Because we have just celebrated Veteran’s Day on Monday, I thought I’d take a moment to post about something very American — fhe Native American influence on America, itself — how we are today and how we got here.
Long ago, after meeting and talking to many Europeans, I was struck by the fact that the American idea of freedom is much freer than that across the Atlantic. I didn’t quite understand why since our roots go back to England and France and Holland (and others of course, but these three were here first). But because my next book is set in the land of the Iroquois, I have been getting quite an education.
Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were greatly influenced by an ages old Confederacy of the Iroquois? Did you know that much of our Constitution has very deep roots in the Iroquois Confederation?
If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either.
Indeed long ago, before the white man ever set foot upon the North American Continent, five warring Native American Nations decided to ban war forever and to seek peace and to try to bring this peace to other nations, that war should be forever abolished. They developed a set of laws to help them along this path and they “buried the hatchet” and by doing so established a long tradition of peace. It was brought about by the man they call The Peacemaker, or Deganawida, and Hiawatha (the real man, not the legend of Longfellow’s poem). They lived as hunters and farmers in villages with cleared fields that grew the three sisters, corn, beans and squash.
Did you know that when the white man came here, America was not a wilderness? Land had been cleared for farming — and the forests were like gigantic parks — the under brush was burned off so as to produce a place for hunting that was much like our parks of today? At least so writes Captain John Smith.
The Iroquois had a very definite sense of freedom. Man was free. He was not subject to a King — he did not abide by the “Devine Right of Kings,” and he was an independent being. His elected officals were sent there by the elder women of the tribe and could be removed for not obeying the laws by the women of the tribe. In fact, after 3 notices, a man was removed — and lived the rest of his life in shame. No offical ever was paid for being on the council. It was considered his duty to his people and to his tribe.
It was only after learning more and more about the Native American that I have come to realize that we owe the Natives of this country a debt. Our sense of independence, our very thought of what it means to be free comes not from those who came to this country as serfs, but rather from those who lived on the American Continent in freedom.
So, since we have just observed Veteran’s Day, I’d love to hear your comments on freedom, veterans, and what it means to you to be a free people. Do you have any experiences to tell me about? If so, I’d love to hear them. So come on in and let’s talk.