An Appreciation of Ray Fadden – Tehanetorens

An Appreciation of Ray Fadden – Tehanetorens

Ray Fadden, relative and elder of several generations of the Mohawk people
and legend of the Adirondack Mountains, is settling onto the bosom of the
Native nation that he so loved and defended for over three quarters of a
century. The noted teacher is residing at the Iakhihsohtha Home for the
Elders in Tsi Snaihne, on the Canadian side of the Akwesasne Mohawk
territory. As noted in “Indian Time”, the St. Regis Mohawk reservation
newspaper, family and friends of the beloved elder have requested donations
to help care for him in his declining years.

Donations may be sent to: The Support Fund For Elder Ray Fadden, Onake H.
Corporation, P.O. Box 103, Akwesasne, N.Y., 13655. They ask that you
provide a self-addressed-stamped-envelope if you need and want a tax

An April 22, 2004, tribute to Ray Fadden in “Indian Time”, described the
elder’s highly productive and useful life this way:

“Ray Fadden has had a multi-generational influence on Akwesasne families
whereby they were encouraged to take pride in their cultural heritage as
Akwesasronen, as Kanienkehakaronen, Onkwehonwe, and as members of the
Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

“Ray Fadden is well known among the Haudenosaunee communities. Since his
youth he was always deeply interested in Native history, culture and
traditions. He became an educator and began teaching at the elementary
school at Tuscarora in the mid-1930s around the same time that he married
Christine Chubb of Akwesasne. He then taught at the Mohawk School in
Hogansburg starting in 1938.

“He has made it his life’s work to teach Native American history, culture
and environmental knowledge. He taught at Akwesasne for several years, and
his unorthodox style of teaching saw him taking students to various
historic places in North America, learning first hand about Native American
history. He also started a Native youth cultural awareness organization
called the Akwesasne Mohawk Counselor Organization, which was comparable to
the Boy Scouts. The group’s concentration was on Native American history
and culture.

“Ray also produced 40 educational charts and approximately 20 pamphlets
concerning Native history and culture. He started the Six Nations Indian
Museum in Onchiota, N.Y., in the Adirondack Mountains in 1954, and he left
the St. Regis Mohawk School in 1957. Ray and his family have operated this
museum for 49 years. Tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world
have learned from Ray Fadden during this period. From the 1930s to end of
the 1990s, Ray Fadden has dedicated his life to educating Native and
non-Native people about the true history of Native North American people.”

Ray Fadden has a stalwart reputation among the traditional and activist
families of the Six Nations people. Anyone who came to know this
exceptional elder at any time during the past 60 years, which particularly
includes his wide range of former students and apprentices, has been
immensely inspired by his example. The man’s energy and integrity of
thought have impressed tens of thousands. During times when to speak of the
ancestral communal history was to be branded a “communist” or a “rebel” Ray
Fadden’s vocal and exacting defense of Native tribal rights and his efforts
to present a true history of Native life and contributions made him many
opponents and enemies. There are hundreds if not thousands of stories and
testimonials about the contributions and the tremendous volition of Mr.
Fadden on behalf of tribal realities. Over his many years of residence in
the New York mountain enclave of Onchiota, Ray Fadden not only received,
personally and with great vigor, all the thousands of visitors who walked
through the door, he also became the mentor of many animals of the forest,
particularly to the bear, whom he befriended in the wild over 40 years of
uninterrupted commitment to the medicine animal’s welfare and survival.

Over time, Ray Fadden came to personify the Adirondack Mountains for all
nations of Indian people and for many extended friends from many cultures
and nations. Into his nineties, Fadden raised his voice against the obvious
decline of habitat for animals and fish; he painstakingly documented in his
oral tradition the loss of a full cycle of creation in his beloved
mountains, where the bears were starving to death because of the decline of
small game and berries to eat.

To follow Ray Fadden on foot to the large table of a rock where he would
spread out the bones and other butcher shop leftovers for the several bear
families he could identify and converse with was the biggest of thrills.

“I love these woods,” Ray Fadden said to one of our editors, in 1984,
during one such visit. “They are alive to me. The woods have a life of
their own. From the smallest insect to the largest moose, everything has a
function. It is all here for a purpose. All of them are necessary.”

In the same article, the respected elder expressed the following thoughts.
From “View from the Forest: An Elder’s Concern”, (Indian Studies, Fall,

“Now he stops by the road, near a clump of trees.

“‘The old Indians’ way to approach nature,” he says. “There was a lot of
intelligence, a lot of respect to that. So, what did the priests say? That
we were pagan, that we worshipped animals and trees.

“‘That was one lie, among many. But with just that one lie they justified
killing and destroying whole tribes…

“He steps into the trees and strokes the bark of a white birch. ‘Indians
didn’t worship trees. They talked to trees, they respected this form of
life. The Christian, the European mentality couldn’t understand that. To
them trees, plants, animals, even whole mountains had no significance. All
of that is believed to be below the human. Boy, what craziness. I wonder
where they got an idea like that. They say, too. Man was created in the
image of God. Boy if I were God I would be insulted. With all the
destruction they have caused. How arrogant!

“‘These birch here, any of these plants and trees, it is my belief that
they are alive. The old Indians, they knew this. When the old people would
pick herbs, first they would find the leader plant in the clump. They would
offer tobacco and pray to that leader plant, and ask permission to pick
from among her relatives. That way, it was done. But look at now, they just
bulldoze a forest, cut it all, put chemicals on it.’

“Suddenly a bumblebee flies by. Tehanetorens sights it. The bumblebee
flies, then lands on a leaf. ‘I am glad to see this one,’ he says softly.
‘See that little bumblebee? That one is more important to the Creation than
the President of the Untied States.'”

As reported in “Indian Time”, “Ray Fadden is 93 years old and now in need
of the 24-hour a day medical care he deserves. A decision was made to have
him brought to Akwesasne and place him in the Iakhihsohtha Seniors Nursing
home in the Quebec portion of Akwesasne.

There were problems bringing him to Canada because he was not registered as
a Status Mohawk Indian, therefore Canada classified him as a non-Native
U.S. immigrant, and not eligible for any benefits from Health Canada.
Regardless, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne forthrightly honored the widely
beloved elder and admitted him.

His Social Security and retirement pension covers a portion of the bill.
The time that he devoted to teaching and running the Museum and campaigning
on behalf of Indian causes, left him very little by way of any retirement
benefits. The cost for his stay is over $3,000 a month. His pension
converted to Canadian funds equals $2,000, and the difference is
approximately $1,000 a month.

Friends and family from the community have committed themselves to raise
the difference through fund-raising activities, which will include silent
auctions, sales from arts and crafts, benefit dances, both modern and
traditional, and dinners. If you are able to contribute in some manner to
this worthwhile effort, please do. You will have done a good thing.

Contact: The Support Fund For Elder Ray Fadden, Onake H. Corporation, P.O.
Box 103, Akwesasne, N.Y., 13655.