Hickory Edward’s epic quest down the Susquehanna River
Dr. Katherine Faull, Bucknell University
Kayaking is not just a sport to Hickory Edwards of the Onondaga Nation. It is his way of reviving his nation’s knowledge about its own history and the environment, and also raising public awareness about the ties of the Haudenosaunee to the land. This summer, the coordinator of the Onondaga Kayak and Canoe club decided to retrace the steps and paddle strokes of his forebears by kayaking first from Buffalo, New York along the Tioughioga to the Chenango river to Onondaga on a trip that became known as “The Journey to the Central Fire” to recognize Onondaga’s central position in the “Long House” of the Six Nations. While attending the annual four-day reading of the Haudenosaunee’s “Great Law of Peace” Edwards listened to the words that had been recited so many times about the planting of the Tree of Peace that had brought unity and concord to the then five warring nations of the Iroquois. Seeing that tree in his mind’s eye, Edwards realized that its spreading white roots were actually routes of peace, traditional waterways that spread out from the center of the Haudenosaunee world, waterways that would take him to the sea in whatever direction of the compass he chose to go.
He decided to go south, down the Susquehanna River to the Chesapeake Bay and from there on to Washington DC. “We wanted to take our message from the capitol of the Haudenosaunee to the capitol of the US,” he said in a recent interview from his home near Syracuse, NY. And what is that message? “We are still here. The Native people and their trade routes and waterways are not forgotten. We need to remember our language and our lands. We need to re-indigenize the river.”