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Peace Walker: The Legend of Hiawatha and Tekanawita    by C. J. Taylor order for
Peace Walker
by C. J. Taylor
Order:  USA  Can
Tundra, 2014 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though on first glance, it looks like a picture book, its detailed text and the information conveyed make C. J. Taylor's Peace Walker: The Legend of Hiawatha and Tekanawita more suitable for an older audience. Taylor, who has a Mohawk heritage, tells the story of the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy of Five Nations, which influenced the foundation of later democracies.

The story starts with the migration of the five Iroquois nations (Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca and Mohawk) north to settle around the Great Lakes, where they had to pay homage to the Adirondack nation. They later escaped the rule of the Adirondack to settle territory around the Oswego river. They lived at peace initially but then 'warring became a way of life'. A cruel sorceror, Chief Atotarho came to power - a skin walker, he could transform into a giant serpent.

When Chief Hiawatha spoke up for peace, Atotarho watched to see other disloyal individuals revealed. Hiawatha called for 'One mind. One spirit. One people' to counter Atotarho, but the giant serpent was too much for them. The elders consulted the great Seer who spoke of a Huron from the north, with 'peace in his heart', who must come together with Hiawatha. To make this happen, an evil shaman killed his seven beloved daughters one by one. Hiawatha left and did not look back.

Gentle Huron Tekanawita was prophesied to do great things at his birth. He travelled to the Mohawk territories where he had to prove himself before he was allowed to meet Hiawatha. Together they spoke of a Great Peace and proposed a confederacy, each nation represented by 'chiefs of great virtue, honesty, and patience', selected by the women of the clan. They healed Atotarho 'and the Great Peace was upon them all.'

At the back of the book, the author summarizes the history of the Iroquois Confederacy, that the People of the Longhouse trace back 'more than 1,500 years, making it one of the oldest continuous forms of government and one of the oldest democracies on Earth.' She tells us that Iroquois law remains unchanged to this day. It's a remarkable account, enhanced by spectacular illustrations, well worth reading.

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