April 12th, 2006
The Daily Athenaeum, April 12, 2006
By Heather Bonecutter
In a clearing next to Martin Hall stands a tree with ribbons on its limbs gently blowing in the breeze. This tree symbolizes peace – a peace that emanates throughout the generations of the Iroquois Confederacy to the countless generations to come.
West Virginia University librarian Anna Schien has been working to commemorate the spirit and history behind this tree in a book titled, “White Pine Spirit of Peace: the WVU Peace Tree,” which documents the life of this tradition.
“It’s a documentary transcript of the actual ceremonies so that people can know what happened,” Schein said.
The book follows the history of the WVU Peace Tree, from its initial planting in 1992 to the destruction of the original tree and its replanting in 1996.
This book features a preface by Provost Gerald E. Lang and an introduction by Schein.
“As in the time of the Peacemaker, peace today begins with you and me, here and now,” wrote Lang. “We need to strive for peace so that future generations can live in a world of harmony, not mistrust and conflict.”
“I thought it was important to get this history down before the records get scattered, and people are still here from the planting of the 1992 Peace Tree,” Schein said.
In the beginning of the book, a quote is featured from Chief Oren Lyons, Onond aga Nation Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.
“And when you come back here with your grandchildren some day, you will say, ‘This is where I went to a university. We had leaders who came here and planted this tree.’ You will see how it will grow,” Lyons said.
The book is filled with the spirit that consumes the Peace Tree and the symbolism that it provides to students.
“The tree of peace is not just for Iroquois people. It is for all people who choose to take shelter under its boughs and to obey the laws that say we need to resolve our differences in peaceful ways. It serves to remind us that peace will not just happen by accident,” said Tuscarora Jane, Mt. Pleasant.
“Peace is achieved because of people’s deliberate and conscious actions. It is something we have to work for. It takes great commitment and personal sacrifice, and a great love for one another.”
In this book, the stories told by the chiefs of the Iroquois nation are documented as transcribed from recordings of the actual speeches.
“The message of when the chiefs came is very inspiring,” Schein said.
In 1996, the original Peace Tree was cut down by vandals and the chiefs of the Iroquois nation returned to plant another tree in its place.
“The spirit of peace in the tree never dies, but people need a physical reminder, so we planted another tree,” Schein said.
This book is the most recent in Schein’s series of publications focusing on intercultural communication with indigenous people regarding peace studies, and is dedicated to the Haudenosaunee and to Carolyn M. Reyer, the founder of WVU’s Native American Studies Program.
“One thing that was so important to me what that anyone who is interested in the Peace Tree would be able to have a copy free of charge and it would be important to have it in libraries so it would be permanently catalogued,” Schein said.
Copies of the “White Pine Spirit of Peace: the WVU Peace Tree” can be obtained by contacting Anna M. Schein, WVU Libraries at 293-4040, ext. 4065, or Betty Matlick, WVU Bookstores at 293-7464.