On the afternoon of October 16, my family reached me with the sad news that Jake Swamp had passed away two days earlier. I was in Brasília, teaching a course at UNIPAZ (the University of Peace) and had just spent the morning telling 45 young Brazilians of the work that Jake and I had done under the name Tracking the Roots of Peace. It had been some years since Jake and I had worked together, but from 1984 through 2003 we traveled together all over the United States, the Hawaiian Islands and Sweden with our programs of “natural and cultural awareness.”
The notice of Jake’s passing from Mohawk country spoke of a lifetime of dedication and service to Mohawk culture, Native rights and global peace through the Tree of Peace Society, which he founded in 1984:
Jake Swamp passes to the spirit world.
Friends and associates of The Tracking Project know what a profound effect Jake’s wisdom and teachings have had on our programs and philosophy. I first met Jake and his wife, Judy, at Akwesasne in 1981. In 1984 and 1985 when we did our first Mohawk survival camps with Ray and John Fadden at the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota, New York, Jake and other leaders came to observe. I had spent nearly seven years working with the Aboriginal community in South Australia from 1978 through 1984; Jake and the editors from Mohawk newspaper Akwesasne Notes were interested in seeing what I had learned from the Aboriginal elders. During a interview on Mohawk radio CKON, Jake expressed how much he liked the idea of tracking. “Like tracking the truth,” he would call it. “Imagine if we used tracking to look truthfully at American history to see what really happened….”
From the success of the early camps with the Mohawk youth, Jake had the idea that we should combine our efforts and bring the Tree of Peace Society together with The Tracking Project. In 1989 under the name Tracking the Roots of Peace, we began to share our unique programs blending the teachings of tracking, nature awareness and survival skills with the teachings of the Great Peacemaker and the Tree of Peace ceremony. Jake believed that we needed to carry the message of peace to everyone, from the highest government officials to the youngest schoolchildren. Between 1989 and 2003, we presented a wide array of programs:
❖ Tracking the Roots of Peace—gatherings and camps in New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Washington, Hawai‘i and Canada.
❖ Sacred Circle—gatherings at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, which brought Native elders from around the United States, Canada and Mexico to speak of issues in Native American communities.
❖ Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World—in 1991, Jake presented the idea that I should create a version of Ohén:ton Karihwahtéhkwen, the “Opening Words,” which could be shared with a general audience and “translated into all the languages of the world.” This version was completed in 1993, to accompany Jake’s version—Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message—published by Lee & Low Books in 1995.
❖ Hawaiian sovereignty gatherings and Tree of Peace plantings 1990–1992—at the request of our friend, Mililani Trask (then Kia ‘Aina of the Hawaiian sovereignty group Ka Lahui Hawai‘i) we met with hundreds of young Hawaiians, Ka Lahui delegates and other interested people on the islands of O‘ahu, Molokai and the Big Island to plant Trees of Peace and share ideas of Native sovereignty, the preservation of indigenous languages and the sacredness of the Natural World.
❖ Santa Fe Council for Environmental Excellence—Together with attorney Michael Last, founder of the Council, Andy Buster (Miccosukkee elder), Galen Drapeau (Yankton Dakota) and others, we held nineteen meetings in New Mexico and Florida between 1991 and 1998, bringing together environmental lawyers, advocates and activists, sharing a Native American perspective on environmental management.
❖ Akwesahsne Science and Math Pilot Project (ASMPP)—meeting with Mohawk middle school students each year at Paul Smiths college in the Adirondacks from 1994 through 2003, helping to create experiential programs to accompany a Native math/science curriculum based on the teachings of the Ohén:ton Karihwahtéhkwen, the “Opening Words.”
❖ Bringing the Pieces Together Again—a series of Mens’ gatherings (1991–1994) which shared a Native perspective on men’s work.
❖ Nurturing the Roots of Peace: The Tracking Project’s community mentor program —Jake served as a mentor (1996, 1997, 1998 and Reunion 2000) for this program which brought together community artists/educators from around the world to share The Tracking Project’s curriculum. Jake left behind an incredible body of work and a legacy of peace and global understanding. He often shared the feeling that the world’s leaders needed to hear the traditional words of the Haudenosaunee known as the Condolences, to “wipe the tears from their eyes, so that they can see clearly and make good decisions for the future.” We send our condolences to Jake’s family, the Mohawk Nation, the people of Iroquois Confederacy and to all those who were touched by Jake’s presence.
May his works continue to grow and spread the message of Peace.
To read more about our projects with Jake, visit these pages on our website or visit http://www.treeofpeacesociety.info/:
4. Lineage Page
Project P.O.Box 266 Corrales, NM 87048-8788