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Inspiring Indians


Becky finds peace on the banks of the onondaga Lake
Becky finds peace on the banks of the onondaga lake
In almost every book that the European colonists wrote about the American Indians, they call them "ignorant savages. " Those are strong words. Often I wonder why the colonists thought this. Was it because the Indians dressed differently or didn't believe in the same religion?

I believe that it was many of the Europeans who were the ignorant ones. They came to the colonies and met strange new people. Often they did not take the time to learn about the Native Americans and unfairly decided that the Indians were inferior.

But when colonists did take the time to learn about the native people they lived beside, they were usually impressed by what they learned. One group of Indians impressed the colonists so much that some people say they were the inspiration for the United States Constitution.

The group was called the Iroquois Confederacy. It was made up of five Indian tribes - the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca. They used to fight each other. But they made peace with each other and came together to help protect each other against invasions from other tribes.

According to Iroquois tradition, a Peacemaker came to the separate nations at Onondaga Lake (near Syracuse) and inspired the warriors to bury their weapons. Together they created a government called the "common council." It was made up of the village chiefs from each of the tribes. Each group had one vote on the issues that came before the council. Everyone had to agree before they would take any action.

view of Onondaga land from the roadside
view of Onondaga land from the roadside
Does this seem a little familiar to you? It sounds like the way the colonies banded together and formed the United States of America. You might think this isn't anything new or special. But the Iroquois Confederacy formed hundreds of years before the American Revolution.

Some of the colonists might have been calling the Indians savages, but truth is, the Native Americans were just as smart and sometimes even more advanced than they were. It is hard to say for sure if the writers of the US Constitution were thinking about the Indians. But after learning about the Iroquois Confederacy it sure seems possible.


Please email me at: rebecca@ustrek.org


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