I am Deganawida. With the statesmen of the League of Five Nations, I plant the Tree of Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Atotarho and the Onondaga Nation: in the territory of you who are the Firekeepers. I name the tree Tsyoneratasekowa, the Great White Pine. Under the shade of this Tree of Great Peace, we spread the soft, white feathery down of the Globe Thistle as seats for you, Atotarho and your cousin statesmen.
We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the Globe Thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Great Peace. There shall you sit and watch the Fire of the League of Five Nations. All the affairs of the League shall be transacted at this place before you, Atotarho and your cousin statesmen, by the statesmen of the League of Five Nations.
Note : The term Five Nations makes it evident that all the laws were made before 1714 at which time the Tuscarora Nation was admitted into the Confederacy, but without an equal voice, contrary to the Plan of Deganawida. Apparently, the first Grand Councils of the Iroquois Confederacy were held under the evergreen white pine, the largest tree in Eastern North America, more than 250 feet high. All cut down 200 years ago by the white men who afterwards never let the great tree grow to full size again in their haste and eagerness to exploit it.
We asked Jheri Jamieson, a photographer and graphic designer, and she did not disappoint!
Growing up, I was always surrounded by my immediate family, aunts, uncles, both of my grandma’s and countless cousins. If you were sensitive, you had to toughen up real quick and get a sense of humour. My family events are filled with jokes and laughter that neighbours could hear down the road!
I went to elementary school on-reserve, and all of my friends were from my community; although my family travelled often and did a lot of stuff off the reserve, I still didn’t have any friendships with non-natives.
When I went to Brantford to play softball, I remember being so excited to try out and play ball at a higher level. My mom drove me to the practice, and I had to have been only 11 or so. Before I jumped out of the car to go to the try-out, my mom stopped me and said,
“Just remember these girls aren’t native. They didn’t grow up like you, and they talk differently than you and they sure as heck don’t have the same sense of humour as we do, so keep that in mind.”
I went into that practice with the open mind that an 11-year-old has and made friends with no problem.
Fast forward to going to post-secondary, I made the varsity softball team, and up until then, I still had no problem making friends, regardless of their race, gender, age, religion etc. Being on this team was my first experience truly understanding what my mom meant all those years ago.
The other girls on the team were predominately white, and I came into this team like any other team. I participated and chatted, trying to make some sort of friendship with at least one person on the team, but I couldn’t seem to do that. I couldn’t hold a conversation for the life of me, my jokes heard crickets, and I sat by myself on the bus. I did my best, I came in with an open mind and a smile, and I still couldn’t create a friendship or bond.
I stopped making jokes so that I wouldn’t hurt any feelings, and I stopped telling stories because either nobody wanted to listen or they just didn’t understand. They weren’t leaving me out to be mean; they just couldn’t connect with me either. I have always embraced where I come from, my heritage, my family; I’ve never been ashamed of any of it. Instead of pretending to be something that I’m not to make friends with, I went back to my community, where my stories and my jokes are appreciated, I went home. I still completed my year at school and am currently in the fourth and final year of my bachelor’s program at Humber College.
My program has taught me so much in the digital communications field, and every chance that I got, I did my project either about a First Nations issue or about Beyonce. Creating these Valentine cards was something I’ve been thinking about since I started my program, but I never had to tools to do it; finally, I taught myself how to make illustrations and designed them with my friends and family in mind.
Having Kraft dinner and hotdogs for dinner is a classic rez meal that we all had. Some people who are not from our community might think the meal is sad and cheap, but to a couple of rez kids, they wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’ve ever been to a Healers’s dance, you know that the song ‘Come And Get Your Love’ is where you find someone you want to end off your night.
These jokes are for our community, and I think it’s vital that we embrace them. Sure other people won’t get it; they might wonder why we believe hot-dog’s and Kraft dinner are the perfect combination, but it’s a part of us, it’s a part of our childhood, adulthood, and it’s something that we all have in common.
During COVID, every family feels that sense of loneliness, not being able to gather with family and friends. I think that’s why, now more than ever, we need to find our sense of humour and connect with not just our families but with our community as well. I hope to keep designing and creating with all of my experiences in mind and hopefully bring laughter and smiles to my community.
Contributor: Jheri Jamieson is a Kanyenke: haka, Wolf clan member. Her home community is Six Nations of the Grand River. She is a full-time student at Humber College in the digital communication program and somehow finds the time to share her gift of humour in the formats mentioned above. I found her on her Facebook, but she has Instagram; follow her here for her work @jjamiesoncreative .
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