Hiawatha’s Arrival

Hiawatha pc1Hiawatha pc2

It’s not clear which Hiawatha this is supposed to be. There is the Hiawatha, fictional Ojibwe character in the epic poem Song of Hiawatha, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the Hiawatha who helped unify the Iroquois confederacy. Longfellow’s story was set along the shores of Lake Superior, some accounts say in Minnesota, while others say Michigan. Longfellow studied the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an Indian agent, ethnologist, and explorer, as well as other writings regarding American Indians. The poem, first published in 1855 became immensely popular, and has been analyzed, critiqued and memorized, (at least in part) although is probably not much studied today. When I worked for a brief part of a summer on Mackinac Island in the late ’70’s, I one night took a midnight moonlit bike ride with a fellow worker, around the island (no cars there) while he recited part of this poem. I believe he told me he had memorized it for school, but I’m not sure about that part. I didn’t know at that time how extremely long the poem actually is so I’m assuming he did not memorize the whole thing!

The Hiawatha of the Iriquois confederacy has been said to by some accounts to have been born Onondaga but later adopted by the Mohawk. (or vice versa) This Hiawatha lived sometime between the 11th and 15th centuries, and was instrumental in the forming of the Five Nations. The Five Nations are the people of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations who lived in the area of New York State and Pennsylvania, and were often at war with one another until being persuaded to follow the teachings of a legendary figure who came to be referred to as The Great Peacemaker. The Great Peacemaker was by some accounts a Huron prophet, and is said to have converted Hiawatha to his teachings. Hiawatha was known as a great orator, and thus able to be very influential in bringing about the union of the Five Nations. The Five Nations later became The Six Nations when the Tuscarora joined in 1722.

Divided back, white border, unused postcard. Circa 1915 – 1930. Published by the Detroit Publishing Company, No. 8022. “Photostint” card.

Sources and other reading:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiawatha