Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 1, November 2011

Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth
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The Six Nations are known by a French term: the Iroquois Confederacy. But Six Nations members call themselves the 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.

Figure 31The 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 The Great Law of Peace,

The vision for the new United States of America was fashioned by men like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, 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. 

There a 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 one heart."

With Iroquois chiefs inside the halls of Congress on the eve of American Independence, the impact of Iroquois ideas on America's founders is unmistakable.

During 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.

Jefferson's Declaration of Independence demanded the same rights for the colonists as illustrated by the native peoples' "natural societies."

"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."
Thomas Jefferson

"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 savages."
Thomas Jefferson

6a00d83451586c69e2011168971ba4970c 800wi The divorce of Texas and Thomas Jefferson"I 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. "Thomas Jefferson

[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 Jefferson

"Insomuch 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 European governments." 
Thomas Jefferson



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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