NIDA Contest Entry

Michaela, Mohawk Nation, Age 15, New York

Threaded Tree of Peace

Indigenous communities have suffered from substance abuse for many generations, some involving just alcohol or as far as drugs. Much of these addictions stem from the feeling of loneliness and feeling like you don’t belong at a young age. Something that helps prevent these feelings and these bad decisions down the line is embracing who you are, both culturally and physically.

The tree in my art is the “tree of peace” which represents peace between the Haudenosaunee people. The tree of peace was a white pine tree chosen by the peacemaker which symbolizes unity of the 5 nations, the mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida.  Each part of the tree represents or symbolizes an important element of unity in the confederacy. For example, the pine needles of the tree grow in bundles of 5 representing the unity of the 5 nations and the roots grow the 4 directions (north, west, south, east) which represent the paths for our future brothers and sisters. On the other hand, the tree also was a symbol of solitude among chiefs and allowed these chiefs to never “die”, their stories and titles would be passed down to future generations forever.

My artwork represents peace and indigenous communities coming together to become stronger to prevent substance abuse in future generations. The thread in my piece represents communities coming together to form something strong and beautiful. Not only does the symbol itself show the tree of peace but it also shares some of its meaning, for example, The roots represent the paths for future brothers and sisters just like how the tree of peace does. Our ancestors laid out these paths for us to keep peace and culture going. My artwork not only symbolizes coming together, forming something beautiful, but it symbolizes carrying on what our ancestors wanted which was for us to sustain the peace they built in our communities and using it as an advantage to make better decisions like preventing substance abuse.

Substance abuse is a problem for most that can’t be resolved easily, for our indigenous communities it is easier to resolve. Our communities not only have amazing culture but also have amazing diversity to make everyone feel involved and like they belong. us embracing ourselves culturally and physically can prevent bad decisions like substance abuse down the line.

Introducing Auntie Amanda