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The White Tree of Peace
an article by Joanne Tawfilis

Amidst the hustle bustle of the endless opening ceremonies of the endless world conferences about endless subjects and issues and all the diplomatic fanfare, I recently attended a powerful reception with Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The "regalia" and/or native dress of the many indigenous peoples was stunning, and held us all in awe, as did the music of countries and peoples that tingled its way through our blood with mesmerizing might.

As I viewed the Indigenous Art exhibition at the front of the entry of the UN lobby, I was drawn to the magic of a magnificent White Tree of Peace. Legend says that this tree symbolizes the Iroquois Nations gathered around a hole where the Peacemaker cast the weapons of war beneath the tree, and white roots of peace spread to the four directions where all on an earth could live in One Peaceful World, the United Nations of the human family.

The Iroquois "Great Law of Peace" became one of the sources for the United States Constitution in 1787. For more information see the website

What was different about this beaded tree standing there on its pedestal, was the fact that each of the fifty curled beaded branches were created by different villages from different location, including an intercultural exchange between the Iroquois of North America and several Kenyan tribal bead makers. The White Tree of Peace was then assembled together in a joyous union symbolizing "PEACE" and "We, the People," which also happens to be the motto of the World Federation of United Nations Associations.

There is much more to this legend, and far more spirituality beaded into the magnificent tree, and even though I personally found so much joy in seeing the tree and meeting its designer, I was saddened that this reception and celebration of culture could not be shared with the rest of the world outside the doors of the UN, for those who really need to begin to make peace with one another.


Question(s) related to this article:

The understanding of indigenous peoples, Can it help us cultivate a culture of peace?

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Latest reader comment:

Two articles in recent years in CPNN point to the renewed recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge and traditions to help save us from the ecological disaster of the global industrialized economy.

In the article preparing for the upcoming People's Summit in Rio (See CPNN April 12, 2012), Fabiola Ortiz emphasizes the importance of involving indigenous peoples in the decision-making about development projects.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon made this argument very dramatically and eloquently in person at the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, as described the CPNN article of  February 6, 2009.

This report was posted on May 19, 2007.