A Wendat Biblio-Essay:
On 08 November 2001, one of the members of the Wendat-Gathering listserv posed the following query. Since it was at least, in part, directed at me (the librarian) I offered the response you find here, just slightly edited for clarity. Following my original e-mail message, I have herein included it a few additional titles that were previously left out, and the complete bibliographic citations for all the books I mention.
Eagleheart asks: "I am interested in trying to find more reliable information on our past. I know we have at least one librarian here, and wondered what a good reliable source might be for the language (I realize there are differences in that also, that have been discussed). And something that may be good for art or music. Are there any Wyandots recording the ancestral music? I have come across a book that was said to be written by a Wyandot...it is called "Huron-Wendat: The Heritage of the Circle." Is anyone familiar with it and is it considered a reliable source at all? Any help, please. I also spend alot of time at the website, but wondered if there is another source."
From: Rebekah Tanner
Well -- the librarian will step up to the plate with a response that is probably only the tip of the iceberg .... and which calls for a bit of a "preface" so you will understand the context of my answer and how I come by this knowing ...
As I have said any number of times here, and elsewhere, my own family was isolated from any population center of the Wendat Nation, yet held on to the notion of having Wendat identity very fiercely. In his generation, it was my Father who is said to have felt this most strongly, which was kind of lucky for me because hetaught what he knew to his children. His life ended before I can really remember, but my two eldest brothers "gave" him to me -- inlarge part this was not methodical, but rather simply in the way we lived: because my Mom worked long hours, these two young men were my primary care-givers.
Now, my eldest brother is also gone to be the grass, and that since 1967 -- when I was just 9 years old. However, he was a greatstorty-teller and recounted many wonderful tales to me. I also wastaught beadweaving, leather-crfats, and other needle-work skills by my siblings.
Many other skills in our family also came from the example of my Dad -- he built the home we lived in with his own hands, he transformed a bit of swampy marsh along the sandy dunes south of Lake Michigan in Lake County, Indiana into a working farm, he was a skilled hunter, and almost anything mechanical was within his grasp to figure out. His father had been a stone mason and of his mother it is said "she washed the babies when they arrived, and the dead as they left" -- she was a rural healer, using the old herbal lore.
But as I grew up there was not a direct analogy between the many "crafts" we involved ourselves in and that these ways of being might be Wendat. There was a vague knowing by us kids that we were"different" than the other kids we knew -- we were more resourcesful, and our humor, our stories were unlike that of the kids around us. I sometimes describe us like a "wolf-pack" -- we might fight among ourselves, but let some outsider try anything and wow! watch out!
As I made my way through the grades of public school, high school,college and graduate school I often chose topics for papers and such that would give me reason to learn more about the Wendat (Wyandotte was the word our family used in calling ourselves) and in this way I felt closer to my Dad. I had a terrific hunger to know about my Dad and it seemed to me that the more I learned about the history and way of our Nation, the more I understood him.
In those days many of the books spoke of us as an extinct People, and this was very difficult for me to understand -- how could we be extinct if I were here? One book which did not have anything onthe Wendat, but which was a tremendous eye-opener for me as a pre-teen was T. C. McLuhan's Touch the Earth I cannot recommend this book highly enough -- it is still available in many children's collections in libraries and every now & again I see paperback editions in book stores.
So, when I got my first "real" job at the Information Center on Children's Culturs at the U.S. Committee for UNICEF in NYC (unfortunately this library no longer exists) and was assigned by my boss, Anne Pellowski, to begin to learn to be a storyteller -- one of several wonderful things I did there -- I decided I wanted to learn to tell Wyandotte tales. To accomplish this I did a couple of things:
First, I went to the Huntington Free Library in the Bronx (in those days the library of the Heye Foundation / Museum of the American Indian), and started searching out old athropological journals for material.
Do you know what I found? I found versions of a number of the samestories my brothers had told me as a kid! Stories of Sky Woman andthe Twins who caused the world to be the way we know it now, for example: why the course of rivers run in only one direction. I sawthe story of why turtle has 13 plates upon his back, one for each moon of the year. And my favorite: how porcupine got his quills! This private, research library is still up there on Westchester Square, it originally chose not to join with the Smithsonian Institution when the Museum did. I believe that now, they are re-considering. The long-time librarian, Mary Davis, has taken a job at the American Crafts Council, and so I do not get "the news"as I used to -- but she is a great resource person. Had I not goneto her library that first time, 20-plus years ago and had her professional assistance and now, many years of her friendship, I know that my life would be sadder, and poorer for the absence.
About that time I discovered the two-volume work by Bruce Trigger:The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660. This lead me to his other works, and for me, the very valuable Huron: Farmers of the North.
Second: I made a concerted effort to find the places Indian people go, and began to spread the word that I was in search of other Wyandottes. I was had a bit of success (not too many of us in NYC) and those first Wyandotte friends, outside of my family, both taught me much I did not know, and affirmed for me the very essential "Wyandotteness" of my own family.
I came, in this way, to also meet members of other Nations. And I found that some of the things which had made my family seem so "different" were typical ways of being Indian. And as I felt less lost, less "extinct" my curiousity grew. I kept on reading, studying -- I would check the index of any book that might be remotely connected to my quest for Wyandotte, Huron, etc. Many times it was just a sentence or two -- but sometimes that little bit would hold a whole new knowing. One of the best things I foundin this way was Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford, which had most of an entire chapter that spoke to our history of Confederacy, the GreatProphet, and how the League of Five Nations and the shapers and writers of the early documents of the US Government had used our "democratic anarchy" as a model for their own governments.
I was, however, growing increasingly unsatisfied by the idea that much of what I was reading was not written by Wendat themselves, so Georges E. Sioui's For an Amerindian Autohistory was a great find!
Now, as you know, our People are involved in the this great seasonof re-gathering. Work on language recovery and education is takingplace. At the Gathering this past August we had fine musicians, and perhaps they will begin recording some of the music. Others ofus can do other things -- my examples are bead-weaving and storytelling, and the ability to do this type of research. Perhapsothers have other ways of being Wendat that need to be captured insome way, recorded, and taught -- for example, Huwennuwanenhs is an orator! And I am not sure if she would say so herself, but in my experience of her, Beverlee is like my Grandmother -- a healer -- her prayers at Ossosane echo in my heart, growing richer each passing day -- that which remains alive among us must not be allowed to be lost -- enough has been lost! I have great faith in us as a People. This time in which we are living and these things we are doing are really quite amazing. I think that the seventh generation from today will celebrate their Wendat identity with a wholeness and a joy that many of us did not grow up knowing.
I hope this small beginning to an answer to your query is of some use to you.
Walk in Peace.
This was the book that let me know our Nation was not extinct! How could I have left it out of my essay?
Another item I found in those early days, originally published as Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin, #190, by the Smithsonian Institution in 1964, which has since been re-printed:
An especially exciting find, which reprints work done to collect our lore in Canada and Oklahoma in the 1890's, and which I photocopied in its entirety and still have that old battered copy of was:
Another good one for tales is:
And the title in the original query:
Sioui, Georges E. For an Amerindian autohistory : An Essay on the Foundations of a Social Ethic. Translated from the French by Sheila Fischman.Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1992.Another item recently mentioned on the listrserv:
Mann, Barbabr Alice. Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas. New York: Peter Lang, 2000.
This is a good one to get school-aged children started with:
Remaining citations from my original essay:
Trigger, Bruce G. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660. Montreal : McGill-Queen's University Press, 1976.
Trigger, Bruce G. The Huron: Farmers of the North. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969.
Weatherford, Jack McIver. Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 1988.
This site is the work of Rebekah Tanner, she alone is alone responsible for its content and any opinions expressed herein. She is not responsible for the content of any site she has chosen to link to.