Iroquois Fires

Iroquois Fires

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Iroquois Fires
The Six Nations Lyrics and Lore of Dawendine

Dawendine - Bernice Loft Winslow
Preface by George Beaver
Introduction by Robert Stacey,
Bryan Winslow Colwell and Donald Smith
Illustrations by C.W. Jefferys,
William D. Loft and T.W. McLean

6 X 9 inches, 160 pages
40 drawings, 3 b&w reproductions of paintings, and 25 b&w archival photographs

Penumbra Press Poetry Series, No. 40

DAWENDINE IS THE DAUGHTER of a distinguished chief and elder of the Mohawk tribe, William D. Loft. Iroquois Fires includes original poetry, legends, and descriptions of life among the people of the Six Nations Reserve near Brandford, Ontario, where Dawendine (Bernice Loft Winslow) grew up in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Much of this material was handed down to Dawendine (which means "The Dawn") by her grandparents and parents, who encouraged her to make a verbal record of her fast-disappearing heritage and culture.

She began public speaking and then compiling her writing. Many years later after a lucky coincidence and the persistence of Donald B. Smith and Robert Stacey we now have that record, accompanied by the drawings of C.W. Jeffreys as she had hoped. The book is further augmented by photographs from Dawnedine's own collection and from public libraries, archives and museums in Canada and the United States. There are very few Native-written accounts in English from the early twentieth century, and we are very fortunate to have Dawendine's contribution to the now fast-growing body of literature by Canada's First Nations.

These trails were run of old. These
Blood-stained paths o'er all the world
Were trod by others in other years,
Blood and tears and aching hearts have been
The bitter harvest of other wonton, wasteful years.

Oh, infinite blindness of man!
How shall we teach thee the age-old truths,
The uselessness, futilities of wars; that hate,
Greed, and power mis-used can only sear
Not cleanse the hearts of men?

Again we need moccasined Trails of Peace.
Upon the trails again must speed
The runners bearing Wampum White.
Oh De-ga na wi-dah, Hia-wa-tha*
Weave a new Wampum Belt of Peace.

Wampum White

* Founders of the Great Peace League of the Iroquois


Dawendine (Bernice Loft Winslow)

Author, Storyteller

Following in the footsteps of E. Pauline Johnston, Dawendine pursued a successful public speaking career throughout the 1930s until her marriage in 1937 and settling in the United States with her American-born husband.

While raising her family in Whitman, Massachusetts, near Boston, Bernice Loft Winslow continued to compile her writings, which she hoped would be published by a Canadian firm, with specially commissioned illustrations by her Toronto-based friend, the historical artist and landscape painter C.W. Jeffreys, R.C.A., O.S.A., LL.D. For various reasons, this project did not come to fruition, but after her husband's death in 1962. Dawendine resumed her lecturing, appearing throughout the 1960s in Ontario to speak about her own people and the crucial role they played in the creation of Canada.

The coincidental discovery of two caches of her typescripts and manuscripts by Dr. Donald B. Smith of the University of Calgary and Robert Stacey, the grandson of the artist, has led to the present publication, after so many years, of Iroquois Fires.

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