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Impressions of Iroquois liberty
after the eighteenth century

We have followed in our original organization the original
[Iroquois] Confederacy as closely as possible, and we have
succeeded in elucidating its structure in some important

               --Lewis Henry Morgan to
     Henry R. Schoolcraft
     April 10, 1845[1]

Perhaps it is not out of place here to note an important
recent development in scientific thought. Scientists are
discovering a truth Indians have known all along, that
the world is entire and whole, indivisible, inseparable
from us. Note statements such as this: "We have to cross
out that old word `observer' and replace it with the new
word `participator.' In some strange sense the quantum
principle tells us that we are dealing with a participatory
universe. The quantum principle joins participator with
systems in a "wholeness" (Niels Bohr). The universe is
not `out there,' but inseparable from ourselves. A cosmic
community is reinstated. And a sense of cosmic unity runs
throughout the teachings of Indian medicine-men such as
Lame Deer who said "the spirit is everywhere." "Power,"
he says, "is a two-way thing."

               --J.A. Wheeler, 1977[2]

After ratification of the United States Constitution, the political ideas of the Iroquois and their influence on the American mind persisted for most of the nineteenth century. Knowledge of Iroquois and other native American societies and their political organizations would appeal to architects of European and American social and political movements much as they had helped shape the ideals of some of the United States' most influential founders. Early feminists and Marxists, among others, used the Iroquois as a counterpoint to what they described as European-bred oppressiveness at a time when mainstream America was preoccupied with westward expansion. No century has been more hostile to America's indigenous peoples -- but even in that bleakest of centuries, impressions of native liberty continued to exert a powerful allure.

Often, the Iroquois League's ideas were welded to the Classical imagery that was so evident in the first decades of the American Federal period. Comparisons of Iroquois political theory and the practices of the Roman Republic were a common theme in the early Republic. In April of 1792, Philip M. Freneau's National Gazette in New York corrected a report that President George Washington was negotiating with Iroquois leaders that were "princes" saying that in reality the Iroquois "were republicans, rather than aristocrats or monarchy men."[3] Speaking before the New York Historical Society in 1811, De Witt Clinton (a member of the New York Tammany Society) stated that all of the proceedings of the Iroquois "were conducted with great deliberation and were distinguished for order, decorum, and solemnity." The New Yorker also asserted that in "eloquence, in dignity, and in all characteristics of profound policy, they surpassed an assembly of feudal barons, and were perhaps not far inferior to the great . . . Council of Greece."[4] References such as this helped America to develop an identity distinct from the British parliamentary tradition. Spoken at the start of the War of 1812, Clinton's remarks definitely served to illustrate a democratic tradition that was not British in origin.

Clinton's remarks were based on a trip to western New York in 1810. Early in his journey, Clinton was dismayed that the Iroquois were vanishing. But by July of 1810, Clinton began to witness a thriving Indian economy with people drying fish, making wampum and raising children. As a result of his travels in Iroquois country, Clinton concluded that Native Americans have "all the indications of an incipient civilization." He also asserted that the Iroquois were "the Romans of the Western World."[5] In commenting on their government, Clinton observed that the Iroquois

look upon themselves as sovereigns, accountable to none but God alone, whom they call the Great Spirit. They admitted of no hereditary distinctions. The office of Sachem was the reward of personal merit -- of great wisdom or commanding eloquence -- of distinguished services in the cabinet or in the field. [6]

Indians still symbolized republican virtue and freedom in the early republic as they had at the Boston Tea Party.

Tammany Hall, in New York City, would continue as a political force even though it would forsake its idealistic origins. New Yorkers founded the Tammany society with different lodges called tribes and its leaders were called "sachems." The meeting place was a "wigwam." After the Revolution, the society dedicated itself to liberty, independence and federal union. It worked against powerful forces that wanted to institute an oligarchy or monarchy in the new nation. Tammany also advocated other libertarian ideals. In 1826, Tammany Hall was instrumental in developing a law to abolish imprisonment for debt in New York City. Later, Tammany became a corrupt political machine, but its early record is notable in its dedication to freedom and justice, as well as its desire to identify its ideas within the traditions of American Indians.

Prominent political theorists and politicians in America felt compelled to use Iroquois examples in their work. John C. Calhoun in his "A Disquisition on Government and a Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States" stated that "governments of concurrent majority" were practical because the Iroquois utilized such a system. Calhoun believed that the "..federal, or general government" of the "Six Nations" constituted a "council of union" where each

member possessed a veto on its decision; so that nothing could be done without the united consent of all. But this, instead of making the Confederacy weak, or impracticable had the opposite effect. It secured harmony in council and action, and with them a great increase of power. The Six Nations became the most powerful of all the Indian tribes within the limits of our country. They carried their conquest and authority far beyond the country they originally occupied. [7]

To Calhoun and his contemporaries, it was appropriate to discuss the Iroquois when advancing ideas about the revision of the Constitution because the founders had called on similar ideas in the eighteenth century.

In an "Address to the New York Historical Society, May 28, 1847," Ely S. Parker (Seneca) noted that the Iroquois had lost their land and were still losing it and that they had asked for one old tree under which to meet that "will cover us all." Parker noted that in the Iroquois treaties of the 18th century, the Iroquois were "one in council with you and were lead to believe one in interest." Speaking of the fascination of the founding fathers with the Iroquois League, Parker finally noted that

Glad were your forefathers to sit upon the thresholds of the "Longhouse"[;] rich did they hold themselves in getting the mere sweepings from its door. [8]

Parker was an informant to Lewis Henry Morgan and became an early member of the Grand Order of the Iroquois.[9] Perhaps Morgan's interest in setting up fraternal political societies like the Grand Order of the Iroquois a few years earlier were influenced by his perception of the League as a virtuous democracy that the founding fathers had emulated. Morgan admired the Iroquois a great deal as a young man. In 1845, he wrote to Henry R, Schoolcraft about his "Order of the Iroquois" clubs for young men that

to reach the materials for our Constitution which we have endeavored to adapt exactly to the original system, we resorted to correspondence with educated Indians, and to personal interview[s]. [10]

Morgan believed that his study of the Iroquois was of enormous political importance. He stated to Schoolcraft that

If we did not believe that the "New Confederacy" could be made the great repository of Indian intelligence for our Republic, and thus become an institution of value and usefulness; and if we did not anticipate the cooperation of the cultivated and distinguished minds of the Nation, we should certainly despair. [11]

Furthermore, Morgan believed that

our national character is deeply involved in the Red-Man's future destiny. If therefore we . . . watch over his political prosperity; the Order of the Iroquois will the become the Institution our country needs above all others. [12]

In the 1880s, describing the Grand Council of the Iroquois, Morgan recalled that these clubs were formed in areas of New York State and the "several chapters were called tribes." Morgan supposed eight tribes for the Senecas and Cayugas not knowing in 1842 that their true names were "gentes" or clans.[13] Morgan explained further that "The Order of the Iroquois" was established in 1842 and lasted until 1847. He stated that it had 400 members "in various Central New York towns" and that it "fell through because we were young men."[14]

Even at mid-century, the folklore of Indian democracy was still strong in American government. Governor Horatio Seymour of New York (1853-1855) stated while in office that

Government of the whole, by the whole and for the benefit of the whole are native here, and are no more to be traced back to the old world than are the granite rocks on which we stand. [15]

Governor Seymour was a frequent visitor to the Onondaga reservation.[16]

Another aspect of native American life that alternately intrigued, perplexed and sometimes alarmed European and European-American observers, nearly all of whom were male during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was the role of Indian women. In many cases they held pivotal positions in native political systems. The Iroquois women, for example, nominated men to positions of leadership, and could "dehorn," or impeach, them for misconduct. Women usually approved men's plans for war. In a matrilineal society, and nearly all the confederacies that bordered the colonies were matrilineal, women owned all household goods except the men's clothes, weapons, and hunting implements. They also were the primary conduits of culture from generation to generation.

Among the Cherokees (as with the Iroquois), women never held the office of Uku (civil chief) or Raven (war chief), but they often sat in on council meetings, and acted as advisors behind the scenes. More than once, treaty council business stalled after English delegates objected to the fact that Cherokee women were doing what the English regarded as "men's business." After one such objection, the Cherokee chief Little Carpenter curtly informed the English that all men present had been born of women. He then diplomatically told the English delegates to sit down, shut up, and get along with business.[17]

In the Cherokee home, the woman was supreme. An eighteenth century observer reported: "The women rule the rost [sic], and weres the britches and sometimes will beat thire husbands within an inch of thire life."[18] Father Joseph Frances Lafitau made a similar statement in a more elegant tone: "It is she who maintains the tribe, the nobility of the blood, the genealogical tree, the order of generations, and the conservation of the families. They are the souls of the council."[19] Women also were the souls of the Iroquois Grand Council; they were often so influential that the men have been characterized as political representatives of them.[20] The Iroquois system has been styled a "gynocracy."[21]

Indeed, the Iroquois have an elaborate description of the duties and rights of women in their confederacy.[22] The Iroquois also recognized by law that the earth belonged to Iroquois women.[23] In the Iroquois Law of the Woman Chief, it is clear that women have specific powers associated with governmental processes in this way:

We shall make the rule that, in the place where the Federal titles are placed, among all our tribes, also among the clans -- the several clans which exist -- the several women who control the official titles, it shall then be that the Eldest woman, upon whom the eyes of her entire uterine family shall rest, shall be charged with all these duties. [24]

During the American Revolution, General Philip Schuyler of New York paid attention to the wishes of Iroquois women with regard to diplomacy. On January 16, 1776, Schuyler met with a delegation of Mohawks near Schnectady, New York. In urging neutrality upon the Mohawks and Abraham, their leader, Schuyler asserted that

your women have sent us a belt. We beg you to assure them of our regard, and intreat them to prevent your warriors from doing anything that would have the least tendency to incur our resentment or interrupt that harmony which we wish to subsist to the end of time. [25]

After this admonition, a Mohawk Chief replied that

You may depend on it that we will use our utmost influence with our warriors, to claim their minds. You may depend on it likewise that our sisters will use their utmost influence for the same purpose. [26]

At many of the early United States treaties with the Iroquois, the Iroquois women's power was observed. At the treaty deliberations with the Iroquois at Buffalo Creek in 1791, Colonel Thomas Proctor noted in his journal on May 15, 1791 that "the leaders of the Indian women" came and spoke to him. The Iroquois elder women told Proctor that he

ought to hear and to listen to what we women shall speak, as well as to the sachems; for we are the owners of this land and it is ours; for it is that we plant it for our and their use. Hear us, therefore, for we speak of things that concern us and our children, and you must not think hard of us while our men shall say more to you ; for we have told them. [27]

Proctor acceded to the request of the Iroquois women and attended a council the same day to hear "the women's speaker (Red Jacket)." When Proctor arrived at the council, he observed that the "elders of the women [were] seated near their chiefs." Proctor notes that after his arrival Red Jacket (the women's speaker) paused and then continued "the speech of the women agreeably to the terms entered into between them" and all "of the sachems of the Six Nations."[28]

At an early nineteenth century treaty conference, another Iroquois sachem related this account:

Our ancestors considered it a great offence to reject the counsel of women, particularly the female governesses [clan mothers]. They were esteemed the mistresses of the soil. Who, said our forefathers, bring us into being? Who cultivates our lands, kindles our fires, and boils our pots, but the women? . . . They entreat that the veneration of our ancestors in favor of the women not be disregarded, and that they may not be despised. . . . The female governesses beg leave to speak with the freedom allowed to women and agreeable to the spirit of our ancestors. They entreat the Great Chief to . . . preserve them in peace, for they are the life of the nation. [29]

Thomas Jefferson also understood the rationale for the power of Indian women. He stated in the 1780s in his Notes on Virginia that

It is civilization alone which replaces women in the enjoyment of their natural equality. . Were we in equal barbarism, our females would be equal drudges. The man with them is less strong than us, but their women stronger than ours; and both for the same obvious reason; because our man and their woman is habituated to labor and formed by it. [30]

In the nineteenth century, an Iroquois chief, Peter Wilson, remarked at the New York Historical Society meeting in 1866 that there should be "universal suffrage, even of women, as in" the Six Nations. Wilson also claimed that the Iroquois created a republican government that "Thomas Jefferson copied largely from their constitution."[31]

The character of the women's influential role in traditional Iroquois society has changed little in the two or three centuries since Europeans first encountered it. John Kahionhes Fadden, a Mohawk teacher and artist, related the following story, which he said occurred during the mid-1960s, in the Akwesasne Mohawk Longhouse:

There was a fellow who had been "de-horned." He was an eloquent speaker, and in a charismatic manner was able to hold people spell-bound. During one summer there was a conference of traditional people that traveled from reserve to reserve, meeting with like-minded people. They finally came to Akwesasne and the event went on for the good part of a week. . . . There were Creeks and Cherokees from Oklahoma, Utes from Utah, Malecites from New Brunswick, Manawaki Algonquians from north of Ottawa, plus a good representation of the nations of the Haudenosaunee and others, like Hopis, and a lot of them wore cowboy hats.

Anyway, at one point when all of these people were gathered in the Longhouse, many benches deep with a lot of people standing in the doorways, and some outside craning their necks and cocking their ears to listen to what was going on, the "de-horned" former chief couldn't resist the temptation of that audience. He stood to talk to the gathered people, and, as you know, a "de-horned" chief isn't supposed to talk, and for sure no one is supposed to hear his words. He was able to get out about two or three brief sentences before he was abruptly interrupted by a slicing voice from the women's end of the Longhouse. She was a clan mother, and standing less than five feet tall, she made it quickly and abundantly clear that this man could not speak anymore. He had lost that right by abusing his former position. The six-foot, two-hundred-plus pound "chief" snapped his mouth shut, sat down, waited about a minute or so, then quietly, with his head kind of low, left the Longhouse. Now, as I see it, that's feminism. [32]

The role of women in Iroquois society helped inspire some of the most influential architects of modern feminism in the United States, detailed in "The Persistence of an Idea," following.

Marriage customs among American Indians elicited descriptions from eighteenth century European and EuroAmerican observers that strike a surprisingly modern tone. Robert Rogers noted that in many American Indian nations, vows of marriage were voluntary: "They take companions for a shorter or longer time, as they please. Rogers wrote that children of such arrangements were fully accepted in native societies at a time when such children would have been stigmatized as "born out of wedlock" in European cultures.[33] Thomas Paine pointed up the hypocrisy of European customs in a supposed conversation with "an American savage."

Either the Christian God was not as good and wise as he is represented [the "savage" said], or he never meddled in the marriages of his people; since not one in a hundred of any of them had anything to do with either happiness or common sense. Hence, as soon as ever you meet, you long to part, and not having this relief in your power, by way of revenge, you double each others' misery. [34]

Reverend Peters wrote that Indian women were better off as pagans than under Christian customs of his time, where the woman was regarded as the husband's property. Before the arrival of Europeans in Connecticut during 1634, Indian women, according to Reverend Peters, had been "the most chaste set of people in the world. Concubinage and fornication are vices none of them are addicted to, except such as forsake the laws of Hobbomockow [the Great Spirit] and turn Christian.[35]

Pressure to broaden the ambit of natural and civil rights to women built early in the nineteenth century, at roughly the same time as the abolitionist movement against slavery. While the landmark Seneca Falls conference, usually credited today with beginning the modern feminist movement in the United States, was not held until 1848, the ideological basis for the movement was set down by Lydia Maria Child in her History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations, published in 1835. Child's book used the Iroquois and Huron cultures to counterpose notions of European patriarchy, illustrating the importance of the woman's role in political decisionmaking.

By 1866, contemporary Iroquois figures such as Dr. Peter Wilson advocated women's suffrage "as in his nation" in a speech before the New York Historical Society. In the same speech, it was reported that Wilson said that the "Iroquois established a republican government on this continent." In an obvious reference to Jefferson's Notes On Virgina , Wilson also stated that "Thomas Jefferson copied largely from their constitution."[36]

The Iroquois example also figured importantly in another seminal book in what Dr. Sally R. Wagner calls "the first wave of feminism," Matilda Joslyn Gage's Woman, Church and State [1893]. In that book, Gage acknowledges, according to Wagner's research, that "the modern world [is] indebted for its first conception of inherent rights, natural equality of condition, and the establishment of a civilized government upon this basis," to the Iroquois.[37]

Gage was probably one of the three most influential feminist architects of the nineteenth-century women's movement, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, according to Wagner, whose research was among the first to provide a scholarly basis for a resurgent feminist movement in the late twentieth century. Gage was later "read out" of the movement and its history because of her radical views, especially regarding oppression of women by organized religion. Knowledge of the Iroquois' matrilineal system of society and government was widespread among early feminists, many of whom lived in Upstate New York. The early feminists learned of the Iroquois not only through reading the works of Morgan, Schoolcraft, and others, but also through direct personal experience.

According to Professor Gail Landsman of the State University of New York at Albany, "Child's work was mined extensively by later suffragists, including Matilda Joslyn Gage, who furthered Child's concept of Indian culture as a matriarchal alternative to American white patriarchy through her contact with the Iroquois."[38] With Stanton and Anthony, Gage co-authored the landmark History of Woman Suffrage. In her last book, Women, Church, and State, Gage opened with a chapter on "the matriarchate," a form of society she believed existed in a number of early societies, specifically the Iroquois. Gage discussed several Iroquois traditions that tended to create checks and balances between the sexes, including descent through the female line, the ability of women to nominate male leaders, the fact that women had a veto power over decisions to go to war, and the woman's supreme authority in the household. Gage also noted that Iroquois women had rights to their property and children after divorce.[39]

Gage cited a statement by Hon. George Bancroft[40] that the United States borrowed some of its forms of government from the Six Nations. Bancroft did not ignore European precedents, and neither did Gage. According to Wagner, Gage "links herself to a 500-year tradition from Christine of Pisa and Margaret of Navarre to Mary Wollstonecraft, but that [was] a tradition of resistance that defined Western gender relations. The Iroquois, on the other hand, lived in a state of gender balance and justice."[41] Given its ideological lineage, then, it made very little sense to Gage for the United States to deny the full fruits of its revolution to women. Gage herself was admitted to the Iroquois Council of Matrons, and was adopted into the Wolf Clan, with the name Karonienhawi, "she who holds the sky."[42]

The early suffragists were developing their work in temporal tandem with Lewis Henry Morgan, the pioneer anthropologist whose work describing Iroquois society provided the groundwork for the field in the United States. According to Wagner,[43] Stanton specifically referred to Morgan's work in her address (titled "The Matriarchate or Mother-Age") to the National Council of Women in 1891. Stanton referred to the influence of Iroquois women in national councils, and to the fact that their society was descended through the female line, and (like Gage), to the irony that "our barbarian ancestors seem to have had a higher degree of justice to women than American men in the 19th century, professing to believe, as they do, in our republican principles of government."[44]

Wagner asserts that "Nineteenth century radical feminist theoreticians, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, looked to the Iroquois for their vision of a transformed world."[45] She also uses the work of male students of the Iroquois who wrote at roughly the same time as Stanton, Gage, and other early feminists, to illustrate just how appealing the Iroquois example must have been to women locked in a culture which considered them their husbands' property. She quotes Henry Schoolcraft, writing in 1846, two years before the Seneca Falls conference:

Marriage, among the Iroquois, appears to be a verbal contract between the parties, which does not affect the rights of property. Goods, personal effects, or valuables of any kind personal or real, which were the wife's before, remain so after marriage. . . . Marriage is therefore a personal agreement, requiring neither civil nor ecclesiastical sanction, but not a union of the rights of property. Descent being counted by the female may be either an original cause or effect of this unique law. [46]

Elizabeth Cady Stanton quoted the memoirs of the Rev. Asher Wright, who wrote of Seneca home life in this way:

Usually the females ruled the house. The stores were in common, but woe to the luckless husband or lover who was too shiftless to do his share of the providing. No matter how many children, or whatever goods he might have in the house, he might at any time be ordered to pick up his blanket and budge; and after such an order it would not be healthful for him to attempt to disobey. The house would be too hot for him, and unless saved by the intercession of some aunt or grandmother he must retreat to his own clan, or go and start a new matrimonial alliance with some other. [47]

According to Stanton, Wright also noted that Iroquois women alone could "knock off the horns" of a sachem who had abused his office, as well as make the original nominations for sachemships. In early treaty negotiations, representatives of the United States, all male, often found themselves face-to-face with Iroquois women. Many of the treaties negotiated before 1800 are signed by both male sachems and their female advisors.

Paula Gunn Allen contrasts the woman's role in native American societies with mass media portrayals of them: "I am intensely conscious of popular notions of Indian women as beasts of burden, squaws, traitors, or, at best, vanished denizens of a long-lost wilderness. How odd, then must my contention seem that the gynocratic tribes of the American continent provided the basis for all the dreams of liberation that characterize the modern world. . . . Beliefs, attitudes and laws such as these became part of the vision of other human-liberation movements around the world. Yet feminists too often believe that no one has ever experienced the kind of society that empowered women and made that empowerment the basis of its rules and civilization," wrote Allen[48] To Allen, lack of such knowledge robs feminists of their own history. Even the history of feminism is too often overly Eurocentric.

This realization came to Wagner after seventeen years of studying feminism's European roots. Once she turned her attention to native inspirations, she found them running throughout the primary sources of the period that she studied. Frances Wright, the first non-Quaker woman to speak publically before audiences of both men and women in the United States, edited the pro-Indian Free Enquirer with Robert Dale Owen in the 1820s. Owen, like Child, inquired into the relative absence of rape by Indian men of native women, wondering how their social structure influenced their behavior. To cite another example, Lucretia Mott, who called the Seneca Falls conference, met with the people of the Cattaraugus Seneca reservation just days before she met with Stanton and a group of Quaker friends to plan the Seneca Falls event, which became known as the world's first conference explicitly dedicated to women's rights.

It may be cold comfort to Marxists that even the authors of The Communist Manifesto found themselves to be overly Eurocentric after they, too, became acquainted with the social and political system of the Iroquois. When the Manifesto was originally published in 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote: "The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles." In the 1888 edition of the Manifesto, Engels added a footnote qualifying that statement to take into account information on pre-historical societies with which he and the recently-deceased Marx had become acquainted during the ensuing four decades:

Haxthausen discovered common ownership of land in [pre-historic] Russia. Maurer proved it to be the social foundation from which all Teutonic races started in history [and soon] village communities were found to be, or have been the primitive form of society everywhere from India to Ireland. The inner organisation of this primitive Communistic society was laid bare, in its typical form, by Morgan's crowning discovery of the true nature of the gens [clan], and its relation to the tribe. With the dissolution of these primaeval communities society begins to be differentiated into separate and finally antagonistic classes. [49]

Nearly a century after the pivotal events that formed the United States, Morgan characterized the Iroquois League as a federal model very much like the new nation: "The nations [of the Iroquois League] sustained nearly the same relation to the league that the American states bear to the Union. In the former, several oligarchies are combined within one, in the same manner as [in] the latter, several republics are embraced in one republic."[50] Morgan also noted that "The people of the Longhouse commended to our ancestors a union of the colonies similar to their own as early as 1755," possibly a reference to the Albany Plan of Union, authored by Benjamin Franklin, although, apparently unknown to Morgan, the Iroquois sachem Canassatego had urged the colonists to unite on the Iroquois model as early as 1744. Morgan believed that the Iroquois saw in the colonies "the common interests and common speech . . . the elements for a confederation."[51] It was Morgan's view that the Iroquois Confederacy "contained the germ of modern parliament, congress and legislature."[52]

It was Morgan's work that fed both American feminists and European socialists' beliefs that one could invent a better society by looking back to the original state of humankind -- the same sort of mirror on antiquity that Franklin, Jefferson and Paine had used in their analysis of American Indian societies a century earlier. In the nineteenth century as in the eighteenth, the image of the Indian served to provide antagonists to the the European status quo with an alternative example of how societies ought to be organized and operated. The Iroquois, center of diplomatic activity in the eighteenth century, became the focus of Morgan's work in the nineteenth, and so retained their pivotal position in the communication of these images between cultures. Engels inherited Marx' copious notes on Morgan's Ancient Society [1877] and, after Marx's death in 1883, authored The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State in 1886. Studying Morgan's account of "primitive" societies, with the Iroquois being his cornerstone, Engels provided what he believed to be an egalitarian, classless model of society that also provided justice between the sexes. In his work, Engels cited approvingly Morgan's assertion that

[d]emocracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence, and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality, and fraternity of the ancient gentes[53, Engels' emphasis]

Engels' tone seemed to indicate that he had seen the future reflected in the past, and it worked. In this future, just as in Iroquois society,

[e]verything runs smoothly without soldiers, gendarmes, or police; without nobles, kings, governors, prefects, or judges; prisons, without trials. All quarrels and disputes are settled by the whole body of those concerned . . . not a bit of our extensive and complicated machinery of administration is required. . . . There are no poor and needy. . . . All are free and equal -- including the women. [54]

Without citing him, Engels evoked an image of Native American (likely Iroquois) society that was strikingly similar to Benjamin Franklin's, a century before him:

All of the Indians of North America not under the dominion of the Spaniards are in that natural state, being restrained by no Laws, having no Courts, or Ministers of Justice, no Suits, no Prisons, no Governors vested with any Legal Authority. The Persuasion of Men distinguished by Reputation of Wisdom is the only Means by which others are govern'd or rather led -- and the State of the Indians is probably the first State of all Nations. [55]

And Paine:

To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and want present to our eyes in all the towns and streets of Europe. [56]

As well as Jefferson, who wrote that American Indians had never

Submitted themselves to any laws, any coercive power and shadow of government. The only controls are their manners, and the moral sense of right and wrong. . . . There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, and which the well-known state of society of our Indians should have corrected. In their hypothesis of the origin of government, they supposed to have commenced in the patriarchial or monarchal form. Our Indians are evidently in that state of nature which has passed the association of a single family, and not yet submitted to authority of positive laws, or any acknowledged magistrate. [57]

The "error", of course, was the same one Marx and Engels had made in the first edition of The Communist Manifesto. As prisoners of their own times and perceptions, Marx and Engels in 1848 had yet to shed their Eurocentric notions that history had begun with patriarchal, monarchial governments. Imagine how the discovery of societies that operated differently must have fascinated Marx, Engels, and the early feminists -- much as it earlier had intrigued some of the United States' major architects, whose intellectual heritage we can trace back, in remarkably similar words, to Montaigne, Locke, Rousseau, et. al., as well as to the American Indian confederacies (among other non-European societies) which provided the raw observational material for the philosophers, and the instigators of Enlightenment-era revolutions.

Having rediscovered the "mother-right gens," Engels could scarcely contain himself: "It has the same significance for the history of primitive society as Darwin's theory of evolution has for biology, and Marx's theory of surplus value for political economy. . . . The mother-right gens has become the pivot around which this entire science turns."[58, emphasis added]

As contemporaries of Morgan, Engels, and Marx, the founding mothers of modern feminism in the United States shared their enthusiasm at finding functioning societies that incorporated notions of sexual equality. All seemed to believe that the native model held promise for the future. Gage and Stanton looked to the native model for a design of a "regenerated world."[59] "Never was justice more perfect, never civilization higher than under the Matriarchate," Gage wrote.[60] "Under [Iroquois] women the science of government reached the highest form known to the world," Gage believed.[61] Writing in The New York Evening Post, Gage contended that "division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal."[62]

In her 1891 speech before the National Council of Women, Stanton surveyed the research of Morgan and others which indicated that "Among the greater number of the American aborigines, the descent of property and children were in the female line. Women sat in the councils of war and peace and their opinions had equal weight on all questions."[63] In this regard, she mentioned the Iroquois' councils specifically.[64] After surveying tribal societies in other parts of the world as well, Stanton closed her speech with a case for sexual equality:

In closing, I would say that every woman present must have a new sense of dignity and self respect, feeling that our mothers, during long periods in the long past, have been the ruling power and that they used that power for the best interests of humanity. As history is said to repeat itself, we have every reason to believe that our turn will come again. . . . It may not be for woman's supremacy, but for, the as yet untried experiment of complete equality, when the united thought of man and woman will inaugurate a just government, a pure religion, a happy home, a civilization at last in which ignorance, poverty and crime will exist no more. Those who watch already behold the dawn of the new day. [65]

How nearly the opposite of nineteenth century patriarchy the Iroquois example appeared to the founders of modern feminism. Wagner quoted Alice Fletcher, a noted suffragist, ethnographer and government agent, speaking before the International Council of Women in 1888. Fletcher posed the case of a brother coming to the aid of a woman being beaten by her husband. Under Iroquois custom, the brother was honor bound to defend her. Under United States law at that time, he could have been charged with a criminal act for doing so. By the 1890s, women's property rights were beginning to change in states such as Mississippi, and in at least one case, his change was traced back half a century to the inspiration of the Chickasaws. A report in the Albany Law Journal, March 5, 1892, remarked that: "It is said, and it is no doubt true, that our first married woman's law `in the statute of 1839' embodied and was suggested by the tribal customs of the Chickasaw Indians, who lived in our borders."[66] At the same conference, Fletcher said that an Indian woman with whom she had once lodged gave away a very fine horse. Fletcher, surprised that she had given the horse away without asking her husband, asked whether he would be upset. According to Fletcher, the woman's eyes danced, and she laughed gently, hastening to tell the story to other women in her tent. The Indian women were more than a little amused at the hold a white man had on his wife's property, Fletcher said.

Figure 38

THE INDIAN WOMEN: We whom you pity as drudges reached centuries ago the goal that you are now nearing

Figure 38.

The use of Indian women to provide an exemplar of feminist liberty continued into the nineteenth century. On May 16, 1914, only six years before the first national election in which women had the vote, Puck printed a line drawing of a group of Indian women observing Susan B. Anthony, Anne Howard Shaw and Elizabeth Cady Stanton leading a parade of women. (See figure 38.) A verse under the print read:

"Savagery to Civilization"

We, the women of the Iroquois
Own the Land, the Lodge, the Children
Ours is the right to adoption, life or death;
Ours is the right to raise up and depose chiefs;
Ours is the right to representation in all councils;
Ours is the right to make and abrogate treaties;
Ours is the supervision over domestic and foreign policies;
Ours is the trusteeship of tribal property;
Our lives are valued again as high as man's. [67]

The list of New Yorkers citing Iroquois contributions to the American government does not end with Morgan and major feminist thinkers. In 1894, Hon. Elliot Danforth, former New York State treasurer asserted before the Oneida Historical Society that

The five nations were confederated in a barbarian republic upon the unique plan afterward adopted by our states and our national republic. [68]

At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the "Six Nations" article in the Encyclopedia Americana would state that the founders

in framing a Constitution for the United States honored these people by the adoption of their general constitutional system. [69]

In 1932, an article entitled "Civilization and the Indians" appeared in the Washington Star. Written by a Seneca, Alice Lee Jemison, it asserted

To the council fires of our league came the great of colonial times: Benjamin Franklin, Timothy Pickering, Gen Lafayette and other only slightly less distinguished. [They] came not only to negotiate and treat with this recognized power, but to observe and study the methods whereby six distant nations or states, each with an independent internal government, were bound together and governed by a national council.

Many tributes have been paid this league. Only recently, in Congress, Senator [William] Borah [of Idaho] pointed out that the Government of the United States had no European foundation, but was established upon the basic principles of the League of the Iroquois. [70]

It is important to note that the Iroquois people in the last two centuries have repeatedly confronted the American public with the notion that the Iroquois profoundly influenced the evolution of American government. Their assertions about the Iroquois roots of American democracy have always been multiracial.

John Collier, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the 1930s and 1940s idolized the League of the Iroquois. He praised the Iroquois Confederacy as the most important Indian group in North America. Collier claimed that the Iroquois League was the greatest institutional achievement of mankind. While emphasizing the practical aspects of its political organization, Collier thought of the Iroquois confederacy as an ideal democratic government which others should follow since it was a successful historical model.[71]

In 1937, Matthew W. Stirling, chief and later director of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1928-1958) stated in an article in the National Geographic that the Albany Plan of Union was greatly influenced by the League of the Iroquois. He further stated that the Iroquois had a profound impact on the formation of the American state.[72] Stirling reiterated his respect for American Indian ways when he stated in Congressional testimony in the 1950s that "perhaps we can learn the elusive secret to world-wide peace from [the Iroquois]."[73]

The 1940s saw the discovery of Seth Newhouse's version of the Constitution of the Iroquois by William N. Fenton. Newspaper accounts called the League of the Iroquois "a sort of Magna Charta" and stated that it "was perhaps the first constitutional government to arise in the New World." The reports also asserted that few Americans know how "the workings of the league affected the thinking of the framers of our constitution."[74]

The 1950s saw a great deal of recognition of Iroquois contributions by the Smithsonian. A press release by the Smithsonian on November 5, 1953 stated

The bald eagle, symbol of the American Republic, also was the over-all symbol of the Iroquois republic, the League of the Six Nations in New York State, which preceded it. [75]

In the 1950s, the distinguished American legal scholar, Felix Cohen, argued that

"it is out of a rich Indian democratic tradition that the distinctive political ideals of American Life emerged. Universal suffrage for women as for men, the pattern of states that we call federalism, the habit of treating chiefs as servants of the people instead of their masters, the insistence that the community must respect the diversity of men and the diversity of their dreams -- all these things were part of the American way of life before Columbus landed. [76]

Cohen was a professor of law at the City University of New York and Yale. He wrote the Handbook of American Indian Law (1942), a standard reference in the legal field, when he worked for the Interior Department as associate solicitor.

In 1959, Mrs. Mildred F. Garlow (Seneca Deer Clan Mother) raised the issue of the Iroquois roots of American democracy once again. In her statement "Demarcation of the 5 Nation Confederic Democracy -- Novus Ordo Seclorum," Garlow recounted the origin of the League of the Iroquois and then Garlow stated that the concepts of democracy implemented in "the United States deleted and infringed [upon Iroquois ideas] by being mingled with . . . Political Science." Garlow discounted Greek and Roman antecedents for American government and then asserts that "the founding fathers . . . deleted the moral laws of democracy, creating an autocratic government." She further believed that the founders

camouflaged themselves [under] the outspread wings of the unique American bald eagle, the five pointed star, arrows and quiver, etc. by their political science with the emblem of the Iroquois. [77]

Garlow firmly believed that

[d]emocracy is cradled in the Longhouse of the Iroquois [and] . . . the government of the United States. Democracy did not come from the Eastern Hemisphere -- it was not created in the Western Hemisphere by the Eastern Mind. It was in operation long before Christopher Columbus' time. [78]

Thus, the Iroquois maintained a belief that their confederacy had helped shape the United States' continuously from the time of its founding to the late twentieth century, usually through oral history. From time to time, mention of the idea reached print, usually as small parts of larger studies with other objectives. The whole, documentary history waited to be explored.

In the 1970s, the Chiefs of the Iroquois confederacy reiterated their longstanding traditional opinion that

European people left our council fires and journeyed forth into the world to spread principles of justice and democracy which they learned from us and which have had profound effects upon the evolution of the Modern World. [79]

The Iroquois have maintained the knowledge of how their forebears helped shape the United States, as well as continuing the operation of their traditional political system. Today, the grand council fire still burns at Onondaga, and each nation's council of chiefs still meets, even though the state and federal governments recognize other councils created by their laws (see figure 39). Wilbur Jacobs has summed up the impact of the Iroquois political system on the government of the United States in this way:

Academics still argue about whether the Indian confederations of colonial times had a tangible influence upon the fathers of the Constitution. The case for the Indians is not so far fetched as one might think. Franklin, an admirer of the Iroquois league, had good reason to know its virtues for he had been an Indian commissioner at treaties, and at the Albany Conference of 1754 he and his fellow delegates had a whole series of scoldings from Old Hendrick of the Mohawks who praised the league and told them their disorganized, womanlike method of defense against the French was to be deplored. It is known that other framers of the Constitution had knowledge of Indian confederation systems and the ideals of Indian democracy.

Moreover, these statesmen were avid readers of the French philosophes whose writings were partly influenced by descriptions of North American Indians set forth in the writings of French Jesuit missionaries. The noble savage idea, hammered into the writings of Michel de Montaigne and later French writers, including Rousseau, was embellished with the ideas of natural rights, of the equality of man, and with democratic tribal traditions of North American Indians. [80]

Except for a few American Indian scholars and even fewer Non-Indian scholars in the late 1970s, Jacobs' attempt to foster serious study of the influence of American Indian democratic traditions on Euroamericans fell on fallow ground. The question became an area that "legitimate" and "prestigious" academics chose to ignore.

Figure 39

Figure 39. Left to right: Harold Tarbell, former head chief of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe; Jake Swamp, Mohawk Nation Wolf Clan subchief; Thomas Sobol, New York State Commissioner of Education; Ron LaFrance, Mohawk Nation Wolf Clan subchief; Tom Porter, Mohawk Nation Bear Clan subchief (holding Teiowentsiakwente Skidders); and Richard Mitchell, Mohawk Nation Wolf Clan faithkeeper.

The arrival of Grinde's Iroquois and the Founding of the American Nation in 1977 and Johansen's Forgotten Founders in 1982 represented the latest attempts to refocus scholarly and popular attention on American Indian contributions to democratic ideas, after the propaganda of two World Wars had turned our attention to rescuing Europe from its totalitarian madness. In a perverse turn of history, the wresting of Western Europe from totalitarianism spawned two generations of scholars who look solely to Europe for the source of most ideas. In supporting democracy in Europe and the rest of the world in the 20th century, we had almost forgotten the distinctive origins and characteristics of our own government and sociopolitical traditions. This Eurocentric intellectual framework has caused a great deal of problems in the examination of Indian-white relations. The Native American political scientist, Vine Deloria, Jr., has noted the difficulty in presenting the Native American point of view and interpretations in contemporary scholarship.

The identification of scholars working in the field of Indian-white relations has this strange quality to it: proponents of the Indian version of things become "revisionists," while advocates of the traditional white interpretation of events retain a measure of prestige and reputation. [81]

In the past, studies of Native American political theory have been thwarted by the inability of many academics to confront the evidence that leads to an awareness of intercultural exchange in North America. Essentially, the term, "revisionist," is a misnomer since the "revisionists" seek to recast the paradigms of American history and, in this case, American political theory. From an epistomological viewpoint, the role of the `revisionists" is to develop new data and interpretations that include a profound understanding of American Indian history and its role in development of the United States. This means that "revisionists" will not only examine the Native American viewpoint but also study the very things that make America unique, durable, and adaptive as a nation. All facets of the American vision have to be included so that the diversity of American society can be reflected in the new emerging scholarship. In some ways, this new vision of American history and society may be as enlightening as the sweep of events that lead to the American and French Revolutions over two hundred years ago. To contemporary societies searching for a new definition of freedom, the lamp of the Native American experience is as powerful today as it was two centuries ago.

In analyzing the "revisionist" impulse throughout American history, one may wonder whether Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, Marx, Engels, Stanton, Gage, and others over-romanticized their images of American Indian societies to create a counterpoint to the ills they saw in their own contemporary societies. Very possibly, at times, they, and other revolutionary thinkers did simplify a complex native reality. They did not invent these societies, however. These observations sprang from genuine native practice which, like our own, did not always conform to its own ideological ideals.

When seeking sources of revolutionary inspiration one must remember that revolutionaries usually run stronger on hope than on cold data. Social revolutions generally are not made by folks in white frocks, and the ideas that shape them come in firestorms of passion as often as by the patient sifting of ethnographic evidence. Whether their perceptions were always perfectly accurate, these movers of minds were shaped by their exposure to American Indian ideas and political organizations, particularly those of the Iroquois. Without that example, our social history would have been woven of different cloth. The extent to which their image of native societies shaped their thought is evident in their own words.

The flowering of the Enlightenment, so spurred by Europe's discovery of America and its peoples, coincided with the founding of the United States, bequeathing to that nation a marvelous intellectual heritage, which has since contributed to worldwide aspirations for improvement of the human condition. These are ideas of extraordinary appeal and power which have shaped the value we place on our own sense of freedom, and regard for the freedom of others. It is another of those supreme ironies of history that such an official ideology often has been called into service to justify imperialism overseas and a widening class structure within the United States, even as our legislatures and courts struggle, day by day, to refine "a more perfect union," comprising a set of egalitarian ideals that compete, as they have since the United States' earliest days, with swarms of special interests. In our own day, the principles Franklin, Jefferson, Paine and others evoked may come to us in other languages, from other places. Depending on their ideological inclinations, United States presidents may hail such language (if it happens to be in Polish, Russian or Chinese), or, if it comes in Spanish (say, from Nicaragua or Chile), they might complain that its authors are exporting revolution.

In their day, America's revolutionaries "exported" revolution to Europe with fervor. Tom Paine called his goal "the republic of the world." John Dos Passos described Americans in Paris at the dawn of the French Revolution "having a fine time going around telling all and sundry how to run their revolutions . . . feeling a certain elation over their position as godfathers of a new age."[82]

Ideas of American-style liberty turned "all Ireland America-mad," wrote Horace Walpole.[83] Dublin had its "Liberty Boys," as newspapers carried detailed reports from America's political storm centers. Soon after the French revolution, which Tom Paine watched from the barricades, political upheavals reflecting ideas of liberty convulsed Belgium, Sweden, Poland, and Norway. Late in his life, Jefferson advised revolutionaries in Greece. In 1821, an elderly Jefferson wrote to John Adams: "The flames kindled on the Fourth of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism."[84]

History is often neither as new nor old as it may seem through any single event. In the case of native American contributions to Western political thought, from Montaigne, to Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine, to Engels, one may wish to page ahead to join Ho Chi Minh, writing the Vietnamese declaration of independence with opening lines from Jefferson. Ho had discovered Jefferson as a student in France, in the same libraries where he also studied Marx, Engels and Lenin.

In 1945, an astonished spy from the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency) watched as Ho searched for a copy of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence to verify his wording. The spy reported that Ho knew more about Jefferson than most well-read Americans.[85] In August of 1945, as the Viet Minh seized Hanoi from the French, Ho initiated his regime before a half-million people with the words: "All men are created equal; they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."[86] Ho then credited Jefferson, little knowing, at the time, that he also was about to begin two decades of warfare with Jefferson's national descendants, who were carrying on an overseas war of which the likes of George III might have been proud.

Consider the image now of a million students and workers in Beijing's main square shouting for greater democracy in a socialist world in ferment over the same ideas for which native Americans provided an exemplar of liberty to our founders more than two centuries ago. Scan now the capitals and major industrial cities of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, sharing a similar ferment. Given Marx and Engels' reception of Iroquois liberty through Morgan, they may have hailed the remaking of socialist societies today. One wonders what Franklin and Jefferson would have to say about the convulsive political year of 1989. What would Canassatego and Hendrick have thought of the way their ideas have reverberated around the world? Had Europe not opened its eyes to America and its peoples, the Enlightenment and the revolutions it spawned would have worn a very different face. We would be living today in a world we might find ourselves at pains even to recognize, so deeply and subtly have the threads of the American Indian soul been woven into our national character, and in other peoples that American examples have helped to shape. In the final analysis, American Indians have exerted a sustained and significant influence on the nature of American democracy and, bu implication, upon the world.


  1. Lewis Henry Morgan's invitation to Henry R. Schoolcraft to join the "Grand Order of the Iroquois," April 10, 1845, in Lewis Henry Morgan Papers, Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.

  2. J.A. Wheeler, "Is Physics Legislated by Cosmogony?" in Ronald and Miranda Weston-Smith, eds., The Encyclopedia of Ignorance (New York: Pergamon Press, 1977), pp. 29-30.

  3. Freneau's National Gazette, April 5, 1792.

  4. See De Witt Clinton, "A Discourse [on the Six Nations] Delivered Before the New York Historical Society, at their Anniversary Meeting, 6th December, 1811" (New York: Van Winkle and Wiley, 1814), p. 50 (Early American Imprints, Second series; no. 38779). See also "Constitution and Roll of Members of the St. Tammany Society, 1789-1916," Manuscript Division, NYPL for a record of De Witt Clinton's membership in the Tammany Society.

  5. See William B. Campbell, ed., The Life and Writings of De Witt Clinton (New York: Baker and Scribner, 1849).

  6. De Witt Clinton, "Discourse Before the New York Historical Society," p. 16.

  7. For an in-depth analysis of Tammany Hall (an outgrowth of the Tammany society), see Jerome Mushkat, Tammany: The Evolution of a Political Machine, 1789-1865 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1971). For the quotation of John C. Calhoun, see Richard K. Cralle, ed., The Works of John C. Calhoun, (New York: Appleton & Co., 1851), I, pp. 71-72. Calhoun, of course, had dealt with the Iroquois as Secretary of War, see John C. Calhoun to David Ogden, May 14, 1818 in Indian Boxes, No. 1, MSS Div., NYPL.

  8. "Address to the New York State Historical Society, May 27, 1847," in Ely S. Parker Papers, Reel 1, American Philosophical Society.

  9. Lewis Henry Morgan to Ely S. Parker, May 8,1844 in Lewis Henry Morgan Papers, Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.

  10. Lewis Henry Morgan to Henry R. Schoolcraft, Rochester, N.Y., May 12, 1847, Lewis Henry Morgan Papers, Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Lewis Henry Morgan to John Wesley Powell, North Scituate, September 10, 1880, BAE Correspondence, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

  14. Lewis Henry Morgan to John Wesley Powell, September 22, 1880, BAE Correspondence, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

  15. Quoted in Akwesasne Notes, II, 6, p. 24.

  16. "Onondaga Indians," Harper's Weekly, February 17, 1872. This story also contains a good written account of the "white dog sacrifice" and an illustration. For a brief account of Horatio Seymour's life, see Dumas Malone, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Scribner's, 1935), , IX, Part 1, pp. 6-9.

  17. David H. Corkran, The Cherokee Frontier: Conflict and Survival, 1740-62 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962), p. 110.

  18. Ibid.

  19. Exhibit, Yager Museum, Hartwick College, Oneonta., N.Y., June, 1983.

  20. See Lucien Carr, The Social and Political Position of Women Among the Huron-Iroquois Tribes (Salem, Mass.: Salem Press, 1884), pp. 217-18; Martha C. Randle, "Iroquois Women, Then and Now," in William N. Fenton, ed., Symposium on Local Diversity in Iroquois Culture (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1951); Judith K. Brown, "Economic Organization and the Position of Women Among the Iroquois," Ethnohistory, 17, 3-4 (Summer-Fall, 1970), pp. 151-67.

  21. "The Iroquois Gynocracy," in James Axtell, ed., The Indian Peoples of Eastern America: A Documentary History of the Sexes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 150-53.

  22. See "Law of the Woman Chief," J. N. B. Hewitt Collection, Manuscript No. 1586, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

  23. "The Law Decreeing that Land Belongs to Women," Hewitt Collection, Manuscript No. 471 in NAA, Smithsonian Institution.

  24. Abram Charles, "Law of the Woman Chief, May 21, 1923," Hewitt Collection, BAE Manuscript No. 1636, NAA, Smithsonian Institution.

  25. The Pennsylvania Magazine or American Monthly Museum, II (February, 1776), p. 96. in American Philosophical Society.

  26. Ibid. p. 97.

  27. "Colonel Thomas Proctor's Journal," Pennsylvania Archives , 2nd Series, Vol. IV, pp. 504-505.

  28. Ibid. Vol. IV, P. 505.

  29. "Substance of the Speech of Good Peter to Governor Clinton and the Commissioners of Indian Affairs at Albany," Collections of the New York Historical Society, 1st Series, (1814), Vol. 2, p. 115.

  30. Paul L. Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1904-1905), III, p. 441. Jefferson also reported that birth control was used by Indian women: "[T]hey have fewer children than we do" and "have learned the practice of procuring abortion by use of some vegetable." He also noted that such abortion practices prevented "conception for a considerable time after." (Ibid. III, p. 441.)

  31. Syracuse Journal, January 10, 1866.

  32. Personal letter, John Kahionhes Fadden to Bruce Johansen, June 14, 1989.

  33. Robert Rogers, Concise Account of North America (New Haven: Johnson Reprint Company, 1966) pp. 232-33.

  34. Philip S. Foner, ed., Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (New York: Citadel Press, 1945), II, pp. 119-120.

  35. Kenneth W. Cameron, ed., The Works of Samuel Peters (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1967), p. 158.

  36. Syracuse Journal, January 10, 1866.

  37. Matilda Joslyn Gage, Woman, Church and State, [1893], (Watertown, MA: Peresphone Press, 1980), p. 10. Annotation supplied by Dr. Sally R. Wagner in mss. draft. See also: Gail Landsman, "Portrayals of the Iroquois in the Woman Suffrage Movement," paper presented at the Annual Conference on Iroquois Research, Rensellaerville, N.Y., October 8, 1988, p. 8.

  38. Landsman, p. 9. By using the word "mined," Landsman may be overemphasizing the importance of Child's book in conveying knowledge of the Iroquois to Gage and others. The historical record indicates that Gage and many other early feminists had extensive first-hand experience with the Iroquois.

  39. Ibid., pp. 10-11. Elizabeth Tooker believes that Iroquois women's rights have been overstated historically. She states that "Iroquois women -- probably erroneously -- have come to be regarded by so many as wielding exceptional power," see Elizabeth Tooker, " Women in Iroquois Society," in Michael K. Foster, et al., eds., Extending the Rafters (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984), p. 110. Tooker minimizes the fact that Iroquois women were free from the economic shackles of Western traditions. She discounts the fact that Iroquois women freely allocated their labors among themselves to furnish childcare, household duties and food. Iroquois women also produced and allocated agricultural products (corn, beans and squash) with little or no dependence upon their husbands. Tooker holds that Iroquois women needed men to clear agricultural fields and build houses but ignores the fact that this work was freely given by the men even though the women retained control over these areas. Unfortunately, Tooker relies heavily upon anthropological opinion in her analysis (Morgan, Hewitt, Fenton, etc.), and she does not look at the documentary evidence. She omits references to the powers of Iroquois women in William N. Fenton, ed., "The Journal of James Emlen Kept on a Trip to Canandaigua, New York," Ethnohistory , Vol. 12, 4 ( Fall 1965), p. 306, William N. Fenton, ed., "Seneca Indians by Asher Wright," Ethnohistory, Vol. 4, 3 (Summer 1957), pp. 311-312, Anthony F. C. Wallace, ed., "Halliday Jackson's Journal to the Seneca Indians, 1798-1800," Pennsylvania History, XIX, 3 (July 1952), pp. 325-327, 337, "Colonel Proctor's Journal," Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd Series, IV, pp. 505, 525 and Arthur C. Parker, "The Role of the Iroquois in the Science of Government," in Arthur C. Parker Papers, Box 11-15, Special Collections, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, see pp. 10-11. In ignoring these sources perhaps Tooker has fallen prey to the adage that the Mohawk anthropologist, Mary E. Fleming Mathur, stated that "Just as many women doctors show less sympathy for their female patients than men, thus do women anthropologists regard their being forced to study women's occupations and roles as less than a satisfactory approach to their work," see Mary E. Fleming Mathur, "That a Woman's Work is Never Done," Indian Historian, IV, 2 (Summer 1971), p. 12.

    In fact, Tooker fails to deal effectively with the wealth of information in Lafitau's description of Iroquois women that is detailed in the Professor Mathur's article (see Ibid., IV, pp. 12-15. Tooker observes that Iroquois women had little private property, but she ignores the more basic aspects of women's rights. For instance, she does not deal, at all, with the unquestioned ability of Iroquois women to allocate labor and basic resources according to the needs of the uterine or clan group. She also ignores rights of divorce, menstrual seclusion, and the fact that there were few violent sex crimes in Iroquois society. In concluding, Tooker observes that "the problems that Iroquois men and women had to confront were not those of contemporary western society" (Tooker, "Women in Iroquois Society," p. 121). Marriage, family, childrearing, making a living, allocation of labor and resources were/are universal human endeavors and it is instructive to examine the ways in which other societies and cultures approached and solved these problems. In the end, Tooker's analysis is too divorced from the historical data and she has little understanding about the realities of family ecology.

  40. Cited in Ibid., p. 11.

  41. Wagner, annotated manuscript [untitled], supplied to Johansen by author, November, 1989, pp. 2-3. She refers here to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds., History of Woman Suffrage (Salem, NH: Ayer Company, 1985), dedication page, volume I, and I, p. 29.

  42. Matilda Joslyn Gage to HLG, December 11, 1893, in Gage papers. Supplied to Johansen by Wagner, November, 1989.

  43. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, "The Matriarchate or Mother-age," [address before the National Council of Women, February, 1891], The National Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 5, (February, 1891).

  44. Stanton, "Matriarchate," p. 2.

  45. Sally Roesch Wagner, "The Iroquois Confederacy: A Native American Model for Non-sexist Men," Changing Men, (Spring-Summer, 1988), pp. 32-33.

  46. Ibid., pp. 32-33.

  47. Stanton, "Matriarchate," p. 4.

  48. Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), pp. 213-14.

  49. Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader, (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972), p. 335.

  50. Lewis Henry Morgan, League of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois [1851], (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1922), p. 3.

  51. Skenandoah [Lewis Henry Morgan], "Letters on the Iroquois," The American Review: A Whig Journal, XXVI (Feb., 1847), pp. 180-81.

  52. Lewis Henry Morgan, Ancient Society. New York: Henry Holt, 1877, p. 119.

  53. Tucker, Marx-Engels Reader, p. 659.

  54. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, (New York: New World Paperbacks, 1968), p. 528.

  55. Franklin's marginal notes in Allan Ramsay's Thoughts on the Origin and Nature of Government, cited in Staughton Lynd, Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism, (New York: Pantheon, 1968), p. 85.

  56. Foner, ed., Paine Writings, I:610.

  57. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia [1784], William Peden, ed., (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1955), p. 93, and Jefferson to Francis W. Gilmer, June 7, 1816, in Paul L. Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (New York: J.P. Putnam's Sons, 1892-99), X, p. 32-33.

  58. Engels, Origin of the Family..., in Selected Works, (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1968), III, p. 201.

  59. Sally Roesch Wagner, "The Root of Oppression is the Loss of Memory: The Iroquois and the Early Feminist Vision," Akwesasne Notes, Late Winter, 1989, p. 11. See also: Gage, Woman, Church and State, p. 246.

  60. Gage, Women, Church & State, p. 9.

  61. Ibid., p. 10.

  62. New York Evening Post, Sept. 24, 1875, cited in Wagner, Loss of Memory, p. 12.

  63. Stanton, "Matriarchate," p. 1.

  64. Ibid.

  65. Ibid., p. 7.

  66. Ibid. and Albany Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 10, March 5, 1892, p. 199.

  67. Puck, May 16, 1914.

  68. "Indians of New York," Utica Morning Herald, May 9, 1894.

  69. "The Six Nations," in Encyclopedia Americana (1896), XIV (copy in J. N. B. Hewitt Papers, NAA, Smithsonian Institution).

  70. SWashington tar, April 4, 1932.

  71. John Collier, The Indians of the Americas (New York: W. W. Norton, 1947), pp. 117-121.

  72. Matthew W. Stirling, "America's First Settlers, the Indians," National Geographic Magazine, LXXII, 5. Matthew Stirling was head of the Bureau of American Ethnology during the years that William N. Fenton, anthropologist of the Iroquois, worked there.

  73. Washington Post, February 7, 1950.

  74. Tulsa Daily World, July 31, 1949.

  75. "Press Release -- Smithsonian Institution, Thursday November 5, 1953," in William N. Fenton Papers, Manuscript #20, Box entitled: Correspondence relating to publications, 1935-1957, American Philosophical Society.

  76. Felix Cohen, "Americanizing the White Man," The American Scholar, XXI, 2, pp. 179-180. Cohen's essay is cited at length in Johansen, Forgotten Founders, (1982), pp. 13-15.

  77. See Mrs. Mildred F. Garlow, "Demarcation of the 5 Nation Confederic Democracy -- Novus Ordo Seclorum," August 10, 1959, in William N. Fenton Papers, Letterbox entitled: "Letters from the Iroquois," Manuscript #20, American Philosophical Society.

  78. "Open Letter, by Mildred Garlow to Representative E. D. O'Sullivan, 1952, Ibid.

  79. "Haudenosaunee Statement to the World," Akwesasne Notes, XI (May, 1979), p. 7.

  80. For quote, see Wilbur R. Jacobs, Dispossessing the American Indian (New York: Scribner's, 1972), pp. 168-170. For some discussion of this matter as well, see William Brandon, The American Heritage Book of Indians (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1969, pp. 127-139.

  81. Vine Deloria, Jr., "Revision and Reversion," in Calvin Martin, ed., The American Indian and the Problem of History (New York: Oxford, 1987), p. 85. Indeed, Neal Salisbury believes that stereotypes of "heathen" savages and "civilized" Christians are very much with us in academic discourse. Salisbury is surprised that such stereotypes have persisted "among contemporary scholars supposedly emancipated from the religious and racial superstitions of the past. For while the convention of distinguishing Indians and whites as two different species of humanity is largely outmoded, a vestige of it survives in the assumption that Indians have not participated in "history," except in their encounters with the whites who actually "made" that history," see Neal Salisbury, "American Indians and American History," Ibid., p. 46. Of course, as time passes, approaches to history once dismissed as "revisionist" may become accepted fare. By the late 1980s, this seemed to be happening to the idea that Native American political systems helped shape democracy. The idea began to pop up in educational materials for young people. See, for example, Ira Peck, "The People of the Longhouse," Junior Scholastic, October 21, 1988, pp. 12-14; Theodore Lowi, et. al., American Government: Freedom and Power, (New York: . W. W. Norton, 1990, . 68; Canada and its Pacific Neighbors (Regina, Sask.: Weigl,), in press; Janet Flamang, et. al., American Politics in a Changing World, (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1990), in press.

  82. John Dos Passos, The Ground We Stand On, (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1941), p. 294.

  83. Richard B. Morris, The Emerging Nations and the American Revolution, (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), pp. 82-83.

  84. Ibid., pp. 74-75.

  85. David Halberstam, Ho, (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 74.

  86. Bernard Fall, ed., Ho Chi Minh on Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920-1966, (New York: Praeger, 1967), p. 143.

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