“The Iroquois Confederacy” by John Mohawk

Okay…found this in a book called

“Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future” Which was Edited By Melissa K. Nelson. It has contributions from John Mohawk, Winona LaDuke, John Trudell, and others.

I am quoting #7

“The Iroquois Confederacy” by John Mohawk

Enjoy 😀 You are about to have your mind blown (in a good way)

“Historically, the Indians of the Eastern woodlands had no coercive apparatus of state control. Those who knew them remarked that the reason their societies weren’t in a state of chaos was because their culture was so powerful and so internally cohesive that the members of its society followed their cultural rules pretty well. They lived in relative peace and harmony amongst themselves for a long time. I think that’s a very important message, just so we can understand that this is possible in the world.

“The Iroquois Confederacy has many, many wonderful elements to it. We could talk about its spirituality. We could talk about its local structure and organization, about what its roles for women and children are, but I want to focus on one thing and one thing only: The origins of the Iroquois Confederacy.

“The story has it that there was an individual born among the Hurons, on the north side of Lake Ontario, who grew up in a society that was each against all. Blood feuds left not only villages fighting villages but also individual households fighting individual households. Assassinations were common. Violence ruled the day. People committed atrocities of every kind against each other-from cannibalism to murder to mass murder. It was a time, not unlike the twentieth century, of absolute horror and he degradation of the human soul.

“Coming out of this environment, one individual came up with an idea. He said that violence is a really bad idea. In all Western thought, by the way, this particular strain of thinking is never canonized anywhere. Anyway, this particular individual carries it further. According to the story, he is a young man, not yet twenty. He goes to the people he’s living with, and he says to them, “you have to stop these cycles of violence.” The cycles of violence were deeply embedded in the laws and customs of the Indian people, and they were about revenge, for real and imagined injuries.

“Some of it was about thinking that someone had performed witchcraft on you, and therefore you had to get even for that. Or somebody had gotten killed and you had to get even for that. In the end, a single murder could cost thirty or forty lives in revenge killings and blood feuds. In those days, with the size of the populations being what they were, this was very significant. The way war was fought was also very significant because it was fought by sneaking up on villages with war parties and rushing through these villages, taking prisoners and killing people.

“So this individual, who we’ll call the Peacemaker, began to say, to put it in modern English, that essentially war makes people crazy. When people are at war, they’re not thinking clearly, and this is a problem. Then he goes on to try to define what it means to think clearly. Here’s a fellow who actually belongs on the list of great philosophers of the world because he addresses two questions: How do we know when we’re thinking clearly? And what does it mean to pursue peace?

“He begins to talk to people, and his argument is, “We don’t need to live this way. We have the power of our collective minds so that we can create a world in which people do not use violence, but rather use thinking. We could replace violence with thinking, and then go from there.” He goes from village to village and persuades people that first we have to have a pact that says that we’re not going to commit violence anymore. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on, because these are orally transmitted traditions. But you have to know that when you walk into a village and you say, “We have to put down our weapons of war and have peace,” that they’re going to say, “Not ’til the other guys do.” To which the initial party will say, “Okay, let’s go talk to the other guys.” “Can’t talk to them. They’re all crazy.”

“So Peacemaker Dekanawidah starts out by saying, “When you tell yourself that your enemy can’t think, you destroy your own power to make peace with him.” It falls into a whole philosophy of peace, one that’s designed to help diplomats walk into incredibly tough situations knowing that, unless they use their minds to solve their problems, the problems will get worse. To use their minds to solve their problems, they have to first acknowledge that the guy on the other side of the negotiation-whatever he’s been doing-probably wants his people to live and probably wants a lot of the same things you do. So this process starts by looking for common ground with the enemy.

“In the course of these conversations, what came up was that we’re at war with these people because they’ve harmed us. They’ve done wrong to us, and we made a list of what these wrongs were. One of the wrongs was that the other group claimed an exclusive right of property that we needed to use. In the discussion, the Peacemaker says that the pursuit of peace is not merely the pursuit of the absence of violence, because peace is never achieved until justice is achieved. And justice is not achieved until everyone’s interests are addressed. But, he says, you will never actually finish addressing everyone’s issues. There will always be unfinished business. You can’t achieve peace unless it’s accompanied by a constant striving to address the issues of justice. This means that your job will never end. It will never end.

“Then he says that we have to build an institution to represent this. Of course, he puts together the chiefs of the Five Nations. They come together, and they form the Confederacy. But who are the chiefs of the Confederacy? What’s their job? They’re not actually civil chiefs, certainly not in the sense Thomas Hobbes was talking about. The chiefs of the Confederacy convene a meeting, the purpose of which is to demonstrate clear thinking. There is a tradition in the Confederacy to question fuzzy thinking. They were constantly called upon to answer the question, “What is it that you meant by such and such when you said that?”

“This meeting was conducted in a couple of different languages. The Confederacy has a wonderful tradition that, when someone has a proposition, they get up and they articulate their proposition to the other side, and the other side has to tell them back what it was. Interestingly, sometimes the original proposition is in one language and it comes back in a different language. When it’s in two languages and there is agreement on what it was, then we’re on track. We’re getting there.

“The Peacemaker said that the problem that humanity faces-and all humanity faces this problem-is that the absence of peace will lead to the end of human life on this planet. He said also that injustice is the big disturber of peace. It’s not eaven combat or warfare; it’s injustice. So long as there is injustice, the people of the planet face the possibility of extinction. He believed, and the words here are clear, that unless we solve the problem of injustice, we will take steps that will lead to the extermination of our species on this planet. He didn’t say that we’d kill each other off with war clubs. he said that in the end, unless we achieve peace among ourselves, the people of the planet will be eliminated. [!!!]

“I propose to you that he was exactly right. We’re living in a period of warfare between the rich and poor. The rich people do things that have no virture at all, by buying into the ideologies of things like globalization and the World Bank. How people are treating one another in the world has no relationship at all to thinking about how we sustain human life on the planet-not in terms of pollution, not in terms of food supply, not in terms of the oceans, not in terms of the air, not in terms of anything.

“There’s no virtue in any sense that Socrates would have understood; no virtue at all in any sense that the Peacemaker would have understood. Neither of them would have thought that clear thinking is prevailing in the world system that is, at this very moment, deciding who gets to eat and who does not get to eat, who has a place to lay down and who does not have a place to lay down, whose children will survive even their infancies, and whose will not.

“If this system continues on and on in the way we’re going now, the Peacemaker will be proved right. In the absence of a clear-minded idea that virtue means social justice in an economic as well as a military sense in the world, our species faces serious and almost overwhelming odds for the long-term future. I propose to you that Dekanawidah’s thinking was as clear and as correct and as right as any, and that his version of virtue needs to be adopted by us all.

“Having adopted that version, we can apply it to our ideas about what we need to do about the food supply, technology, and the world economic situation, hungry children in the world, world hunger in general, militarism, and other issues troubling our global community today.

“If our thinking changes from the question of how to enrich the rich to the question of how to obtain the sustainability of our species on that planet, as we make that our shift we would be engaging ourselves in an enormous revolution. It would be one to which the West has contributed vry littl thus far, evn though I know many do want to onribute to it. It’s an idea of the people, not an idea yet found in the philosophy textbooks. And hopefully it’s an idea whose time has come.

“In any event, I brought this discussion to you because I’ve been thinking for a long time now about how interesting it is that we’ve had all these wonderful and brilliant thinkers over all these centuries, and so few of them are engaged in looking at the most important things that we need to be looking at, the most fundamental things: What is in the best interest of future generations of the peoples of the world and of other species of the world? Certainly these issues need a lot more focus than we’ve been giving them.”


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