The Six Nations: Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth

“When settlers arrived in the New World, one of the first cultures they encountered was the Haudenosaunee, a confederation of tribes that had already been practicing representative democracy for hundreds of years,” notes the commentary for Injunuity’s video explaining how it all went down.

“How much influence did that existing democracy have on our Founding Fathers and on documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? More than you know.”

The people of the Six Nations, also known Iroquois 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.

Credits: Bruce E. Johansen, Professor of Communication and Native American Studies University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Donald Grinde, Professor of Native American Studies at the University of Buffalo


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