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Liberty Trees and the Tree of Peace

American Democracy and the Haudenosaunee

In Haudenosaunee tradition, the members of the Confederacy are sheltered by the Tree of Peace, whose roots can be traced back from the four directions by people of good mind.

For the colonists, the concept of liberty being embodied in a living tree began in Boston in 1765, when the Sons of Liberty chose to meet underneath a stately elm instead of in a pub, where they might arouse the suspicions of British soldiers. The group made its plans to protest the Stamp Act beneath this elm, and the Liberty Tree as both a meeting place and symbol of rebellion quickly spread throughout the colonies. Paul Revere was commissioned to design medals for the Sons of Liberty that bore the image and words, “Liberty Tree.”

The pine tree in particular became a symbol of liberty, independence and strength in the New England colonies, and it was used on flags, banners, and even coins.

• George Washington used a pine tree on flags for six schooners, known as “Washington’s Cruisers,” which he outfitted at his own expense in 1775. The flag shows a pine tree on a white background, with the words “An Appeal to Heaven” above the tree.

• In April 1776, the Massachusetts Navy adopted the pine tree flag, which had been in use in the region for about a century, as its official flag.

• And a flag featuring a pine tree is believed to have been carried by American forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775.

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