An article by Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, that the Two Row Times has broken up into several sections that will run through the next few weeks. Part one can be found in our May 17th issue.
6. Democracy came from the Greeks. No society is democratic when any of its members lives in a condition of servitude. The Greeks held much of their population in slavery and denied equal rights to women. This means that whatever popular form of government developed by the Greeks, and then the Romans, was highly conditional and restricted to a small class of social and economic elites. Not until the latter part of the 19th century was slavery prohibited in the European nations and not until the 1970s were all women given the right to vote. Contrast this with the Iroquois Confederacy, where true democracy was invented, codified and practiced. Its citizens had specific human rights, and women held great social, political and economic powers unequaled in any other human society. Even children were accorded legal and political standing under the protection of a set of customs and laws. The freedom of Native people and our the manner in which we governed our affairs were envied, then copied in part, by the colonists since Europe had nothing to offer but class divisions, religious persecution and eternal national wars.
7. The founders of the American nation were freedom loving, God fearing patriots who rebelled because of the oppressive rule and taxes imposed upon them by the English Parliament. We know this lie all too well. The rebels enjoyed a higher degree of liberty than any other place in the British Empire. They were taxed at a far lower rate then their English-Scottish-Welsh cousins. We know that Parliament wanted the colonies to pay their fair share for the recently concluded Seven Years War and to abide by the 1763 Royal Proclamation which prohibited their intrusions and theft of Native lands west of the Allegheny Mountains. We know that John Hancock was one of the biggest smugglers in colonial America, a criminal who organized and financed the Boston Tea Party because the British and removed taxes on that beverage which almost destroyed his business. We know that the true cause of the Revolution was to protect the wealth of the colonial elite which was based upon lands stolen from Natives: Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams-all speculated in Native lands and feared their wealth would diminish if westward expansion ended. None of those individuals adhered to any specific Christian church since they saw the effects of religious wars and deliberately excluded organized religion from the Constitution.
8. Europeans, and Americans, used their superior military weaponry and tactics to defeat Native nations. This is often cited by the apologists for the theft of the continent. Some will concede that diseases such as smallpox and typhoid may have been a factor in driving Natives from the land but it was, they argue, the military strength of the colonies that won the day. To unravel this lie take three examples. On July 3,1778 a force of 460 Iroquois and 110 British rangers were engaged in a fight with 360 US militia at Wyoming near Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. Using superior field tactics under the leadership of Cornplanter the Iroquois fired one volley at the Americans before charging them and engaging in deadly hand-to-hand combat. No match for the Iroquois the U.S. fled the field of battle after suffering over 300 casualties to the loss of a single Iroquois fighter. Instead of referring to this as an Iroquois victory it is called a “massacre’ although no non-combatants were harmed.
Second, the defeat of the U.S. army in Indiana in the fall of 1790. President George Washington ordered the army to invade Shawnee-Miami territory to take their lands by force. The Native alliance (the Iroquois called Mingos were present) led by Blue Jacket and Little Turtle drove back the Americans in a series of battles during which the Natives used complex field tactics and superior marksmanship. Over 220 of the 540 U.S. soldiers were lost at the final clash before the Americans left the area.
Third, the Battle of the Wabash in present day Ohio. A 1,000 strong American army which included almost all of the senior commanders was struck at dawn by the same Native alliance as had defeated Harmar the year before. Once again using the element of surprise Blue Jacket and Little Turtle drove back the Americans until the fight became a rout. Of the 1000 U.S. soldiers only 33 escaped unharmed with 632 killed. Virtually all of the officers died. It was, by far, proportionally the worse defeat suffered by the U.S. Army in any battle at any time in its history yet it is not even cited during the military history course at West Point.
What the three examples prove, and there are many others, is that when adequately equipped Native military forces defeated the colonials in almost every pitched battle yet other than Little Big Horn no standard history texts cite this fact.
9. Natives were on the margins of history and gave the world little more than canoes, corn and tobacco. Another lie of epic proportions. It may be said that the single most profound event in human history took place on October 12, 1492 not because of the bad navigation of Colon but that it meant the collision of two human realities as different from each other as was possible. But in that clash came inevitable exchanges which would forever change world history. This is best explained in the book “The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492” by Alfred Crosby and in Jack Weatherford’s “Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World” and in Kay Porterfield’s “Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World”. These books, and others like them, destroy forever the myth that Natives were wisps of smoke. Our innovations, our inventions, our technologies, ideas and art, our politics and our music have been felt by every human being on this planet. The authors cite basic things such as the gift of corn, the most important plant in human history, and go on from there to list thousands of instances of what our ancestors gave to humanity; chocolate, rubber, oil, syringes, basketball, hammocks, hockey, dream therapy, popcorn, snowshoes, cotton, women’s rights, ecology, tomatoes, peppers, pineapples and on and on.
Without Native products life as we know it would not be possible yet we continue to be denigrated, ignored, obscured and held to ridicule in the form of mascots and other instances of idiocy.
10. Freedom. The Europeans knew nothing of true freedom when they came to Anonwarakowa. They were class bound, restricted by gender, consumed by material wealth, sickly in body and spirit and ignorant of the world about them. They were the product of generations of religious prosecution and immersed in violence. They were unclean, more intoxicated than not, smallish in stature and plagued by diseases from which they barely survived as a people. They feared their Creator and were taught the earth was their dominion. They whipped their children and discarded their elderly. When they met Natives for the first time they were intimidated by their physical beauty, their size and their health. The colonists were patriarchal and were amazed by the seeming lack of singular authority in Native society. They envied the absolute freedom enjoyed by the Natives to go as they pleased and whenever it suited them.
They thought their lack of material possessions was primitive only to be told that in a land of great bounty where all the resources are held in common there is no need for physical wealth, no need to create artificial class distinctions. Whenever given an opportunity to live like Indians individual colonists would often do so and, after living as Indians, they refused to return to the confines of the colonies. This was particularly true for the children and women. We taught the Americans what it could mean to be free and they in turn elected to destroy us since we represented the great temptation.
So it stands, our collective history, for good and ill. We have overcome great odds from a century ago and now number in the millions although nowhere near what we once were. Our presence reminds Canada and the U.S. of their duplicity, their institutionalized lies. It is our duty to set them straight and it is working in part. As we move into the harvest time we can point to one shared ritual which is not a lie: thanksgiving. Although much of what has been written about the first Pilgrim ritual of this kind (and most of that is a lie) the actual gathering of the people to express familial and communal gratitude for the blessings of the past year is one of our great gifts to the world.
And that is an absolute truth.