On a spectacular ribbon of cropland in the Schoharie Valley of Central New York sit the remains of an old Mohawk village on what is now a 60-acre working berry farm. The Waterfall Unity Alliance, a 501c3, put a deposit down on the farm as part of a community-supported landback effort, but an additional $575,000 is needed by Sept. 30, the closing date, to purchase the farm for a new Kanien’kehá:ka community in the Valley. Please help us get the farm!!!!
For many Kanien’kehá:ka, also known as the Mohawk People, it is the fulfillment of prophecy and a life-long dream to return to ancestral lands in the Mohawk Valley and begin a community guided by Kaianere'kó:wa (the Great Law of Peace). In the Mohawk language, Schoharie means the place of cleansing or renewal. It is known as the Eastern Gate of Turtle Island (North America), and the Kanien’kehá:ka are the keepers of the gate. Traditionally, the East is the place of beginning, where the sun is born each morning, where all faith and hope live. It is said that if we can transform and heal in the East, the place of origin, then everything can be transformed.
The return of the Kanien’kehá:ka to the Valley is not only the fulfillment of prophecy, but also part of an urgent task of environmental justice. The Akwesasne reservation is home to the largest PCB dump in America, courtesy of General Motors, Reynolds and Alcoa. Akwesasne is now designated as a toxic superfund site, with extremely high rates of cancer and other rare diseases in the community.
"The prophecies all say that to survive, we have to return to original ways," says Kawenniiosta Jock, a land defender, artist, master seamstress and mother of five from Akwesasne. "We need to form and nurture communities that will sustain us through the climate tipping point and beyond. We know that there are ways to live in balance. We have not forgotten, but we need to decolonize our minds and ways of life and return to the ways of our ancestors. This is why I want to come with my children back to the Schoharie Valley. It’s time for us to plant the seeds of return."
The Schoharie Berry Farm will be the economic hub of a new community in the Valley with a cannery, language immersion school, summer camp, and many other beautiful projects planned. The farm will be transitioned back to regenerative practices, re-introducing native plants, wildlife, and traditional varieties of Haudenosaunee corn, beans, squash, herbs and medicines. It is part of a long-term vision of creating a bioregional forest, water, wildlife and food sanctuary in the Valley under indigenous stewardship for the continued existence of life on earth for the next 7 generations and beyond.
Kanerahtiio Roger Jock, Kawenniiosta's father and a Kanien’kehá:ka leader from Akwesasne, has carried a vision of return for his people back to their ancestral lands in the Schoharie Valley his whole life. “We have to start here — at the beginning,” Kanerahtiio says. “It is a homecoming to the Mohawk Valley where my great grandmothers lived and where my DNA comes from. We have to come back home so our people can heal. Our original instructions are still living in these mountains."
Kanerahtiio's vision of a peaceful return to the Valley has brought people of all different cultures and political stripes together in collaboration. Over the past two years, he has led a team of volunteers in building the frame of a traditional Longhouse five miles from the berry farm, next to a sacred waterfall called Kahonrakén:ra, The White Spout. It is an initial point of return and a powerful symbol of peace and unity that has opened up relations and inspired others to donate land and resources as part of this community-supported landback effort.
“We, as a society, have lost our spiritual connection to the land,” Kanerahtiio explains. “We are at a time when Mother Nature is fighting extinction. Human beings are spiritually and physically sick, and many people are seeking new ways of living in balance.” he says. "We need to bring back Sken:nen and Konoronhkwatselas, which mean Peace and a perfect love for one another and all things. It is time to make the old ways new again."
A beautiful vision has taken root in the Schoharie Valley. We are truly the generation here to heal. If not us, then who? And if not now, then when? We invite you to be a part of this healing process as we write a new story together.
Please donate to our campaign to help us raise $600,000 by Sept. 30th to buy the Schoharie Berry Farm and complete the next phase of the Longhouse. Niawen (thank you) for your support.
KAIANERE'KÓ:WA (THE GREAT LAW OF PEACE)
When the Europeans first came to these shores, the People of the Longhouse taught the visitors the principles of Kaianere'kó:wa (the Great Law of Peace) and how their democracy worked, including how to caucus, methods of impeachment, the supremacy of governance by and from the people, and the exclusion of religion from governance. These teachings strongly influenced the fledgling colonial democracy as they broke free from the monarchies of Europe. However, the men who framed the U.S. Constitution left out central elements of Kaianere'kó:wa (the Great Law), including the equality of women and the inherent rights of nature.
“It is time to restore balance and return to the original message of Kaianere'kó:wa," says Kanerahtiio. "The Longhouse will be a place of teaching about principles of living in harmony as they were given to our people. As the oldest living democracy in the world, our traditional ways of living in right relationship can help us heal together."
We look forward to welcoming everyone at the Longhouse and berry farm with shared song, prayer and purpose, making our minds as one as we move through this time of transformation together.
Kanerahtiio Roger Jock is Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Bear Clan from Akwesasne. He has taught cultural awareness all over the U.S. for over 40 years as part of the White Roots of Peace Movement. He worked as an ironworker and foreman for several decades and is a leader in land and sovereign rights in the Akwesasne region. Kanerahtiio is dedicated to doing everything possible to stop the destruction of Mother Earth and re-activate the original instructions of Peace, Power, and Righteousness. He is the Elder Advisor of the Waterfall Unity Alliance, an organization whose mission is to protect the Schoharie Valley and all Earth, build alliances across movements and cultures, and work collaboratively to create solutions to the existential challenges of our time.
Kawenniiosta Jock is Kanien’kehá:ka, Wolf Clan from Akwesasne. She is an activist, land protector, master seamstress and artist. Kawenniiosta has helped develop traditional support, cultural teachings and language preservation within the tribe and is a traditional full-spectrum doula. She uses indigenous methods and medicines to support women with their general reproductive health throughout all stages of pregnancy, mooning, and menopause. Kawenniiosta is an alumna of the Akwesasne Freedom School and is passionate about her people and culture. She carries a heart-felt desire to create a space of love and healing for each and every individual.
ABOUT THE WATERFALL UNITY ALLIANCE
The Waterfall Unity Alliance
was formed in 2015 when traditional Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) leaders from the Akwesasne Reserve returned to their ancestral valleys to stand with local residents against a major fracked gas pipeline planned for the area. As part of a coalition of grassroots groups, they successfully pressured New York State to deny the pipeline’s construction permit, setting a historic precedent as the first defeat of a federally approved interstate pipeline. It was a huge win, but our prayer was not just to stop a pipeline but to open the doorway for the Kanien’kehá:ka to return to their ancestral lands. This central prayer has guided the work of the Waterfall Unity Alliance over the last seven years. We continue to work on protecting the Earth, building relations across movements and cultures, and collaborative solutions to the existential threats of our time, including community-supported landback initiatives in the Schoharie Valley.