Hope you all had a terrific Memorial Day. Mine was spent touring bookstores, I’m afraid. But that’s only because I have a new book out, and I’m one of those people who think one should visit local bookstores when the book first comes out. I’d love to hear how you spent the day, however.
Keeping with the theme of Memorial Day, and all those who gave their lives that we might live in freedom and prosper, I thought I’d take you on a tour through early Native America, and those who gave this country some precious gifts. We are all pretty well aware of the gifts given in terms of food. There was corn and squash, pumpkins, potatoes, tobacco, maple syrup and hundreds of herbs. In fact the first Europeans who arrived here would not have made it had it not been for the Native Americans helping them — bringing them food and showing them how to plant the various foods for this part of the world.
But what about some other gifts? According to John Smith’s writings, Native America was not a wilderness, as we have been led to believe. Forests were purposely kept trimmed, using fire and other means to keep the grass short and weeds at a minimum, creating park-like conditions — he writes of being able to ride through the Forests easily and without worry because they were kept neat. There were villages that kept crops cultivated close to their villages. Children and women were responsible for the crops and there were scarecrows and as well as other means to scare away animals from the fields. Men hunted for meat, thus the necessity to keep the forests easy to traverse.
But the gift I’m thinking about now, due to Memorial Day, is the gift of a particular kind of mind-set. What was that mind-set? I forget when I first noticed it, maybe 20 years ago. I was talking to and getting to know several people from Germany, England and other European countries. I noticed then that their idea of freedom was quite different from mine. They thought nothing of another telling them what to do, what to think, what to wear, how you should run your life, etc. More times than I care to count, they would bow to the “wiser” authority. Whereas I objected and would argue with someone who thought they had a “right” to tell me what to do. At the time, I didn’t know what it was — all I knew was that my ideas of freedom and the Europeans were amazingly different.
So let’s have a look at this. I think the mind-set that I’m talking about is this: That all men are created equal in the eyes of the Creator. That all men are independent and are entitled to think as they see fit and argue their viewpoints with others if they feel so inclined. That one is not ruled or subject to another man’s whim, and that leaders are responsible not to themselves,but to the people. And how about this mind-set that flourished in Native America? That women have the right to reverse anything the men agree upon if they feel it adversely affects the tribe.
Dr. William B. Newell, an anthropologist, as well as an historian writes: “Indian political theories as embraced in the League of the Iroquois are important and stand out in marked contrast to the European theory of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ which flourished in Europe at the time of the discovery of America. The individual rights of man were recognized in America long before the Europeans awakened to this political philosophy. Ideas of freedom, liberty, and equality existed and were engraved in the hearts of the Iroquois when Europeans were boiled or roasted alive for daring to speak against the state or church.”
Also, this author writes: “One of the outstanding differences between the European and the American Indian was the fact that in America the Indian was permitted freedom of thought while in Europe an individual’s thinking was done for him by autocratic ad dogmatic leaders….”Among the Iroquois, dictators were unknown. No man could tell another what he must do. Every man and every woman was allowed freedom of expression. Every person was allowed to decide for himself what he should do…’We counsel together’ was a famour phrase of the Iroquois.”
Another writer, Felix S. Cohen, says this: “American Democracy, freedom, and tolerance are more American than European and have deep aboriginal roots in our land.”
And another writer, even yet, writes this: “Under the influence of modern theories of race and climate, it has been fashionalbe to trace the roots of American freedom to the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of dark German forests, most of whom were serfs. These historians forget that there were free men in America before the first white settlers arrived with their slaves and indentured servants. There is more truth in a popular account of America widely circulated in Great Britain in 1776: ‘The daring passion of the American is liberty and that in its fullest extent; nor is it the original natives only to whom this passion is confined, our colonists sent thither seem to have imbibed the same principles. Truly the passion for liberty as practiced by the Iroquois was a contagious thing.”
And so ends a mystery that I’ve carried for several years. The urge to be free, to think our own thoughts, to go our own way is embedded deep in our roots, I think. It’s in the air that we breathe. It’s as much a part of this land as the giant cottonwoods and gentle weeping willows. It’s a wish from our ancestors — a wish given to us by Haiwatha and the person they call the Peacemaker so long ago that people to this day argue over when it really took place. All I know is that they set into motion a wish that all men would be free, that all men would come to be friends, and that the land they called Turtle Island (North America) would lead the way to freedom and a land free of war…forever.
Okay, so now that we’ve talked about this a little, let me ask you this? Can you feel it? Can you feel that wish that is still alive to this very day? I think that our Veterans felt it. I think that those who gave their lives for their country understood how very precious freedom is and how much it is our heritage. I think it’s still alive and well to this very day. And perhaps this is what makes a man great — to set into motion an idea that leads others to envision a way of life that is free from tryanny, where another is free to say what he thinks, to believe what he thinks and to live his life as he sees fit, so long as he realizes that others also have this right.
Well, that’s all for today. So tell me, what do you think? Did you know this? Or is it coming from out of the blue? Let me know your thoughts and also what you did on Memorial Day.
And now before I end this for the day, please allow me to say that if you don’t already have your copy, please pick up a copy of BLACK EAGLE today — it is a story of the famous Iroquois (a Mohawk warrior), the same people who Haiwatha and the Peacemaker lead to freedom all those hundreds of years ago.