by Clint Boehler
WALSENBURG- Each Friday morning the Spanish Peaks Library hosts a program of learning and history. This last Friday, a Mohawk Indian woman with the tribal name of Deerheartwolf, presented some Native American history and art to an eager group of 40 children and adults.
Deerheartwolf, whose given name is Celene Bensink, explained to the group how six Indian nations consisting of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayogo, Seneca, and Tuscarora formed an alliance known as the Confederacy of the Iroquois. They were known as the Hodinonshonni (the people of the long house).
According to the history of the Native American Confederacy of the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the six Indian nations developed a Constitution, from which the founding fathers of the United States Constitution found inspiration. This Constitution set out terms of peace, strength and unity. The Constitution itself was the tree and the offshoots of its terms are known as the branches. The Indian authors called this the "Tree of Great Peace."
It is spoken among the people that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and others traveled to the Indian nations and learned from the Tree of Peace, taking knowledge that would later form the United States Constitution. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, "The Confederacy of the Iroquois is a marvelous agreement, a powerful and lasting union from what are often considered ignorant savages. We should create a similar document toward the British." All this happened during the time of the French and Indian wars
Bensink, who is 54 and who was formerly a hunter, trapper, and woodswoman in the mountains of the northeast United States, has followed the teachings and the old ways, having been tutored by the Elders of the tribes. This is the method used by most tribes to keep the history and knowledge flowing. The presentation at the Spanish Peaks library was actually an example of the Indian way of teaching. Bensink displayed artwork and explained the spiritual meanings of symbols and shapes.
A few years ago, Bensink was severely injured in an automobile accident and her mountain activities cut short. She is often seen walking her spiritual companion and therapy dog, Warrior, along Walsenburg streets. She is constantly working to regain full use of her legs so she can return to the wilderness. Warrior has been a great motivation to her. He is called a "Chinook" dog, being a Husky/Wolf cross.
Following her library presentation, Bensink offered Medicine Bags to the children and fielded many questions from the inquiring minds. Monica Birrer, Director of the Spanish Peaks Library, said that Bensink may be returning for another presentation, possibly in November, to share more of the Indian ways.