Home Page: Digital Visuals Index Page [<< Prev] [Next >>]

of 10

Nyaweh sgeno,
I am the Project Coordinator of an Indian Education Program in a local school district. I am also a member of the Haudenosaunee and follower of the Longhouse tradition. When I see our sacred masks being sold, it disturbs me. I have been taught that they are very powerful and sacred things. I have been taught that we don't display them or use images of them in the public domain. Whether a mask is made to be used in ceremony or used to decorate someone's home, they are still made from living trees and have power that is misused or dangerous in the hands of those who are not entrusted with their care.
I know that there has been a difference of opinion between the Haudenosaunee in Canada and the States. We are in the process of unifying our Grand Councils. The Grand Council at Onondaga will speak for all Haudenosaunee. They have issued a statement regarding the display and sale of these sacred items. I am enclosing this with this request to stop selling our sacred items.
Authority Over Medicine Masks
Each Haudenosaunee reservation has a medicine mask society that has authority over the use of masks for individual and community needs. Each society is charged with the protection of their sacred masks and the assurance of their proper use.
The Grand Council of Chiefs has authority over all medicine societies and shall appoint individual leaders or medicine societies as necessary. However, no individual can speak or make decisions for medicine societies or the displacement of medicine masks. No institution has the authority over medicine masks, as they are the sole responsibility of the medicine societies and the Grand Council of Chiefs.
Exhibition Of Medicine Masks
The public exhibition of all medicine masks is forbidden. Medicine masks are not intended for everyone to see and such exhibition does not recognize the sacred duties and special functions of the masks. The exhibition of masks by museums does not serve to enlighten the public regarding the culture of the Haudenosaunee as such an exhibition violates the intended purpose of the mask and contributes to the desecration of the sacred image. In addition, information regarding medicine societies is not meant for general distribution.
The non-Indian public does not have the right to examine, interpret, or present the beliefs, functions, and duties of the secret medicine societies of the Haudenosaunee. The sovereign responsibility of the Haudenosaunee over their spiritual duties must be respected by the removal of all medicine masks from exhibition and from access to non-Indians. Reproductions, castings, photographs, or illustrations of medicine masks should not he used in exhibitions, as the image of the medicine masks should not be used in these fashions. To subject the image of the medicine masks to ridicule or misrepresentation is a violation of the sacred functions of the masks.
The Council of Chiefs find that there is no proper way to explain, interpret, or present the significance of the medicine masks and therefore, ask that no attempt be made by museums to do so other than to explain the wishes of the Haudenosaunee in this matter.
Return Of Medicine Masks
All Haudenosaunee medicine masks currently possessed by non-Indians, including Museums, Art Galleries, Historical Societies, Universities, Commercial Enterprises, Foreign Governments, and Individuals should be returned to the Grand Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, who will ensure their proper use and protection for the future generations. There is no legal, moral, or ethical way in which a medicine mask can be obtained or possessed by a non-Indian individual or institution, as in order for a medicine mask to be removed from the society it would require the sanction of the Grand Council of Chiefs. This sanction has never been given. We ask all people to cooperate in the restoration of masks and other sacred objects to the proper caretakers among the Haudenosaunee. It is only through these actions that the traditional culture will remain strong and peace will be restored to our communities.
Dawnaytoh,
Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadadaho
Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee
Nyaweh for your time and consideration in this matter.
Respectfully,
Marcheta DavidsonRHCSD Native American Program

Iroquois mask of the False Face Society - Native North American Indian

Home Page: Digital Visuals Index Page [<< Prev] [Next >>]

of 10
















Back to thumbnails.

Send me an e-mail message.

© Copyright 2000 by Richard deGaris Doble
All rights reserved.