Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Red Electric Moon/ Red Resonant Dragon - Crystal Rabbit Moon of Cooperation, Day 22
Courtesy: Matika Wilbur
Mohawk youth opt to spend four years in rigorous training for adulthood.
Coming of Age in Akwesasne: The Beauty Is Under the Husk:
Rigorous, four-year coming-of-age process brings Mohawk Akwesasne youth to adulthood
Of course, Ohero:kon wasn’t realized overnight. It has been developing organically over the past 14 years. It was the vision brought to fruition by many—Louise Wakerakats:te Bear in particular, known to many by her moniker, Mama Bear.
“The need for Ohero:kon came at a time when our community had a lot of social distress,” Bear said. “It was just through the prayers of mothers wanting to do something different that we formalized Ohero:kon.”
(Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this piece, for brevity’s sake, we neglected to recognize the contributions of Turtle Clanmother Delia Cook for this revival and carrying out rites of passage for previous generations. Those who benefited from her guidance and tutelage have asked us to include as a matter of honor and respect, of which she is certainly more than worthy. Respect and honor, too, for all of the other teachers who since time immemorial have carried out various coming-of-age ceremonies.)
Bear explains that the rites of passage ceremony was given in the original Haudenosaunee creation story, a tradition that has been happening since the beginning of time:
“It happened in Skyworld,” she said. “An uncle takes his sister’s children when he realized that they were children of destiny…so he set them aside from the rest and put them under the husk,” covering them the way corn ears are swathed in their husks, because they were destined to fulfill a prophecy.
“In our language we call corn o’he: ra which means ‘it’s fully husked,’ ” said Bear. “It’s not until the corn is ripe that you begin to peel back the layers of husk to get to the regenerative seed. When our children hit puberty, we begin to pull back the layers and equip them with knowledge about who they are. A big part of Ohero:kon is to offer them knowledge about their creation story so they can understand the genesis of our selves . . . so they know who they are before they become influenced by other people.”
Co-founder, educator and filmmaker Katsitsionni Fox said that Ohero:kon was created as a change agent for Akwesasne.
“It was something we could do for the youth to keep them away from drugs, teen pregnancy, self-harm, all those things that are going on in our communities,” Fox said.
Bear delved into Mohawk history to retrieve the ceremony, said Fox, gathering knowledge keepers together and plumbing dreams.
“The youth who fully commit to the Ohero:kon will learn their purpose in life at a younger age,” Fox said. It’s a tough program, she emphasized, with not all of them making it through.
“Sometimes they will make it one year, then they won’t come back,” Fox said. “It’s the ones that are really invested that will stay for all four years.”
For those who stick it out, “it really alters their path,” she said. “It makes them find their purpose sooner. They don’t waste a lot of time.”
Being in ceremony together brings them closer, connecting them with each other and the community, Fox added. Fox has made a beautiful film about the program, including a trailer.
Once the fourth-years come out of their fast, they look shiny and new, glowing with accomplishment and a radiance that is hard to describe. At their graduation ceremony, the fourth-year nieces and nephews shared what they’ve learnt with tribal leaders.
Bear recalled one of her most memorable experiences, with a niece who had a dream about the Thunder Beings.
“In this dream, or vision, she met the Thunder Beings, and they told her their names in the Mohawk language, and we were able to record that and revitalize those names,” said Bear. “And now, when we burn tobacco for the Thunder Beings in the spring and in the fall, we acknowledge those names.”
Several of the nieces and nephews even brought back stories to encourage their people to return to traditional food systems, Bear said.
One of the nephews this year dreamt that he came out of his fast and went to the sacred fire and nobody was there, so he went to kaneni:io and found it also empty, and then he went to the longhouse and nobody was there either. He realized that all of the culture bearers were gone, that he would have to carry the culture forward, that he was the last one. Then he woke up, grateful to know there were still culture bearers to guide him, and grateful that he will be able to carry his culture forward.
Ohero:kon has become a driving force mobilizing the community, Bear said, and has healed a lot of divisions as the community committed to working together “for the love of our children,” she said. “Ohero:kon reduced the crime rate. It reduced teen pregnancy. It reduced juvenile delinquency. But most important, it also returned a lot of young people back to our longhouses.”
O:herokon is about planting seeds. Seeds of knowledge. Seeds of hope. Seeds that make leaders. Or as my beautiful niece Quinna Hamby describes it, “It connected me to community. I know that my community will always forgive me. That I can go back to them. I know that I am a traditional person, and even though I might be going away to college, I can always come home.”*
By Matika Wilbur
Kin 29: Red Electric Moon
I activate in order to purify
I seal the process of universal water
With the electric tone of service
I am guided by the power of space.
Patience brings for the cultivation of humility and the quality of self-sacrifice; it tempers aggression and dissolves the snare of self-righteousness.*
*Star Traveler's 13 Moon Almanac of Synchronicity, Galactic Research Institute, Law of Time Press, Ashland, Oregon, 2016-2017.
The Sacred Tzolk'in
Sahasrara Chakra (Dali Plasma)