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LOUIS HALL BIOGRAPHY

Louis Hall

A BIOGRAPHY

Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall was born on the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory in Quebec, Canada on January 15, 1918. He was born to Thomas Hall and Maryann McGregor. Thomas originated from Akwesasne. His mother was from Kahnawake. When they married, Thomas moved to his wife's territory. All together, they had ten children, but only four survived: my oldest uncle John (nicknamed "Jack"); my mother, Margaret; my uncle Louis; and the baby, Michael.

Thomas was an ironworker and traveled all over the United States building bridges and skyscrapers. There are old postcards from him to his wife and kids from Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. When he got too old for ironwork, Thomas turned to entertainment and he joined up with Chief Poking Fire, which was where the tourists came to see shows back in the 40s and 50s. Thomas died before I was born and I don=t know that much about him. I was told he caught pnemonia after sleepwalking outside in the dead of winter in his pajamas and nothing else.

Louis' mother, Maryann, hated the French and refused to learn to speak English. She had no formal education, but she could add and subtract six numbers down and six number across without a piece of paper, and heaven help the merchant that tried to out smart her out of a penny. Despite her lack of formal education, Maryanne negotiated the move of her house from the Island when it was decided to bring in the St. Lawrence Seaway and flood the area where the house was situated. Louis was the one who worked on the house=s foundation and the masonry and getting a brand new bathroom installed with running water before most homes in Caughnawaga had them.

Louis was educated by the Catholic priests and he wanted to be a priest. He said that the only thing that stopped him was the fact that they didn=t make collars big enough for his muscular neck. Louis loved wrestling and used to lift weights and challenge anybody around who wanted to out-lift him.

In the early 1970s, Louis worked with a group of Longhouse people to evict non-Indian people who were living in Kahnawake. They had been given permission to live there a long time ago for one reason or another, but they had become business people and were taking jobs away from the Indians. They also were enjoying a tax-free life and the Indians decided it was time for them to leave. This uprising was not very popular and there were riots and fighting. My uncle got a bad reputation because of his involvement with this action and many people viewed him as the “ring leader” and a big trouble-maker. In 1973, Louis left Caughnawaga with a group of other Mohawks from the Longhouse to settle what is known as Ganienkeh in upstate New York. This settlement still exists and the people there maintain the traditional Mohawk ways. At one point in the early 1990s, Louis could no longer live in New York State as his health began to deteriorate. He returned to Canada where medical treatment was free. Again, as an old man, he was criticized for being a sell out because he did not stick it out in New York. In Kahnawake, he was refused the sale of any land on which he could build a little house and he ended up living at the Longhouse complex in a trailer.

Karoniaktajeh served 19 years as a Mohawk chief. He was a solid follower of the great Huron statesman, Deganawida, who sought to unify all Indian Nations under one Great Confederacy and devised this message through the Great Law. This belief was in solid contradiction with the Iroquois people who were known as Handsome Lake Longhouse people. While these people believed in “peace” and harmony, Karoniaktajeh believed that one should always be prepared to pick up a weapon to defend the rights of the people. This created further criticism from his own people.

Always honestly outspoken, he wrote his view on what Indians could do to unite and what Indians MUST do to keep their Nations strong without compromising their sovereign rights. Not everyone agreed with him and some people thought he was crazy. He was always controversial, but if one reads what he wrote or studies his paintings, they will see that there is some powerful messages there that are very useful. Louis was not a man of wealth or greed. As his niece, he taught me that these characteristics are not what being Mohawk is about. Louis Hall loved Indian people – not just Mohawks – and he wanted to see them not only survive, but thrive using the old ways of the Iroquois Confederacy to unite and work together. Although what he says is from the viewpoint of a proud Mohawk, all Indians should be able to find something to bring back hope that old ways are still possible.

In his last will and testament, he left his writings and artwork to the Warrior Society in Kahnawake. He had two dreams - one was that anyone interested in what he had to say would have it available to them - and second, that a museum would be built where his art could be displayed for all to see. After two years, with the help of some very dear and wonderful family and friends, we have done our best to make one of those dreams possible.

Louis decided to leave his paintings to the Kahnawake Warrior Society when he died. He believed they were the natural ones to receive the gift. He wanted a museum made for his paintings, books and his other things. He felt that the Warrior Society would be true to him and would be the ones to carry on his message. He created beautiful works of art filled with messages for Indian people and wrote books and newsletters throughout his political life to be seen, not hidden away. Although throughout his life, he would occasionally commission a painting to be done for a private individual, he would copy a painting that was admired or he would create an original piece depicting something that the person wanted shown. He would never sell a painting outright for profit. He never wanted his paintings sold to private individuals because his work has a very public message that he wanted shown everywhere and anywhere there would be interest.

In the last six months of his life, he was taken advantage of by someone he respected for many years. We never expected that this would occur and he ended up making his home in a tiny apartment where he was unable to hang his paintings and where there many steep stairs for him to negotiate at the age of 75. After his death, I was saddened to see that there was only a jar of peanut butter and two slices of bread in his cupboard, yet I had been assured that he was being cared for.

Sadly, his vision for a museum not yet been realized and, after almost 11 years, I guess it never will. This website is the only gallery where his art work can be seen and where his writings can be read. It has come to my attention that several of his paintings have been sold over the years at a very nice profit for someone because the money has not been used to build the museum of his dreams. I’ve also heard that several of his paintings have disappeared. I am happy that I had the foresight to take photographs of my beloved uncle’s life work – otherwise, this website would not be possible.

"My message is for all Indian Nations of North, Central and South America to gather into one big union or alliance. This was the aim of Deganawida, founder of the Iroquois Confederacy, which was sidetracked by the original Five Nations Confederacy who wanted power and authority for only five nations - a big and terrible mistake which all American Indians now suffer from. Had they followed the plan of Deganawida, there would now be a 200 or 300 nation confederacy with territory of its own and subject to no power on earth. So let all Indian Nations get behind this great new move by the Indian leadership. I urge all Indians to return to their own national religions as it is a force for unity and survival. For example, people of the Jewish faith who survived 3,000 years of inhuman persecution are convinced it is due to their national religion. They advise that Indians do the same, because of its strength. While many religions are used as a money making scheme, survival is the most important issue for Indians and their national religion is a great step in that direction." -- Louis Karoniaktajeh Hall - April, 1992