Good morning! Well, today, I thought — in view of the fact that we are in the middle of an election year, that we might have a look at the beginnings of our country — way back in 1770’s — and Native America. Right now because the book I’m writing is due to my publisher very soon and because I’m writing about the Iroquois, I am steeped into Iroquois lore and history. And I have discovered some incredible things. Here follows some very interesting things in my consideration — interesting only because I certainly didn’t learn about any of this in school…hmmm…
Did you know that long ago, long before the white man set foot on this continent, there were two men who brought peace to a people and established a government of the people, by the people and for the people? Those men were Hiawatha and Deganawide (de-ga-na-Wee-da), or the man known to the Iroquois as the Peacemaker. Their tribes were constantly at war amongst themselves due to the tradition and obligation to kill anyone who had killed any of their own family. Because of these blood wars, the people were constantly in strife.
These two men — who together brought peace to an entire nation that lasted over 300 years — have all but been forgotten in our history (this is not the Hiawatha or Longfellow’s poem). When our forefathers first met the Iroquois, they were impressed with not only their idea of freedom, but also with their form of government. In the Iroquois nation of long ago, the elder women would pick their leaders because the power of the government was held in their hands. No leader was allowed to accept remuneration for his service — it was considered his duty to serve, and that was pay enough. And no leader who served his own means, or who showed little fortitude (cowardly behavior in the face of treason) was allowed to serve. In fact, such leaders were taken out of office at once and their shame stayed with them throughout the rest of their lives.
Debates amongst the Iroquois sachems (as their representatives were called) were long and hard, and no person was interrupted before he was finished speaking. Nor was any action ever taken before there had been debate, and even then, a man was never forced to do the biding of another man if he disagreed. Several moments of silence were also left open at the end of any speech, in case the speaker thought of something he might have forgotten when he was speaking. Oratory was considered a skill that every man should acquire. And those who spoke well were admired greatly. It might take a while for the people to decide on an issue, true, but once decided, and united, the Iroquois proved to be a terrible foe. Both Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Thomas Jefferson, admired the Iroquois form of government. In fact, Benjamin Franklin wanted our own Constitution to be modeled after the Iroquois government much more than it was.
But if the Iroquois government was so rich and so full, what happened to it? Why are the Iroquois alloted only a small reservation in America? This is a rather complex question and is best answered in a complex way, but I’ll be as brief as I can. The founders of the Iroquois Confederation, whose vision was to bring peace to Turtle Island (North America) might have been more than a little upet to see how their people took the peace so hardily gotten, and used it to force their will on other Native populations. It happened once the white man came. The white man came with trade goods that far exceeded the Iroquois’s own. And it got to the point where the white man’s goods could not be done without. Once this happened, it became a contest tribe to tribe to takeover the trade. Unfortunately, this was often encouraged by the French and English in order to weaken the Indian Nations, but on the whole I think it was done without the knowledge of what was happening to the Native American Nations. The Iroquois, because they were united, surfaced as the Nation to be respected, even though that was often done at the destruction of some of the other Native Amerian Nations. Be that as it may, the Iroquois became so invincible that the English and the French were caught trying to buy their friendship, in a quest to bring their own rule to North America.
The Mohawk eventually created a Covenant Chain with the English, which is why the Mohawk (some of them — not all) fought with the English against the Americans during our revolution. However, the Native American has a long standing love of freedom and independence, and several tribes within the Iroqouis Confederation fought right alongside the Americans during our fight for independence. Yes, they lost their lands, but they lost their lands to the corporations who coverted their lands for their own ends. And unfortunately for us, when our forefathers wrote that “all men are created equal” they truly did mean all MEN, and in particular all white men. Luckily for us, because of our right to speak freely, we in America eventually corrected this error to include all women and all people of any color. And so after the revolution in the 1770’s, when the corporations came to take over the Iroquois land, there was no one at that time to speak out for Native Americans.
So this brings me to my controversial question of the day. Are you ready? Recently some Americans in — forgive me I can’t recall the exact state — but I think it was Delaware, lost their homes to some big corporations. The state government literally came in and took over their land — they were given money for the land, but not what it was worth. That land was then turned over to the corporations. In Texas, there is the Trans Texas Corridor being built as I write this, to unite Mexico, the US and Canada. Millions of acres of land are planned for confiscation in order to build this highway — which will be owned and operated, by the way, by Spain. Many of the people who live on this land, have lived on it for generations. Perhaps I am wrong in my evaluation, but this precedent seems awfully similar to what happened to the Native People in New York State so long ago…i.e. land confiscation in the name of the corporation.
Then we come to the recent declaration by the Lakotah. The Lakotah Declaration of Independence. In their own quest for freedom, the Lakotah in late December/early January of this year, declared their independence from the United States.
So here’s the big question: There is a long tradition of freedom in this country, tracing directly back to Native America and our own ancestors. Are you ready? What’s your opinion? Do we still live a country that is free today as it was fifty years ago? What do you think? So come on in and let’s have a talk, maybe we could even, in the tradition of the Iroquois, debate the issue.