Sage, sweetgrass, white cedar and tobacco were the four plants held as sacred to the people of the longhouse at the Iroquois village near this town. Ten of us Krishna monks and nuns were learning about the ways of this village, now reconstructed, as it was five hundred years ago.
The tobacco was smoked from a pipe on occasion, by the men, held for some seconds and not inhaled, then released as smoke, which would rise, as a way to communicate with the creator.
Our tour guide, Carry, also mentioned that earth worms were brought to North America and that potatoes were indigenous to the Americas and transported to Europe. Also we sampled cornbread as the Iroquois prepared it. It was saturated in maple syrup, so naturally it was delicious and ready to die for.
Life in the longhouse was a sharing in experience; several families would live in one house and that would be for six months of the year during the chilly season. If you were 40 years old you would really be old and it was speculated that on the average, life expectancy for women was less as they would be more affected by the indoor smoke caused from the indoor fires. Blindness and cancers would be common in peoples lives. The diet of the folks was 80% vegetarian.
Our group also had the honour to conduct our own Pow Wow – but to the side, and to trek a stretch of the famous Bruce Trail, a trail not welcome to those with lazy feet as you’ll be moving up and down with ancient rocks and roots exposed from the trees.
I had arranged this trip in order that our group of monastic devotees could learn something about another culture, that’s number one. Secondly it is necessary to just ‘get out’ once in a while. Life in the ashram can be quite insular, a trite too much. And finally there was a need for us to create a day for sanga, association with each other as a group, which doesn’t always happen. We walked, chanted and read from the book ‘Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead’ all with incredible delight.