By Neenah Payne
Americans have been robbed of a deep source of inspiration that we desperately need now to survive. We are taught about the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin — but we don’t hear about the source of much of that wisdom. We learn the inspiring words Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence and we celebrate the freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution. However, we are not told who inspired those words or that freedom. We need to remember our full history now. We need to understand who inspired the creation of America. Turning to them again now for guidance is the best protection for our future which growing predictions show is increasingly precarious for multiple reasons.
That ancient wisdom that awed the US Founding Fathers is still present in Native America. However, although many of our states, cities, and rivers carry Native names, most Americans ignore the 500 Native Nations. Yet, we are more closely connected than most realize. Even the name “American” was used only for the peoples of this hemisphere until the US colonists separated from England. We are impoverished by ignoring these ancient cultures and enriched when we take the time to learn more.
Philip P. Arnold, a member of Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation (NOON) and associate professor of indigenous religions at Syracuse University, says: “How we in the larger society regard indigenous peoples — who have an ongoing relationship with the living earth — will determine our ability to survive.” Americans are so divided now that there are growing predictions of a second Civil War. So, learning the lessons of The Peacemaker who inspired the creation of the Iroquois Confederacy may be key to our survival as a nation now. As capitalism continues to devour and trash the planet, we must once again turn to Native America for guidance on our responsibilities for the planet and the next seven generations. We still have much to learn. Fortunately, wise teachers are still available — if we listen now.
Iroquois Chief Canassatego Advised US Founding Fathers
“There was nothing inevitable about 13 separate colonies becoming a single, united nation. In fact, one generation before Thomas Jefferson put his pen to paper to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776, the idea of such a union was all but unthinkable. For decades before the American Revolution and for at least 13 years thereafter, the colonies squabbled with one another, in some ways just as they had with the British Crown.”
How the Iroquois Great Law of Peace Shaped U.S. Democracy explains that Canassatego (c. 1684–1750) was a leader of the Onondaga nation, one of the then five nations in the Iroquois Confederacy. He was a prominent diplomat and spokesman of the Confederacy in the 1740s. Chief Canassatego is now best known for a speech he gave at the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster, where he recommended that the British colonies emulate the Iroquois by forming a confederacy.
Chief Canassatego addressing Continental Congress members including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Patrick Henry in Philadelphia on June 11, 1776, promoting peace and friendship as advocated hundreds of years earlier by Hiawatha and Deganawida.
“Canassatego became a prominent diplomat and spokesman of the Iroquois Confederacy in the 1740s. He served as the speaker for Onondagas at another conference in 1742.
Near the end of the conference, Canassatego gave the colonists some advice: ‘We have one thing further to say, and that is We heartily recommend Union and a Good Agreement between you our Brethren. Never disagree, but preserve a strict Friendship for one another, and thereby you as well as we will become the Stronger. Our wise Forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations; this has made us formidable, this has given us great weight and Authority with our Neighboring Nations. We are a powerful confederacy, and, by your observing the same Methods our wise Forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh Strength and Power; therefore, whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another.’”
Written Out of American History
“NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! Some of America’s most important founders have been erased from our history books. In the fight to restore the true meaning of the Constitution, their stories must be told.
In the earliest days of our nation, a handful of unsung heroes—including women, slaves, and an Iroquois chief—made crucial contributions to our republic. They pioneered the ideas that led to the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and the abolition of slavery. Yet, their faces haven’t been printed on our currency or carved into any cliffs. Instead, they were marginalized, silenced, or forgotten—sometimes by an accident of history, sometimes by design.
In the thick of the debates over the Constitution, some founders warned about the dangers of giving too much power to the central government. Though they did not win every battle, these anti-Federalists and their allies managed to insert a system of checks and balances to protect the people from an intrusive federal government. Other forgotten figures were not politicians themselves, but by their thoughts and actions influenced America’s story. Yet successive generations have forgotten their message, leading to the creation of a vast federal bureaucracy that our founders would not recognize and did not want.
Senator Mike Lee, one of the most consistent and impassioned opponents of an abusive federal government, tells the story of liberty’s forgotten heroes. In these pages, you’ll learn the true stories of founders such as…Canassatego, an Iroquois chief whose words taught Benjamin Franklin the basic principles behind the separation of powers.
The popular movement that swept Republicans into power in 2010 and 2016 was led by Americans who rediscovered the majesty of the Constitution and knew the stories of Hamilton, Madison, and Washington. But we should also know the names of the contrarians who argued against them and who have been written out of history. If we knew of the heroic fights of these lost founders, we’d never have ended up with a government too big, too powerful, and too unresponsive to its citizens.
The good news is that it’s not too late to remember and to return to our first principles. Restoring the memory of these lost individuals will strike a crippling blow against big government.”
How Iroquois Inspired US Constitution
DEMOCRACIA PARTICIPATIVA says:
“The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Haudenosaunee (ho dee noe sho nee) or People of the Longhouse. Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations were five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.
Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish a new a government truly dedicated to all life’s liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 hundred years.”
Franklin (a publisher) recorded that Canassatego said:
“Our wise forefathers established union and amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable. This has given us great weight and authority with our neighboring nations. We are a powerful Confederacy, and by your observing the same methods our wide forefathers have taken, you will acquire fresh strength and power. Therefore, whatever befalls you, do no fall out with one another”.
The Haudenosaunee are still in upstate New York — the oldest living democracy in the world. In 1987, Cornell University discussed the link between the U.S. Constitution and the Iroquois Confederacy whose freedom and unity inspired Benjamin Franklin and other US Founding Fathers. In 1988, Congress passed H. Con. Res. 331 to acknowledge the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations to the development of the United States Constitution.
Iroquois Great Law of Peace Inspired US Constitution
Two great Native American leaders named Hiawatha and ‘Peacemaker’ united five tribes, changed America. “Peacemaker” Deganawida and Hiawatha convinced five tribes to stop fighting and live in peace with one another, forming the Iroquois Federation.
Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the Evolution of Democracy by Donald A. Grinde, Jr. Rupert Costo Professor of American Indian History University of California at Riverside and Bruce E. Johansen Associate Professor of Communication University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Chief Oren Lyons is co-editor of Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution which is used at 12 universities. He is a prominent spokesperson for indigenous peoples around the world and has often spoken at the United Nations.
Bill Moyers (video) interviewed Chief Lyons on the Haudenosaunee land in 1991. Chief Lyons explains that despite 500 years of opposition, the Haudenosaunee and their traditions are still intact. The Haudenosaunee are a sovereign a nation and travel on their own passport.
What US Founding Fathers Forgot
How Native America Transformed The World
“Nearly half the world’s leading food crops can be traced to plants first domesticated by Indians. Native farmers introduced Europeans to a cornucopia of nutritious plants, including potatoes, peanuts, manioc, beans, tomatoes, sunflowers, and yams. Maize, or corn, was by far the most significant contribution, now grown on every continent except Antarctica.”
Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by anthropologist Jack Weatherford explains:
“After 500 years, the world’s huge debt to the wisdom of the Indians of the Americas has finally been explored in all its vivid drama by anthropologist Jack Weatherford. He traces the crucial contributions made by the Indians to our federal system of government, our democratic institutions, modern medicine, agriculture, architecture, and ecology, and in this astonishing, ground-breaking book takes a giant step toward recovering a true American history.”
In Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America, Weatherford says:
“Conventional American history holds that the white settlers of the “New World” re-created the societies they had known in England, France, and Spain. But Weatherford brilliantly shows the Europeans grafted their civilization onto the deep and nourishing roots of Native American customs and beliefs. Our place names, our farming and hunting techniques, our crafts, the very blood that flows in our veins — all derive from American Indians ways that we consistently fail to see.”
Bolivia honored Weatherford for his work. Weatherford taught for 29years at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he held the DeWitt Wallace Distinguished Chair of Anthropology.
John Trudell On Rights vs Responsibilities
The legendary John Trudell (1946-2015), Chairman of the American Indian Movement from 1973-1979, pointed out that Americans talk a lot about our rights, but little about our responsibilities. Is that the key to understanding the changes we must make now to withdraw from the brink of extinction? Native America can teach us to understand our live-saving responsibilities.
John Trudell grew up on/near the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation on the border of South Dakota and Nebraska. Until the 1860s, the Santees had lived in present-day Minnesota. After Whites invaded their territory, the tribe took refuge with the Teton Sioux. Skirmishes with Whites continued until 1890, the year of the Wounded Knee massacre which ended the Sioux’s military resistance. Trudell saw the legacy of the Sioux’s defeat. Reservations destroyed the traditional economy and culture. The Sioux had high unemployment, inadequate housing and health care, and few educational opportunities. Reservation Indians had become the poorest minority in the United States.
An inspirational speaker, acclaimed poet, national recording artist, actor and activist, Trudell was a spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969-1971 and served as Chairman of the American Indian Movement (AIM) from 1973-1979. Trudell often spoke of the need for “coherent thinking”. In addition to his music career, Trudell played roles in a number of feature films including a lead role in the movie Thunderheart.
Trudell’s autobiographical DVD Trudell is an enlightening insight into America that is relevant today as COVID mandates are enforced on Americans who don’t need or want the experimental shots. The DVD is available on Amazon and the film can be streamed on Amazon Prime. I was privileged to hear Trudell speak three times in NYC. In Take Back The Earth (video), Trudell called all peoples from the brink of destruction.
What Happened To The Tribes of Europe?
Trudell pointed out that we are all descendants of tribal peoples. Most Westerners have just forgotten that — at least on a conscious level. However, our connection to our tribal roots is not so easily erased because it is many thousands of years older than Christianity and resides in our subconscious.
Trudell explains that Columbus was carrying the “virus” of cruelty Europeans had suffered for 300 years during the Inquisition. When most Europeans lost their tribal roots, they lost their connection to the Earth, to tribal peoples, to their humanity, wisdom, and compassion. So, they could not understand the tribal cultures of the Americas.
Neenah Payne writes for Activist Post and Natural Blaze
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