The Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls hosted the first convention on women’s rights in the United States in 1848. Twenty years later, the 14th Amendment was ratified, extending the equal protection of the Constitution to all citizens, defining ” citizens ”as“ men ”. In 1870, the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote.
It took another half a century before women were granted the same right with the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920.
The Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, NY occupies the Wesleyan Chapel and shares the long history of the organized women’s suffrage movement that began there. The region’s link with autonomous citizens predates these events by several centuries.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, made up of the indigenous Mohawks of the region, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas and Tuscarora were matriarchal societies. Women were the leaders. The mothers of the Haudenosaunee clan chose the leader. Chiefs were supposed to follow the directions of their Clan Mothers, and if a Chief began to act in his own best interests, Clan Mothers had the power to remove him.
This little-known antecedent of the suffrage movement figures prominently in a new monument, Ripples of change, dedicated September 24, 2021, in Seneca Falls. The monument features larger-than-life sculptures of four women whose contributions to the suffrage movement have been overlooked: Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright, Sojourner Truth, and Laura Cornelius Kellogg (Oneida).
“I hope (viewers) feel empowered,” Jane DeDecker, the monument’s sculptor, told Forbes.com. “I hope these women inspire other women to feel empowered to make a difference.”
DeDecker worked with Oneida Faithkeeper and artist Diane Schenandoah to sculpt Kellogg’s likeness and accurately represent the cultural elements found throughout the work.
Symbols and stories
Every detail of Kellogg’s figure in Ripples of change is of importance to the Haudenosaunee.
Start with the turtle at his feet.
“The depiction of Turtle Island was very important because we call Mother Earth Turtle Island, that’s where we say Sky Woman landed when we came from the stars,” Diane said. Schenandoah at Forbes.com. “There are 13 squares on the back of a turtle that represent the 13 moons or 13 ceremonial cycles.”
Monuments are not the traditional way for the Haudenosaunee to honor their ancestors. However, given this opportunity, they wanted to make the most of it. Twenty-five citizens of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, including chiefs, clan mothers, academics, historians, active community members and youth, served on a special committee to select the Haudenosaunee women who would be represented. .
“The goal we had in common was to think about future generations of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (Cayuga Nation) and young Haudenosaunee – how will they feel when they see Laura’s status, and she helps say. unspeakable truth to all non-indigenous peoples who meet it, ”said Michelle Schenandoah, daughter of Diane Schenandoah and co-founder of Indigenous Concepts Consulting and founder of Rematriation Magazine & Media, in prepared remarks read at the dedication ceremony of the monument.
Neal Powless, the other co-founder of Indigenous Concepts Consulting and member of the Onondaga Nation read the prepared speech during the dedication.
Kellogg was not chosen for her work in support of the suffrage movement – Kellogg was not a suffragist, her activism centered on the rights of other Indigenous peoples – she was selected for the tenacity of her work to guarantee the sovereign identity of all Native Americans.
“For being so loud, Laura was attacked and illegitimate complaints were brought against her by the US and Canadian governments,” said Michelle Schenandoah, who also organized the selection committee. “These claims turned out to be baseless, but the scars of these attacks have remained with his reputation. She became another woman whose story was left out of history because she spoke the truth and fought for the rights of our people.
Kellogg was also chosen as a representative of the Haudenosaunee’s enlightened approach to the role of women in governance, and for the example the Haudenosaunee set for suffragists.
“Walking among the Haudenosaunee, the early suffragists saw a world where indigenous women were in full authority and had absolute autonomy over their body, mind, children, homes and land,” added Michelle Schenandoah. “They also saw women who held the highest position among their people, revered as ‘givers of life’, and women who had a say in their governance as clan mothers who held leadership positions. of our people since time immemorial. “
A quote from Kellogg on the basis of her sculpture – with recognition of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ land – reads: “And it is a cause of astonishment to us that you white women are only claiming now, in this twentieth century, which has been the Privilege of Indian Women since the traces of history. “
A basket filled with corn, beans and squash rests on Mother Earth in the sculpture.
“These three plants are the guardians of life, we call them the“ three sisters ”, corn, beans and squash,” explains Diane Schenandoah. “They support each other and also provide perfect nutrition when combined. You have the corn stalk that supports the growth of the beans, the squash covers the ground preventing weeds from growing around the corn, so they work in perfect harmony with each other; it is an example of how we are to live with each other in peace, caring for and nourishing each other.
A sacred tobacco leaf is shown. The Haudenosaunee did not market their tobacco.
“(The tobacco) was given to us by the Creator specifically for our prayers, so when we have to communicate with the Creator, we burn the sacred tobacco and they say the smoke rises and bears our words,” said Diane Schenandoah.
Look for strawberries in the Kellogg statue that has been set up with the others on East Bayard Street overlooking Lake Van Cleef.
“Strawberries are very important because we say it is a medicine for the heart and it is also the medicine that borders the Milky Way,” said Diane Schenandoah. “When we cross and return to the land of the Creator, we eat the strawberry on the way home. “
Kellogg’s moccasins, leggings, skirt, and cap all feature Haudenosaunee-specific embellished details, as well as the women’s nomination belt she wears. The belt depicts the authority of clan mothers to choose the leadership of their nation and the role women have in keeping their nations together.
Even his stature and face – Kellogg is portrayed sturdy, with broad shoulders – were taken into account. Schenandoah relied on the facial features of Onondaga Nation member Kyla Smoke to sculpt Kellogg’s face.
A new era for monuments
Agreeing that the first comprehensive survey of monuments in America would be published the same month as Ripples of change was installed. A cataloging of some 50,000 statues, memorials and public monuments across the country revealed that they were predominantly white, male and violent. Confederate generals receive more recognition than women, African Americans, or Native Americans.
Ripples of change does not tip that balance per se, but it is a step in the right direction.
“We want her story to be known, and not just her story, but the mark the Haudenosaunee left and made in (American) culture – it’s really an untold story of how suffragists were influenced by the Haudenosaunee women, ”said Diane Schenandoah.
“We are proud to present the story of Laura Cornelius Kellogg, so that it can inspire a new generation of people to continue to strike a balance between teaching the history of the horrific acts of colonizing governments and the inspiring survival of our culture, our agriculture and the ways of peace that will continue to uplift our Haudenosaunee nations and all peoples for generations to come, ”added Michelle Schenandoah in her opening remarks. “May his voice continue to speak as a defender of our Haudenosaunee Confederacy, our people and a deep appreciation and understanding that we will always be present in these lands. “