ASESHATE:KA'TE GRIEF SERVICES
A Non-Profit Organization
Akwesasne, Ontario, Canada & Akwesasne, New York, USA
How the Clan System Developed
By Jake Swamp
When the people were made aware of the process of death, they weren’t made aware of how to lessen their grief stricken hearts. Therefore, in those times of great turmoil the people in the village continued to be in sorrow. In the night time when they were in their resting places, one could hear the weeping coming from different lodges. We must go to our elder and ask him why is it that we cannot come out of our sorrowful feelings?
They went as a group as they had done before and posed the question to him. He responded to them by describing a young man who had the name Ronikonhrowanen. You must go to where he lives he should be able to find out what you are to do in regard to your feelings of sadness. When they arrived at his lodge the people proceeded to ask the question about why they could not get rid of their sad feelings caused by the passing of those that were dear to them. This indeed is a very challenging question, perhaps you should allow me some time to think. The people returned to their homes to await the news of what he would find in the way of an answer. The next morning he sent word for all of the people to gather at his residence.
When all of the people were congregated at his residence he told them that he had made a plan. This is what shall happen, he suggested. We the people who are assembled here will travel together until we arrive at the great river, there I will reveal the plan that has been brought to my attention by the Great Spirit. When they arrived at the great river he addressed them as a group. First, he spoke to all of the oldest women in their assembly. He said the plan calls for each one of you, the oldest ones of the women to prepare themselves for the morning customary chores.
We will camp here by this river tonight and I ask that one half of the people shall cross to the other side using the giant tree that has fallen over to serve as a bridge. When you arrive on the other side of the river, proceed to establish your camp fires. He than gave the women their instructions, tomorrow as the sun is rising you will go to the river according to custom to fetch your water in preparation for your meal. Each one of you women will report back to me as to the first sign of life that presents itself as you’re dipping for your water. Both sides abided by the plan and settled in for the night with camp fires burning on both sides of the great river.
During the late night time a very treacherous storm emerged with a powerful vengeance. The bolts of lightening, thunder, and high winds were mixed with sheets of rain that caused the river to rise overflowing its banks. During the storm the tree that served as their bridge was washed away by the flood waters and the people were trapped on the other side. By morning everything had quieted down and the women on both sides went faithfully to their task of fetching water from the great river.
For the ones trapped on the other side were now exhibiting feelings of a terrible loss. They shared feelings of entrapment and frustration. Ronikohnrowanen stood next to a tall tree that had a grape vine wrapped on it to the very top. He labored for a time unraveling the vine and finally rolling it into a circle he threw it with all his strength across the river where it caught on the other side. This being done, the people who were trapped on the other side were able to come back and join with the rest. When all of the people were together again he asked all of the different women to describe what they had seen as the first sign of life as they were dipping for their water.
Each woman came forward and described what life form she saw as she was dipping for her water. Some described a deer, wolf, turtle, bear, hawk, snipe, eel and beaver, as the first form of life. Than he gave each of the women their instruction on how it will work. Now each of you women will now identify with the first sign of life you saw when you were dipping for your water. This will be your identity for all time to come in the future, all of the female children that are born in your family line will always carry on this identity. This will be known as a clan family uterine string that will go on forever.
Now Ronikohnrowanen said it is evident that you’re all suffering from grief caused by your losses in the past. This is what we shall do. We will place half of you on each side of the river and you shall have equal stature. The experience of losing your loved ones has affected your future. Now you the families of the different clans, it shall be your duty to reach out with a helping hand if you see your cousins on the other side of the river suffering a great loss. Each of you who represent the clan family lines on both sides of the river will carry this responsibility for all time to come.
The Creator of all life designed the earth we live in. Perhaps it would make you feel worse if the earth itself would stop producing those things we need to exist. Would it not be worse if there were no more grass growing on earth? What if the sun stopped shining and no longer gave warmth?
You will look about you and realize that life still continues to exist and nothing has changed. Give thanks then to all of the living forces each and everyday and be comforted by its continued gifts of life.