|" “A figure of the sun which the Americans (Indians) adore and they offer the smoke of tobacco for incense.”Louis Nicolaus – Codex Canadiensis (1664-1675) the Codex Canadiensis|
|Good Peter Oneida by Trumbull|
The name “moon gorget” belies its very cultural significance. The meaning of the name comes from the Native perception that the “moon” was hung in the sky. In Iroquoian cosmology, the head of the daughter of “Sky Woman” was flung into the sky and would forever be known as “Ahsohntahne Karakwa – “Our Grandmother” - “the night time orb”
Arthur Caswell Parker
|M. de Bacqueville de La Potherie - showing two shell gorget suspension ornaments|
|Shell Moon Gorget found at Ganondagan|
“Look into the distance,” Skyholder replied. “The one you are talking about is looking this way.”
She turned to look just as the moon arose, It’s rays bursting through the forest.
“It is true,” she said, “It is the mother of you two. Now my mind has once again become positive.”
|Woodland warrior wearing a shell gorget by Townshend|
Some like the British Museum example pictured still have the large moon intact. Others, like the Pitt Rivers example do not. They range in style and material, some use wampum beads, others fingerwoven wool yarn and porcupine quillwork. There is not enough of a real pattern of construction for them to indicate societal connections or badges of sub group memberships but simply that they were made ornately and with great care. I suggest that these suspension ornaments were individualized for the job they were designed for and not for any ceremonial membership. Because there are many such objects with such varied construction schemes, and because of the diverse cultural emblems on them, I feel that they represent perhaps an ancient understanding that goes beyond the colonial era culture groups in which the examples were made. We see thunder birds in the British Museum example, and we see human forms in the Liverpool example. Some have simply abstracted designs which we cannot begin to interpret with much certainty.
|Canadian Museum of Civilization|
|National Museum of Ireland|
|National Museum of the American Indian|
|Pitt Rivers Museum|
Journey of Father Simon Le Moyne to the Agnieronnon Iroquois 1655-1656
Mohawk version Creation story
Hewitt – “Iroquoian Cosmology”
|Joseph Brant by James Peachey|
J. Brant to A. McKee
|Shell moon owned by Joseph Brant|
|Detail of an Iroquois man's scalplock from B.Wests's "Death of General Wolfe"|
*A side note: As a young adult I listened to many native elders talk about our history and how unjustly we are portrayed in the media and in literature. It was then, that I first learned that we, (Indians) learned to scalp from the Europeans and that any claims otherwise were simply untrue. I then became a scalping denier. Then, it was in college that I began to learn more about the subject and was then convinced that indeed, we did scalp on occasion, and in ancient times perhaps even beheaded our enemies. (My own G-G-Grandfather even seized leadership from his rival by bashing in his head with a rock!) So, I revised my thinking and became a scalping apologist. It has only been recently, that I have been so frustrated with the world that I think I am gradually becoming a scalping resurrectionist! I think it might do certain people some real good.
German company surgeon 1776-1783
Of the Huron and Iroquois
The Captivity of Jane Brown and her Family 1788
“History of the Northern American Indians”
faith, and teaching them how to use the remedies so strangely acquired, which, to this day, are among the most efficacious known to the Indians."
and warped had it become that it would not fit. Here was a new trouble. All did their best but nothing availed. Then the great eagle said that on the high rocks where he lived far above all other birds, the mountain dew had collected on his back, and perhaps this might serve. He plucked one of his long feathers, dipped it in this dew, and applied it to the scalp. It worked finely and the scalp was moist again. The animals brought other things for the cure. The scalp was placed on the head, to which it closely adhered. The hunter revived and recovered his strength. They gave him the compound which had restored
him, as the gift of the Great Spirit, and there was then a pattering of feet and a rustle of wings as the council dispersed. The good hunter returned to his lodge in peace.”