Loss for confederacy

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[John Mohawk] educated Native people about who we are and why we’re still here. He’s a great loss to us.

– Tadodaho Sid Hill

Haudenosaunee Confederacy

An influential teacher

To me, one of the things that was so amazing about John was that he was a very good teacher. He had a powerful influence on a lot of people because he was very knowledgeable and had a good way of presenting knowledge to others. That’s really a gift. It’s what we’re supposed to do: we’re supposed to share our knowledge with others.

He was a brilliant man. When you walked into John’s office, he was surrounded by books. He didn’t just collect books. He read them, and he remembered what he’d read. He had a tremendous ability to grasp, remember and use information that he was aware of.

John’s father was a faithkeeper and really steeped in our traditional Indian way of life. He introduced John to people who were the bearers of our culture, of our way of life. He met people with substance as a young person. It gave him a perspective that allowed him to explain the world, but also to tell who we are. He viewed us from the inside.

Even as John was presenting, he had a way of not alienating his audience. He put things in a way that allowed us to understand – with a sense of humor and a tremendous amount of knowledge. You really needed to listen carefully to him in order to grasp it all. You could call John and present a question you had, and he’d help you to fully grasp it. He was open to helping people. John was very approachable that way.

His work with Ganondagan [New York state’s only officially designated historic site dedicated to American Indians] was very important. He wrote one of the books we use here (“War Against the Seneca: The French Expedition of 1687”). He was part of the group that wrote the interpretive plan for Ganondagan. He alerted me to a job opening and asked if I’d consider applying. He was instrumental in what I do and how I came to work here. If I sat down to write a job description I never would have thought of something as good as this.

John left behind some of his thinking and some of his knowledge. It certainly takes more than one of us to make one of him. I hope that we have that combination of information and views that will serve us for our needs.

– G. Peter Jemison

Heron Clan, Seneca

Artist, Ganondagan Historic Site manager, cousin

‘Kind, honorable
and loyal’

One of the special things about John was his sense of integrity and devotion to projects important to Native Americans and to the American Studies Department, emotionally, politically and intellectually, that caused him to be extremely active in work on their behalf. He truly was an inspiration to the rest of us. He was widely known as well for his work in the fields of law, environmental ecology and health.

He was a great teacher, and enchanted and enticed his students to follow a path similar to his own. He was kind, honorable and loyal. If we emulated him, we would all be better people.

– Ana Maria Bacagalupo, Ph.D.

Assistant professor of anthropology

American Studies Department

State University of New
York at Buffalo

Farewell to a mentor

As a boy grows and finds his way in the world, he is lucky if he has a father, some uncles and some men to follow around that would point the way to manhood – how to live, how to fight, how to work, how to think and survive. No, there is no guarantee that a boy with such luck would grow into some spectacular being. But, there is a guarantee that he would have every opportunity to be just that. Last week many friends and associates bid farewell to a mentor, friend and visionary, John Sotsisowah Mohawk.

In Iroquois lore our Peace Maker had two bottom rows of teeth. It is said that Corn Planter, a great Seneca leader and thinker, also had such teeth. John Mohawk had two rows of teeth. He also had a large heart for all things Iroquois. And for many years he dedicated his time to all things Iroquois and indigenous. A great political, historical and traditional thinker, an astute strategist, he was a culture bearer and a great fighter for indigenous survival. He was an asset to many traditional leaders.

To some he was a big brother and a strict mentor. His direction led some to a career in Native media. He had the ability to cut through the emotions of the times. His passion for all things indigenous guided his skills as a keen negotiator, orator, writer, singer and a person of traditional medicine ways. He is a very humble person and a good relative to have.

Lost is a brother, an uncle, a father. But, we have gained an ancestor worthy of our praise and condolence. I will miss him greatly. Many Nations and students will for a long time to come be in his debt.

– Ray Cook

Akwesasne Mohawk Territory

An inspiring example

There’s no one like him at all. No one. John gave of himself generously and patiently, with warmth and humor, supporting international recognition of indigenous rights as “the most practical idea.” He saw similarities, rather than differences, in the “light of indigenous peoples in distant lands,” and by his example inspired others to join in the global effort for the right of distinct peoples to continue to exist as distinct peoples.

– Suzanne Jasper

First Peoples Human
Rights Coalition

‘Will be sadly missed’

John knew the issues facing Indian country and spoke so eloquently about them. I had the utmost respect for him. I think he was one of our elder statesmen as Haudenosaunee and will be sadly missed.

– James W. Ransom

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief

‘La Moskitia’ grateful

I am a Miskito Indian from the Atlantic Coast, called “La Moskitia” by our people, in Nicaragua. During the war in 1981 – ’89 by the Sandinista regime against our nation, John Mohawk was our friend and adviser to me and to our nation. He always took our side, regardless of how difficult the struggle was.

His editorials in Akwesasne Notes were excellent, supporting Indian positions in Nicaragua. As an editor of the Notes he facilitated interviews with me and other leaders so we could give our views to our Native friends in the U.S. about our struggle. The Miskito Indians from Nicaragua lost a friend and adviser. We will miss him very much!

– Armstrong Wiggins

Director, Indian Law
Resource Center

Washington, D.C., office

‘Never too busy’

John Mohawk knew and practiced his Haudenosaunee traditional teachings. He used his gifts to help the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and to bring it forward in his lectures and travels. John taught the young singers songs that were becoming lost. He and I shared e-mail and instant messages while I attended law school. He was never too busy to answer a question or share his vast knowledge with others. John C. Mohawk was a person of good mind and will be greatly missed by all.

– Barbara Gray

Technical adviser

Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs