Monday, 1 August 2022

A Forest Sounds Like a Ship at Sea:

Tree of Peace!

Day 14: Remote Residency at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Ireland, 7/18/22 to 8/13/22,  Maria Driscoll McMahon checking in from New York State

I had two goals on Sunday: getting a look at the memorial for Catharine Montour of the Seneca Nation on the Catharine Valley Trail and 2) Finding and identifying a White Pine Tree. 

The first goal was easy to achieve. The second would require some help.  I found some tall, straight "pine-looking" trees, but my app informed me they were "blue spruce," and still others, "Norway spruce."   Again and again.

I was about to give up when....

Locating an Eastern White Pine tree filled me with the same joy as seeing an owl or a bear or a scarlet tanager (as I saw on the Catharine Valley Trail a few hours earlier during the bike ride!).

I was so excited because the white pine tree was - and is - a big star among trees for VERY different reasons for 19th century lumbermen vs. the Haudenosaunee. 

White Pine Trees were prized by the timber industry in the 19th century because they grew tall and straight. Their lumber was excellent for shipbuilding - the masts and spars of ships in particular.  The trees were in such demand, they even caused a riot. 

Longevity: 280-600 years in old growth forests (average age: 500 years). Size: Tallest tree in Eastern North America (150-250 feet tall and 2-4 feet in diameter); grows straight despite exposure to high winds

Perhaps it is easy to see why "Penn's Woods" became the Pennsylvania desert in a matter of decades. 

Old growth white pines from the 19th century

To the Haudenosaunee the white pine was - and is - valuable for quite another reason: 

Great Tree of Peace: The white pine tree was the tree chosen by the Peacemaker as a symbol of the unity of the nations of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. Its needles which always grow in clusters of five are symbolic of the uniting of the nations. The white pine also has broad branches that can provide shelter and it is beneath the tree that the Peacemaker asked the Chiefs to join him.

Four White Roots: The roots at the base of the Great Tree of Peace are said to be the four white roots which represent the points north, south, east and west. Following these roots other nations can find the Great Tree of Peace and seek to join the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

This reverence for wild beings - plant and animal - may explain why the forests on "Turtle Island" - along with all the beings that inhabited them - persevered for millennia. 

The trees I saw and recorded in the video below have not yet had the chance to reach heights and girths of old growth forests, but they surely have potential...  


The Tree That Sparked the Revolutionary War: Eastern White Pine’s Colonial History – NELMA

Tree of Peace: The Iroquois Legend of the Eastern White Pine – NELMA

Symbols - Haudenosaunee Confederacy (white pine - tree of peace)

Eastern White Pine – Hiker's Notebook (

Articles | Encyclopédie du patrimoine culturel de l'Amérique française – histoire, culture, religion, héritage (\

Panel.two_.pdf (

White Pine - Pinus Strobus | Wildlife Journal Junior (

Tree of Peace: The Iroquois Legend of the Eastern White Pine – NELMA

Symbols - Haudenosaunee Confederacy

How Trees Fight Climate Change - Woodland Trust

Panel.two_.pdf (

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