Land Where The Partridge Drums
A History of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation
In the Shadow of Serpents:
Trials and Tribulations of the Early 1800’s
Snakes for Allies
Written and illustrated by Darren Bonaparte
Akwesasne’s fighting men returned to their homes after the war and resumed the farming and hunting that they left behind, confident that their assistance to the residents of nearby Cornwall had earned them their respect. The French serpent’s rebellion had been put down and the wounded creature was licking its wounds once again, far from dead but definitely out of action for some time to come.
The victorious English serpent, not uncharacteristically, quickly forgot the promises made to its native allies. In the coming decades it would give birth to a new serpent, the nation of Canada, and slither back to its place of origin, confident that its child would protect its inheritance with honor. Unfortunate for Britain’s native allies, the new serpent, like its American older brother, ignored the treaties made by its parent and betrayed her allies with impunity. This ensured that the Mohawks and Haudenosaunee within Canada’s borders would have to carve out a new peace and a new relationship in the generations to come.
The King Without a Crown
In the last part of this work we saw how the ancient Mohawk Prophecy of the Silver and Gold Serpents symbolized the precarious relationship our ancestors tried to maintain amid the clash of colonial powers in North America. We left off with the return of our Mohawk men from the Patriote Rebellion in Quebec. The symbolic French serpent had “reawakened” for a time and lashed out at its new British “master,” the result being an outbreak of hostilities that caused considerable alarm for the Mohawks who lived in harm’s way, particularly at Kahnawake. The rebellion was put down with Mohawk help. In fact, sometimes just the threat of Mohawk help was enough to achieve victory. Either way, the serpent was defeated though not entirely destroyed. The last remnants of our love/hate relationship with the Great Onontio, ‘The Man On The Mountain” (our name for the King of France), were at that point quickly slipping into oblivion.
Our men returned home to resume their lives and rejoin their families. To burn off the rest of their adrenaline, they probably organized a few days of Tewaarathon, or lacrosse, and gave thanks that their casualties on the battlefield were few. Not long after that they resumed their fishing, hunting and gardening. Some of them went to work in the Adirondack logging camps, others sought work piloting boats through the tumultuous rapids of the St. Lawrence River, and a few even sought adventure in the West as fur trappers and voyageurs. Our Mohawk women continued to do what it is they usually did in times of war and
peace: everything else.
Next week: The King Without a Crown continues
By Darren Bonaparte, historian and author of The Wampum Chronicles. Reprinted with permission.
Darren Bonaparte is a cultural historian from the Akwesasne First Nation. He is a frequent lecturer at schools, universities, museums, and historical sites in the United States and Canada. He has written four books, several articles, and the libretto for the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s Aboriginal Visions and Voices. Darren is a former chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. He is the creator of The Wampum Chronicles and historical advisor to film and television. He currently serves as the Director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.