Native American Political Systems
and the Evolution of Democracy:
An Annotated Bibliography
Bruce E. Johansen
Professor of Communication and
Native American Studies
University of Nebraska at Omaha
1993Debate and Discussion in Books, Scholarly and Specialty Journals
Awiakta, Marilou. Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1993.
This examination of Native American spirituality and feminism describes the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederacy's political system and its influence on later concepts of democracy and feminism. Several times between p. 276 and the end of the book, Awiakta describes the impact on nineteenth-century feminism (citing Sally Roesch Wagner's work), and on democracy generally, citing Kickingbird (1987), Barreiro, ed. (1988), and Grinde and Johansen, Exemplar of Liberty (1991).[Barreiro, Jose, ed.]. Book Review: Indian Roots of American Democracy. Whole Earth Review, No. 81 (December 22, 1993), p. 111.
Baldwin, J. "Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism." Whole Earth Review 78 (March 22, 1993), p. 121.
Baldwin is reviewing (and, usually, fervently supporting the ideas in) Martin W. Lewis Green Delusions , a case against what the author regards as environmental extremism. "To support the cause of direct democracy," comments Baldwin, "eco-radicals have sought out historical instances of its successful institution. Unable to hold up their own or their forebears' experimental efforts in communal living...they have turned instead to indigenous American social organization. One popular model of participatory democracy is the Iroquois Confederacy." Baldwin retorts, paraphrasing Lewis in Green Delusions, "The Iroquois Confederacy is a particularly ill-considered exemplar. Admiring the Iroquois political system...for its democracy is like praising Nazi Germany for its enlightened forestry. The Five Nations not only engaged in a highly successful campaign of ethnocide against their competitors in the fur trade, the Hurons, but they also raised the torture of war captives (those they chose not to adopt...) to an art."(*) Banks, et. al. The United States and its Neighbors. New York: Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, 1993.
On page 353, this fifth-grade textbook begins a two-page spread titled "Traditions...We the People," with artwork showing the Iroquois at a council meeting. The text says, in part: "The Iroquois League was a living example of what American leaders wanted to create when they set out to write the Constitution."Brandao, J. A. [Review of Exemplar of Liberty, 1991]. Canadian Historical Review 74:3 (Fall, 1993), p. 436.
Brandao finds little merit in the assertions of Exemplar of Liberty; the reviewer's analysis closely resembles that of Elisabeth Tooker [1988, 1990], who is cited as an authority on the issue.Cheney, Lynne V. "Multiculturalism Done Right..." Change, January, 1993, p. 8.
Cheney, who headed the National Endowment for the Humanities, offers her "spin" on the debate over multicultural education. She, too, has picked up the Schlesinger assumption, possibly from William Starna, that New York State high school juniors are laboring over homework teaching them how the Enlightenment, the colonial experience in government, and the Iroquois Confederacy shaped the United States' founding. Such is, alas, not the case. Long before Cheney's article appeared, the Iroquois curriculum guide died, languishing in the bowels of a vacillating State Education Department which proposed to give final review to Trolls who had earlier condemned it. Of Iroquois contributions to democracy, Cheney says: "This is not an idea accepted by reputable historians." She compares the assertion of Iroquois contributions to democracy to the idea that "Egypt was a black nation."(*) Crawford, J. D. "Looking Again at Tribal Jurisdiction: 'Unwarranted Intrusions on Their Personal Liberty.'" Marquette Law Review 76 (Winter, 1993), p. 401.
Crawford notes with some irony that while the U. S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights in 1967 held that tribal judges lacked experience, training, and familiarity with "the traditions and forms of the American legal system" history indicates that "the organization of the of the Iroquois Confederation influenced the Articles of Confederation."Gillespie, Sheena and Robert Singleton. Across Cultures: A Reader for Writers. Second Ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1993.
This English composition reader mentions the "influence thesis" twice. The first (p. 512), is in an introduction to "Hiawatha, the Great Unifier." The second, on p. 522, is in Ishmael Reed, "America: the Multicultural Society:" "Even the notion that North America is part of Western civilization because our government is derived from Europe is being challenged by Native American historians who say that the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin especially, were actually influenced by the system of government that had been adopted by the Iroquois..."(*) Hill, James F. "A Rationale for Native American Studies in a Secondary School Curriculum." Listed in ERIC [educational database], 1993.
"This paper offers reasons why Native American Culture and history should be included in the secondary school curriculum based on the fact that many ideas and products that are taken for granted today have Native American Roots. ...[and] discusses the contributions to U.S. democratic society by Native American political structure[s], especially the Iroquois League." The paper then discuses various attributes of the Iroquois structure which also are found in the United States political system, including federalism and impeachment, while noting that the Founders did not adopt the equality of women found in the Iroquois system.Grinde, Donald A., Jr. "The Iroquois and the Nature of American Government," American Indian Culture and Research Journal 17:1(1993), pp. 153-173.
This article, condensed from Exemplar of Liberty , also was published in the spring, 1993 issue of Historia, the journal of the Polish Historical Association.Hughes, Robert. Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Page 150: "American ideas of liberal democracy are only to be nourished at their sources, which lie absolutely within the European tradition; and it is far more important that the young should know about them before they go on to acquire whatever acquaintance they may wish to have with the ancient culture of the Dogon or the political institutions of the Iroquois."Interpress Service, comp. Story Earth: Native Voices on the Environment. San Francisco: Mercury House, 1993.
In this collection of statements on the environment from indigenous peoples around the world, Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki) recalls some of what he has learned from his people's neighbors, the Iroquois, including the structure of their Great Law of Peace. "That Great Law is now recognized by many historians as a direct influence on the formation of modern ideas of democracy and on the Constitution of the United States." (p. 6)Iron Thunderhorse. "Democracy: An Indian Legacy." The Witness, 76:4(April, 1993), pp. 26-27.
The Witness is published by the Episcopal Church Publishing Company, Detroit.Jacobs, Wilbur. "Columbus, Indians, and the Black Legend Hocus-Pocus." American Indian Culture & Research Journal 17:2(1993), pp. 175-187.
Jacobs maintains that the Iroquois were "great peacemakers as well as warriors," (p. 178). "We can learn much from the Indians' world-view of peacemaking and their concern for the welfare of future generations, as well as their ability to live together in harmony." (p. 184). "Perhaps the greatest debt America owes to Native American people is for our magnificent traditions of freedom and democracy. I scarcely need mention the volume Exemplar of Liberty by Donald A. Grinde and Bruce E. Johansen, which for the first time gives us widespread documentation of this indebtedness. Equally significant is the fact that the book is an exemplar of the fighting spirit in the front lines of knowledge, counteracting the cadre of well-meaning but misled scholars who call themselves 'Iroquoianists,' although the Iroquois themselves often decline to be identified with them. Against this formidable phalanx of academic shock troops, Grinde and Johansen have skillfully penetrated firing lines of generalities with barrages of understory factual research that toppled the opposition. Grinde and Johansen proved that the Indian people of North America left a legacy of freedom and democracy that is world-wide in its influence." (p. 184)Jacobs, Wilbur R. [Review of Barreiro, Indian Roots of Democracy, 1992]. American Indian Culture & Research Journal 17:2(1993), pp. 211-213.
Jacobs calls this book "an invaluable gift" (p. 211) to students of American Indian studies. He briefly reviews the contents of the book, the return of Iroquois wampum belts from the state of New York, and the debate over the "influence thesis," calling Prof. Elisabeth Tooker's arguments against Native American influence on democracy "speculative" and "weak on historical sources." (p. 212)Jennings, Francis. The Founders of America. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.
The title of this trade treatment of Native American history nonwithstanding, Jennings is solidly against suggestions of Native American "influence" on democracy. On pages 186 and 187, Jennings writes that the Founders did not extend the protections of the Constitution to Indians. "In the seventeenth century [sic], protection for Indians was wholly inconceivable by the overseers of conquest (This thought should be noted by mythologists who assert that Indians strongly influenced the writers of the United States Constitution)." Jennings also assails the "myth" of the Albany Plan as forerunner of later political developments (p. 292), one of a number of "myths" that fall before his pen. Without naming any of them, or citing any of their work, Jennings enthusiastically squashes "mythologists" of several stripes elsewhere in this book, as well.Johansen and Grinde. "Native Voices and the Diffusion of an Idea." Akwe:kon Journal 10:2(Summer, 1993), pp. 30-39.
The authors survey the debate over assertions of a Native American role in the creation of democratic traditions in a framework of rhetorical analysis, finding that opponents of the "influence thesis" fall back on abuse of the principles of argumentation to conceal the lack of a factual basis for their argument. This article surveys support and opposition to the idea, mainly since late 1989, where their narrative is picked up in Johansen and Grinde, "A Recent Historiography," American Indian Culture & Research Journal 14:1 (1990). This article was reprinted in the Winter, 1994 edition of Cultural Survival Quarterly, pp. 24-28.Knight, Margy Burns. Who Belongs Here? An American Story. Tilbury, 1993.
This children's book (ages 8-12) describes the immigration of a Cambodian family to the United States, and is written as a social-studies unit on cultural diversity. Among a number of subjects, according to Kirkus Reviews [September 1, 1993], the book says that the Iroquois Great Law of Peace was used as a model for parts of the U.S. Constitution. The endnotes of the book say that such assertions are "speculative."Kawashima, Yasuhide. [Review of Grinde & Johansen, Exemplar of Liberty, 1991], American Historical Review 98:3(June, 1993), p. 941.
Kawashima finds Exemplar of Liberty to be "a challenging book," and "a penetrating study of how Native American nations practiced their democracy," with a "succinct portrayal" of Roger Williams' use of native precedents for political freedom and religious toleration. Kawashima says that Grinde and Johansen have "meticulously collected" historical information to build a case that Native American political institutions had an impact on the founding of the United States, but that the authors "seem overly zealous in claiming more than their evidence can substantiate....Many of their statements are overdrawn." The reviewer takes exception to Exemplar's tracing of feminism, the Northwest Ordinance, judicial review, and the Bill of Rights in part to Native American origins. The question, says Kawashima, is no longer whether Native American precedents helped shape democracy, but to what extent.(*) Macklem, Patrick. "Distributing Sovereignty: Indian Nations and Equality of Peoples." Stanford Law Review 45 (May, 1993), p. 1311.
Macklem is discussing ways in which Native American notions of liberty and sovereignty mesh with non-Indian traditions and beliefs. He notes that "...Many features of the American federal system were influenced by the structure of North American Indian confederacies." Macklem, who is an assistant professor of law at Toronto University, cites Grinde and Johansen, Exemplar of Liberty .Mancall, Peter C. [Review of Exemplar of Liberty (1991)]. The Journal of American History, June, 1993, p. 248.
While Exemplar of Liberty includes "occasional glimpses into a vibrant multicultural world," and provides "some fine examples" of the ways that colonists used American Indian symbols, Grinde and Johansen "read too much into such matters," in Mancall's opinion. He believes that "the central arguments of the book remain unconvincing."(*) McNickle, D'Arcy. "Indians, American." Collier's Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier Inc., 1993.
On page 652, after a detailed description of the Iroquois League's founding and operation, McNickle observes: "Its political structure and idealistic conceptions contained elements that influenced liberal European philosophers of the eighteenth century and also American leaders, like Benjamin Franklin, who were searching for democratic and representative forms of government for a union of the colonies."McSloy, Steven Paul. "Back to the Future: Native American Sovereignty in the 21st Century." Review of Law & Social Change, Vol. 20(1993), pp. 218-300.
In a footnote (p. 221), McSloy mentions the debate over the "influence" issue as evidence that Native Americans had complex governments before contact with European law. He quotes from Franklin's 1751 letter to James Parker arguing for emulation of the Iroquois Confederacy in a colonial federation.Mikolajczyk, Waleria. "Poland and the American Indian: Friends of the Red Man." The Warsaw Voice. January 17, 1993.
This article describes the activities of the Polish Friendship Society, a group of Poles who study American Indian history and issues, publish books, and edit a journal. The group also organizes peaceful protests on behalf of Native American people and causes, such as freedom for Leonard Peltier. The publishing house, called Tipi, has issued about a half-dozen titles, and the journal, Tawacin Quarterly, has published since 1986. "The quarterly includes materials about the Great Peace Law, which is a discovery for the Polish reader. The law made it possible for the confederation of five Iroquois nations to function in harmony for several centuries. The editors stress that this law was taken by white colonists as a model for the United States constitution...and a model for democracy, but later the colonists forgot for long years both the Indian original and its authors."Miller, Robert J. "American Indian Influence on the United States Constitution and its Framers." American Indian Law Review 18(1993) pp. 133-160.
Miller, an adjunct professor of law at the Northwestern School of Law (Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon) writes that "Native Americans played a significant role in shaping the United States Constitution, and had a profound impact on several of the Founding fathers....Perhaps today's 'framers' could could look to Indian culture for solutions to...environmental problems, how to promote coexistence among diverse lifestyles, how to protect wildlife, and so on." The article provides a detailed description of attention paid to Native American themes by Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and other Founders, citing Grinde , Weatherford , Johansen, [1982, 1987], and Cohen .(*) Mitten, Lisa. [Review of Wolfson, The Iroquois.] School Library Journal, Vol. 39 (March, 1993), p. 217.
This review of Wolfson's children's book says that it "does a good job of discussing the influence of the Iroquois Confederacy on the formation of the U.S. government."Morris, C. Patrick. "Who Are These Gentle People?" American Indian Culture and Research Journal 17:1(1993), pp. 1-15.
Morris, professor of liberal studies, University of Washington (Bothell), describes the first encounters between Columbus and the Tainos, whom Columbus described as "these gentle people." Morris then takes issue with the "narrow Eurocentric view of discovery and its aftermath" (p. 8). Morris cites Grinde's article in the same issue of AICRJ (above), and says (on page 8) that it "sets out evidence for substantive contributions by American Indians, particularly the Iroquois, to the form of federalism adopted by the United States through its Constitution. The academic debate precipitated by the injection of Indians into the authorship of this most precious of all United States historical documents is indicative of the intellectual climate surrounding scholarship related to Indians and other indigenous peoples. After 500 years, it is time we have this debate."National Geographic Society. The World of the American Indian. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1993.
On page 133, this book gives a brief description of the Iroquois League and its creation, and then comments: "Our own nation's founding fathers knew about the Iroquois Confederacy and admired its effectiveness." Benjamin Franklin's 1751 letter to his printing partner James Parker (" It would be a strange thing if...") is quoted.(*) Richter, Daniel K. "Whose Indian History?" William and Mary Quarterly 3rd Ser. 50:2(April, 1993), pp. 379-393.
Professor Richter is concerned, as he states in his opening sentence, that "Scholarship on the Indian peoples of early America is running out of fuel" (p. 379). Works that Richter regards as ground-breaking (such as those by William Fenton and Francis Jennings, among others) mark the "end of the line" to him (p. 380). "The predominantly white and male practitioners of the New Indian History [ethnohistory] now encounter challenges to their basic assumptions that would have been barely imaginable when the field began to flourish in the 1970s" (p. 383), which raise "questions of ownership -- of whose Indian history?" (p. 381). Among Richter's bogeymen are "Writers and propagandists....Professional historians who challenge [sic] such modern Indian myths as the idea that whites invented scalping or the theory that the Iroquois League provided the model for the United States Constitution can thus be charged with intellectual elitism at best and racism at worst" (p. 383). Richter names no names, except in a footnote, where Forgotten Founders and Johansen's 1990 exchange with Elisabeth Tooker in Ethnohistory are cited, as is Don Grinde's The Iroquois and the Founding of the American Nation (1977). Richter continues to blow a number of fuses on page 384: "Reinforcing these onslaughts against the form of Indian history that some of us had hoped would revolutionize early American studies is the scholarly and cultural zeitgeist traveling under the names of deconstruction, discourse theory, post-structuralism, and postmodernism." Having associated a book's worth of wildly differing ideas in the space of a page, Richter's discourse then fizzles into a rather pompous and windy dissection of these intellectual cross-currents, which he holds often "reinforce ethnic separation." (The fact that Grinde is Native American and Johansen is of European descent does not spoil Richter's pellmell rush to judgement.)Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples [Canada]. Partners in Confederation: Aboriginal Peoples, Self-Government, and the Constitution. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1993.
This report considers alternatives to Canada's present confederation, and Native American peoples' roles in Canadian governance. Iroquois models of government are presented, and Exemplar of Liberty  is cited. The report argues that the Canadian confederation has come more to resemble the Iroquois League over time, moving gradually from exclusive reliance on its British origins.(*) Tooker, Elisabeth. [Review of Exemplar of Liberty (1991)]. Northeast Anthropologist 46(Fall, 1993), pp. 103-107.
The reviewer opens by saying that "most scholars have dismissed" Grinde's The Iroquois and the Founding of the American Nation  and Johansen's Forgotten Founders [1982, 1987]. She also summarily dismisses Exemplar of Liberty, despite the fact that "Grinde and Johansen have joined forces, greatly expanded the scope of their previous studies, and added considerably to the number of references cited." Tooker, who does not identify the scholars who purportedly agree with her, says "...[T]he result is no more convincing than their previous efforts." (p. 103) She says that Franklin did not admire the Iroquois political structure because he called Indians "ignorant savages" in his 1751 letter to James Parker in which he advised the colonists to form a union on the Iroquois model. Tooker concludes that "what Grinde and Johansen have written is an elaborate hoax...Indians were unimportant in shaping events on this continent that led up to the founding of the United States." (p. 107)Utter, Jack. American Indians: Answers to Today's Questions. Lake Ann, Mich.: National Woodlands Publishing Co., 1993.
Most of this book is in question-and-answer format. Under the question "Who are the Six Nations," on pages 42 and 43, Utter provides a brief description of the Iroquois League and its Great Law of Peace, and compares its structure to that of the United Nations. Utter also writes that "In the mid-1700s, the sophisticated political organization and powerful confederacy of the Iroquois strongly impressed several future revolutionaries like Benjamin Franklin and others...[who]...borrowed at least some of their ideas from experiences with the Iroquois. Grinde  and Johansen  are referenced. In an appendix, on pages 295-296, the book reproduces the U. S. House of Representatives resolution acknowledging Iroquois contributions to democracy.Waters, Frank. Brave Are My People: Indian Heroes Not Forgotten. Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishers, 1993.
In his capsule biography of Deganawidah, the Peacemaker, Waters writes (p. 7) that "the Peacemaker...had a dream: a wonderful, practical dream that came true for all America." At the end of the sketch, he elaborates, on pp. 12-13: "The influence of the League of the Iroquois upon the course of this nation, the United States of America, has been in the highest degree. For it is believed now that because the framers of the Constitution were familiar with the League, the charter for the government of the United States was modelled upon many of its principles. Whether or not this is true, the symbols of the great pine and the eagle, and the concept of a number of separate peoples united in a federation for the good of all, were derived from American roots and given practical expression through the Peacemaker and Hiawatha."(*) White, John. "Canassatego, Father of Our Country: Iroquois Influence on the Founding of the United States." Minnestrista Council for Great Lakes Native American Studies, 1991-1992 Proceedings of the Woodland National Conference. Muncie, Indiana: Minnestrista Cultural Center and Ball State University, 1993, n. p.
White, who recalls mentions of Native American influence on Anglo-american democracy from his Cherokee ancestors, writes that he pursued the idea in academia to be bemusement of other scholars, who insisted that the total corpus of democracy came from the Old World. White in 1975 researched the subject in connection with an exhibit on the Iroquois in Chicago's Field Museum. White then outlines Canassatego's life, and Benjamin Franklin's appreciation of his words.(*) Versluis, Arthur. The Elements of Native American Traditions. Rockport, Mass.: Shaftesbury, Dorset, 1993.
Versluis briefly describes the Iroquois Confederacy, "with their confederacy, a governmental model that, it has been suggested, served as one source of inspiration for the government adopted by the United States." (p. 11)Newspapers, Magazines, and Newsletters
__________, "Choosing New Iroquois Representatives." Business Wire, July 12, 1993 [in LEXIS].
Datelined Syracuse, this press release begins: "Despite the fact that much of the U.S. form of government is based on the Iroquois Confederacy, the U.S. democratic system did not adopt the Iroquois idea of total consensus." A brief description of traditional Iroquois decision-making follows. The release lists as author "Loretta V. Metoxen, Native American News," with a telephone number,  236-2214.__________. "Native Americans and the Birth of Democracy." [Book review of Lyons, et. al., Exiled in the Land of the Free, 1992.] February 21, 1993, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Everyday Magazine, p. 5-C.
"Growing evidence indicates that the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other significant influences on the fundamental philosophical base of American democracy can be traced to indigenous roots." The review is favorable.__________. "Who 'Invented' Democracy? July 2 Events Honor Native Americans." Aspen [Colorado] Times Daily, July 1, 1993, p. 10.
This article describes a series of events regarding Native American contributions to democracy planned by Sarah Pletts of Aspen's Living Arts Foundation for July 2.__________. "A Curriculum Guide to Learning About Native Americans." Tekawitha Newsletter (Great Falls, Montana), March-April, 1993, p. 4.
This brief survey of American Indian contributions to our material life and ideas cites Benjamin Franklin's debt to the Iroquois for the concept of a loose federation of states.__________. "Multicultural Law a Weapon For Indoctrination by Zealots." Omaha World-Herald, September 26, 1993, p. 12-B
This lead editorial, by Frank Partsch (editor of the World-Herald's editorial pages), takes issue with a new state law mandating multicultural education, disagreeing at length with comments by George Garrison (below) reported in the World-Herald a week earlier. Partsch admits that Franklin and Jefferson had many contacts with Native Americans and wrote approvingly of their cultures, but believes that the case for Native American contributions to democracy is "overstated." Partsch cites a comment by Francis Jennings, senior research fellow at the Newberry Library, that Indians were excluded from the protections of the U.S. Constitution: "This thought....should be noted by the mythologists who insist that Indians strongly influenced the writers of the United States Constitution." [see Jennings, above] A response by Garrison was published September 30, followed by a response by Johansen October 8, which was paired with a rebuttal to Garrison by another author.Alia, V. [Review, Lyons, et. al., Exiled in the Land of the Free(1992)]. CHOICE, vol. 30, No. 9 (May, 1993), p. 1535.
"Every library should have this important challenge to the still-prevalent ethnocentrism in histories of American democracy," writes the reviewer, who also faults the eight male co-authors of Exiled because the role of women is "largely absent" from the book. Exiled, says Alia, "clarifies Native American influences on U.S. political structures."Associated Press. "Multicultural Law Misunderstood, Educator Says." Omaha World-Herald, September 19, 1993.
George Garrison, chair of black studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is quoted at a meeting in Norfolk, Nebraska, regarding the state's new multicultural-education law. "Many history courses also teach that the principles of democracy were founded on the beliefs of Europeans, such as John Locke, Garrison said. While multiculturalism does not attempt to discredit those contributions, it also recognizes that many of the ideas presented at the Continental Congress also came from American Indians."Casey, Constance. "The Thinking Man's Rush Limbaugh." Los Angeles Times, May 23, 1993, Book Review Section, p. 10.
Casey is reviewing two books, Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint: the Fraying of America, and Rush Limbaugh's The Way Things Ought to Be. "These two books, in reaction to political correctness and multiculturalism, appear on the best-seller lists this week." She asserts that while their writing styles are very different, Hughes and Limbaugh are "brothers under the skin." One area in which they agree, writes Casey, is "they both...deny that the Iroquois had any influence on the Constitution."Dawson, Greg. "Turner Retells the Story of Indians..." Orlando Sentinel, December 5, 1993, p. D-1.
This review of Turner's "The Broken Chain" says: "It recounts a fascinating chapter of American Indian history surely unfamiliar to most viewers -- the story of the Iroquois Confederacy, a sophisticated organization of six Indian nations in the Northeast that became a model for the U.S. Constitution." Dawson notes that the founders failed to observe the power of clan mothers in the confederacy, and did not include Iroquois-style women's rights in the Constitution.Durling-Jones, Voyce. "A Paradigm Shift in the Americas: Biopolitics and Bioeconomics." Tekawennake [Brantford, Ontario], July 7, 1993, pp. 5, 14.
Durling-Jones is a member of the Canadian diplomatic corps, most recently consul general to Liberia. This is a transcript of a speech he gave in Vancouver, B.C., "Doing Business With Aboriginal Canada." The speech mentions several Native American contributions to general North American culture, including "In the United States, the Iroquois Confederacy served as a model for the new colonial government's federal system -- paradigm shift -- though the true history of the Americas has still not been truly comprehended or proper acknowledgement yet given to the First Peoples of the Americas..."(*) Endrst, James. "Turner Project Seeks to Set the Record Straight on U.S. History..." Hartford Courant, December 3, 1993, p. B-1.
Endrst, television critic for the Courant, calls Ted Turner "Television's biggest and richest idealist," as he describes the Turner series "The Native Americans." He writes that the segment "The Broken Chain" says that ideas in the U.S. Constitution were "lifted or stolen directly" from the Iroquois League, particularly the arrows on the United States Great Seal. Quoting Floyd Westerman, Endrst says that "What Franklin and company did not appropriate was the [Iroquois] federation's matriarch-dominated approach to power. As Westerman pointed out, 'Women were the Supreme Court.'"Ergo, David. "Our Debt to the Iroquois." [Letter to the editor], San Francisco Chronicle, October 16, 1993, p. A-20.
Ergo, of Palo Alto, cites Jack Weatherford's Indian Givers, in which "he shows, in great detail, how our founding fathers, especially Franklin, used the Great Law of the Iroquois in creating our democratic form of government -- using it not just as a broad outline, but as a model for many specific provisions in our Constitution."Feran, Tom. "'Geronimo Fits in With Turner's Vision: Cable Magnate Wants to Make a 'Roots' for Indians." Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 5, 1993, p. 10-I.
Feran is reviewing the second segment of Turner's "The Native Americans," which he describes as "built around the story of the Iroquois League of Nations...whose sophisticated political structure helped inspire the U.S. Constitution...and the Legend of the Peacekeeper [he means 'Peacemaker.']"Freeman, John. "'The Broken Chain' is Honorable, but Devoid of Passion." San Diego Union-Tribune, December 12, 1993, p. 8, TV Week.
Freeman says that Ted Turner, "the Mouth of the South," is spending $60 million "to raise awareness of Indian history and culture." "To its credit," remarks Freeman, "'The Broken Chain does portray Iroquois as thoughtful and peace-loving -- until provoked. But once they're provoked, watch out! The movie also carries this important message: that the U.S. Constitution is based on the Iroquois tenet of many diverse nation-states being bound together as one nation."George, Doug (Kanentiio). "Mohawk Teacher Dispels Myths." Syracuse Herald-American, October 3, 1993, n.p.
This summary of Native American contributions to American culture salutes Ray Fadden. George observes: "Only secondary attention has been given to the diplomatic accomplishments of the Iroquois Confederacy, a union of sovereign states that had a profound impact on the government of the infant United States."Gould, James Jay. "Green Delusions: An Environmentalist Critique of Radical Environmentalism." The Progressive 57:3 (March, 1993), p. 39.
Gould is reviewing Martin W. Lewis' Green Delusions, which he characterizes as "a primer in eco-extremism:" "Lewis uses a similar example to question the eco-radicals' call for decentralization. He reminds us that while the Iroquois Confederacy is held up as a successful example of small-scale participatory democracy, the tribal confederacy also carried out an effective campaign of ethnocide against the Hurons to ensure a fur-trade monopoly."Hepworth, James K. "We Missed a Chance to Make a Point." Lewiston [Idaho] Morning Tribune, November 6, 1992, p. 30.
Hepworth cites Jack Weatherford's Indian Givers  as he lists material and intellectual contributions of American Indians to mainstream American life. He says that "Weatherford points out just how heavily indebted our system of government is to the founding Indian fathers." Most of Weatherford's information in Indian Givers is from Forgotten Founders [1982, 1987]. "...The American federal system...as early students of Indian societies like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin could attest, derives not from Europe, as too many historians still mistakenly insist, but from Indian tribal organizations."Hodgson, Godfrey. "The Smelting Nation." [Review of Schlesinger, Disuniting America] The Independent [London, England], January 11, 1993, p. 23.
This reviewer picks up from Schlesinger's book the bit of creative assumption that students in New York State high schools are being taught that three factors influenced the U.S. Constitution: Enlightenment thought, the colonial experience in government, and the Iroquois Confederacy. This phrasing is taken from a draft of the Iroquois curriculum guide that was never implemented by the state, and thus not mandated in the state's schools. [It is amazing to watch the material from this draft become assumed "fact" in so many horror stories of "political correctness."]Holsopple, Barbara. "Ted Turner Revisits Indian History, Starting With Geronimo, Iroquois." Phoenix Gazette, December 3, 1993, p. 26.
This review of "The Broken Chain" briefly describes the Iroquois' "remarkably sophisticated political structure that is believed to be the basis for the [U.S.] Constitution." Holsopple points out that Founders did not adopt the power of women held by clan mothers in the Iroquois Confederacy.Holston, Noel. "TNT Indian Shows Are a Fine Start." Minneapolis Star-Tribune, December 5, 1993, p. 1-F.
Holston, a Star-Tribune staff reporter, criticizes Ted Turner for producing "the most ambitious TV project ever attempted about Indians" even as his Atlanta Braves urge their fans to use the "tomahawk chop" that many Native Americans find demeaning. He applauds the series, including "The Broken Chain," the segment that describes Iroquois history. "The Iroquois League...served as model for the founding fathers of the United States. In at least one important respect, however, the Iroquois nations were much more advanced: women were not shut of of their democratic decision-making."Howell, Peter. "Rock-Rap Rage Hammers at 'Elitist Wall.'" Toronto Star, January 14, 1993.
Entertainment writer Howell describes the stage act and thoughts of vocalist/lyricist Zack de la Rocha, lead singer of Rage Against the Machine, "a powerful new hardcore rock and rap band coming Sunday to the Opera House." According to Howell, the band "weld rock and rap together to make brutally beautiful music that demands a reaction from the audience." During one cut, "Take the Power Back," the band peppers an American flag with "hot lead." As for present-day America, de la Rocha, who is of mixed Mexican and German heritage, says, "It is a machine that will do anything to keep going. It has no moral understanding or any true sense of the word 'freedom,' or 'democracy.' The only true democracy ever experienced throughout the Americas was the one the Iroquois Indians had."Hum, Debbie. "Ottawa Has No Right to Impose its Law on Natives: Mohawk." Montreal Gazette, March 18, 1993, p. A-5.
Stuart Myiow, Sr., a Kahnawake Mohawk elder, criticized a statement by Bertha Wilson, a retired Supreme Court justice who is a member of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Wilson had said that Canada can impose its laws on aboriginal people within its borders. Myiow replied: "We [Mohawks] have a great law, a constitution, which you people have taken from us. You have no right to legislate any laws over our people...Our lands are not yours to be assumed. You are my tenant, whether you like it or not."Johansen. "Defending Multiculturalism." Omaha World-Herald, October 8, 1993, p. 23.
Response to Omaha World-Herald editorial (above), "Multicultural Law a Weapon for Indoctrination by Zealots."Johns, Donald. "Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America." Whole Earth Review, December 22, 1993, p. 110.
Johns reviews Jack Weatherford's Native Roots, noting that he describes the Native American origins of 2,000 words in our daily speech (for those of us who speak American English), as well as "government (the Iroquois model of democracy), as well as half our food crops. Such things "ought to be the stuff of school curricula," remarks Johns.Jones, Jeff. "Capitol Intensive: Indian Guide." Metroland [Albany, N.Y.], January 28, 1993.
Jones surveys the latest flareup in the four-year-old controversy over the New York State curriculum guide Haudenosaunee: Past, Present, Future, a Native-composed section of the New York State Department of Education's "Curriculum of Inclusion," which has become a flashpoint in the national debate over multiculturalism. Jones summarizes Prof. William Starna's criticism of the guide, and other scholars', as well as Iroquois, replies: "Jack Wandall, an Albany writer and filmmaker and long-time supporter of the traditional Iroquois chiefs, [said] 'I see it [Starna's critique] as an escalation of the old-boy, mainly white network to shore up their entrenched advocacy of being the only ones who are in the know about Indians.'" After he heard that Governor Mario Cuomo had saluted Iroquois contributions to democracy in one of his speeches, Starna is reported to have "hit the roof." Starna has urged that such references be removed from the Haudenosaunee guide. [Files contain copious correspondence between Profs. Johansen, Grinde, Sally Roesch Wagner, Robert W. Venables and Bruce A. Burton, as well as John Kahionhes Fadden, as they formulated a collective reply to Starna, dated Feb. 12, 1993.](*) Kampert, Patrick. "'Chain' Gives Native Americans Historical Due." Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1993, TV Week, p. 3.
This review of the Turner Broadcasting System series "The Native Americans" says, in part: "The depictions of the First Americans' everyday life dispel the myths of single-minded savagery some have had of Native Americans. What can you learn from 'Broken Chain?' Try these on for size: the U. S. borrowed some of its early ideas on government from the Iroquois Confederacy. Indian chiefs are more likely to be diplomats than blood-thirsty warriors....The chiefs consult a council of women, who give them the 'will of the people.'"LaLonde, Michelle. "Mohawks Express Great Hope for Aboriginal Royal Commission." Montreal Gazette, May 4, 1993.
Mohawks at Akwesasne are reported to "have respect...and expect results from" the recently appointed Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. "In another display of respect for the commission," reports LaLonde, Mohawk traditional subchief Jake Swamp gave them a condensed two-hour oral version of the Great Law of Peace, "which Mohawks say spawned western democracy and the U.S. Constitution." This piece also describes the historical significance of the Two Row Wampum, and the right of clan mothers to impeach errant chiefs.LeMay, Konnie. "Native Actors Shine in TNT's 'The Broken Chain.'" Indian Country Today, December 22, 1993, pp. A-1, A-2.
Page A-2: "The film depicts a discussion among the founding fathers of the United States about the democratic methods employed by the [Iroquois] Confederacy and how that influenced the government[al] structure the Americans would adopt. As Joseph Brant said in the film: The United States is 'a nation that was created in our image and with the blood of the Iroquois people.'"Leonard, John. "The Broken Chain." [Television review] New York Magazine, December 13, 1993, p. 94.
Leonard is reviewing Ted Turner's series "The Native Americans." He finds the second segment, "The Broken Chain" "as pedestrian as last week's 'Geronimo'." Leonard observes that "...the American revolutionaries...are no more bound by their treaties with these noble savages than their colonial oppressors, even though they borrow Iroquois principles to make their Constitution shipshape."Lipsyte, Robert. "Lacrosse: A Goalie Keeps Faith for an Iroquois Nation." New York Times, January 29, 1993, p. B-14 [Sports].
This is a feature on Oren Lyons, faithkeeper of the Onondagas, as a lacrosse player (he is in the Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame). Lyons says that when he was a young man (he was 62 in 1993), there were three ways an Iroquois could prove his manhood -- high steel, the Army, and lacrosse. Lipsyte also says that Lyons has just authored Exiled in the Land of the Free (1992) which "maintains that most of the best aspects of American democracy were strongly influenced by Indian culture."Miller, John J., "The Moonbeam of Self-Esteem." Newsday, June 2, 1993, p. 84.
Miller, who is associate director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for the New American Community, decries attempts to build minority students' self-esteem with "pride-building curricula," or "pumping them full of stories meant to inflate racial pride." Two examples of this occur when "schools portray them of the rightful inheritors of the black scholars in ancient Egypt...or the Iroquois political theorists who inspired the Founding Fathers to write the Constitution."Rayl, A.J.S. "New Technologies, Ancient Cultures..." Omni, August, 1993, p. 46.
This wide-ranging piece describes attempts by Native Americans to preserve sovereignty and culture with technological tools such as computers and remote broadcasting. Along the way, the author observes that "essential principles" in the U.S. Constitution are borrowed from the Iroquois Great Law of Peace. Even as they borrowed Indian political structure, the colonists plundered the native peoples and their lands, Rayl writes.Rheingold, Howard L. "Indian Roots of American Democracy." Whole Earth Review, December 22, 1993, p. 111.
This is a review of Jose Barreiro, ed., Indian Roots of American Democracy. Rheingold observes at the beginning of his review that the Iroquois "social contract -- the Great Law of Peace -- almost certainly informed the creators of the U.S. Constitution." Rheingold details Benjamin Franklin's experiences among the Iroquois and his construction of the Albany Plan of 1754. Quoting Julian Boyd, editor of Jefferson's papers, Rheingold then links the Albany Plan to the later Articles of Confederation and Constitution. The reviewer also observes that in 1775 Colonial delegates thanked the Iroquois for Cannassatego's advice on national union in 1744.Seligman, Daniel. "Measuring PC: Those Influential Iroquois..." Fortune, April 19, 1993, p. 159.
In his column "Keeping Up," Seligman takes aim at "political correctness," which he describes as "a movement driven by truly totalitarian impulses, [which] is embodied in thought police who endlessly endeavor to suppress data..." Seligman then hauls the issue of Iroquois influence on the Constitution out as his primary exhibit of "politically correct" thought, which Seligman links to a general decline in American educational levels. He calls assertions of influence "fatuous," and quotes Schlesinger in Disuniting of America .Smolla, Rodney A. "Last in War, Peace, and the Supreme Court." New York Times Book Review, April 11, 1993, p. 22.
In this review of Oren Lyons, et. al., Exiled in the Land of the Free , Prof. Smolla says that the book "explores the relationship of Indians to the Constitution from two directions....First, how Indian traditions may have influenced the creation of the Constitution, and second, how subsequent interpretations of the Constitution have affected the lives of Indians over time." On the subject of influence, Smolla, who is director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at the College of William and Mary, writes that the book makes a good case for Iroquois influence on the Constitution from the Albany Congress (1754) through the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, that Benjamin Franklin and other Founders were students of the Iroquois as well as of other political systems, and that European philosophers such as Locke and Rousseau also drew upon native precedents. He also reviews the case against "influence," including the purported lack of written credit to the Iroquois per se. "In one profound sense, however, the resolution of this debate does not really matter," Smolla contends, "For it is not necessary to establish through documentation a linear chain of cause and effect....the authors make a compelling case for the existence of an Indian civilization of participatory democracy rich in its respect for individual human dignity, yet steeped in values of community."Will, George. "'Compassion' on Campus." Newsweek, May 31, 1993, p. 66.
In the same issue of the Book Review, on page 1 [Linda Bradley Salamon, "When Nobody Reasons Together"], the influence issue is mentioned in the context of a review of two books [Robert Hughes. The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America. New York: New York Public Library/Oxford University Press, 1993; Jonathan Rauch. Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Cato Institute/University of Chicago Press, 1993]. Both books partake of the more general debate concerning multiculturalism, "political correctness," and so forth.
In terms similar to those used in his syndicated columns [1989, 1991], Will lambasts new explorations in African and Native American history: "Religious fundamentalists try to compel 'equal time' in school curricula for creationism and evolution. But they are less of a threat than liberals trying to maintain 'fairness' for dotty ideas that make some 'victim groups' feel good -- ideas such as that Greek Culture came from Black Africa [an allusion to Martin Bernal's Black Athena], or that Iroquois ideas were important to the making of the Constitution."Zoglin, Richard. "Ted Turner Goes Native." Time, December 6, 1993.
In this review of the Turner Network series of television movies on Native Americans, Zoglin comments that in the segment "The Broken Chain," which began broadcasting December 12, 1993, "The acting is more wooden and the drama more sketchy than in Geronimo [The TV movie broadcast on TNT December 5]. Yet the history lesson -- that principles of the Iroquois Confederacy were an important influence on the American Constitution -- is well told." [During filming of "The Broken Chain," a Turner crew had stopped at the Six Nations Indian Museum in Onchiota, N.Y., where they talked with John Kahionhes Fadden and left with a copy of Exemplar of Liberty, and other information related to the "influence" issue.]
- Advertising flyer, Syracuse University Press, for Concerning the League: The Iroquois League Tradition as Dictated in Onondaga by John Arthur Gibson, to be published in 1993. Referring to the narrative of the Iroquois League's creation, the flyer says: "This is the received text of one of the great works of the human mind, comparable to the Popol Vuh of the Quiche or the Tibetan Book of the Dead -- a crucial and, in some parts, ancient text. (This is a text, moreover, in which some see a direct formative influence on the constitutional thought of Thomas Jefferson.)" The reference is notable because, during the formative years of the "influence thesis," Grinde, Johansen, and others offered their works to the Syracuse University Press for publication, and were uniformly rejected after review by people who Deloria  calls "the old-boys network of anthropology."
- Letter, Sarah A. Pletts (Sarah Pletts Dance Theatre/Living Arts Foundation, Aspen, CO.) to Johansen, Feb. 23, 1993. "We are planning a series of events in early July honoring the contributions of Native Americans to the ideals and thinking of early colonists....Your book, Forgotten Founders, has been of great help to us in our research." The Sarah Pletts Theatre sponsored a similar set of events in the summer of 1995.
- Letter from John Fadden, May 24, 1993, regarding speculation in upstate New York media that the headdress atop the Statue of Freedom (on the U.S. Capitol) is a traditional Iroquois Gustowah. Packet includes a number of photos and a description of the statue sent by the Architect of the Capitol, including this description of the headdress: "Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle's head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of the American Indian." The headdress appears to be a mixture of early American patriotic symbols typical of revolutionary-era artwork (although the statue was not created until the 19th century). Depiction of America as an American Indian woman was common in revolutionary artwork, although, in point of historical fact, the Gustowah was worn by men, not women, in Iroquois society.
- By 1993, ten professors in eight different academic fields had incorporated the idea of Native American influence on United States political ideas and institutions into their teaching at the University of Nebraska at Omaha:
Dale Krane (history of public administration)
Hugh Cowdin (mass communication and public opinion)
Steve Witala (American politics -- political science)
George Garrison (black studies)
Michael Tate (American history)
Dave Nicklin, who retired 5/93 (English)
Dale Stover (philosophy & religion/Native American humanities)
Lourdes Gouveia (sociology)
Bruce Johansen (Communication/Native American humanities)
Orville Menard (Political Science)
Jo Behrens (Native American Studies)
- Personal correspondence, Elisabeth Tooker to Donald A. Grinde, Jr., replying to Grinde's proposal of a program, with Johansen, at the annual Iroquois Research Conference to be held near Albany October 1-3, 1993. Tooker [see 1988, 1990] was program director for the conference that year. "Am I to presume that this is another of your jokes, that you are yet again pulling our collective legs as you did in Exemplar of Liberty?" Files contain this letter, and correspondence related to it from Grinde to Johansen and from Johansen to Tooker. Tooker's reply of July 28, 1993 accepting Johansen and Grinde's paper session also is included: "I asked you a question....You answered it."
- Personal correspondence, David Ned Blackmer, Metz, France, to Johansen, July 18, 1993, regarding plans to translate Exemplar of Liberty  into French.
- Brochure, "Our Constitution: The Native American Influence," undated. Received from John Kahionhes Fadden, September 13, 1993. Published by the Schenectady Museum with a grant from the The New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. This booklet briefly summarizes Iroquois political traditions, and rather vaguely suggests that they may have influenced the evolving British colonies and United States c. 1754 - 1800, especially through Ben Franklin.
- Johansen and Grinde presented papers related to "influence" at the annual conference on Iroquois Research, Rensealearville, NY, October 2.
- Leaflet, "University of Nebraska at Omaha Native American Studies...A Colloquium...Bruce Johansen..."The Politics of the Iroquois Roots of Democracy: Encounter with Academic Trolls...November 10, 1993...Milo Bail Student Center." About 70 people, mostly students, attended the hour-and-a-half long colloquium.
- Transcript #863, "Independence Day: Our Indian Legacy," Larry King Live, Cable News Network, July 5, 1993. With Pat Mitchell sitting in for Larry King, the show observed Independence Day by inviting Oren Lyons to talk about Native American precedents for United States fundamental law. Lyons described Iroquois consensus-making practices, the story of the Peacemaker, and colonists' early encounters with Native Americans that provided channels of communication for Native American ideas. Lyons also described the contents of his new book Exiled in the Land of the Free . Lyons described one student of his in Buffalo who was "very angry" because, at age 32, with four children, he had never been told of the Iroquois influence on U.S. fundamental law. "My children are going to hear about this," Lyons quotes the student as having said. Lyons also answered calls from the audience about "influence" assertions. One caller stressed the importance of women in the Iroquois political system. Lyons thanked the caller, and described ways in which Iroquois clan mothers nominate leaders in the confederacy.
- Transcript #351-3, Bob Cain, Cable News Network. "Native Americans had Major Role in Concept of Democracy." July 5, 1993. Television interview with Oren Lyons regarding his new book Exiled in the Land of the Free .
- (*) Leaflet, "A Series of Programs...Featuring Sally Roesch Wagner, in a Variety of Presentations." This was a series of seven presentations sponsored by the Santa Clara [California] Humanities Coalition between March 6 and March 9. On March 7 (10 a.m.), at the Los Gatos Unitarian Fellowship, Wagner spoke on "The Influence of the Iroquois on Women's Rights." The same evening, she gave a dramatic presentation at the San Jose Unitarian Church, "Matilda Joslyn Gage and the Iroquois Suffragist Alliance."
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