John “Sawatise” Thomas of Akwesasne

John “Sawatise” Thomas of Akwesasne

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AKWESASNE – Mr. John B. “Sawatise” Thomas, unexpectedly passed away Wednesday morning, March 7, 2018 at Massena Memorial Hospital.

Sawatise, Wolf Clan, was a very talented ?Mohawk? ?artist? ?from? ?the? ?Akwesasne? ?Mohawk? ?Territory.?? ?As? ?a? ?self-taught? ?artist? ?in? ?many? ?mediums,? ?his? ?artwork? ?is? ?recognized? ?throughout? ?Akwesasne, the United States and Canada.? ?? ?He?? ?made? ?illustrations for? ?books,? ?posters,? ?game? ?boards,? ?logos? ?for? ?local? ?businesses? ?and? ?governmental? ?programs?. 

He was also the instrumental? ?artist? ?behind? ?the? ?creation? ?of? ?the? ?Mohawk? ?Code? ?Talkers? ?mint? ?coin? ?for? ?the? ?US? ?Mint.? ?Some? ?of? ?his? ?paintings? were? ?used? ?for? ?demonstrations?, government? ?to government? ?initiatives?? and? ?teachings? ?in? ?local? ?schools? ?and workshops.? ?? ??John’s? ?art? was? ?also?? ?featured? ?on? ?the? ?cover? ?of? ?the? ?Indian? ?Gaming Magazine? ?twice? ?plus? ?he?? ?received? ?commendations? from? ?the? ?New? ?York? ?State? ?Governor? ?during? ?a high? ?society? ?private? ?art show. 

John’s? ?art? ?was ?sought? ?by? ?many? ?art? ?collectors,? ?museums, governmental? ?agencies,? ?and? ?native? ?institutions, including? ?the? ?National? ?Assembly? ?of? ?First Nations and? ?Ontario? ?Power? ?Generation.? He ?was? ?a? ?true? ?natural? ?born artist.

Sawatise was also a Native American Culture Teacher within the Akwesasne community.? Because? ?the ?Akwesasne? ?community? ?straddles? ?the? ?US/Canadian border,? ?he ?used? ?his? ?art? ?and? ?knowledge? ?to? ?create? ?relationships? ?and? ?cultural? ?sensitivity? ?between the? ?community? ?and? ?the? ?Canadian? ?Border? ?Service? ?Agency? ?and ?the? ?United? ?States? ?Customs.

Sawatise was a life long member of the Longhouse and was one of the founding members and President of the North American Ceremonial TeePee Society and served as a Delegate of the NAC Eastern Branch at one time.  Sawatise had a great love for the Native American ceremonies of singing and social dancing.  As a singer, he was active with the Standing Arrow Singers.  He was a 1973 Wounded Knee Veteran and was a strong believer in the traditional ways and proudly spoke of them.

Sawatise is survived by his wife, Leslie (Whitecrow) who enjoyed 43 plus years of marriage with John; his children, Tiio and Jackie Thomas, Starr Thomas, and Falon Thomas, all of Akwesasne; his grandsons, Tylar, Destin, Riley, Bryson, John, and Preston; his twin sister, Jennifer Standing Arrow and her husband, Ken Jock; two sisters, Loretta Thomas and Lorraine Thomas, all of Akwesasne; his brother, Paul Thomas, also of Akwesasne; his half sister, Cassandra Thomas-Eaton of Utica; two half brothers, George Thomas of Oklahoma and Russell Thomas of Florida; and many nieces and nephews.

In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brother, Harold “Gesso” Thomas on October 8, 1996; two sisters, Marcella Thomas in infancy and Nancy Herne on September 27, 1987; and a nephew, Curtis “Karom” Thomas on October 7, 2006.

Friends may call at the Thomas Family Ceremonial House, Thomas Road, beginning Thursday 5:00 PM until 10:00 AM Saturday when his funeral ceremony will be held.  Cremation will follow.

Arrangements are with the Donaldson Funeral Home, Massena, where memories and condolences may be shared online at

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