Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

by Robbie Robertson

Other authorsDavid Shannon (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2015



Local notes

398.2 Rob




Abrams Books for Young Readers (2015), Edition: Har/Com, 48 pages


Hiawatha, a Mohawk, is plotting revenge for the murder of his wife and daughters by the evil Onondaga Chief, Tadodaho, when he meets the Great Peacemaker, who enlists his help in bringing the nations together to share his vision of a new way of life marked by peace, love, and unity rather than war, hate, and fear. Includes historical notes.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

48 p.; 9.5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jessie_Bear
After losing everything to war, Hiawatha assists the Peacemaker in delivering a message of peace and forgiveness to neighboring tribes and through his journey finds his own peace. Told from a first person perspective, Hiawatha’s tale reads aloud well and is heightened by the “together we
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paddled/rode/traveled” refrain in large letters, visually magnifying the progress of the story. Dark and fire-toned illustrations highlight war and anger themed passages and make way for a lighter palette when the Peacemaker is heard. Robertson’s text pairs well with Shannon’s oil paintings to deliver a complex and beautiful folk tale to a new generation. The message of peace, forgiveness, and unity applies today as much as it ever has, and is very much needed. The book includes a CD featuring an original song by Robertson, enclosed in a vinyl envelope on the rear endpaper. Perfect for classroom use, especially in the context of folk tales and Native American history or culture, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker is very highly recommended for ages six through ten.
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LibraryThing member paula-childrenslib
Hiawatha, a Mohawk, is plotting revenge for the murder of his wife and daughters by the evil Onondaga Chief, Tadodaho, when he meets the Great Peacemaker, who enlists his help in bringing the nations together to share his vision of a new way of life marked by peace, love, and unity rather than war,
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hate, and fear. Includes historical notes.
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LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Robertson tells in the text and sings on the accompanying recording the tale of Hiawatha (not to be confused with the fictional character of the same name in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha) the historical Mohawk warrior who became the spokesman for the Peacemaker,
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Deganawida. Together they put an end to intertribal warfare in the northeastern American continent, and were driving forces in the formation of The Five Nations (and later the Six Nations), the Haudenosaunee, the People of the Long House, the Iroquois Confederacy, whose governing council greatly influenced several framers of the United States Constitution, particularly Franklin, Hancock, and Jefferson.

In his acknowledgements and author’s notes Robertson thanks his son Sebastian and Six Nation leaders and authors for their historical research on the subject, but notes the inspiration for the song, and then the book came from his experience of hearing the story as a nine-year-old told by a revered elder in a native tongue in a long house on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in Ontario.

The text of the book and Shannon’s bold colors and line bring forth the drama of the story: a powerful struggle between among people, as the spiritual and psychological forces of fear, hatred, revenge and war are manifested in individuals, and then exorcised and transformed into a powerful force of peace and righteousness.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
I really loved this story--sometimes kids' books like this that are in that funny historical-mythic realm get filed under "original content by," and other times as retellings of myth, but the story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker and how they united the nations and healed the evil Tadodaho found its
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way immediately into my heart as felt history, regardless of the (somewhat obscure) facts. History, but also a story about pain and forgiveness and new beginnings. Good one.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
The Iroquois legend of the prophet Deganawida (the Peacemaker) and his disciple Hiawatha, who together brought unity and peace to the warring Iroquois tribes in precolonial North America, is retold for children in this beautiful picture-book from Mohawk and Cayuga-descended musician Robbie
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Robertson, and Caldecott Honor-winning Euro-American illustrator David Shannon. Consumed by grief and rage at the killing of his wife and children by the forces of the terrible Onondaga chief, Tadodaho, Mohawk warrior Hiawatha is set on revenge, until the arrival of the mysterious Peacemaker, a quiet man who travels in a stone canoe, and speaks of the Great Law of Peace that will unite all mankind under one tree. Won over to this new vision, Hiawatha becomes the Peacemaker's spokesman, and together they travel to the different Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) nations, convincing them one by one to join their new league. Eventually, only the Onondaga are left to convince, but first the snake-bedeviled Tadodaho must be cured and forgiven. When this is accomplished, the members of the new Iroquois Confederacy - Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca and Onondaga** - bury their weapons underneath a great pine tree, and usher in a new era of peace and cooperation...

Many readers might be familiar with the name Hiawatha from Longfellow's famous poem, The Song of Hiawatha, but the story told there is almost completely the poet's own, and bears little resemblance to the stories told by the Haudenosaunee themselves. I myself have never read the Longfellow, although I would like to at some point. I am familiar with this story however, having read the fuller, adult version in Paul A.W. Wallace's 1946 White Roots of Peace: The Iroquois Book of Life, which is cited by Robertson in his back matter as a source. I therefore went into Hiawatha and the Peacemaker already knowing the story, and curious to see how it would be retold for children. What I discovered was an absolutely beautiful book, one which retold the story in such a way as to make the Peacemaker's message most powerful. By focusing on Hiawatha, and his journey from grief and anger to acceptance and forgiveness, Robertson demonstrates how the Peacemaker's vision has both personal and political aspects to it. As I commented in my review of the Wallace retelling, "this is a story whose political and religious components are inseparable," and it is clear that although it is a tale about the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy - a powerful tribal alliance whose structure would provide inspiration to the founding fathers, in their creation of a new form of government in the American state - it is also a tale about the individual's struggle to find the right way through life. There are interesting elements of the story that have been left out - the fact that Deganawida is often thought to have been Huron, an outsider and potential enemy to the Iroquois peoples, for instance, or that some retelling claim he was (like Jesus) the product of a virgin birth - but that makes sense, as the narrative focus here is on the disciple, rather than the prophet. Although I would have liked to see more information in the afterword, about these matters, or about the eventual structure of the Iroquois Confederacy - the name Tadodaho, for instance, is used to this day for the traditional leader chosen to preside over the Grand Council of the Iroquois League - I also wasn't terribly exercised by their absence.

As poignant and powerful as Robertson's retelling is, the artwork here from Shannon is equally moving. Done in oil paint, the illustrations are vividly colorful and immensely expressive. I got a shiver down my spine, looking at the image of Hiawatha speaking, with Deganawida behind him, and am little appalled that this didn't receive a Caldecott nod. In any case, this was simply a wonderful book all around, with a fascinating story and beautiful artwork. It explores an aspect of American history - the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy - that many young people may be unaware of. It's fairly long and text-heavy for a picture-book, so I would recommend it to readers who are on the older end of the picture-book audience. Perhaps ages 7 and up.

** The Iroquois Confederacy is now also known as the Six Nations, as they were joined by their linguistically-related cousins, the Tuscarora, in 1722.
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LibraryThing member littleone1996
Have you ever read Longfellow’s poem “Hiawatha”? If you have, you should know that it’s grossly inaccurate and highly insensitive. If you want to hear the real story of Hiawatha, I would suggest picking up this book, “Hiawatha and the Peacemaker”. It is based on Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)
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oral tradition and respectfully tells the story of how Hiawatha came to unite the five tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy.

When Hiawatha’s wife and three daughters are killed by the evil Onandaga chief, Tadodaho, Hiawatha is filled with anger and lust for revenge. In the midst of his pain, a quiet stranger comes to him and asks Hiawatha to help him carry a new message of healing to the peoples of the five nations. Hiawatha agrees to travel with the Peacemaker, but remains unconvinced that the people can be united. The Peacemaker and Hiawatha visit each of the tribes in turn, carrying the message of the Great Law and peace for all. Their last stop is the home of the Onandaga and the vicious chief, Tadodaho. Will they be able to bring peace among the five nations?

I love this book. And one of the reasons I love it is that it has so many pictures of the Bible in it. For one, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker are like Moses and Aaron. Moses, like the Peacemaker, was not a good speaker and consequently needed Aaron (Hiawatha) to speak for him. For another, Tadodaho, twisted and bent with snakes in his hair, is so much like us without Jesus. Tadodaho is also like Paul. When God saved him he was an evil persecutor of God’s people. But afterwards God used him to be the one who looked after all the children of God. I love the way healing and hope is brought to pass in this story.

[Content Warning: This book might be too scary for younger readers. The picture of Tadodaho with snakes slithering in his hair is a little frightening, and the story is a bit mature. I wouldn’t recommend the book for toddlers.]

I recommend this book. It’s a beautiful story of hope and healing, with gorgeous illustrations and wonderful correlations to the Gospel.
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