And Grandma Said...:Iroquois Teachings as Passed Down Through the Oral Tradition

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“Grandma says” is Tom Porter’s story of a lifetime of learning and teaching, a gift from generations who have not forgotten how we were meant to be on this earth.

 

Raised in the home of a grandmother who spoke only Mohawk, Sakokweniónkwas (Tom Porter) was asked from a young age, to translate for his elders. After such intensive exposure to his grandparents' generation, he is able to recall in vivid detail, the stories and ceremonies of a culture hovering on the brink of extinction. After devoting most of his adult life to revitalizing the culture and language of his people, Tom finally records here, the teachings of a generation of elders who have been gone for more than twenty years.

Beginning with an introduction about why he is only now beginning to write all this down, he works his way chronologically through the major events embedded in Iroquois oral history and ceremony, from the story of creation, to the beginnings of the clan system, to the four most sacred rituals, to the beginnings of democracy, brought to his people by the prophet and statesman his people refer to as the Peacemaker. Interspersed with these teachings, Tom tells us in sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic detail, the effect of colonization on his commitment to those teachings.

Like a braid, the book weaves back and forth between these major teachings, and briefer teachings on topics such as pregnancy, child-rearing and Indian tobacco, weaving the political with the spiritual. Through his recollections of "Grandma," and what she said, we also get an inside view of the life of a Mohawk man, and his struggles. 

Joseph Bruchac writes: "For more than four decades, no one in the Native American community as been more respected than Tom Porter for his deep commitment to peace and the traditional ways of the Haudenosaunee--as well as for his humility and gentle self-depricating humor. In this deeply personal and entertaining volume Tom shares, in his own words, the roots of his teachings. If you can read only one book this year, there's no better choice that this, the story of a beloved elder who has never failed to honor and uphold the wisdom of his ancestors."

We agree.

 

Author: Tom Porter (Sakokweniónkwas), Bear Clan Elder of the Mohawk Nation

Illustrations: by John Kahionhes Fadden

Binding Availability: Paperback

Published: 2008

Tribes/Ethnic Groups: Mohawk