“We carried you in our arms on Independence Day
And now you’d throw us all aside and put us all away”
During the American Revolution the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2 1776, and when two days later, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision which had been prepared by a Committee of Five (with Thomas Jefferson its principal author), America began its forward march into the future.
Many however forget that liberty, equality, and representative government were long traditions throughout Indian Country. The democratic customs of many Native Peoples in what is now the eastern United States, were an inspiration to the early colonists.
The Iroquois Confederacy, with its six allied nations make up one of the oldest participatory democracies in the world.
Each nation delegated ten representative chiefs, nominated by respected clan mothers, to represent its voice in a transnational council. The respective nations retained their sovereignty in domestic matters, and every individual enjoyed the right of public participation. The documented legal code uniting the nations of the confederacy—The Great Law of Peace—bound not only their citizens, but held their rulers to public accountability. This arrangement ensured a balance of power among its members and provided checks and balances that account for the remarkable longevity of the Iroquois League.
America’s founding fathers recognized the stability and efficiency of the Iroquois form of government, and consulted with Iroquois leaders nearly three decades before the first Continental Congress. It is now widely affirmed among scholars and historians that the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois served as a model for the Constitution.
So as America celebrates Independence Day this weekend, let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of Native People continue to live below the poverty line, that Black Churches in the South are still targeted by fear and ignorance, and that as far as we have come, the road to freedom is still long.
And please, keep your kids and pets safely out of the way of the fireworks and have a great weekend.
I’ll be back on Monday!
Tears of Rage lyrics by Bob Dylan
American Warrior by Malcolm Furlow care of taoStyle sponsor, the Michael McCormick Gallery.