Leon Shenandoah, chief of Onondaga Nation, and Tadodaho (“Firekeeper”) of the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Confederacy [or “Iroquois”], whose symbol is The Tree of Peace, passed over into spirit Monday July 22, 1996, at 7:20 a.m. EST, at age 81. In his peoples’ culture, Leon was both president and pope, but more the latter.
This gentle, soft spoken, humble holy man was principal chief of a surviving sovereign nation of indigenous people. And spiritual elder of one of the western hemisphere’s oldest cultures. And Firekeeper of the Grand Council of the eldest democracy in North America, founded in ancient times by the Peacemaker—a virgin-born messenger from the Creator.
Leon served his people as Tadodaho for nearly 30 years, remaining true to the spiritual nature of his office. The first Tadodaho was raised up by the Peacemaker many centuries ago.
From the book “Iroquois Culture and Commentary” by Doug George-Kanentiio:
Leon Shenandoah, the late Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, commanded the respect of everyone he met, even those who actively sought his removal from power. Shenandoah was returned to the embrace of Mother Earth July 24, 1996, before the largest assembly of Iroquois in modern times. Many of those who went to Onondaga to pay homage to the Tadodaho were opponents of the Confederacy and had defied the principles he held sacred.
As the chairman of the Confederacy, he had also taken an active role in supporting legitimate leadership against those who placed the sovereign rights of the Iroquois at risk.
Shenandoah opposed the exploitation of the collective rights of the Iroquois for individual profit. He clearly saw the dangers in the development of an economic class system dominated by an elite few. He stood against gambling, tobacco smuggling, gun running, and so-called “warrior” societies. He made many statements condemning the greed that had taken over the minds of some Iroquois. he joined with the traditional Haudenosaunee when they boycotted outlaw businesses, set up roadblocks to exclude state officials from Iroquois territory, or banished those who refused to obey the laws of their nations.
A few years ago Leon was interviewed by New Age magazine. Asked, “What is the greatest power?” Leon was silent a few moments, then replied slowly, “The greatest power is the Creator. But if you want to know the greatest strength, that is gentleness.”
Leon was the embodiment of that principle of gentleness.
Throughout his years of service, whether before councils of his government or the United Nations, Leon was a steady, soft spoken, eloquent advocate for peace—not only between humans and nations, but also with Nature. He will be missed.
Leon was acutely concerned that we are entering the time spoken of by prophecies—his own and those of many others faiths, creeds and cultures. He had no doubt that in the near future our world order will change, and “the last shall become first.”