February 2012
« Jan   Mar »

The Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth

Feb 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Campaigns (incl.) Grassroots, Community Board, Community Resource



The Six Nations:

Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth

The Tree of Peace
The Tree of Peace
by John Kahionhes Fadden

The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois [1] Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House. Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish anew a government truly dedicated to all life’s liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 hundred years. [2]


Figure 31 Figure 31. On June 11, 1776 while the question of independence was being debated, the visiting Iroquois chiefs were formally invited into the meeting hall of the Continental Congress. There a speech was delivered, in which they were addressed as “Brothers” and told of the delegates’ wish that the “friendship” between them would “continue as long as the sun shall shine” and the “waters run.” The speech also expressed the hope that the new Americans and the Iroquois act “as one people, and have but one heart.”[18] After this speech, an Onondaga chief requested permission to give Hancock an Indian name. The Congress graciously consented, and so the president was renamed “Karanduawn, or the Great Tree.” With the Iroquois chiefs inside the halls of Congress on the eve of American Independence, the impact of Iroquois ideas on the founders is unmistakable. History is indebted to Charles Thomson, an adopted Delaware, whose knowledge of and respect for American Indians is reflected in the attention that he gave to this ceremony in the records of the Continental Congress.[19]Artwork by John Kahionhes Fadden.

from Exemplar of Liberty, Native America and the Evolution of Democracy,
Chp.8, “A New Chapter, Images of native America in the writings of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine



  1. Beaver Full Moon, 24 November 1996: Inauguration of Six Nations subtree
  2. A Basic Call to Consciousness,
    The Hau de no sau nee Address to the Western World
    Geneva, Switzerland, Autumn 1977
  3. Forgotten Founders, Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois
    and the Rationale for the American Revolution
    , complete 1982 book
  4. Oren Lyons Interview – Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan,
    Onondaga Council of Chiefs of the Hau de no sau nee, 3 July 1991
  5. Exemplar of Liberty
    Native America and the Evolution of Democracy
    , complete 1990 book
  6. Native American Political Systems and the Evolution of Democracy:
    An Annotated Bibliography
    , complete 1996 living book
  7. Reaching the Grassroots:
    The World-wide Diffusion of Iroquois Democratic Traditions
    , April 2002
  8. Borked! Tales From the Ramparts of Multiculturalism
  9. Oren Lyons at the UN:
    Opening Speech for “The Year of the Indigenous Peoples”, 1993
  10. Telling The Iroquois Story On CD-ROM
  11. Oren Lyons: World Bank, October 3, 1995
    Ethics and Spiritual Values and the Promotion of
    Environmentally Sustainable Development

    “50 Years of the World Bank, Over 50 Tribes Devastated”
  12. Dating the Iroquois Confederacy
  13. Guest Essay, Sovereignty and Treaty Rights – We Remember
  14. Guest Essay, Haudenosaunee Environmental Action Plan
    and articles related to the 1995 United Nations Summit of the Elders:
  15. Summit of the Elders; Haudenosaunee Environmental Restoration Strategy
  16. Principles for Environmental Restoration
  17. Iroquois at the UN
  18. Presentation to the United Nations
    1. Demonizing the Big Glass House
  19. Indian Magna Carta Writ In Wampum Belts
  20. Iroquois Population in 1995
  21. How Much Land Did the Iroquois Possess?
Figure 38



THE INDIAN WOMEN: We whom you pity as drudges
reached centuries ago the goal that you are now nearing
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. 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]
Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Leave a comment »

  1. I am interested to know if women were part of the voting body in the 800 year long democracy. Often when men speak of democracy they men amongst men not all the people.

    I would like to find some information about how women were treated in the 6 Nations.

  2. Excellent question Mary- will follow up

Leave Comment