The Fight for Freedom & Native America


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…

  • adam-beach.jpgDid 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.

red_3-crop-email.jpgDebates 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.

Blue_YonderBut 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.

july06-yukon-photo-2.jpgThe 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.

lastwarrior.jpgAnd don’t forget, THE LAST WARRIOR comes out March 2008!

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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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23 thoughts on “The Fight for Freedom & Native America”

  1. Karen is The Last Warrior the book you’re talking about that you’ve researched the Iroquios for? It sounds so interesting. I just finished so much research with the Comanches for a book and there’s just so much to learn. Sometimes I think of the time they spend in school learning and wonder how come I’ve never heard this stuff before!!!

    Great post.

    It reminded me, when you talk of the whites coming in and pushing every one back and back and back, of a line Louis L’Amour was so fond of in his books. (or some variation of it)

    He said, “The Indian tribes were done the first time they wanted a steel bladed knife or a needled that they could only get from the whites.”
    It was the beginning of dependence, something they couldn’t provide for themselves, when before they’d been completely self-sufficient.

    As long as the white man had the only available needle and the native people wanted it, they had to get along…not without bad incidences of course…but ultimately get along with the whites.

  2. Hi Mary!

    Thanks so much for your post and your questions. The book coming out in March is the last book in the Lost Clan series and the tribe is the Lakota –Hunkpapa tribe. It’s the book I’m currently writing (don’t have a title for it yet) that I’m researching for on the Iroquois and I’m learning so many things that I’d never learned.

    Louis L’Amour was right when he said that “The Indian tribes were done for the first time they wanted a steel bladed knife or a needle that they could only get from the whites.”

    It’s really true. It brings to mind my saddness of our exportation of our industry and food supply to foreign shores. If we become dependent on other nations and stop manufacturing goods for ourselves, we open ourselves up for the dependency, as well, I think.

    The quote (and I don’t know who made it) but this quote that says, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” I think is so very true.

    The research for this new book is fascinating.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. It is like a lot of things is this country the whtes came in and took over and did not seem to care who they ran over to do it—the native american indian no matter his tribe—was seen as expendable to be walked over as insignifcant—my fathers grandmother was a full blooded indian from vermont and him and me are very proud of our heritage—I have traveled to the indian nations and met many of them at the tribal headquarters in south dakota—they are highly educated feeling people—I could have gladly stayed and talked with them for hours and hours—most of the early settlers felt entitled to take what they took just like many who went west to open the lands they took the good land and pushed the indians onto useless land—then gave them infected blankets and they got sick and were not given help—do not get me started I am white and have lived in the south for 47 yrs and have felt the prejudice highly from my married family the people who have lived here most of their lives and not traveled over 100 miles from the area—I have been called a damn yankee–which is a northern who came south and did not go back—what would have happened against the japanese without the code talkers—I hate what my forebears done to the indian—I am more than proud to have indian in my heritage along with irish—

  4. Hi Kay!

    Hey, I’m smarter already this morning for the reading of your blog! I won’t begin to speak to anything related to your impeccable knowledge and research on Native Americans, but I can give my response to your question.

    Of course, my head is still in the ice of the White Continent but I’ll try to defrost a bit and offer my take on your query.

    As many of us do, I still wince at what happened to Native Americans in North and South America when our country was founded. I’m sure none of us are proud of what we did, as none of us are proud of slavery. It’s part of the history of America, but a sad part, indeed. Despite our troubled history (which we share with pretty much every country in the known world … I think Jerusalem was conquered about 9 or 10 times) I do believe that we ever strive for that elusive thing we call Freedom. And yes, I do believe we’re still a beacon of freedom to the world. Of course our beacon is often tarnished and dimmed (case in point the issues to which you speak) but somehow, through the will of people who desire freedom, we’re able to keep it polished, on good days that is. Americans love a good political argument and we’re certainly not lacking in that department, are we?

    To me, America is a living organism that’s ever-evolving, ever trying to survive. I think we try to do the right thing, more often than not. The issues you speak to are upsetting and need to be remedied. Most of us, I think, can agree that any infringement on the rights of Native Americans is despicable. I think, too, that because of informed, talented, and caring writers such as yourself … we can listen and learn and try to do better.

    We’ve a long way to go in this country, but I never look back except to learn from our mistakes. So to compare us now with 50 years ago is very difficult for me to address. I believe in We The People of the United States and I believe, perhaps naively, that We The People are willing to work hard to make our country ever strive to do the right thing. There’s a lot wrong with us certainly, but you’ve only to look at so many countries in the world where their people have few, if any, rights at all.

    Geez, not sure if I answered your question. Once again you’ve proved you’re a Writer of Substance. I’m ever your fan …

    Joanne Sundell
    The Parlor House Daughter, 12/08
    A…My Name’s Amelia, LP coming

  5. Wow, we have some really educated posts here today. Hi Catherine, so nice to see you here on this blog. For those of you who don’t know, in the book, THE LAST WARRIOR, coming out in March, there is “the other woman” whose name is Miss Abernathy. I love this name and asked Catherine if I could use it — it just fit so well with the story. So thank you, Catherine, for allowing me that.

    I didn’t know that your heritage is from Vermont. I raised my kids in Vermont and still am in awe of its beauty. Were your people the Abnaki? They were certainly a fierce tribe, not to be messed with, that’s a certainty.

    I agree wo much with what you’ve said. Perhaps if we study our history well enough, we won’t make the same mistakes over and over and over.

    Thanks for your post. : )

  6. Hi Joanne!

    For any of you who may not know it, Joanne is a writer of great talent who has just come back from a trip to the Anaratica — geez, I can’t seem to spell it this morning, and no dictionary on hand to correct myself.

    I love your thoughts on this subject, as well, Joanne and thanks so much for your compliments. Love your analogy to America being a living organism. And yes, America is the hope of the world. May she always be the beacon of freedom. For me, freedom and Native America go hand in hand. I’ve known many people from Europe and perhaps a few other places in the world as well. And it’s my opinion that their idea of freedom and ours are worlds apart. When we say free, we really mean free. Free to think and to act and to do, so long as it does not harm anyone else or their property.

    Thanks so much for our delightful post. ; )

  7. Kay, you sure wrote a thought-provoking post. There’s no doubt that the white man was the downfall of the Native American civilization and that’s very sad. I never associated the trade as the primary moment of the destruction of the Native American way of life though, but it stands to reason. Anytime you make a society dependent on you for their survival, there is a downfall.

    As for today’s America, I really think we’re heading on a downward path because the basics of our democracy has been eroded by the tons of new laws and rules that were just implemented to benefit a few certain groups. Politics is a dirty business. Most are there to line their pockets and help their cronies. That’s my opinion anyway and I’m sticking to it.

    I loved learning more about the Native Americans and their culture. Thank you for always posting an interesting subject!

  8. Hi – thought I’d drop by over here as I visit often and I forgot you would be here today.
    Ron is in a Frontier Christian Men’s Fellowship where they learn to live off the land. Who knows maybe he will need it one of these days with the way things are going. I plan to plant a bigger garden this year as food is getting too high. Of course Ron will have to help me.
    I did a research on the Iroquios when I was in High School. I learned a lot. I still have that research paper buried dead in my stuff I’ve hung onto for years. I loved researching Indian History then and reading about now.
    In Arizona, we got to know a real Indian who worked with my husband building a power plant. He was a young man.
    As I’ve already told you, I am part Indian. My great Grandmother on my Dad’s side was full blooded Cherokee.
    Freedom is vanishing and people today as so blind to it. I thank God my 21 year old daughter isn’t. She hates what people are doing to nature and the earth. She is involved in all types of efforts to keep the earth clean.
    Anyway wanted you to know I dropped by.

  9. Hi Linda!

    Thank you so much for your thought provoking post, as well. I hadn’t really thought of the trade and the trade goods as being one of the downfalls of the Indians, either. I guess there’s something to be said for being self-sufficient.

    As to today’s problems, I so agree with you. What the solution is, I don’t know. All I know is that Freedom is a powerful message — we all yearn to be free — and that our own concept of that — our American concept is in my opinon steeped in Native America. : )

  10. Hi Jane!

    Thanks so much for dropping by. You know, I think you’re wise to be planting a garden. What with the genetic modification of seeds, the NAIS I think it’s called — chipping every animal for tagging (an expensive proposition) — and our water rights being legislated more and more into the pocket of the government — I think it does us well to do something about having our own source of food, should our food source prove to be deficient in the future.

    You are wise, I think. I need to get on the ball with this, as well. Thanks for bringing up that point. : )

    Good to see you here!

  11. I’m an enrolled member of the Blackfeet nation and I’ve been raised in Browning Montana which is the tribal seat. Since I’m 42 I’ll speak for what I’ve seen.

    We the Blackfeet as a sovereign nation are suppose to be gaurded and cared for by the fedral goverment when it comes to our own rights. Unfortunately that has not been the case. I remember back in the early 90s when we had open gambling gaming on our reservation. Most of the tribal owned businesses had gambling machines in them. This gambling made for increased revenue for the native business owner which was excellant in my opinion. But again this posed a problem to neighboring towns because it cut back on there monies that they got from the native gamblers. Well these non native businesses went to the state of Montana and asked that the tribes be taxed too because they were loosing revenue. From that point on the state imposed a tax on all native tribes in Montana which is not lawful according to our treaty with the fedral goverment. Still the state kept pushing and when push came to shuv the fedral goverment backed the state. So the federal goverment sent in United states troops in armored vehicles with machine guns and forcebally shut down the gaming on my reservation.

    With that said I can’t stand and say as a native person that I or my nation is free since we are forcebally made to do the will of the fedral goverment which is our suppressive gaurdian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Hi Karen, As you know I’ve been writing about the Apaches in Arizona. The Apaches had no cuss words in their language nor did they swear in the name of their god, Usen, to do so was a sacrilege to them. We not only use the name of our Lord in vain, but we curse people with his name too. I agree with the earlier posts that said when anyone becomes dependent on another for their sustenance or livelihood, it is the beginning of the end. Our forefathers, not all of them certainly, but many felt the Native American was little less than an animal with no soul. They never seem to recognize the spiritual side of the first real Americans, nor took the time to learn. In some areas they were more spiritual and civilized than the white man. Another thing in the Apache culture was the care of their elderly people as well as someone who had lost a family member who was the provider for them through the loss of a husband, son, or father. They divided their spoils equally among the tribe and if one went hungry, all went hungry. The old people were revered and respected for their knowledge and many would sit around a camp fire at night to listen to the stories the old ones told. We seem to have lost that same respect for our elderly people. No, I don’t think we have the same freedoms we had, even 10 years ago. We need to get back to our Constitution and the Bill of Rights upon which our nation was founded. We have lost many of them.
    Carol Ann Didier
    APACHE WARRIOR, Zebra Historial
    Due out in April 2008

  13. HI Patricia!

    Incredible! Incredibe! They sent tanks with machine guns. This is unthinkable and where was the press when this happened? Why the heck didn’t we know about this abuse of power?

    Thank you so much for your post on this. Thank you so very, very much, my dearest friend.

    Take care, Paticia!

  14. This is all very interesting. History is written by those who “win” and they put their spin on everything. It isn’t until recently that some people even mentioned that maybe the “white man” didn’t treat the Indians quite fairly – an understatement if I ever heard one. It’s not any different today. If people talked the way our forefathers talked when defeating the English, we would call them traitors. I guess the older I get the more disillusioned I get but I still have hope that at least a lot of us still want to do what is really right and not necessarily what we selfishly want.

  15. Hi Carol!

    My very good friend, Carol! What an intelligent and insightful post. I couldn’t have said it any better than you have. We do need to get back to our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Thank you so much for coming here today and posting.

    My hat is off it you.

  16. You have broached an important question today. All you have to do is fly anywhere within the U.S. and you will become all too aware of how much our freedom is slipping away.

    I recall flying to HI 23 years ago. My friend and I ran all the way to the gate together. There were no metal detectors or Xray machines for carry-on luggage. Now you can’t even bring scissors with you if you want to knit on the plane.

  17. I agree with Estella she is right. I think freedon is in the past. You can drink all the liquor you want when you go out to eat, but please don’t light up a cigarette thats againts the law. By the way we will just add more taxes on those cigarettes too. We will keep the liquor and not add more taxes to it. After all more die from liquor every day then cigarettes right. Thats taking peoples rights away

  18. Karen,
    Thanks for reminding me to come visit you today. I really love your proposed question. At first, as I was reading your blog entry I thought I would be unable to respond in depth to any question regarding American Indian history but YOUR question I can respond to. It’s complex so I’m just going to select one little tiny part of our freedom…a freedom that pertains to women.

    It’s the freedom to chose what we want for our body. It’s not land. It’s not the ability to go where we want to go or do what we want to do. It has nothing to do with the right to bear arms. But it is the key to a woman’s ability to direct her own life’s course and it has everything to do with freedom. In the time of the western expansion a woman was a child bearer. She was a home maker. There is nothing wrong with either of these two endeavors, but there was little choice. Without birth control a woman had no control over her child bearing with the exception of abstinence. In general a woman would have child after child until she could no longer bear children or until childbirth took her life. The ability to chose our destiny is every bit as important as our ability to chose the land on which we live.

    A child’s education level is very much related to his/her mother’s education level and a mother’s education level is very much related to her ability to chose when she has children.

    So when I think of freedom, part of me immediately thinks of that particular freedom. Do I fret over the things you bring up in your blog? Of course and what happened to the American Indian was so wrong, but the opportunities for women in this country are so ahead of most of the rest of the world that I have to take a moment to be thankful for that… and that I live now and not then.

    Barbara Bergin
    author of “Endings”

  19. Wow, Karen you really evoked so many passionate responses today. Great post and great, thoughtful comments for everyone.
    And I wrote about how cute Adam Beach is. Oops. 🙂

  20. Karen-

    I stopped by yesterday, but didn’t post. I wanted to think about things before I said anything.

    I think we have freedoms, but the meaning of it has changed a lot over the years and some is good, but I think a lot of it is bad.

    As Virginia H. mentioned, it’s okay to drink drink drink, but goodness no- don’t smoke. I’m from Kentucky, where tobacco was a major source of income for decades. That is fading away as the government attacks the tobacco industry and the farmers who raise it and the ones who smoke it. I do think more lives are lost because of drunk drivers. It’s legal, but a lot of people abuse it- my uncle is an alcoholic, so I see what that addiction does to a person. He is DEPENDENT on that liquor and doesn’t think he can go without it.

    But what about the meth labs and illegal drugs on the streets? Or the prescription drugs that seem to be doled out SO easily these days that are just as addictive as the street drugs. The deaths from overdoses and the lives lost or wasted and withered away because of addictions brings to mind the issue of dependency.

    That dependency charades in all sorts of forms though, besides drug addiction. Self-sufficency is no longer the “norm” in our society because we have to rely on others for almost all our needs. When you lose your ability to be self-sufficent, your freedom begins to slip through your fingers as well.

    Sometimes I look at society and all that we’ve “accomplished,” but all I see are fish flopping aimlessly on a dry shore because those we “depend” on don’t care enough to throw us back in the “water” to help us, if there even is water. Some are oblivious to the fact that they don’t do for themselves, and wouldn’t know how, even if they wanted to.

    It’s a sad state of affairs and it makes me want to cry. If our government would take time to stop and think about helping those are actually in deep trouble, or those who’s rights have been neglected and thrown to the wayside and learned to have respect for EVERYONE, it might be easier to not be dependent or even co-dependent, but to work together, united. If the big heads in our government don’t wake up, there may come a day when we are no longer The UNITED States of America, but The North American All-States-Divided.

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