Leon Shenandoah, chief of Onondaga Nation, and Tadodaho ("Firekeeper") of the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Confederacy [or "Iroquois"], whose symbol is The Tree of Peace, passed over into spirit Monday July 22, 1996, at 7:20 a.m. EST, at age 81. In his peoples' culture, Leon was both president and pope, but more the latter.
This gentle, soft spoken, humble holy man was principal chief of a surviving sovereign nation of indigenous people. And spiritual elder of one of the western hemisphere's oldest cultures. And Firekeeper of the Grand Council of the eldest democracy in North America, founded in ancient times by the Peacemaker—a virgin-born messenger from the Creator.
Leon served his people as Tadodaho for nearly 30 years, remaining true to the spiritual nature of his office.
|Peacemaker and Hiawatha
The first Tadodaho was raised up by the Peacemaker many centuries ago. Peacemaker sang the Peace Hymn, and Hiawatha combed the snakes from Tadodaho's hair. All the other chiefs laid Tadodaho the ground, and massaged his body to straighten the seven crooked places in his spine. Then, fully transformed, Tadodaho was raised as chief of the Grand Council of the Five Nations Confederacy.
Thursday, July 4th, 1996, Onondaga Nation and the Six Nations celebrated the historic return of 74 wampum belts from the American Indian Museum in NYC. Leon had stepped down from his office last fall due to illness, but donned his feather hat and assumed his office for the return of these precious belts. This was his last official act.
A few years ago Leon was interviewed by New Age magazine. Asked, "What is the greatest power?" Leon was silent a few moments, then replied slowly, "The greatest power is the Creator. But if you want to know the greatest strength, that is gentleness."
Leon was the embodiment of that principle of great gentleness.
Throughout his years of service, whether before councils of his government, or the United Nations, Leon was a steady, soft spoken, eloquent advocate for peace—not only between humans and nations, but also with Nature. He will be missed.
I talked with Leon several times in the last decade, and he was acutely concerned that we are entering the time spoken of by prophecies—his own and those of many others faiths, creeds and cultures. He had no doubt that in this decade our world order will change, and "the last shall become first."
Summer, 1990 I rode to New York City with Leon, and spent two days there with him. I'd been asked to counsel a friend on a 90 day fast. It was our longest time together. The six hour ride to the Big Apple was our longest conversation.
On our way from Onondaga, Leon told me his impressions of Earth Conference Two, held in January 1990. Over 500 of the world's leading religious, parliamentary and science leaders gathered in Moscow to discuss responses to rapidly rising threats to Earth's biosphere—and therefore all huemans and our civilizations. I'd written and read of that milestone in global mobilization—stepping stone to the Rio Earth Summit in June, 1992.
We talked about these world events, global decline of Nature, relentless erosion of indigenous community and culture, Earth changes, prophecies, survival strategies—and how it's impossible to get truly good food on the road.
Leon emphasized again prophecies his elders taught him are coming true. "There's not much time left," he warned. "Once the last are fulfilled, the world will change quick. The timetable in the prophecies is very clear and precise. People will be surprised how fast everything changes. Just a few years." My vision and assessments agreed with his.
Leon had only one good eye; the other was glass. He told me in 1989 he spent 11 days in total darkness in a New York City hospital. His good eye required surgery, and after the operation it remained bandaged. During those 11 days he had my book read to him: "Dragon and Ice Castle—Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes."
In 1988 I regularly met with Leon to tell him the astonishing events unfolding around Onondaga Lake. He even accompanied me one day in May 1988 to the site of Pyramid's proposed new shopping mall by Onondaga Lake—at "the place of beginning" of the 1788 Salt Treaty between Onondaga Nation and New York State.
So he knew this complex and deep tale already. But now, sitting in darkness, he heard my carefully crafted written rendition. The reading reviewed relevant details in a concise, coherent perspective. I knew he could read truths I left hidden between the lines, behind metaphors, or under implications.
Saturday we were invited to an Earth Action community celebration with other indigenous people in New York City. But I had to be in Syracuse Friday to talk at Wellspring: The Center for Self Healing, a community education center I'd founded a decade earlier. So after counseling Leon's friend about her cleansing fast, I flew back to Syracuse Friday afternoon.
Monday evening, after teaching a class in Chittenango, hometown of L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," I spoke to Leon. A fragment of our conversation begins and ends Stray Earth Currents of my four articles "Return of the Dragon: Hazards of Man-made Magnetism." It reveals another view of life on this mysterious Earth:
|Aztec Elder's Dragon
"Too bad you couldn't stay in New York City with me.
I finally met an Aztec elder I'd been looking for.
He'd made a painting of the Western Hemisphere
as if seen from a satellite from far off in outer space.
He portrayed North and South American continents
as if they were a single dragon.
You would've loved it!
The tip of its tail was Tierra del Fuego of South America,
and its tail was the Andes.
Its body was Central America and the Rocky Mountains,
which curled up around Alaska
and down under the middle of North America.
Then it turned north and its neck was the Appalachians.
Its head was all those places white men call "new"
—New York, New Jersey, New England,
New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia.
And one eye of this great creature
was New York City.
—Leon Shenandoah, Tadodaho
of the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee
Eyes of the Dragon
Leon Shenandoah and I sat quietly for a time. In my mind's eye I reflected on the Aztec elder's dragon. His image fit the data of my own research into New World geomancy. After a long pause, I asked Leon, "Tell me, where's the heart of darkness in the Aztec dragon's eye?"
Leon was silent for moments, considering what I really asked— what the answer might be. The Legend of the Peacemaker is a Haudenosaunee tradition that describes the founding of the Five Nations Confederacy. In it, Tadodaho—a powerful, evil wizard who lived by Onondaga Lake, whose mind was so twisted and malevolent snakes lived in his hair—was the last man to oppose the Path of Peace.
Today, Leon—humble expression of grandfatherly gentleness, strength and wisdom—is Tadodaho, Firekeeper of the Confederacy's Grand Council. After a few slow puffs on his pipe, Leon shook his head, awaiting my reply.
"Times Square," I said. "Square is the material world—in this case, rectilinear grid on an island called 'Manhattan.'"
"Time—a circle going round in cycles—symbolizes endless moving Spirit. Empire State's neon sleaze scene, where they celebrate the New Year, is the dragon's eye - the heart of darkness, where square & circle—matter & spirit—unite. An old mystic puzzle: how to join spirit with matter. This has troubled Europe's philosophy and theology since the Greeks."
Within his cloud of gray smoke, Leon's head nodded in understanding. "I wish I'd remember where the Aztec put the dragon's other eye," he said, shaking his head.
My mind's eye searched my own image of the beast's anatomy, looking for the other eye. My inner vision saw the Aztec dragon with eyes closed in sleep—dreaming.
I wonder what happens when those eyes open.
The new massive electric power outage in the West provoked me to dig through my email for a note from a California coast friend who met Leon in Washington, DC last year at the Spiritual Unity Gathering.
Leon had told her in two years there will be widespread power outages as we experience the limits of our appetite for electricity and face adapting to survival without it. His insistence has more importance considering my article "Stray Earth Currents"—which begins and ends with my talk with Leon—exposes the unknown dangers of electrons leaking from the electric power grid.
Another time Leon said to me, "Pretty soon all those people who think they have a lot of power will discover real power. Creator's power. People won't have the coal, oil, gas, nuclear power they take for granted now. Then people will have to stop and face the Creator's justice."
I couldn't find that email note, but found another—her remembrance of their encounter at hotel check-in—which she sent after I notified her Leon had passed over.
Date sent: Fri, 26 Jul 1996
Subject: Re: leon shenandoah
Hi Star Brother,
Thank you for all the articles and your own reflections about Leon.
i spent a delightful evening with him last fall in DC while we straightened out a hotel room mixup. i was saddened by the lack of recognition he received.
He had been traveling all day and the hotel kept him waiting a very long time because they accidently gave his room to someone else.
He was very weak but his quiet sense of humor was intact. i was struggling with his bags and trying very hard at the same time not to crush his beautiful headdress i was also carrying for him. He got this really cute grin on his face and suggested i wear his headdress!
Walk in Light & Love, Grandpa Leon.
How about that? The pope and president of North America in our nation's capitol, and the hotel bungled his reservations. His people are the first people of this land. What does the Christian Bible say about first and last in the change of the Millennium?