Published on July 27, 2011 by Amy
The Niagara Falls, or Nee-ah-gah-rah (Thundering Waters) are the most sacred waters of the Iroquois people, and a focus of many of their legends and myths. For centuries, the Iroquois believed that the sound of the waterfall was the voice of the mighty spirit of the waters. Until the mid 18th century, they sought the favor of the Water Spirit by sacrificing a maiden to the Falls each year – sending her in a white canoe decorated with furits and flowers over the brink of the falls. To be sacrificed was the greatest honor, and insured special gifts and happy hunting grounds in the afterlife.
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In 1679, when LaSalle visited the Iroquois, he condemned their practice of yearly sacrifice, but then attempted to convert the Iroquois to Christianity, and to convince them of the value of the sacrifice that Christ made for humanity. The Iroquois, of course, could not understand how their form of sacrifice could be viewed as bad, but Christ’s sacrifice as good.
At this time, in1679, Cheif Eagle Eye’s daughter Lela-wala was chosen for the sacrifice, even though his wife was dead, and she was his only child. Not until the time of the sacrifice did he reveal the exte of his grief. He disappeared into the woods, then darted out in his own canoe following her through the rapids and over the Falls.
The Iroquois believe that “After their death, they were changed into pure spirits of strength and goodness. They live so far beneath the falls that the roaring is music to them.” He is the ruler of the cataract; she is the maiden of the mist.”