Why the Founding Fathers Chose a Republic Form of Government and How the Iroquois Confederation Influenced the Creation of Our Constitution
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ARE EXTREMIST (TEA PARTY) REPUBLICANS THE ENEMY AND TRAITORS TO AMERICA by R. Blackbird
Question: "Separation between Church and State." Who coined the Phrase? Give up? Answer: Thomas Jefferson - one of the founding fathers of this great Nation and a creator of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment to that same Constitution. Thomas Jefferson, in 1802, wrote a Letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, referring to the First Amendment to the US Constitution. In it he said:
Why the Founding Fathers Chose a Republic over a Democracy
Contains excerpts of material published by Greg Moeller May 4, 2000 - Rev. Oct 2007 as well as a paper on the Influence The Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Confederation had on the creation of the US Constitution, written by Kanatiyosh
Under the well-worn banner of "power to the people," a call to allow national referendums by direct popular vote has been proposed by several politicians. The implementation of direct democracy through National Initiative and Referendum would not only subvert our system of representative government but would destroy the checks and balances so carefully crafted by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution.
The fact that such a proposition is not immediately rejected is proof that most Americans are misinformed about the nature and character of our system of government. They do not understand the thinking behind the structure of our Constitutional Republic and the protections it provides. This widespread ignorance of our political heritage presents a serious threat to the rights of every American citizen and our future security as a nation of free people.
The Constitution is the centerpiece of American government. Although the framers included democratic elements in our system of government, such as voters directly electing their representatives, our nation is not a democracy. The United States is a Constitutional Republic.
In a republic, law making powers are not exercised directly by the people but by representatives elected by the people and accountable to them through re-election.
"Modern times...discovered the only device by which rights can be secured, to wit: government by the people, acting not in person but by representatives chosen by themselves." Thomas Jefferson
It is interesting to note that during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 not one voice was raised in support of direct democracy. Indeed, direct democracy was not merely disliked by our Founding Fathers, it was feared as a harbinger of tyranny. They understood that among the fatal flaws of pure democracy is that it provides no checks and balances on the people themselves. Pure democracy has been called tyranny of the majority because it would allow 51% of the people to deprive the other 49% of their rights by a majority vote.
"…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." James Madison – Federalist #10
"Conservative" proponents of National Initiative and Referendum point to "successes" like Prop 22 in California as proof that further additions of direct democracy are good for our system of government. While it is tempting to focus on isolated examples to "prove" that Initiative and Referendum (I & R) can be used to pass "good" legislation, it is extremely important that we recognize that I&R has also been used to pass some very bad legislation.
Initiative & Referendum is a century old idea that was promoted by the Populist and Progressive movements for overriding corrupt politicians and disarming special interests groups of influence. However, in reality it has had the opposite effect. The modern ballot initiative process has become big business and involves big money. In California alone, during the recent primary over $150 million was spent to influence the vote on the few referendums that were on the ballot. In other cases, only a handful of people have advanced initiatives and often they were not even residents of the states whose laws they sought to change. In 1998, $91 million was spent in California for a single ballot referendum pertaining to gambling. How many of you belong to grassroots "citizen" organizations that have the ability to counter that kind of money being spent by gambling interests in your State?
Is this some politician’s idea of "power to the people" or is it "power to big money politics?" The ones holding the upper hand in the initiative process are the ones who have enough money to hire professional petitioners to place their measure on the ballot and have enough left over to sway the voters through a mass media advertising campaign.
While the nature of our constitutional system of checks and balances may be frustrating to deal with at times, to advocate bypassing them is a dangerous proposition indeed. The core issue is not whether you can pass a "good" referendum by popular vote that would have been difficult to pass through the legislature. More central is whether all aspects of legislation should be openly debated and considered fully by elected representatives, bound by oath to support the Constitution, who have the time and the duty to do so.
The framers designed our system of government so that our God-given rights would be secured and that legislation which affects many would be based on deliberate considerations of the issues by our elected representatives, not on the ever-changing winds of public opinion. As Alexander Hamilton said,
"It had been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny."
If we are to be intellectually honest regarding the efficacy of Initiative and Referendum, we must recognize the following:
1.. The voting public works full-time to put bread on the table and simply does not have the time to invest in full consideration of issues. Nor do many of them have easy access to the resources necessary for a full consideration of the issues.
2.. Initiative and Referendum can be easily exploited by special interest groups and industries with their own political agenda. They’ve found that many times it is easier to manipulate public opinion through the use of mass media than to go through the time-consuming process of supporting candidates and lobbying them for the legislation they want.
3.. In any significant initiative battle, money is usually the dominant factor. I & R is far more influenced by sound-bite ads than comprehensive reasoned arguments. This places an even greater amount of power in the hands of the media and those with the financial resources to place issues on the ballot and buy advertising time. Let’s face it, a majority of the American people still think Bill Clinton did a "good job" as president. Have these people arrived at this conclusions based on an accurate knowledge of what President Clinton did on a day to day basis, or were they influenced by the image the media presents to them?
4.. Minority interests are more likely to come out on the short end of the stick in a popular referendum environment. The fact of the matter is that the majority isn’t always right. Our system of government was designed to insure that the rights of the minority would not be trampled on by the majority. Decisions made purely on the basis of the "will" of the majority will at some point strip the minority of their rights.
However, this does not negate the reality that a whole lot of people are rightfully upset by what our elected representatives are doing. But the proper solution is not more "democracy." Keep this simple fact in mind; the representatives that you may hold in contempt were themselves elected by popular vote.
This cuts right to the heart of the matter. If you don’t like what your representatives are doing once in office, the solution is not to undermine our system of government, but rather to elect better representatives! To really change what’s happening in government, better alternatives are needed at the ballot box. People need to change both their vote and where they invest their political support. We must hold our representatives accountable to us and to their oath of office by requiring adherence to the power limits of the Constitution. The future of our children, grandchildren and indeed the nation, depends on it.
HOW THE IROQUOIS CONFEDERATION HELPED INFLUENCE THE CREATION OF OUR CONSTITUTION
Historians unafraid of telling the whole story are beginning to delve deep within the archives, instead of footnote stealing and making biased opinions. They are beginning to look at the actual documentation, and they are coming to the conclusion that American Indians have helped to shape democracy. It has been the practice as Vine Deloria states that:
The accomplishments of Indians and their actual place in the story of the United States has never been remotely touched by other historians. The major reason for this is that a omission substantial number of practicing historians simply do not know the source documents with sufficient precision to make sense of them; consequently, they spend a good deal of their time stealing footnotes and ideas from each other.
However, today there is a growing number of historians who acknowledge that the native peoples especially the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), also known as the Iroquois Confederacy, influenced the founding fathers. The Haudenosaunee influenced the founding fathers' perspective concerning democratic thought, and they helped to forge the idea of federalism that led to what has become the Constitution of the United States.
In order to accept the premise that the Haudenosaunee had a profound influence on the founding fathers' thoughts on what would later become the United States Constitution, two important steps need to be taken. First, one needs to step back in time and examine what was influencing the founding fathers during their era. Secondly, one must relinquish ethnocentric prejudices of native peoples being "uncivilized" and in need of assimilation because of the stereotypical belief that they were "too simpleminded to engage in effective social and political organization."
In this paper, the Great Law of Peace (also known as the Iroquois Constitution) will be discussed through the perspective of a Haudenosaunee to show how the Confederacy functions. The influence that the Great Law of Peace had on the founding fathers and on the United States Constitution, as well as the interaction between the great Mohawk orators and the founding fathers, will be discussed. This paper will add an Haudenosaunee perspective, and will hopefully make suspect the judicial framework on which federal-Indian policy and Indian law is built, which in an ethnocentric way falsely stereotypes native peoples as savage, uncivilized, and in need of assimilation.
II. Iroquois Constitution
Since time immemorial, the Great Law of Peace was recorded through oral tradition and its messages and teachings were written into the symbols and pictographs of wampum belts. The Haudenosaunee used and still use wampum, a long cylinder shaped bead made from quahog clamshell (the purple beads) and Atlantic Whelk (the white beads). Wampum is used for recording the laws and other "official purposes as well as for religious ceremonies."(3) Jake Thomas, one of the traditional Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, is a noted elder who recalls the traditional teachings through oral memory using wampum belts as mnemonic devices. (Jake has since passed on since the original writing of this paper in 1998).
When the Chiefs decide that the people need to be reminded of the Great Law of Peace, the Hiawatha Belt is taken to the Longhouse and a reading of the belt takes place. On August 12 through the 17, 1996 at the Kahonsesne (Longhouse) of the Mohawk Nation, Jake Thomas read the Hiawatha Belt. Through this reciting to the community and through the peacemaker's symbols, the people are reminded of the tenets of the Great Law. The following illustration of the Peacemaker's symbols by John Fadden are more than mere pictures, for they are symbols that represent the laws, duties, rights, and government structure of the Haudenosaunee peoples.
1. The Structure Of The Great Law Of Peace In Wampum
The above illustration shows some of the symbols that the Peacemaker gave to the Haudenosaunee and to Hiawatha who was his spokesperson. (4) Through oral tradition and wampum, the Haudenosaunee date the origins of the Great Law of Peace to be between 1000 and 1400 AD. However, Anglo-American scholars set the date to be, based on written accounts, at about 1450 AD. It is unfortunate that many Anglo-scholars, do not accept wampum belts as a legitimate form of writing, for these symbols when read by the elders, speak volumes.
The Peacemaker envisioned the Haudenosaunee as one united extended Longhouse in which each nation had its own hearth. (5) This concept is written symbolically into the Hiawatha belt, which is the broad belt to the right of the tree of Peace in John Fadden's illustration (above). To the novice, the belt looks like interlocking squares on each side of a tree, but to the Haudenosaunee, the entire story of how the Great Law of Peace developed is encapsulated within these symbols.
The Hiawatha belt represents the unity of the original Five Nations and is read from the right to the left. The first square, on the right, represents the Mohawk Nation. The second square represents the Oneida Nation. The heart or the tree in the middle of the Hiawatha belt represents the Onondaga Nation. The square to the left of the tree represents the Cayuga Nation, and the farthest square to the left represents the Seneca Nation. The small white lines that lead away from the Seneca and Mohawk Nations represent paths that welcome others to join the Confederacy. (6) These nations have agreed to follow the Peacemaker's message of the Great Law of Peace.
2. Great Law Of Peace Government Structure
The Peacemaker provided through the Great Law of Peace, a complex structure allowing for the separation of powers, checks and balances, ratification, public opinion, and equality of all peoples. As the Onondaga Clan Mother, Audrey Shenandoah, states:
Within our society we maintain a balance between the responsibilities of the women, the responsibilities of the men, of the chiefs, of the faithkeepers. All the people in between have a special job to do to help to keep this balance so that at no time do we come to a place within our society where anyone has more power than any of the rest, for our leadership all have equal power. They must be able to listen to one another.(7)
Each Nation has its own autonomy to deal with its internal affairs, and there is a Grand Council that deals with problems that may affect all of the nations within the Confederacy. (8)
a. The Autonomy Of The Council Of The Mohawk
In the written accounts of the Great Law of Peace, which merely scratch the surface of what the Great Law of Peace truly contains, the "11th Wampum" of the Great Law of Peace describes the duties and the responsibilities of the Council of the Mohawk. (9) The Mohawk Nation is comprised of 9 chiefs, which are divided into 3 Wolf Clan Chiefs, 3 Bear Clan Chiefs, and 3 Turtle Clan Chiefs.
The Turtle Clan Chiefs get the issue first, and if it is of importance, the matter is discussed and deliberated. When they come to a conclusion, they then pass the issue over to the Wolf Clan for their consideration. If the Wolf Clan agrees upon the solution given by the Turtle Clan, the issue then goes back to the Turtle Clan. The Turtle Clan then takes the solution and gives it to the Bear Clan who have heard the Turtle and Wolf Clan's discussion, and they further discuss the issue. If the Bear Clan Chiefs agree to the conclusion, they then will sanction the agreed upon solution. Therefore, when all of the Mohawks are of one mind, they are in accordance with the Great Law of Peace and the solution is reached through consensus. (10)
This is an example of the self-autonomy that each nation of the Confederacy possesses to govern the internal affairs of their own nation, and it is similar to the relationship between the United States and each individual state. If one refers back to the Peacemaker's symbols (at the top of the page), one can easily ascertain that what he meant through his message of the one extended Longhouse was that all nations shall be united but each have a separate hearth fire.
b. The Grand Council
The Grand Council is composed of the original Five Nations and the Tuscarora, who joined the Confederacy in approximately 1714. The Grand Council of the League's "decision-making process somewhat resemble[s] that of a two-house congress in one body, with the 'older brothers' and 'younger brothers' each comprising a side of the house."(11) The Onondaga occupy "an executive role, with a veto that could be overridden by the older and younger brothers in concert."(12)
The Elder Brothers consist of the Seneca and the Mohawk and the Younger Brothers are the Cayuga and the Oneida. Today the Tuscarora also sit with the Younger Brothers during Grand Council meetings. The combined bodies of the chiefs work out all of the matters concerning the Haudenosaunee. Generally the matter first goes to the Mohawk and Seneca for deliberation, and then the matter goes to the Cayuga and Oneida for their deliberation. The matter then is given to the Onondaga, the Keepers of the Fire who have many responsibilities one of which is to keep records of the meetings, for their final confirmation and final ratification.
The "22nd Wampum" illustrates that after all of the Chiefs have debated, there is one Onondaga Chief, Hononwiretonh, whose duty it is to sit and listen to all of the debate, the matter is then turned over to him for final approval, if all are in consensus. If he refuses to sanction the solution, then no other chief has the authority to pass the legislation. Hononwiretonh is not allowed to refuse sanctioning the matter unless there is a strong basis for his refusal. (13) As can be seen, the Great Law provides for numerous checks and balances of power and depends on consensus of all fifty chiefs for its decision making.
c. The Importance Of Women Within The Great Law OF Peace
The Great law was structured to keep all things in balance. Women have an important role in Haudenosaunee society, which unfortunately is not adequately illustrated in the written versions of the Great Law of Peace (also known as the Great Law of Peace). While only men could become chiefs, it was the duty and responsibility of the Clan Mothers to select the chiefs.
The chiefs were elected for life, but if they went astray, did not have the best interests of the people and Natural World in mind, after three warnings, the Clan Mothers could "dehorn" them. Dehorning means that the deer antlers that chiefs wear on their kastowehs (feathered hats) to show that they are chiefs, would be removed from the chief's headdresses; thus, stripping him of his authority as chief. The Clan Mothers when picking the chiefs, look for a man who is of the Good Mind and is married and has children so he will love his people and his country like he does his own children.
In the preceding paragraphs, is just a snippet of the Great Law of Peace and how the Haudenosaunee used wampum has been examined in an attempt to give the reader a general understanding of how the Haudenosaunee themselves understand some of the important aspects of the Great Law of Peace. One important aspect of the Great Law of Peace that often goes untold and is hard to explain, is the idea that the government is not separated from the Haudenosaunee religion, culture, or way of life, for these things are all rolled up into one. In the next section, the interaction between the Haudenosaunee and the founding fathers will be examined.
III. The Haudenosaunee And The Founding Fathers
One must step back in time to see the influence that the great Haudenosaunee orators, like Canassatego and Tiyanoga (Hendrick), had on shaping the ideas of democracy developed by many of the founding fathers; especially, the influence that the Haudenosaunee had on Benjamin Franklin. The colonists had many opportunities to be influenced by the Haudenosaunee, and what the colonists saw in the native way of life was a freedom that they only knew in theory:
[N]ative societies became a counterpoint to the European order, in the view of the transplanted Europeans, including some of the United State's most influential founders, as they became more dissatisfied with the status quo. They found in existing native polities, the values that the seminal European documents of the time celebrated in theoretical abstraction -- life, liberty, happiness, and a model of government by consensus, under natural rights, with relative equality of property.
Colonists, such as William Johnson, Conrad Weiser, Cadwallader Colden, and Benjamin Franklin not only sat in on the treaty council meetings of the Haudenosaunee, they also participated and became quite knowledgeable in native customs and in the intricacies of the Iroquois Confederacy. (15) For example, Sir William Johnson, an Englishmen, had a very close relationship with Tiyanoga (Hendrick) a Mohawk Wolf Clan chief. Johnson's relationship with Tiyanoga and other Haudenosaunee was very important, for it kept the Haudenosaunee allies of the English until France was expelled from the continent in 1763. The Haudenosaunee during this period "mixed and mingled freely, sitting in each other's councils, and living each others lives." (15) During this time Franklin wrote, " English Colonial society had trouble maintaining its hold on many men once they had tasted Indian life." (16)
As a matter of fact Johnson was so accepted, and, the society so commingled with the Haudenosaunee way of life, that he is said to have fathered one hundred Mohawk children. However, some feel the number to be actually eight children, who by Haudenosaunee law, being a matrilineal society, were considered to be Mohawk, for they had clans. Tiyanoga's relationship with Johnson was so influential and beneficial to the alliance with the Haudenosaunee and English; and his heroism, philosophy, military, and political contributions at the Albany Congress was so important, it has been said that Tiyanoga (Hendrick) "should be considered one of the founders of the United States."(17) In the next section, Canassatego's influence will be discussed.
1. Canassatego's Influence On The Founding Fathers
Canassatego was a chief for the Onondaga Nation. Canassatego was well thought of by many of the English colonists. He was said to have great charisma, a booming voice and to be a master of "logical argument, and adroit negotiation." (18) It was during the 1744 Treaty Council that Canassatego, dismayed by the disorganization of the English colonists, suggested that the colonist unite on a Haudenosaunee model. Canassatego said to the colonial commissioners:
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 much strength and power; therefore, whatever befalls you, do not fall out with one another. (19)
Canassatego wanted the colonies to form a union so that the Haudenosaunee could deal with the colonies in a more efficient manner. He was concerned with the unscrupulous traders who were taking advantage of the native peoples, and he wanted to stop their illegal taking and encroachment on treaty retained lands. (20) The Haudenosaunee orators were quite fluent in English, but they often pretended not to understand in an attempt to gain insight as to what some of the colonists were really thinking. These are just a few of the many incidents in which the colonists had a chance to be influenced by the great Haudenosaunee orators. In the proceeding section, the Haudenosaunee influence on Benjamin Franklin will be further discussed.
2. Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was very good friends with Conrad Weiser who was adopted by the Mohawks. The Great Law of Peace, the Iroquois Constitution, contains in provisions "Wampums 78 through 82", for adoptions. In order for Weiser to have been adopted by the Mohawk Nation, he must have been greatly respected amongst the Haudenosaunee, for the process of adoption is quite complex and must be approved by the chiefs of the Nation and confirmed in consensus by the people of the nation. Interestingly, the adoption laws of the Great law of Peace allowed for freedom of religion when the Haudenosaunee adopted into the Confederacy another nation.
Weiser had won the esteem of the Haudenosaunee and not only attended the treaty council meetings, he also was a recorder, for he wrote down each attendee and their accounts. Weiser then provided Franklin with these numerous treaty council accounts, in all, which Franklin then published because the "[i]nterest in treaty accounts was high enough by 1736 for a Philadelphia printer ... to begin publication and distribution of them."(21) Through the publishing of these treaty accounts and his first- hand participation, Franklin became quite knowledgeable in the Great Law of Peace.
Not only were Franklin and his cohorts knowledgeable in the tenets of the Great Law of Peace, they also adopted the Great Law of Peace's procedures and protocol. For example, "the Pennsylvania commissioners (including Franklin) presented the assembled Indians with a wampum belt, which portrayed the union between the Iroquois and the colonists."(22) Therefore, Franklin was being consistent with Iroquois custom in offering a wampum (recording) belt to bind their agreement. In the preceding section, the incidents in which the Haudenosaunee have influenced the colonialists has been examined. The proceeding section will illustrate some of the similarities between the Great Law of Peace and the Constitution of the United States.
IV. Comparison And Contrast Of The Great Law Of Peace And The
United States Constitution.
The Haudenosaunee's were present on the eve of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and many of their ideas were spoken during this Convention. These ideas found their way into what would become the United States Constitution. The Haudenosaunee Influence can be seen in the similarities of ideas found within the Constitution of the United States.
When one examines the similarities between the Great Law of Peace (Iroquois Constitution) and the United States Constitution, one should keep in mind that their is a language and world view difference. The languages of the Haudenosaunee are pictorial and a language of caricature, in that one describes things and ideas by their appearance and habit. (24) For example, the Haudenosaunee have no word that means rabbit, per se; instead the Haudenosaunee word is tahontaneken, which means ears close together. The language describes the way the rabbit, in this case, looks and presents a holistic illustration of the object or concept described which the English language cannot capture. Thus, one should realize that what has been written in the English language about the Great Law of Peace is a good place to start but to fully understand the Great Law of Peace one needs to consult the respected traditional elders of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Furthermore, one should keep in mind while examining the influence, that the Haudenosaunee have no separate concept for philosophy, religion, and government, for they are all one within the Great Law.
1. Preamble OF The U.S. Constitution and The Great Law
Perhaps the best place to begin this comparison is to examine the Preamble of the United States Constitution6 and the first three Wampums of the Great Law. Wampums 1, 2, and 3 state:
I [the Peacemaker], Hiawatha, and the Sachems have planted a tree of Peace[.] ... Under the shade of this great tree we have prepared seats for you[.] ... Should any nation or individual outside the Sachems adopt the great Law upon learning them or by tracing their roots to the Great Tree ... they will be made welcome to take shelter under the branches of this tree. ... Five bound arrows symbolize our complete union. ... We have tied ourselves together in one head, body, one spirit and one soul to settle all matters as one. We shall work, counsel and confirm together for the future of coming generations. (25)
In comparison, the Preamble of the United States Constitution states:
WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America. (26)
In comparing the two, the preamble stresses unity and providing liberty for posterity, which is similar to the Wampums of the Great Law that also mandates unity and provides for the future generations. (27) In the Great Law, the Haudenosaunee use the symbol of five bound arrows to describe their unity and the strength of the Five Nations. Interestingly, the Great Seal of the United States of America, designed by Charles Thomson in 1782, had an eagle clutching in its claw a bundle of thirteen arrows. (28) Thomson originally proposed the use of five or six arrows, which was like the Five Nations bound arrows; however, Congress preferred thirteen. While the language is not exact, the symbolism and ideas are similar enough to see the influence.
2. Number of Representatives and Senators compared to Great Law.
The Great Law's representatives are the Chiefs, Clan Mothers, Faithkeepers, and Pine Tree Chiefs. (29) Although the U.S. Constitution has a set number of representatives and senators based on a different set of rules, a general influence of the Haudenosaunee can be seen. For example, the Grand Council is composed of the Chiefs of each nation, but when they meet in Grand Council, these same chiefs then divide into three sections, the Elder Brothers, Younger brothers and the Onondaga, which is similar to the decision-making process of the U.S. Constitution's two-house congress.
The Great Law provides that the Haudenosaunee should have 50 Chiefs or Rotiianison (men of good), which is the number of chiefs who first accepted the Great Law. These chiefs are chosen for life terms and must be married and have children. (30) There is no age requirement. Whereas, the U.S. Constitution provides that the a representative should be 21 years of age, and "[t]he Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand"18 citizens of each state.
The Great Law, like the U.S. Constitution allows for impeachment of those in office not doing their duty. While, the senators for the U.S. "have the sole Power to try all Impeachments ... no person shall be convicted without concurrence of two thirds of the Members present." (31) The Great Law provides that the women have the sole power to "dehorn" (impeach) a Chief. If a Chief acts improperly, or if during a deliberation the Clan Mothers see that the Chief is not acting of the good mind or he is stalling consensus because of his own selfish reasons, then the Clan Mothers will call him outside. (32) Once outside, the chief will be talked to and warned that he is not acting with the best interests of the people in mind. If he persists to act wrongly, the Clan Mothers will have his antlers, which show his authority as a chief, removed from his kastoweh (hat); thus dehorning (impeaching) him.
3. Executive Power and Women
The U.S. Constitution provides that the executive power is vested in the President, who shall hold his term for four years, must be elected into office, and shall be thirty-five years of age or older. (33) The Great Law provides for an executive-like power within the Grand Council in that the Onondaga Chief Hononwiretonh, who has gotten his seat through the Clan mothers has the final say as to whether a matter is either confirmed or denied.
Women amongst the Haudenosaunee are considered equals, and they are important to maintaining balance and harmony. Unfortunately, the founding forefathers of the U.S. Constitution did not embrace the Haudenosaunee's respect for women, for it was not until the year 1920 when the 19th Amendment was made into law allowing women to vote. (34)
The Great Law provides that women, the clan mothers, shall pick the chiefs. Women were given this duty and responsibility by the Peacemaker, for women were the first to accept the Great Law of Peace, and they are the ones to give birth, raise, and care for the children. Therefore, women are more sensitive to the maternal needs of the children and the people. (35)
Although the Women are empowered to choose the Chief, the current chiefs must sanction their choice, which allows for checks and balances; therefore, the Haudenosaunee avoid concentrations of power by making sure there is consensus and not just a majority acceptance.
The aforementioned are just a few of the many comparisons between the United States Constitution and the Great Law of Peace. When one looks at the Great Law of Peace in its entirety and the U.S. Constitution in its entirety, one is able to see evidence that the Haudenosaunee did have an influence on the founding fathers. The Great Law provided a foundation on which the founding fathers could build, for the Great law provided "the type of central government that would later be suggested by Benjamin Franklin to the colonies as an institution worthy of emulation." (36) The Great Law is a consensual constitution that "enunciate[s] such democratic ideas and doctrines as initiative, recall, referendum, and equal suffrage."(37)
Ideas are strange in that they are hard to trace. Artifacts, like, pottery and projectiles, can be radiocarbon dated and their relative age identified; but how does one date or trace back ideas? This paper has attempted to unravel and lend a guiding hand in ascertaining the Haudenosaunee’s perspective of the Great Law of Peace and the influence it had on the founding fathers on what would become the Constitution of the United States. However, perhaps the most profound aspect of this paper is not that the founding fathers were influenced by the Great Law, but, that it questions the basic tenets of Federal-Indian law and policy. In acknowledging that the Haudenosaunee had a complex centralized government, the Great Law of Peace, that was emulated by the founding fathers and existed before the first Europeans arrived, makes the U.S. judicial framework concerning Indians and federal-Indian policy in need of being reexamined and remedied. No longer can the native peoples be seen as uncivilized and in need of assimilation. An idea that the colonizers falsely used for hundred of years to legitimize the taking of Indian lands, and the taking of culture through missionaries and the numerous policies to assimilate the native people of Turtle Island.
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