The Land

Many years ago, in the broad valley of the Upper Delaware, near what is now called Margaretville, New York, several Mohawk and Oneida families made camp for summer hunting and gathering. It happened that a dispute over territory arose between the two groups, and soon afterwards the death of a warrior was discovered. Who was responsible? There were allegations and counter-allegations. Tension and confusion built and threatened to escalate into outright war between the two groups.

A runner was sent to the neighboring Onondaga people, who were known as mediators—the keepers of the council fires. The Onondagas too had abandoned their villages for hunting camps, but the runner managed to locate a young shaman returning from pilgrimage to a sacred mountain in the north. The shaman, Tesakwanachee, agreed to visit the camp. He planned to set up a council fire and see if he could get the offended parties talking. However, both parties claimed the area as their own, and no one wanted to sit down and talk.

After consulting the nearby forests, streams, and mountains, Tesakwanachee entered the valley to the West, looking for a sign that he had reached a special place of peace-making. In the stream called Saskawhihiwine he found the sign: a perfect circle in the water. He claimed the place as neutral territory in the Onondaga tradition. A council fire was built, the dispute was settled, war was averted. The people returned to hunting and gathering their food.

At that spot a council lodge was constructed and used for many years. It became famous as a place where people of diverse backgrounds gathered to resolve their conflicts and find healing. Long after the lodge fell into disuse passersby would stop to honor the Gods and the ancestors there.

Once again, people of diverse backgrounds are roaming the land looking for what they need. Today our need is not so much hunting territory as it is a sense of connection to our own ancestral spirits. This connection helps us find and understand our own path, our heart in the world. Without this connection, we experience conflict, illness, and needless destruction.

In the winter of 2005-2006, just after the Blue Deer Center opened, the circle once again appeared in the stream. Once again the Gods began calling the shamans and council-leaders to that special place, which is located by the barn of the Blue Deer property on the banks of the Saskawhihiwine. Called to such a place, a few authentic teachers help people discover what is at the heart of all spiritual traditions: connection to the world.