Ceremony Dedicates Haudenosaunee Creation Story Sculptures | New

PLATTSBURGH – Peace Point Park is now richer in history and art.

On Saturday, the dedication of the Haudenosaunee creation story sculptures, created by Mohawk potter Natasha Smoke Santiago, officially took place as the sculptures were officially donated to the city.

The event was free to the public and had a large turnout.

PEACE POINT PARK

Dedicated clay art, made possible by the Tsi ietsenhtha/Gee Yeh Jon’ Ta – Plattsburgh Art Project, features the turtle with 13 seashell tiles and two statues of Sky Woman and The Three Sisters. The artwork is now available to view in the middle of Peace Point Park, next to the Plattsburgh City Marina at the end of Dock Street.

Mohawk Emily Kasennisaks (“Looking for a Name”) Stacey also helped co-create the symbols on the coins with Santiago. The two women both belong to the Turtle Clan.

“Natasha and I spent five to six hours a night talking about what was going to be on these centerpieces and what it meant,” Stacey said.

The Turtle Sculpture is a work of art representing the importance of the turtle in the Haudenosaunee creation story. It consists of 13 ceramic tiles, or shell segments, made using traditional Mohawk pottery techniques.

LOTS OF LOVE, THOUGHT

Santiago added that the project helped her deepen her knowledge as an artist.

“I put a lot of love and a lot of thought into my work. I always like to include our teachings and I like to share, with everyone, our teachings, (and) our culture. I try to show that in my work and so I think I did. I learned a lot like I said, and I’m so happy to be here,” she said.

“I hope everyone enjoys the pieces.”

MOHAWK HISTORY

Mohawk/Bear clan elder and spiritual leader Tom Porter – Sakokwenionkwas (“Winner”), began the dedication ceremony by delivering the thanksgiving speech, Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen, (“Words Above All “), followed by the Creation Story.

Porter explained that discussions like these are a tradition for the Mohawks, who will have them before important events.

“I want to thank you for allowing me this time to be briefly with you and to let you know that our (Mohawk) history goes back thousands and thousands of years before Christopher Columbus,” Porter told the end of its creation story.

MONUMENTAL PANEL

In 2020, an educational sign was installed at the site of the Samuel de Champlain monument in the city of Plattsburgh to provide context for the historical inaccuracy of the Native American depicted on the monument.

Those who helped build this sign two years ago were also on hand for the dedication on Saturday.

“Once the sign was installed at the Champlain Monument…Penny (Clute) and I went ahead and formed the Tsi ietsenhtha /Gee Yeh Jon’ Ta — Plattsburgh Art Project,” said project member Don Papson.

“The thought came to mind and I said, ‘When we’re done with this (educational panel) project, we need to do something to honor the Haudenosaunee people.

“We want this to be a starting point, not just an end point. The sculptures are there, the art is there, it’s an entry, a beginning,” added Clute.

COME TOGETHER

To end the dedication ceremony, cultural educators from the Native North American Traveling College performed traditional dances and songs.

City of Plattsburgh Mayor Chris Rosenquest, also at the event, said he was “moved by the community coming together.

“It can’t be done by one person…it was done by a great community effort,” he said.

“Often in the city of Plattsburgh, we celebrate our history, but it’s often the story of war and violence, rather than the story of the original people…the more we create that, the more we talk about it as a community, it’s my hope that it becomes our culture.

Email Carly Newton:

cnewton@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @CarlySNewton