Hiawatha should remain in La Crosse Riverside Park.
The Hiawatha statue is a destination for thousands of family photos. Memories start here, before they take a ride on the river. Little do they know Hiawatha is one of our founding American heroes. His words are part of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In the late 1450s, culminating in 1715, the Iroquois Nation formed the Iroquois (league of) Confederacy under the Iroquois Constitution of 6 Nations. The confederacy was conceived by Dekanawidah, the “Great Peacemaker” and he chose Hiawatha (Hahyonhwatha), a Mohawk leader, as his spokesman.
The Iroquois Constitution was an oral document of 117 articles. It was written on Wampum belts until 1744, when it was then translated to English as “The Great Law of Peace;” the “Gayanashagowa.”
Ben Franklin circulated copies of the Treaty of Lancaster that was clearly influenced by “The Great Law of Peace.” This inspired Ben Franklin’s and James Madison’s strong fight for individual liberties and a separation of powers. John Rutledge of South Carolina read from the Treaty at the Constitutional Convention, “We the people to form a union to establish peace, equality and order.”
It’s also thought that U.S. suffragettes used the Great Law to raise the status of women because the 6 Nations had male chiefs, but they were selected by the female clan and the 6 Nation female leaders.
Finally, in 1982, by U.S. congressional concurrent resolution #331, we formally recognized the Gayanashagowa’s “The Great Law of Peace” influence on our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Hiawatha’s spoken words live on in our classrooms every day. It’s an honor to have the reminder of a Native American leader in La Crosse.
Anthony Zimmerhakl’s great gift does need symbolism and costume correction, with advice from the University of Wisconsin anthropology department or the Smithsonian Institute and with a unity of authenticity and regional symbols; Hiawatha is a great ambassador of La Crosse.
Dave Trapp resides in Onalaska.
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