Turtle Island Native Network



August 18th, 1998
Brantford Expositor

CHIEF JAKE THOMAS SHARED HIS KNOWLEDGE
By Expositor Staff

OHSWEKEN -- Cayuga Chief Jake Thomas will be remembered as a kind man who was always willing to share his knowledge of native languages and culture with all people, says an elder from the Six Nations Reserve.

``I will always remember his kindness and he was always so cheerful,'' Mona Staats said Monday.

``And of course I'll always remember what a terrific time it was a few years ago when he recited the Great Law.''

Mr. Thomas died early Monday morning at Henderson Hospital in St. Thomas. He was 76.

``This is a very sad day for the Six Nations,'' Staats said.

One of only a handful of native people able to speak at least five of the six Iroquoian languages, Mr. Thomas taught native studies at Trent University in Peterborough for many years where he became an assistant professor.

Mr. Thomas was also a member of the board of governors at McMaster University -- an appointment he accepted in 1992.

He was also the founder of the Iroquoian Institute on the Six Nations, which offered instruction on Iroquoian culture and language.

In 1994, he spent 12days reciting the Great Law from memory.

With more than 150 chapters, the Great Law is the basis for self-government and recounts the oral constitution of the Six Nations Confederacy which many believe to be the basis for most modern constitutions.

``People have walked away from their own traditions and their own beliefs because they feel they want to live in their own way, how they want to live and they forget about the creator and the laws of the creator,'' Mr. Thomas said prior to the event.

``I think we have this event that will kind of remind the people of what we are. We need an understanding of the Great Law.''

He recited the Great Law in English because so many young people hadn't learned the language of their ancestors and telling it in the proper language would have been meaningless to them.

``I remember seeing him after he had been reciting the Great Law for nine days,'' Staats recalled. ``He was exhausted but the Creator gave him the strength to carry on.

``It was a memorable moment.''

She will also remember how Mr. Thomas was willing to share his knowledge of native language and culture with all people including non-natives.

Mr. Thomas strongly believed in the ``Two-Row Wampum'' which symbolizes how natives and non-natives should walk side by side but their paths should never cross in disagreement or conflict.

He is survived by his second wife Yvonne, 14 children and numerous grand children.

Mr. Thomas is resting at his home on Townline Road until Wednesday when he will be moved to Sour Springs Longhouse for a funeral service and burial at 11 a.m.



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