Haudenosaunee worldviews through Iroquoian cosmologies: The published narratives in historical context
White, Kevin J.
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Returning to the original published Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee) cosmologies, I shed new light on the development of interpretation and revelation as it pertains to the Haudenosaunee. I analyze and edit J. N. B. Hewitt's "Iroquois Cosmology Part I" to reveal the scholar, the informant, and a unique clash of their worldviews. Hewitt was a baseline for comparison to other published narratives that I have assembled here in contrast to William N. Fenton's analysis in his 1962 article "This Island, the World on Turtle's Back". I examine in detail translations of the cosmologies, including some by modern Native scholars presented on the World Wide Web. My examination of these works reveals transitions in both Native and non-native thinking over the centuries of contact. Patterns of change show an indigenous culture struggling to balance ancient traditions, sacred beliefs, and obligations to generations yet unborn against the assimilationist tide of the larger Western culture. I attempt to excite a discussion about the theology, philosophy and cosmology grounded in more subtle understandings of Haudenosaunee cultures. Finally, I use the examination of outside/inside views of cosmologies to suggest further fertile study of the other major ethnographic works conventionally used to construct and interpret worldview, theology and understandings of Indigenous groups. The complex history associated with the Haudenosaunee is steeped in problematic thinking. Though Haudenosaunee voices are present as informants, the knowledge, wisdom and worldview are hidden in condensed and filtered formats of academic literature. The preferred voices are those like William N. Fenton, and David Cusick while the designated Holders of Tradition within the culture are muted. Modern Haudenosaunee scholars contribute interpretations of this ancient worldview grounded in their own theological and philosophical contexts as practitioners of these ancient conceptual frames of reference. Also revealing in this dismissal is a tendency to treat Iroquois from any of the founding Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora, and Seneca) as members of one homogenous group. By placing all of these published works side by side, I allow the reader to draw individual conclusions, as though they were part of an audience hearing this among a group.