By Dorothea Farris
The U.S. Constitution is modeled in both principle and form on the Great Law of Peace of the Native American nation known as the Iroquois. In the 18th Century, the Iroquois League was the oldest, most highly evolved participatory democracy on Earth. The Founding Fathers found examples of effective government and human liberty upon which to model a Constitution to unite the original thirteen colonies in the government of the Iroquois Nation.
The Great Law of Peace was a vehicle for creating harmony, unity and respect among human beings. Its recognition of individual liberty and justice surpasses that of many democracies.
The Great Law of Peace includes the following:
- 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.
Unfortunately, the Seventh Generation principle of the Iroquois was left out of the US Constitution. In fact, just about the only parts of the Great Law of Peace that our founding fathers didn’t incorporate were these:
- The Seventh Generation principle: The Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy directs chiefs to consider the impact of their decisions on the seventh generation to come.
- The role of women: Clan mothers choose candidates [who are male] as political leaders. The women maintain ownership of land and homes and exercise veto power over any council action that may result in war. The women can also impeach and expel any leader who conducts himself improperly or loses the confidence of the electorate; then the women choose a new leader.
The three principles of the Great Law of Peace
- Righteousness, meaning people must treat each other fairly. “Each individual must have a strong sense of justice, must treat people as equals and must enjoy equal protection under the Great Law.”
- Health: “Health means that the soundness of mind, body and spirit will create a strong individual. Health is also the peacefulness that results when a strong mind uses its rational power to promote well-being between peoples, between nations.”
- Power: “The laws of the Great Law provide authority, tradition and stability if properly respected in thought and action. Power comes from the united actions of the people operating under one law, with one mind, one heart, and one body. Such power can assure that justice and healthfulness continue. People and nations need to exercise just enough power to maintain the peace and well-being of the members of the Confederacy.”
So, our forefathers copied the Great Law of a people whose country we stole and against whom our government committed genocide.. Perhaps it is time to review our national consideration of the ‘seventh generation’ as we consider our actions; perhaps it is time to review and reconsider the ‘role of women’ in governance. Perhaps it is time, as a nation, to “promote well being between people, between nations”.
I believe our nation, our communities, our individual identities, our unified role in world governance are impaired by our inability to act thoughtfully and considerately with others and our avoidance of the energy required to seek and find solutions and to work cooperatively to resolve our differences.
We can and must do better.
Dorothea Farris is a longtime Roaring Fork Valley local. Her many lives have included work as a newspaper editor, a proofreader, a handwriting analyst, a weather reader for the airport, an activist and board member for educational, historical, environmental, wildlife, and political agencies and organizations.