In the government you call civilized, the happiness of the people is constantly sacrificed to the splendour of the empire. Hence your code of criminal and civil laws have their origin; hence your dungeons and prisons.
I will not enlarge on an idea so singular in civilized life, and perhaps disagreeable to you, and you will observe that among us we have no prisons; we have no pompous parade of courts; we have no written laws, and yet judges are as highly revered among us as they are among you, and their decisions are as much regarded.
Property, to say the least, is as well guarded, and crimes are impartially punished. We have among us no splendid villains above the control of our own laws.
Daring wickedness is here never suffered to triumph over helpless innocence. The estates of widows and orphans are never devoured by enterprising sharpers. In a word, we have no robbery under the colour of the law.
No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worthy action, but the consciousness of having served his nation.
Our wise men are called fathers; they truly sustain that character. They are always accessible, I will not say to the meanest of our people, for we have no mean but such as render themselves so by vices.
The palaces and prisons among you form a most dreadful contrast.
I am Deganawida. With the statesmen of the League of Five Nations, I plant the Tree of Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Atotarho and the Onondaga Nation: in the territory of you who are the Firekeepers. I name the tree Tsyoneratasekowa, the Great White Pine. Under the shade of this Tree of Great Peace, we spread the soft, white feathery down of the Globe Thistle as seats for you, Atotarho and your cousin statesmen.
We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the Globe Thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Great Peace. There shall you sit and watch the Fire of the League of Five Nations. All the affairs of the League shall be transacted at this place before you, Atotarho and your cousin statesmen, by the statesmen of the League of Five Nations.
Note : The term Five Nations makes it evident that all the laws were made before 1714 at which time the Tuscarora Nation was admitted into the Confederacy, but without an equal voice, contrary to the Plan of Deganawida. Apparently, the first Grand Councils of the Iroquois Confederacy were held under the evergreen white pine, the largest tree in Eastern North America, more than 250 feet high. All cut down 200 years ago by the white men who afterwards never let the great tree grow to full size again in their haste and eagerness to exploit it.
The simple and most obvious answer may appear to be a resounding “No,” however, for many Onkwehonwe… The answer is, “yes.”… Sort of.
While you might be thinking, How is that even a possibility? The answers lie within what we simply refer to as “Onkwehonwe:neha”; Unfortunately, it can only be loosely translated to “Our way of life,” but includes the language, the beliefs, our matrilineal structure within family and clan and nation, amongst many other influences. There really does need to be a genetic connection to be able to understand.
The elected system was an ill-conceived attempt to remove any remnants of a distinct people finally so that we won’t discuss that much further, but rather the model of governance viewed as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is poorly understood. In large part, which in part because we have no literal concept translation, in Kanyenkahaka anyway for a singular entity. So what is commonly referred to as the traditional system or Confederacy is more of a colonial translation or perhaps more appropriately and likely a colonial interpretation of what our way was. Throw in the Indian act expectations and colonial demands for concepts to their understanding birthed what we see today.
It’s was way more comfortable for the Canadian government not to have to deal with multiple entities while also reducing the length of time that we took to make our decisions. Twelve chiefs are more manageable than 50, and 50 is more manageable than 99 chiefs and clan mothers and so on. Who wouldn’t want to make things easier for themselves and reduce “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” a saying that is direct evidence of their interpretation that it was only chiefs who made the decisions? Having to deal with only one person or speaker made it very easy to accomplish goals and act under the directives of the Indian act. In hindsight, ensuring that many nations completely understand and make decisions is a foreign concept to them. So much so that it continues to this day.
They are dealing with one entity rather than disclosing that unlike their governance, Ours has multiple arms belonging to separate and distinct nations. All of which have an equal say within our Wisk Niyonwenstake.
As distinct and autonomous nations, we have our own language within the same language family that allows us to communicate within the Nations, we have our own leadership within individual nations.
It is not to say everyone has forgotten Onkwehonweneha but perhaps it has been pushed aside for palatable alternatives, albeit with less responsibilities that ultimately result in fewer rights.
Their system is purely hierarchical.
It is understood as a representative democracy where individuals are elected to represent groups of people. It is also called Indirect democracy, where the participants are never a party to full freedom as democratic people.
After voting, there is rarely ever another option to participate in the day to day choices that directly affect them with any real or significant impact. It’s not because citizens in that ship are too irresponsible or are unable to articulate on a professional political level, as seen here during a debate in the house of commons, but rather by design, the citizens are only benefactors of the laws that made for them.
Perhaps I am overthinking of a foreign system to me and one that I will never fully understand. I still respect the two-row and the ship’s right to form a government of their own.
I can only understand as an Onkwehonwe who is Pro-Wisk Neyonwenstake and anti-forced foreign government.