STRAWBERRIES, THE IROQUOIS, AND MY STRAWBERRY SOCIALISM [HUNTER GRAY/ HUNTER BEAR 5/28/02] ADDED NOTE 5/10/05
Multicultural matters: racism, cultural ethnocentrism, exploitation, solidarity, strength [Hunter Bear 6/28/02]
STRAWBERRIES, THE IROQUOIS, AND MY STRAWBERRY SOCIALISM [HUNTER GRAY 5/28/02]
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
While I try [believe it or not] to avoid overposting, there are reasons
why I [and Maria] believe this should now be again put forth.
I made this post three years ago -- and I repost it now for the first time.
In addition to the validity -- as I see it -- of Strawberry Socialism, there
have recently been a few misconceptions offered here and there on
the very valid and honorable Longhouse Religion. This is the non-Christian
and basically traditional religion of many Iroquois people in the
Six Nations Confederacy. Its rejuvenation with new vigor and
viability began with the great work of the Seneca prophet,
Handsome Lake, more than two hundred years ago.
Among the many solid references on the Longhouse Religion and
Handsome Lake are:
1] Parker on the Iroquois, by William Fenton, Syracuse University
Press, 1969. This is a compilation of the many important works of the
great Seneca ethnologist, Arthur C. Parker. Much of this involves
the Longhouse religion.
2] For much on Arthur Parker's career, including that of Native
rights organizer, see Hazel Hertzberg, The Search for an American
Indian Identity: Modern Pan Indian Movements, Syracuse University
3] The Death and the Rebirth of the Seneca, by Anthony F.C.
Wallace, Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.
Yesterday, in the very early morning hours,
following Michael's thoughtful
and cordial posts on Vanilla Socialism and related matters [on Redbadbear],
I made my own post thusly:
"How about Strawberry Socialism? [Strawberries, BTW, and very much
strawberry juice, are a very important nourishing essence among the
Iroquois. Strawberry Moon: June.] " [Hunter Bear]
There was more to that than I let on.
I've eaten strawberries -- whenever available -- pretty consistently since I
And there've been a number of occasions over the years where I've made
reference to "Strawberry Socialism" as a very unique Native synthesis --
with a base in tribal communalism and its ethos of tribal [mutual]
responsibility. And the colour of all of that is certainly very Red.
There have now been a couple of off-post questions asking more about the
meaning of strawberries in the cultures of the Iroquois nations.
Questions -- on list and off -- involving Native societies, cultures, and
challenges are fairly common on Redbadbear and several other lists. There
are certainly many from Red Youth [YPSL.] I very much welcome them. They
don't come often at all on ASDnet although there are some interested people
there as well.
Strawberries are important in many Native tribal settings -- and this has
consistently been very true among the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy:
Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Tuscarora. Traditionally,
over the eons, this has always had a religious basis.
At the end of the 1700s, the Iroquois had fallen on hard and very dangerous
times: extreme pressure from the Anglos, massive land theft via fraud and
force, increasing use of alcohol with extremely destructive effects [much
of this deliberately given them by the encroaching Euro-Americans for
obviously Machiavellian purposes], and other profound threats. In the
midst of this awful period, a Seneca, Handsome Lake, who had fallen into
drunkenness and despair, had a number of vividly clear visions which, in
essence, called for the rejuvenation of the old traditional Iroquois
Longhouse religion -- with the inclusion of several Quaker and other
Christian elements, and a strong emphasis on, among other things, temperance
regarding alcohol. The first of the Visions came to Handsome Lake in a
trance via several Divine Beings on June 15, 1799, at the very moment of the
on-going Strawberry Festival. The Visions then continued, as Visions and
related Journeys, in an orderly fashion via trance on several other
occasions. All of this coalesced, step by step, into a cohesive body of
There is much in these teachings on the things that must be done -- and
much on those that must not.
From about 1801 until his death in 1815, Handsome Lake -- now truly a
prophet -- traveled extensively with this message. And the old traditional
Longhouse religion revived in the context of his divine teachings, known as
Gaiwiio [ Good Word]. The revival spread steadily -- first among the Seneca
[and it has subsequently always been headquartered at that nation.]
By the time he died, Handsome Lake's message had its own religious
revolutionary momentum in Iroquois life -- spreading, eventually, through
the remainder of the 19th century and beyond until it had been carried to
all of the Iroquois nations in the Confederacy and to all of their
communities. It is a major, vital force today in the Iroquois world -- in
both the United States and Canada. Not all Iroquois are Longhouse
people -- many are at least nominally Christian. But many Iroquois do
hold very formally to the old religion -- and all Iroquois, whatever their
beliefs, respect it and its teachings mightily and frequently follow them.
Like all Native people in all tribes, Iroquois -- whatever their primary
specific religious base -- will frequently worship at other Iroquois
religious settings. Longhouse people often attend a Catholic or Episcopal
[Anglican] mass -- and the Christian Iroquois often come to the Longhouse.
[In another tribal/nation setting -- the Navajo -- religious traditionalism
is extremely strong and Navajo theology is very much intact. But this does
not preclude, for example, any specific individual regularly visiting any
or all of these Reservation churches: Native American Church [peyote],
Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran and Mormon [and some others].
All of this had and continues to have a major, positive impact in
stabilizing the Iroquois nations, maintaining and strengthening the
cultures, and providing tremendous spiritual/psychological strength to the
individual Iroquois. It effected, therefore, a very substantive Iroquois
renaissance which continues to the present moment.
An important Longhouse adherent and leader in the 19th Century era was Ely
Parker [Donehogawa], Seneca -- 1828-1895. Trained as a civil engineer, he
became a leading Chief, served in the Union Army as a Brigadier General and
as U.S. Grant's chief aide, and was later the first Indian to head what was
becoming the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also collaborated at many
points in his life with Lewis Henry Morgan of Rochester -- with respect to
Morgan's many studies of Iroquois society and structure. And Morgan, of
course, was an informant of Engels on these and closely related matters.
Through all of this, Ely Parker was an extremely faithful Longhouse person.
The Code of Handsome Lake -- which has several variations and vagaries --
is extremely long and involved and covers virtually all dimensions of one's
present existence and one's possible futures. At prescribed points in time,
it is recited by a carefully trained spiritual leader -- and depending on
the specific and defined occasion -- in either a Short Form or a Long Form.
The Short Form alone -- recited twice a year -- takes a full morning. The
Full Version, given at very special Six Nations Meetings, can take four
Among other key dimensions, the Beings [three and then four] who came to
Handsome Lake stressed the great importance of strawberries. This was true
from the very outset of his Visionary experiences.
One very specific component of "The Message of the Four Beings" commands
that dances and thanksgiving ceremonials should be held whenever the
strawberries are ripe. The juice of the strawberries should be faithfully
drunk by the children and the aged -- and all of the people. It is held
that the "sweet water" of the strawberries is a medicine -- and that the sweet
water of the early strawberries is an extremely powerful medicine.
In the Calendar of the Iroquois, Strawberry Moon is the European month of
My own, relatively non-ideological and eclectic version of socialism is
certainly heavily shaped by my very fundamental Native identity -- as well
as by Western radical industrial unionism. The concept of Strawberry
Socialism -- on which I posted early yesterday --has always struck a very
profound note of resonance in me. And, as I say, it's really Red --
As Ever - Hunter [Hunterbear] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk
Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
Multicultural matters: racism, cultural ethnocentrism, exploitation, solidarity, strength [Hunter Bear 6/28/02]
These are a few quick thoughts apropos of the
multi-culturalism. On this good Anti-Racism list, this is much like talking
to the choir -- nothing that new from me, most likely -- but:
To me, bona fide multi-culturalism is vigor and vitality, strength and
power -- for all of the dispossessed:
Very much indeed in my own teaching -- and very frequently in grassroots
organizing as well -- I'll deal with the issues of racism and cultural
ethnocentrism in a contextual setting where students and constituents fall together into several racial categories. In some other instances, in both teaching and organizing, it'll be essentially just one racial grouping
[e.g., Native Americans.] But in either of these situational instances --
multi-racial or mono-racial -- I cover the full battlefield as it affects
all victims. I do this as very basic and very critical introductory
material for everyone. A classroom framework is more structured and an
organizing setting less so -- but, one way or another, I lay it all out.
My approach has been to talk first about the ages-old nature of cultural
ethnocentrism and its various motives [generally but not exclusively
economic] -- with several obvious historical examples [e.g., "Crusades".]
I'll also mention [and then return more to this later] the use of cultural
ethnocentrism in the United States to keep certain European immigrant groups separated and down -- and to keep unions out -- all for cheap labor and power purposes. I attack the false and dangerous presumptions of "primitive" and "civilized" and "inferior" and "superior" cultures.
Then I'll get into racism as a much "newer"phenomenon [ca. late 1400s to the present] and one which, of course, includes cultural ethnocentrism as well as its basic and deeper waters of attempted biological dehumanization of the target victims [and the concurrent attempted racial elevation of the perpetrators.] On that one, I'll deal with European and Euro-American/Canadian genocide for land [Native Americans], and European and Euro-American slavery for economic gain [Blacks and some Natives], and Euro-American theft of land and then cheap labor [Mexico/Mexicans and Puerto Rico/Puerto Ricans and Hawaii/Hawaiians.] And I dissect and attack the false and evil [a term I don't use lightly] presumption of racial "inferiority" and racial "superiority." I also attack the myth of "beneficent racial purity" -- and I discuss the now total non-existence of "racial purity" anywhere in the contemporary world! I'll mention other victim groups as well: e.g., Asians, North Africans, Middle Easterners.
And then I'll cover the always consistent Machiavellian usages of racism and cultural ethnocentrism to keep poor people down and divided in order that an Anglo elite can, for example, keep out unions and pay cheap wages and otherwise maintain its economic strangle-hold -- and its political power.
Then I'll talk about the negative effects of all of this -- including on
the Anglos of "the fewest alternatives."
Finally, I'll close with "An injury to one is an injury to all." And I have
[as do we all] many examples where racism and cultural ethnocentrism have been essentially overcome: first, in the pragmatic context of human
solidarity toward common goals and interests -- and then, as that process
flows, in the far more deeper and enduring human-to-human recognition of Common Origin and Common Being and Common Destiny.
[Published initially on DSA Anti-Racism List]