
Peace and Harmony, Love and Understanding to all.