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Roots of WVUs Famed Peace Tree Traced in New Publication

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
April 11th, 2006

WVU New and information Services
New Release
April 6, 2006

A new West Virginia University limited-edition publication documents the history and significance of the campus “peace tree” that has taken root next to Woodburn Circle.

Edited by University Librarian Anna Schein, “White Pine Spirit of Peace: the WVU Peace Tree,” includes the speech made by Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, when the white pine was first planted on the WVU campus in 1992.

The white pine symbolizes the Great Tree of Peace, whose four White Roots of Truth go in the four cardinal directions of the earth. According to Haudenosaunee oral tradition, Schein noted, the Creator sent a Peacemaker to unite the warring Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations by planting the original Tree of Peace at Onondaga about 1,000 years ago.

“The Tree of Peace is not just for Iroquois people,” explained Tuscarora Jane Mt. Pleasant at a 10-year anniversary ceremony honoring WVU's tree. “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.”

Ironically, vandals in 1996 cut down the original tree – but later that year, Chief Jake Swamp , Mohawk Nation, Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, came to campus to plant another. Speeches and photos associated with this planting are also included in Schein's book.

Having recorded, photographed and archived information about WVU Peace Tree ceremonies since 1992, Schein recently discovered that her audio recordings and photographs were in many cases the only primary source materials still in existence.

“It has always been important to me to provide information to anyone – a WVU student, a member of the local community, or a visitor to campus – who is interested in learning about the history and meaning of our Peace Tree,” Schein said. “Through the generous support of this project by the Office of the Provost, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the University Libraries and the Native American Studies program, I will be able to share this information with a broad audience.”

Provost Gerald Lang, who wrote the book's preface, believes that the Peace Tree's message's deserves such an audience.

“As in the time of the Peacemaker, peace today begins with you and me, here and now,” he wrote. “We need to strive for peace so that future generations can live in a world of harmony, not mistrust and conflict.”

The book is dedicated to the Haudenosaunee and to Carolyn M. Reyer, the founder of WVU's Native American Studies Program.

The book is the latest manifestation of Schein's interest in intercultural communication with indigenous peoples regarding peace studies.

Schein's photographs of contemporary Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy events have been exhibited in the U.S. and the Confederacy and archived in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. She is co-editor with G. Peter Jemison, Seneca Nation, of “Treaty of Canandaigua: 200 Years of Treaty Relations Between the Iroquois & the U.S.”

She was a member of the international media documentation team for the Tombouctou 2000 millennium event in Mali, West Africa , and more than 300 of her photos of this event are in the Mali National Archives.

She is currently a project consultant and English language editor for “Rediscovering Ancient Pathways to Peace,” an international electronic open-access indigenous peace studies series.

Angela Caudill, director of WVU Creative Services, designed the 82-page book. The Office of the Provost, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, the University Libraries and the Native American Studies Program were the sponsoring units for the project.
Schein will distribute copies to all West Virginia academic and public libraries. The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian library, all Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy libraries and the WVU Libraries Rare Book Room will also receive copies.

Copies have also been set aside for free distribution to the general public while supplies last. To obtain a free copy of the book, contact Anna M. Schein, WVU Libraries, 304-293-4040 ext. 4065, or Betty Matlick, WVU Bookstores, 304-293-7464.

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