Iroquois celebrate ties with Netherlands
MICHAEL RAMAKER – 14/09/13
National Dutch newspaper Trouw on 14 September 2013
THE HAGUE – On a slow rhythm a procession of Moluccans moves towards the Tree of Peace in Wijkpark Transvaal in The Hague. They participate in an annual ceremony which commemorates the UN declaration which guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples. This year attended by Indians from the United States.
Apart from one of them, who wears a feather headdress, they look very ordinary. The three men, Oren Lyons, Kenneth Deer, and Joseph Deom, belong to the Iroquois, indigenous people from New York. They are there to celebrate a four hundred year old peace treaty with the Netherlands. At the end of the ceremony the men receive a symbolic handshake of human rights ambassador Lionel Veer of Foreign Affairs.
Lyons sees the friendship between his nation and the Netherlands as a good example of peaceful cooperation. “It is important to remind of peace at this time. It requires hard work. Not only by world leaders, but in particular by the common people. Because peace is in their hands.”
Exceptional is that the Iroquois did not travel with a U.S. passport to the Netherlands but with that of the Onondaga Nation. Onondaga is an independent nation in New York. Leo van der Vlist, director of the Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples, says this caused quite some hassle: “The Onondaga passport is not officially recognized. Because today is such a special occasion, an exception was made.”
The 83 -year-old Lyons, spiritual leader of the nation, finds that the place has a special meaning. “This Tree of Peace was planted in 2006 with one of our Mohawk brothers. That’s why it was important to gather here.” Van der Vlist agrees. “I was here in 2006 too. To now come back to this place with people I have been trying to get to the Netherlands for years. A fantastic moment.”