This panel depicts a Chief (one of nine) of the Mohawk Nation Council addressing chiefs and clanmothers of the Seneca Nation. Both nations are part of the Haudenosaunee (Six Iroquois Nations Confederacy), which also includes the Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Tuscarora Nations. This confederation, created many centuries ago was given authority by an orally transmitted constitution called, Kaianerekowa (The Great Law of Peace). In that this confederacy exists to this day, it is the oldest constituted participatory democracy in the world. Within its framework are liberty, freedom, and justice; representation begins at the smallest denominator, the individual, and flows outward through family, clan and nation.
This confederation of nations protected the English colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries, and was influential in the development of methods of governance for the fledging country of the United States of America.
"...ideas and events that dramatized them: life, liberty, and happiness (Declaration of Independence); government by reason and consent rather than coercion (Albany Plan and Articles of Confederation); religious toleration (and ultimately religious acceptance) instead of a state church; checks and balances; federalism (United States Constitution); and relative equality of property, equal rights before the law, and the thorny problem of creating a government that can rule equitably across a broad geographic expanse (Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution). Native America had a substantial role in shaping all these ideas, as well as the events that turned the colonies into a nation of states. In a way that may be difficult to understand from the vantage point of the late twentieth century, Native Americans were present at the conception of the United States. We owe part of our national soul to those American Indians and Euro-Americans who came before us."
From Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the Evolution of Democracy, by Donald A. Grinde, Jr., and Bruce E. Johansen, 1991.
-- John Kahionhes Fadden
Six Nations Indian Museum
HCR 1, Box 10