The Formation of the US Constitution

There are many things we do not learn in public schools that I feel are very important to know and truly understand.  With states now having the freedom to elect not to require civics or government courses for graduation fewer graduates will understand the great country they live in and the workings of its government.

Today I want to give you a bit of background on where, and from whom, our founding father’s received the inspiration for our Constitution as my contribution to the thinking in this election year.

 

iroquois belt
source

Ben Franklin was heavily influenced by the Iroquois nation which was comprised of five nations, tribes although he was not the only one who participated in meetings with the Iroquois Nations. It has been reported that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson also met with the leaders but it was through Franklin’s printing press where he published pamphlets extolling the Constitution of the Iroquois nations that the connections between Franklin and the Iroquois is cemented in history.  They had a constitution called  The Constitution of the Iroquois Nataions: The Great Binding Law, Gayanashagowa

The Great Law of Peace includes:

  •  freedom of speech,
  •  freedom of religion,
  •  the right of women to participate in government,
  • separation of powers,
  • checks and balances within government.
  • a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,”
  •  three branches of government: two houses and a grand counsel,
  • a Women’s Council, which is the Iroquois equivalent of our Supreme Court –settling disputes and judging legal violations.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

The central idea underlying Iroquois political philosophy is that peace is the will of the Creator, and the ultimate spiritual goal and natural order among humans.

The following are a few of what I feel are important to know and see the connection between the two constitutions.

We place at the top of the Tree of the Long Leaves an Eagle who is able to see afar.  If he sees in the distance any evil approaching or any danger threatening he will at once warn the people of the Confederacy

Here we see the introduction of the eagle, the symbol of the United States, and the reason the Iroquois chose the Eagle as their symbol of peace. Also note the use of the word Confederacy.

You, Adodarhoh, and your thirteen cousin Lords

The mention of the number 13 corresponds to the number of states making up the original colonies (and the number of stars on our first flag).  This sets up the governing of each colonial state by it’s own government by our founding fathers who would establish a federal government with the plan that the states had the freedom to govern themselves leaving the federal government to then step in when problems arose between states. This was exactly how the Iroquois nations were run. Each tribe was free to create rules of their own and the Iroquois governing body intervened when problems arose between the tribes.

The Council of the Mohawk shall be divided into three parties…. The third party is to listen only to the discussion of the first and second parties and if an error is made or the proceeding is irregular they are to call attention to it, and when the case is right and properly decided by the two parties they shall confirm the decision of the two parties and refer the case to the Seneca Lords for their decision.

The mention of the council being made up of three parts (the three branches of our government) and the third party being the party of mediator corresponds to our third branch of government, the Supreme Court.

If at any time it shall be manifest that a Confederate Lord has not in mind the welfare of the people or disobeys the rules of this Great Law, the men or women of the Confederacy, or both jointly, shall come to the Council and upbraid the erring Lord through his War Chief…..The women will then select another of their sons as a candidate and the Lords shall elect him.

While power was passed down through the female founding father’s rejected a female society but continued to find insight in other parts of the constitution such as the removal of a Confederate Lord when one did not obey the laws of the land or put the interests and welfare of the people first. It should be noted here that the female branch of government was the equivalent of our Supreme Court.

If a Lord of the Confederacy should become seriously ill and be thought near death, the women who are heirs of his title shall go to his house and lift his crown of deer antlers, the emblem of his Lordship, and place them at one side.  If the Creator spares him and he rises from his bed of sickness he may rise with the antlers on his brow.

This clause played a role in making sure we had continuity of government even when a President might be incapacitated.  For example,when the President of the United States is under anesthesia for surgery, the Vice President is sworn into office. Once the President is conscious and ready to resume his duties the power is transferred back to him.

Five arrows shall be bound together very strong and each arrow shall represent one nation As the five arrows are strongly bound this shall symbolize the complete union of the nations.  Thus are the Five Nations united completely and enfolded together, united into one head, one body and one mind.  Therefore they shall labor, legislate and council together  for the interest of future generations.

We borrowed the five arrows as part of our emblem as well, but more on that in a minute.

Whenever a specially important matter or a great emergency is presented before the Confederate Council and the nature of the matter affects the entire body of the Five Nations, threatening their utter ruin, then the Lords of the Confederacy must submit the matter to the decision of their people and the decision of the people shall affect the decision of the Confederate Council.  This decision shall be a confirmation of the voice of the people.

This clause is the equivalent of our states rights and reserving the federal government to handling disputes between the states versus having more power than the states, which is what we’ve evolved into, unfortunately.

Another similarity to the governing of the United States can be seen in the mentioning of elected delegates. The Sachems would be the representatives we elect to congress.

Under the Iroquois Constitution, known as the Great Binding Law or Great Law of Peace, each nation elected delegates, or sachems, who dealt with internal
affairs.

Under the title of Religious Ceremonies Protected we find the following:

The rites and festivals of each nation shall remain undisturbed and shall continue as before because they were given by the people of old times as useful and necessary for the good of men.

The Iroquois nation had in it’s constitution rules for emigrating, immigration, funeral procedures for the Lords and much more. You can read the entire constitution here.

The basis of our knowledge of the Iroquois’ impact on Ben Franklin is duly recorded. In 1744, envoys from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with delegates of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Indians. During the discussion the Iroquois leader, Canassatego,  advocated the federal union of the American Colonies. He is quoted as:

Our wise forefathers established a union and amity between the [original] 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.

Several years later, Franklin wrote the following to his printing partner:

It would be a very strange Thing, if six Nations of Ignorant Savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union, and be able to execute it in such a Manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble; and yet that a like Union should be impracticable for ten or a Dozen English Colonies, to whom it is more necessary, and must be more advantageous; and who cannot be supposed to want an equal Understanding of their Interests.

 

In 1987, the United States Senate acknowledged that the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Nations served as a model for the Constitution of the United States.

The symbolism of the Iroquois was also incorporated into the symbolism of the United States:

The Peacemaker designated The Tree of Peace as a symbol of the Great Law of Peace — a great white pine tree whose branches spread out to shelter all nations who commit themselves to Peace. (Note: I was unable to find an accurate image of the Iroquois emblem of which the details of are as follows):

  • Beneath the tree the Five Nations buried their weapons of war.
  • Atop the tree is the Eagle-that-sees-far.
  • There is a bundle of five arrows tied together to represent strength of five tribes bound together in peace.
  • Four long roots stretch out in the four sacred directions—the “white roots of peace.”

Thomas Jefferson adopted the symbols of the Peacemaker legend.

  • U.S. ConstitutionThe Tree of Peace became the Liberty Tree displayed on colonial flags.
  • Eagle-that-sees-far became the American Eagle, still a symbol of American government.
  • On the U.S. Great Seal, the American Eagle clutches a bundle of thirteen arrows, representing the original colonies.
  • Our eagle also holds an olive branch symbolizing that the United States of America has “a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war.”

I find it sad that we aren’t taught where the principles of our constitution originated or that the Constitution of the Iroquois was designed to prevent wars between Native nations. They put great emphasis on peace followed by doing what was right for the individual people of their nations, not the will of the leaders.  I wonder what both our founding fathers and the Iroquois leaders would think of our country today which is now an oligarchy (run by, and for, the interests of businesses) instead of the democracy it was intended.

 

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “The Formation of the US Constitution

  1. There is a lot we are not taught in schools. And we called them savages??? I like how our government chose to eliminate the women from our constitution. You did a lot of good research here, Lois. My education was so full of holes, I’m lucky I can read. That’s why I read so much now. Need to fill in those holes. Thanks for sharing this. Our schools will never teach this.

    Like

    1. Isn’t it interesting how the Iroquois nation saw the value of including women in all decisions, even passing power down through the women and it took us generations to allow a woman to vote or hold government offices? Don’t feel bad about your educational holes it happens to everyone. I was intrigued by the Native Americans and sought out as much information as I could. My grandparents took me to reservations and allowed me to ask questions of the people there and then I was a member of AIM (American Indian Movement) where I topped off my education. But while this has been an important subject I sought out knowledge on there are plenty of holes left from my schooling. This is also why I don’t agree with standardized education. At least when teachers were allowed to add to the curriculum it made our kids more well rounded. I still remember my kids’ schooling (before I home schooled them) in fourth grade they had different teachers. My oldest son had a teacher who was obsessed with NASA and even visited there. She had movies on how the shuttles were built and her own footage watching a lift off. My youngest had a teacher who grew up in Finland and cane here to be with her husband. She taught him about her culture, brought foods in to try that she grew up on and even taught them some of her language. I believe when you have that variety it allows us to learn more because we share what we learn and in that way supplement the curriculum. Sorry for the rant but I despise how our schools have been changed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you on the education, Lois. I was talking with my daughter this afternoon about politics and told her about your post. She already knew about it. She reads a lot of history on her own. So does my son. For a public school education, they do ok only because that was only the beginning. They are both like me and read anything and everything. Good teachers, once in a lifetime. 😦 I’ve always had too much trouble seeing to read a lot fast. Everything takes longer but I get there.

        Like

        1. Yay! It’s good to hear someone else knew about the connection between the Iroquois Constitution and our own. I rarely talk about these things because no one else knows anything about the connection and dismiss it as my making it up rather than look into it. Those who keep reading and learning are the most interesting people I know. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Your daughter and my oldest son would have a lot to talk about. He has been obsessed with history since he was a little boy. It was from him that I learned to appreciate history, school never sparked an interest in the subject. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW

    you know, Lois, I am astonished. I cannot recall if I took anything of this in school. We did spend a fair while in various grades “studying” Native Peoples (in Canada), but I do not recall their laws, practices being tied to our Constitution. (yup, I did a quick google, and it appears it had influence on ours too).

    very sad.

    Very sad too, I do not see these people represented in Government/law making roles.

    Thank you for the education.

    Like

    1. Well, now I have been schooled. 🙂 I didn’t know your laws were influenced by the Native people too. Guess what I’ll be doing? Yep, learning more about your laws and how they came to be. I think it is horrible that we learned from the Native tribes but then tried to shove them aside and treat them so terribly.

      Like

      1. oh my gosh, Lois. For sure I didn’t do it to “school” you. I was curious, as U.S. and Canada have so much history.
        thought might be similarities

        what I recall (didn’t save site), it had (Canada Laws) something to do with Ontario / Quebec bordering on U.S., and the Iriquois Nations there…Or some such…Should have saved the site. Of course back then, there were not borders like today…that was a more “modern” creation..sigh

        Like

        1. Hey I enjoy being schooled. 🙂 But on a serious note part of what I love about blogging is that I learn so much from the interactions I have with you and the other people who read and then leave comments.

          Like

          1. grin…me too..love learning new things. Sometimes I am surprised (grin) at how much I do not know.

            that day I had just done a quick google..Someday I will do a bit more..

            Like

  3. Interesting and very informative post, Lois. I’m always amazed in the connection of things and how they relate to one another; such as, the similarities of the Iroquois Nation’s constitution and ours. I’m even more impressed our forefathers met with the leaders of the Iroquois Nation, listened to them and studied their ways and laws. Then, incorporated some of them into the laws they wanted to establish for our new country.

    I’ve always been drawn to the Native American, especially how they honor the Great Spirit in everything they do and their way of life. I remember wanting to incorporate the energy of that when I started my pilot workshop in the corporate world calling it Wisdom of the Ages, sitting in a circle and using a talking stick for discussion.

    Also, another connection I find interesting and taken from your research of the Council of the Mohawk above are the 3 parties and how the 3rd party is only to listen to the 1st and 2nd party. It reminds me of William Ury, a renowned mediator for many years, who wrote “The Third Side”. This is his philosophy on how to help counsel people, countries, governments on their differences. In his project in the Middle East he used the teachings of another tribe (can’t remember their name) on settling their differences. Whenever there were disputes, one of the tribe members would hide the poisoned arrows. He explains it in this TED video.

    Thank you so much for the education. I will share on my social media. Hugs and love xxoo

    Like

    1. I knew from reading your writing that you had to have been influenced by the Native American beliefs. It’s so good to meet others who have taken lessons from them. 🙂 I loved the third party from the Iroquois constitution because it was made up of the women. When I learned I was pregnant with my second child, I took a great risk to my life to go through with the pregnancy and took a lot of criticism for it. I lost many friends, at least people I thought were my friends, because they didn’t agree with my choice. I was so stressed and really questioning my choice in friends and even why I was in the position needing to make a decision such as I was that I sought out Native American friends who followed the traditional ways. They never judged me and supported my decision. Even the men respected me and my pregnancy believing God had a purpose for this child and I had to bring him into the world. Anyway, that experience cemented for me the ills in our world when a mother can’t be respected for bringing life into the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t know that you had gone through that, Lois. It must have been difficult for you not only in the decision of having your second child but being abandoned by who you thought were your friends at a time when you needed them the most.

        I didn’t grow up with much knowledge of the Native Americans (other than what was taught in school) and their ways. It wasn’t until after I was married and was introduced to books my husband read, like Tom Brown, Jr. who wrote “Tracker”. I was clueless to Nature and wildlife growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and beaches of Virginia. Hubby really introduced me to a whole other world I never knew existed.

        I’m glad you followed your heart and didn’t waiver. See, you had a strong constitution, too, and it has served you well! The world is going through some ugly things now (has been for some time) but I have to believe with God’s grace it will sort itself out — mainly when we get our hearts on track.

        Like

        1. It was a difficult time. I told the story a long time ago but basically I had been diagnosed with cancer, my baby’s father decided he wasn’t ready for a child and left moving across the state and then every one else seemed to feel they had a right to tell me what decision I should make. I don’t know if I would have made it through the stress I felt at that time if not for my Native American friends who supported me through it all and never once passed judgement or tried to sway me one way or the other.

          The schools here in Pennsylvania didn’t teach much about the Native Tribes either. My desire to learn came from a dream I had from as young as I can remember of living as a Native American woman. I didn’t understand the dream until I was nine and traveling for the first time in the south west. Leaving the Grand Canyon the stretch of road was devoid of much to interest me then all of a sudden I knew the land I had seen in my dreams was coming up. I described the land features and begged my grandfather to stop when we got there so I could get out and try and make sense of it. Sure enough, there it was. I was on the Navajo reservation. I spent hours talking to the women and learning all I could and from there I couldn’t get enough information on their way of life or traditions.

          I have to believe this is just another phase of frustration and we will learn from this time and move forward in a better way.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Wow — that’s an incredible story, Lois. That dream sounds to have been pivotal in your life’s journey. I believe dreams can give us guidance and be messengers, especially when they stay with us like this one has for you.

            I’d love to have a discussion with you to hear what you felt and took away from that moment when you got out of the car and connected with the place of your dream. (Ha — there’s another topic for a talking-stick group — “Pivotal Moments in our Lives”).

            It sounds like you acted on it and it opened your heart to ways of learning from the Navajo women. That’s special and I admire your courage in following that guidance so many years ago.

            With the times we now live in being another phase? It may well be so but it somehow feels different. I think the ugliness can no longer hide and even though it’s hard to be surrounded by it and feel it, I think it’s necessary in order to get to the truth of what we’re about and who we truly want to be.

            Like

          2. I’d love to talk to you about that experience. Do you have my email address it’s: livingindenim@gmail.com. I still remember vividly that day. The anticipation that the place of my dreams was up ahead, I could feel myself getting closer to the spot but when we got there it was a feeling of coming home yet at the same time so very foreign. This trip was the first time I’d seen the desert so in a way nothing was familiar and yet it was. I know that doesn’t make sense to most people.

            I remember you tried to start a live chat with your blog followers, a chat on Pivotal Moments from our Lives would be the perfect subject for one. 🙂

            My son and I were just talking about the ugliness showing up in our politics. We came to the conclusion that another key to what we are seeing today is the number of people still alive that weren’t ready to move on from our history of using slaves. For them having a black President has festered for seven and a half years. I had forgotten all about Trump being a part of that whole Birther movement to oust Obama. For me his skin color wasn’t an issue but for a segment of the country it was another story. So growing pains, yes this country still has a lot to deal with. I just hope this time (unlike the 60s) no one gets hurt or killed.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I’d like to do that, Lois, figure out how we could do a live chat together. Maybe, after Easter, we can hook up via email and brainstorm on how to make that happen.

            I hear you and your son’s sentiments and concerns with the hatred coming out but I don’t think it’s just racial. There’s a fear of losing something or not having control and it shows up in many ways.

            I agree in these latest flareups, I hope we don’t revisit the ’60’s again and no one gets hurt. It was a painful time for our country and wouldn’t want to be doomed to repeat history. Hopefully, we have learned something from that.

            Take care, my friend, and hope you have a blessed Easter! 🙂

            Like

          4. That sounds like fun. I should look into adding Skype to my computer then we could chat. 🙂

            Oh I agree, there is a lot more anger right now than just racial tensions but certain parties are playing right into those. I’ve backed away from the political news for the moment. There is nothing I can do to change what’s happening and can’t handle the stress I feel after watching it. I just have to hope that in the end it doesn’t turn out as badly as I fear.

            I hope you have a lovely Easter. Will you be spending it with your family? I’ll be heading to my son’s house for fun with the little ones.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Good, we’ll have to work on that. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll email you next week and see what we can arrange and see what’s the best way to do it.

            We’ve just gotten our second snowstorm with about 10 inches. So, it looks like we’ll be staying close to home this Easter. It’s all good. Hope you have a blessed holiday with your family.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Well, it’s taken me awhile, Lois, (sorry) but I finally realized I got your response via my alternate g-email and, “wa-la”, there you were. I’ll be answering you soon and we’ll get something going. Looking forward to it. 🙂

            Like

I'd love to hear your thoughts, won't you please tell me what's on your mind?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s