Teiakwanahstahsontéhrha’ (We Extend the Rafters) is the latest exhibition at Dawson City’s ODD Gallery, located at the southwest corner of the KIAC Building (or Dënäkär Zho). Billed as an exhibit for children ages 5 to 11, the machina animation style movie is projected on the east wall at the far end of a metal frame structure which mimics the look of an Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) style longhouse.
The animation was produced by Montreal-based artist Skawennati, using the virtual reality platform Second Life, and is used to tell a story that reaches into the dim past and ends up in the year 3025.
The story is called The Peacemaker Returns. It begins with the legend of Tekanawí:ta, the man whose power to persuade others to find peace amongst themselves led to the establishment of the Iroquois Confederacy.
His message of peace emphasized the common culture of all the tribes. It suggested extending the rafters of the longhouse structure as a metaphor to embrace all the related peoples, including one led by a man who was a cannibal and another led by a ferocious warrior.
Tekanawí:ta travelled the length and breadth of the land in a magic flying stone canoe, taking his message that all can live in harmony by simply extending the longhouse and following his three tenets of respect, unity and peace.
Following the unification of the tribes, symbolized by the creation of a special wampum belt, the Peacemaker departed in his flying canoe, promising to return if ever he was needed.
There followed two centuries of peace, which was disrupted by the arrival of Jacques Cartier and other Europeans who, by conquest and enforced assimilation, broke down the ways of the indigenous people, who fell on hard times.
When the Peacemaker did return, after a special summoning ceremony, several centuries later, it was in the form of a baby girl, Kahehtéhshon, whose gift of dreaming enabled her to reveal the past to others and show them a way to make things better again. Inspired by her message, the world slowly recovered.
It was not without a struggle. She made extensive use of social media. There was a journalist who spread alternative facts, who had to be converted to her way of thinking. There was the orange-skinned man in the White House “who loved money and his own voice more than anything.” Offering him her massive twitter following as an inducement, she persuaded him to behave properly and lead reforms.
This is all history, for Iotetshèn:’en, speaking from the future, reveals the theme of her current quest in a shorter trilingual video at the entrance to the gallery: “Words before all else. We bring our minds together as one, as we give thanks for the people, Now our minds are one”
The main animation sets the stage of the 20 minute presentation.
“My name is Iotetshèn:’en, and I live on Earth—usually. Our planet is united under the Great Law of Peace. Each nation, large or small, uses the single form of government.”
It is based on the teachings of Tekanawí:ta, to which Iotetshèn:’en has added a fourth rule: love.
As the narrator continues her story, we are told what has led to this interstellar voyage of peace.
“Earth has been attacked by more than one visitor from outer space, and our harmonious way of life is being threatened. So for now, my home is this spaceship. We are travelling to the first meeting of the five nearest, friendliest planets in our galaxy. The goal of our mission is to create a union that will protect us from attacks and also help us share our very different knowledges. I have been invited on this historic voyage because I have a special power.”
This is her version of the dreaming gift, which has made her even more persuasive a diplomat than Tekanawí:ta had been centuries earlier.
Skawennati was born in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory and belongs to the Turtle clan. She holds a BFA from Concordia University. Her work has been presented in New Zealand, Hawaii, Ireland and across North America in major exhibitions.
This exhibition opened on Dec. 22, 2020 and ran until Feb. 26, 2021.