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The Blue Deer Center: Place of Healing & Peace

by Blue Deer Center

The story is told of an Onondaga peace maker, who long ago walked many days to find a healing place to hold a council fire between two nations on the verge of war. When he came into this valley, he found a perfect circle in the river. This was the sign.

Many years ago, in the broad valley of the East Branch of the Delaware, near what is now called Margaretville, New York, several Mohawk and Oneida families made camp for summer hunting and gathering. It happened that a dispute over territory arose between the two groups, and soon afterwards the death of a warrior was discovered. Who was responsible? There were allegations and counter-allegations. Tension threatened to escalate into outright war between the two groups.

A runner was sent to the neighbor-ing Onondaga people, who were known as mediators—the keepers of the council fires. The Onondagas too had aband-oned their villages for hunting camps, but the runner managed to locate a young shaman returning from pilgrim-age to a sacred mountain in the north. The shaman, Tesakwanachee, agreed to visit the camp. He planned to set up a council fire and see if he could get the offended parties together. However, both parties claimed the area as their own, and no one wanted to sit down and talk.

After consulting the nearby forests, streams, and mountains, Tesakwanachee entered the valley to the West, looking for a sign that he had reached a special place of peace and healing. In the stream called Saskawhihiwine he found the sign: a perfect circle in the water. He claimed the place as neutral territory in the Onondaga tradition. A council fire was built, the dispute was settled, war was averted. The people returned to hunting and gathering food to sustain them through the long winter.

At that spot a council lodge was built. It became famous as a place where people of diverse backgrounds gathered to resolve their conflicts and find healing. Long after the lodge fell into disuse, passersby would stop to honor the gods and the ancestors there.

In 2005 the place by Saskawhi-hiwine was opened to the public as the "Blue Deer Center". A few months later the circle once again appeared in the thin winter ice of the stream. Shamans and teachers started arriving to share ancestral approaches to healing, ritual and retreat.

Today as in ancient times the place by the sacred waters still provides for people of diverse backgrounds looking for sustenance. This fall the Center is hosting aloha teachings of Hawai’ian kahuna Lei’ohu Ryder, a grief ritual conducted by elder West African shaman Malidoma Somé, and a healing retreat with Center founder, Eliot Cowan, shaman in the Huichol Indian tradition.


To find out more about the Blue Deer Center and it’s offerings, please visit: www.bluedeer.org, or call 845-586-3225.



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