Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on
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Condensed by Native Village
The Six Nations are known by a French term: the Iroquois Confederacy. But Six Nations members call
Haudenosaunee (Ho-dee-noe-sho-nee). Haudenosaunee means
People Building a Long House.
Originally the Six Nations was five: the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and
Senecas. The Tuscaroras joined when they migrated into
Iroquois country in the early 1700s.
Haudenosaunee are oldest living participatory democracy on
earth. Their government is truly based on the consent of the
governed and contains a great deal of life-promoting
intelligence. The Iroquois constitution is known as
Law of Peace,
The vision for the new United States of America was fashioned by
Thomas Jefferson, and
Thomas Paine. They drew much
inspiration from this confederacy of nations.
On June 11, 1776 as American independence was being debated, the
Continental Congress formally invited visiting Iroquois chiefs into the meeting hall.
speech was delivered. American delegates delivered a speech and
addressed the chiefs as "Brothers." They expressed the wish that the
"friendship" between them would "continue as long as the sun shall
shine" and the "waters run."
The Continental Congress also expressed hopes that their new
country and the Iroquois would act "as one people, and have but
With Iroquois chiefs inside the halls of Congress on
the eve of American Independence, the impact of Iroquois ideas on
the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin was
Ambassador to France. The French noted that:
Franklin believed American Indian
ways more appropriate for the good life than were the
manners of "civilized nations."
Franklin faithfully practiced the proverb of his friends
the American Indians, "Keep the chain of friendship
bright and shining.
[Indians] "are in that natural state, being
restrained by no Laws, having no Courts, or Ministers of
Justice, no Suits, no prisons, no governors vested with
any Legal Authority. The persuasion of Men distinguished
by Reputation of Wisdom is the only Means by which
others are govern'd, or rather led -- and the State of
the Indians was probably the first State of all
Nations." Benjamin Franklin
John Adams wrote in his Defence of the Constitutions of
Government of the United States of the "precise"
separation of powers that were present in American
Indian nations. He advocated "a more accurate
investigation of the form of governments" of the
Indians while creating a new constitution.
Declaration of Independence demanded the same rights for
the colonists as illustrated by the native peoples'
"Concerning Indians . . . in the early part of my life,
I was very familiar, and acquired impressions of
attachment and commiseration for them which have never
been obliterated. Before the Revolution, they were in
the habit of coming often and in great numbers to the
seat of government where I was very much with them."
"As for France, and England, with all their preeminence
in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other
of pirates, as if science produces no better fruits than
tyranny, murder, rapine and destitution of national
morality. I would rather wish our country to be
ignorant, honest and estimable as our neighboring
am safe in affirming that the proofs of genius given by
the Indians place them on a level with the whites. . . .
I have seen some thousands myself, and conversed much
with them. . . . I believe the Indian to be in body and
mind equal to the white man.
[Indians never] "submitted themselves to any laws, any
coercive power and shadow of government. Their only
controls are their manners, and the moral sense of right
and wrong. . . . An offence against these is punished by
contempt, by exclusion from society, or, where the cause
is serious, as that of murder, by the individuals whom
it concerns. Imperfect as this species of control may
seem, crimes are very rare among them." Thomas
that it were made a question, whether no law, as among
the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the
civilized Europeans, submits man to the greater evil,
one who has seen both conditions of existence would
pronounce it to be the last." Thomas Jefferson
"The basis of our government being the opinion of the
people, our very first object should be to keep that
right; and were it left to me to decide whether we
should have a government without newspapers or
newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate
for a moment to prefer the latter. . . . I am convinced
that those societies [as the Indians] which live without
government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely
greater degree of happiness than those who live under
Thomas Paine wrote that the best government governs
least, and America's ideology should recapitulate their
observations of native American societies.
"Among the Indians there are not any of those
spectacles of misery that poverty and want present to
our eyes in the towns and streets of Europe."
[Poverty was a creation] "of what is called
civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. . .
. The life of an Indian is a continual holiday compared
to the poor of Europe." Thomas Paine
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