horseheader1.jpeGood Morning!

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.

red_3-crop-email.jpgIndeed 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.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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  1. Great post, Karen. We can learn so much from the Native Americans–especially the way they respected the earth and took care of it. No society is perfect, but our modern way of life has become so hectic and and out of control. What a shame we can’t go back to simpler ways.

  2. About Veteran’s Day.
    My grandfather served in WWI. He was one of the first men to go into France…and one of the first injured.
    The Germans used mustard gas and he inhaled just a little of it and was dragged out, nearly dead.
    His lungs were bad for the rest of his life.
    I never met him. He died two years before I was born. Even with bad lungs he lived to be sixty, but every winter was dangerous for him, lots of pneumonia, and he died at 60 while he had five brothers and four sisters who lived mostly into their nineties…so war took my grandfather…by all accounts he was a wonderful, sweet hearted man…from me.
    He had one child, my dad…I suspect because he just wasn’t healthy enough to father a big family, so war took cousins and aunts and uncles from me.
    My own dad served in Korea. He and my mom got married in a whirlwind when he found out he was being shipped out. For the rest of her life my mom could never watch someone leave on a trip, get on a plane, without crying. It just took her right back to waving goodbye to my dad, after two weeks of marriage.
    These are small costs compared to what a lot of people have paid I know. But my mom’s tears, my grandpa dead and gone are part of the price I personally paid for freedom.

  3. Karen,
    Hi Karen,
    Great post about the Native Americans. I love learning these facts. Are we speaking of the 1600’s here? I wondered when “chiefs” of tribes came into play? Were they considered the leaders or kings of their tribe?

    My dad was a WWII Veteran. I’ll always be proud of his service to our country. We’ve almost lost that brave, proud generation of men (their numbers are dwindling) and it’s a sad thing.

  4. In honor of all Veterans, I’d like to salute Audie Murphy, who was awarded the Medal of Honor and was the most decorated combat veteran of WWII, with a total of 32 medals. He later appeared in 33 westerns. I had a huge crush on him when I was a teenager. :o)

    My real dad was in the Air Force during Korea, was shot down and later died from injuries sustained during the crash. I have no memory of him. My dad (the man who married my mom and raised me) served in Germany during the height of the Cold War, patroling the Berlin Wall. He could tell some stories. He passed away 15 years ago.

    Nice blog, Karen. Thanks for filling us in. I actually had heard something recently about Native Americans and our own Constitution. Fascinating stuff. And let’s not forget how the military used the Navajo (?) language for their coded messages during WWII. Which reminds me, I never did manage to see that movie.

    Thanks, Karen!

  5. Hi Elizabeth!

    You are so right. I guess what I found outstanding was the incredible debt that we have to the Native Americans of the past — I’d had no idea that we adopted so many of their laws into our own. One of the laws I wish we’d left in was the fact that the elder women of the tribe could remove a man from office after 3 warnings. Wish we had that today. : )

  6. Hi Mary!

    I know — I’d had no idea either — it was only through very careful research that I discovered it, and then I found source upon source upon source. The Iroquois Confederation — without them, this country might now be a French speaking country… : )

  7. Hi again Mary!

    Great comment. Loved hearing about your grandfather and your dad. My father served during WWII. He was in the FBI during the war. My husband’s father also served in WWII — my brother-in-law in Viet Nam and my ex’s father was at Normandy.

    Veteran’s Day is so important. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hi Charlene,

    The Iroquois Confederation was founded it is believed (of course the dates vary because we really aren’t sure) but it is believed it was in the mid-1400’s — before Columbus ever hit our shores. The tribes that made up the Confederation were the Mohawk, the Seneca, the Onieda, the Onongadas and the Cayusa — spelling here may be wrong — they were joined in 1712 by the Tuscaroras — again the spelling may be off here. They kept their records on wamum — which were white and purple beads — to tell their stories — its fascinating.

    Yea, I agree — what a wonderful generation our fathers were in. Thanks so much for your post.

  9. Hi Devon!

    Wow, thank you so much for telling us about your father and the man who actually raised you. These men are/were very brave. May we always honor them. It breaks my heart to hear of the Veteran’s hospital and how hard it is on the Veteran’s to get care. My brother-in-law has a story about that — he’s a vet from the Viet Nam war and recently needed help — heaven forbid. He was told in no uncertain terms that our government could not help him.

    But that’s another story. Oh, and the Choctaw (my tribe) also used code during WW II, as well as the Navajo. So very, very interesting.

    Thank you so much for your post.

  10. Wow Karen! That’s really interesting information. I had no clue! Thanks for sharing that.

    My grandpa was in WWII. In my eyes he was like that Randy Travis song- He Walked On Water.

    When I was little I always mistakenly thought he was a General when he was in the war. (I watched too much White Christmas growing up and the General in it reminded me of my grandpa-still get teary watching it- We’ll follow the old man, wherever he wants to go)

    I think he was only a Private, but in my eyes he was bigger than life. He was my hero.

    He passed in 1991 and I still miss him to this day.

  11. Hi Karen,

    Great blog. I, too, am fascinated by the rich heritage passed down through U.S. history by the people who really settled this land long before the continent was a gleam in the white man’s eyes.

    Learning facts such as you impart is why I originally read historical romance. I learned a lot from well-researched stories. Still do, for that matter…look at your blog! 🙂

    My step-dad was one of four sons. Two were drafted into the Army during WWII. One of those saw action on the Pacific Island, Guadalcanal, a hellhole by anyone’s standard. Interestingly his name was Luzon, after another Pacific Island.

    Anyway, Luzon stayed with my folks for a short time upon his return from combat. While he chose not to talk about his service on Guadalcanal while awake, in the night I could hear his heartbreaking shouts as he re-fought battles and lost buddies in his sleep.

  12. Karen, how fascinating that the Native Americans governed themselves that way! And how wise of the white founding fathers to have seen the wisdom in copying that framework of democracy. This is so interesting. You’ve expanded my view of the very early days in America. I love how the elder women of the tribe played such a big part in keeping order and making sure everything ran right. That thought is intriguing. I’m sure a banished man carried a huge weight of shame.

    My dad only worked as a civilian in the Air Force but my brother served in the US Army in Germany. We owe our service men and women such a debt of gratitude. I can’t imagine losing our freedom that we take so much for granted.

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful thoughts with us after having such a time to get it posted! You’re a special lady, sister Filly. 🙂

  13. Something a lot of people don’t know about Audie Murphy, (yes, I was obsessed :o) after the war, he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (battle fatigue, shell shock) for the remainder of his brief life. He was instrumental in getting the powers that be in Washington to recognize this as a real problem with Vets that required help and treatment.

    Karen, I was beyond shocked when they closed down our nearest Veteran’s hospital. I can’t imagine what these guys are doing for help now. My dad (the one who was in Germany) died in the Lexington Vet. hosp., and even then, the treatment he received was not good. It’s something I’ll never get over.

    Heard something shocking on the Nightly News the other night. One fourth of this country’s homeless are veterans.

  14. I am just thankful that I was born in this country, where I enjoy all the freedoms of an American.
    Love the info in the post.

  15. What a great subject! Since my hometown, Amarillo, Texas, was originally named Oneida, I became interested in the Oneida Indian (one of the tribes of the Iroquois Nation) and I’ve visited their headquarters in Oneida, NY, on two occasions. Now why the railroad named it Oneida when there were a zillion other tribes in this area, I have no idea. According to the lady I interviewed at the Oneida Nation headquarters, the Oneidas were eloquent in speech, more vigilant and suspicious than other member of the Iroquois Nations. She also told me that although almost all tribes throughout America claim dreamcatchers the Oneida were the original tribe to have the “faceless” doll. I have the history behind the faceless doll, if anyone is interested.

    Of other interest, since this is veteran’s day week, on my web-site I’ve posted a letter that my uncle wrote in July 1944, right after he had his leg shot off on the Island of Saipan. It’s very touching, and he talks about being discharged from the Marines hurting him more than the injury because he could no longer fight for our country. I posted it, along with pictures, as a thank you to those who have fought and are still fighting for our freedom.

    What great posts! Phyliss

  16. Sorry one of those duh moments … my website is, if anyone wishes to read the letter from my uncle. Warning, it’ll make the hardest soul tear up. I’ve still got the other posts on my mind. Really good thing to think about. Phyliss

  17. Great post, Karen! I am fascinated with the Native American love of the land and their belief that no one owns the land. Also how they “governed” their tribes and people.

    My dad is a Korean vet and my son in the Air Force has been on three tours to the Middle East. If all the military of now and the past didn’t stand up for our freedom, we wouldn’t be free.

  18. Hi Taryn!

    Thank you so much for your post and for sharing your experiences with your grandfather. I think I would miss him, too.

    I am fascinated by the Native Americans and by all that they gave us…particularly our sense of freedom, not beholden to anyone.

    Thanks again.

  19. Hi Joyce!

    Thank you so much for your wonderful story. The story of Luzon touched my heart. Personally I think that the taking of a life is not something to be taken lightly — and those who fought for this country, for its freedom, should be honored by us each and every day – not just once a year. They gave so much.

    Thanks again for your post.

  20. Hi Linda!

    Thanks so much for sharing your post. I, too, think we owe our Veterans so much. They have given all that a man can give — and we are in such debt to them.

    Yes, it was really something getting this to post, wasn’t it? : )

  21. Hi Devon!

    You know, I heard the same thing about the homeless. The taking of a life should be taken lightly, and I think we ask alot of our men — and our veterans — especially those who have seen action should be valued until the end of their lives. It’s a shame that I hope we will remedy fast.

    Thanks for your post.

  22. Hi Phyliss!

    That’s very interesting about the Oneida and the faceless doll. Of course, I don’t know for certain, but didn’t they make it faceless because they were afraid that if they made a face on it, it might come alive? I think I read that, but I’d love to hear the story.

    And that’s a terrific story about your uncle — and touching to have posted the letter on your site. I will go and have a look. Thanks Phyliss!

  23. Hi Karen. I extrapolated some info from a handout that I got at the Oneida Nation Headquaters. This explanation of the legend is somewhat different … but that’s why they are legends! Hope you all enjoy it. Phyliss


    The Iroquois people have what they call the three sisters or their sustainers of life — corn, beans, and squash.

    As the legend goes, the Corn Spirit was so thrilled at being one of the sustainers of life that she asked the Great Spirit if there was anything more she could do for her people. The Great Spirit told her that a doll could be formed from her husk.

    So, she made the doll gave it a beautiful face.
    Then, the doll went from Indian village to Indian village and played with the children. Everywhere she went she was told how beautiful she was. So, it wasn’t long before she became conceited.

    One day, the Great Spirit called to her. But, before she went into the Great Spirit’s lodge, she looked into a pool of water and admired herself, thinking how beautiful she was. The Great Spirit told her that if she kept thinking that she was better than everyone else a terrible punishment would come upon her, but he wouldn’t tell her what it was.

    So, again the doll went from village to village playing with the Indian children and still everyone kept telling her how beautiful she was.
    It wasn’t long before she became conceited again.

    The Great Spirit called to her again and like the first time, she looked into the pool of water before the Great Spirit’s lodge to admire herself. Upon entering the lodge the Great Spirit said to her, “I have given you one warning now a great punishment will come upon you.” But, he still wouldn’t tell her what it was.

    When she left the lodge she again looked into the pool of water to admire herself but this time she didn’t have a face. The Great Spirit had taken it away.

    Since that time the Iroquois people do not put a face on the corn husk dolls. This is to remind children, never to think they are better than anyone or a punishment as great could fall upon them.

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