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An Anarchist Study of the Iroquois
north america / mexico | indigenous struggles | opinion / analysis Monday January 07, 2008 00:33 by Stephen Arthur - NEFAC flint at nefac dot net
"Where License Reigns With All Impunity"
The traditional society of the Rotinonshón:ni (Iroquois), "The People of the Longhouse," was a densely settled, matrilineal, communal, and extensively horticultural society. The Rotinonshón:ni formed a confederacy of five nations. Generations before historical contact with Europeans, these nations united through the Kaianere'kó:wa into the same polity and ended blood feuding without economic exploitation, stratification, or the formation of a centralized state.
An Anarchist Study of the Rotinonshón:ni Polity
"Where License Reigns With All Impunity"
An Anarchist Study of the Rotinonshón:ni Polity
by Stephen Arthur
"Their Policy in this is very wise, and has nothing Barbarous in it. For, since their preservation depends upon their union, and since it is hardly possible that among peoples where license reigns with all impunity -- and, above all, among young people -- there should not happen some event capable of causing a rupture, and disuniting their minds, -- for these reasons, they hold every year a general assembly in Onnontaé. There all the Deputies from the different Nations are present, to make their complaints and receive the necessary satisfaction in mutual gifts, -- by means of which they maintain a good understanding with one another."
Some historical materialists claim a densely settled, agricultural population will inevitably develop into a hierarchically stratified society, with a centralized state and an exploitative economic redistribution system, in order avoid warfare while resolving blood feuds among its members.(2) While this is a common occurence, it is not the only way these issues have been resolved. Located along the southern banks of Kaniatarí:io (Lake Ontario), the traditional society of the Rotinonshón:ni (Iroquois),(3) "The People of the Longhouse," was a densely settled, matrilineal, communal, and extensively horticultural society. The Rotinonshón:ni formed a confederacy initially of five nations: Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk), Oneniote'á:ka (Onedia), Ononta'kehá:ka (Onondaga), Kaion'kehá:ka (Cayuga) and Shotinontowane'á:ka (Seneca). Generations before historical contact with Europeans,(4) these nations united through the Kaianere'kó:wa (“the Great Good Way”) into the same polity(5) and ended blood feuding without economic exploitation, stratification, or the formation of a centralized state.
Jared Diamond hypothesizes that when stateless egalitarian hunter-gather societies develop agriculture and experience population growth, blood feuds and new resource management problems challenge their ability to maintain horizontal political relationships and economic communalism. (6) According to Diamond, the material transition itself leads inevitably to the State, which he refers to as "the kleptocracy," and the most the oppressed can hope for by revolting is for a change in the rate of exploitation and oppression by installing a new group of kleptocrats. In his view, "the kleptocracy" is ultimately a function of material culture.(7)
Some Marxists agree with Diamond's perspective. They argue that in the transitions from hunter-gather communism to feudalism, and from there to capitalism, society develops the industrial production of the social wealth necessary for communism to become an option again. There is at least one strong counter example to this vulgar historical determinism and unilinear cultural evolution: the formation and continued survival of the Rotinonshón:ni in the northeast of North America.
While critical of Marxism, Murray Bookchin acknowledges the cooperative and peaceful internal nature of hunter-gather societies but also brings up the problems of external warfare.
The conflicts Bookchin mentions occurred around Kaniatarí:io and Lake Erie in the 17th century and are often referred to as the “Beaver Wars,” due to the connection with the fur trade between indigenous and European people. Bookchin’s description the conflict of Kanien'kehá:ka and the Wendat (Huron) as “extermination” or “genocidal” is inaccurate. Rather than a matter of ethnic cleansing or economic competition, that conflict is better understood as a civil war of political unification among Iroquois speakers. It is ironic that in Bookchin’s tirade against modern anti-civilizationist mystification of the primitive, he acknowledges the formation as of Rotinonshón:ni polity that ended the warfare among the Five Nations, but fails to reflect upon this momentous accomplishment or see how much their achievement has parallels with his own political ideas.
Aiewáhtha Wampum Belt (9)
In a version of the story common at Ohswé:ken, (11) Tekanawí:ta was born under mysterious circumstances to a Wendat mother, along the Bay of Quinte. (12) After a difficult childhood, Tekanawí:ta left his community to bring the message of peace to the Iroquois. He traveled south across Kaniatarí:io, where he encountered Aiewáhtha preparing a meal. Aiewáhtha, grieving for lost loved ones, was planning to a eat a man he had slain in vengenance. Tekanawí:ta conducted a condolence ceremony for Aiewáhtha, so as to end the blood feuding. He convinced Aiewáhtha to eat only of the flesh of deer, not man. Finally, he persuaded Aiewáhtha to give up war and to help him bring peace to the Iroquois.
According to a women’s oral tradition, (13) Tekanawí:ta then approached the head clan mother, Tsikónhsase.(14) Tsikónhsase, of the Kakwa:ko (Neutral) nation, had provisioned warriors and also administered disputes. (15) She agreed to support Tekanawí:ta’s efforts for peace if he agreed to codify into the Kaianere'kó:wa several powers and responsibilities for women: matrilineality of clans, the clan as the basis of popular sovereignty, and the collective ownership of agricultural land by women. Barbara Mann, Shotinontowane'á:ka author and professor of Native American Studies, views the underlying conflict of the era in terms of the material culture of production. She describes the conflict as one between women-led agriculturists and the cannibalistic hunters, led by Thatotáhrho. Tekanawí:ta's role was to unite the warring factions, establish both farming and hunting as modes of production, and abolish cannibalism. (16)
Tekanawí:ta, Aiewáhtha and Tsikónhsase visited a series of Iroquois communities. Having gone to the Kanien'kehá:ka and gained their support, they visited the Oneniote'á:ka, gaining their acceptance as well. Next they visited the Ononta'kehá:ka, but were rebuffed by Thatotáhrho. They then gained the support of the Kaion'kehá:ka, and finally visited the westernmost nation--the Shotinontowane'á:ka. All of the Shotinontowane'á:ka were convinced except their two principal war chiefs; these were brought into agreement and designated as the ratihnhohanónhnha, the doorkeepers, responsible for protecting the long house of the Rotinonshón:ni from enemies to the west. Having convinced all of the Shotinontowane'á:ka, they returned to the Ononta'kehá:ka, and there was a mighty struggle with Thatotáhrho.(17) Tsikónhsase devised a solution, suggesting to Tekanawí:ta that the council fire of the Rotinonshón:ni could be with the Ononta'kehá:ka, and that Thatotáhrho should become its keeper. (18)
Tekanawí:ta had several other innovations for the Rotinonshón:ni polity. The fifty men who would make decisions through consensus at the council fire were named roiá:ner, and they would wear deer horns to represent that they had forsaken war and ate only the flesh of deer, not of men. The roiá:ner were to have skins "seven spans thick": they would be patient, not easily offended. Tekanawí:ta named each of the roiá:ner, and stated that their names would be requickened when they died (or were removed from office) and returned to the clan mothers, the iotiiá:ner. The iotiiá:ner had the responsibility of selecting new roiá:ner, though never the son of the previous roiá:ner. The iotiiá:ner would also have the authority to recall roiá:ner from office. A provision was made for further speakers to be added to the council at Ononta'kehá:ka, men who had merit and had sprung up like a Pine Tree--"ohnkanetoten." The ohnkanetoten would have voices but not votes; their appointment would die with them and not be transferred. Further, the great good way, the Kaianere'kó:wa, could be amended by “adding to the rafters” of the longhouse.
The weapons of war were buried beneath the tree of peace, so that there would be no further war among the nations of the Rotinonshón:ni. (19) (The English idiom, "burying the hatchet," originates with the Rotinonshón:ni.) The tree’s four white roots of peace stretched to the cardinal directions, spreading the good tidings. There were rules for adoption of individuals and whole nations, to follow the roots, find shelter beneath the tree of peace, and join the Rotinonshón:ni. The condolence ceremony for those who were in grief was described, as well as the use of wampum. The Rotinonshón:ni would be guided by principles of "peace, power and righteousness." The last issue that Tekanawí:ta resolved was about hunting territory: Tekanawí:ta declared that all Rotinonshón:ni would share the hunt and "eat of one bowl." (20)
Illustration by Lewis Henry Morgan (21)
In the 17th century, the Rotinonshón:ni lived in settled towns of as many as two thousand people, surrounded by palisades. Population density averaged two hundred people per acre. These were the densest communities in the Northeast, including those of European settlers, until the 19th century. (23) The communal fields surrounding Rotinonshón:ni villages extended for up to six miles in radius. Even after the Rotinonshón:ni population had been greatly reduced by war and disease, they were still very productive farmers.
One indicator of quantity of Rotinonshón:ni production is taken from a military campaign against them under the orders of U.S. President George Washington, who the Rotinonshón:ni have named Ranatakárias--"Town Destroyer". (24) During the American Revolutionary War, in 1779 the Sullivan-Clark military expedition attacked the villages of all Rotinonshón:ni nations except the Oneniote'á:ka. The alliance of the Oneniote'á:ka with the United States against the rest of the Rotinonshón:ni broke the peace between the Rotinonshón:ni nations that had stretched back to Tekanawí:ta's foundation, and resulted in profound consequences for all. According to Sullivan’s official report, the U.S. army burned forty towns and their surrounding fields, destroying 160,000 bushels of corn; Anthony F.C. Wallace estimated "500... dwellings in two dozen settlements... and nearly 1 million bushels of corn" were destroyed (25); and Allan Eckert estimated at least fifty towns and nearly 1,200 houses were burned. The American Revolution was more an economic disaster for the Rotinonshón:ni than a military defeat.
Teiowí:sonte Thomas Deer describes the economics of the traditional Rotinonshón:ni as synonymous with contemporary concepts of communalism or socialism: “an emphasis is placed upon the survival and welfare of the collective as opposed to the success and comfort of the individual. Such societies are composed of a group who voluntarily participate in a cooperative livelihood that shares the burden of labor and as well the fruit of such labor. This concept is reinforced by the Kaianere'kó:wa in its analogy of the bowl from which all Haudenosaunee would share from." (26) Hunter Gray has referred to tribal communalism and the Rotinonshón:ni ethos of tribal (mutual) responsibility as "strawberry socialism." (27)
In 1977, when Rotinonshón:ni delegates addressed the United Nations with their economic ideas, they argued against permanent private property and excluding others from the means of production. They suggested that the concept of alienated property results in slavery. They stated that their rejection of a commodity economy, their rejection of conspicuous consumption, and their ideas of eminently fair distribution would result in all people sharing in material wealth. Their concepts of economy and labor would require an entire community of involvement, rather than isolated nuclear families. All people, they declared, have a right to food, clothing and shelter. No one should have a position of economic power over anyone else, and there should be no artificial scarcity created by property ownership.(28)
Did the Rotinonshón:ni have private property historically? Historian Daniel Richter has argued that the Rotinonshón:ni economics only superficially resembled communalism. Property ownership, however, derived from need and use, while abandoned property was free for the use by anyone. Further, that in times of shortage, all was shared communally. (29) This is an example of a usufruct (use rights) system of ownership, which many anarchists would approve of, including Bookchin: “an individual appropriation of goods, a personal claim to tools, land, and other resources . . . is fairly common in organic [i.e. aboriginal] societies. . . co-operative work and the sharing of resources on a scale that could be called communistic is also fairly common. . . But primary to both of these seemingly contrasting relationships is the practice of usufruct." (30)
It bears mentioning that wampum, beads made of shell and strung together, was used as currency among cash-poor European settlers in the Northeast. Wampum, in addition to European-manufactured goods, was exchanged for beaver pelts with the Rotinonshón:ni. Among the Rotinonshón:ni, however, it was not used as currency. A hallmark of their diplomacy and gift exchange, wampum functioned almost exclusively as a political and social aid, used in the condolence ceremonies, in the requickening of newly selected leaders, and as a mnemonic device for agreements and treaties. (31)
While the Rotinonshón:ni mode of production was collective, it was divided by gender. Men engaged in clearing the forest, hunting, fishing, diplomacy, trade and warfare. Women focused on extensive horticulture, childcare and village life (32). Collective effort and communal ownership of the land did not, however, preclude individuals from working separately. To this extent, the communism of the Rotinonshón:ni can be regarded as voluntary.
Anarchist anthropologist Harold Barclay has pointed out that "Egalitarian does not… mean that there is any equality between sexes and between different age groups" and that "true sexual equality is a rarity."(35) By contrast, the Rotinonshón:ni are often held up as an example of a matriarchy, though I disagree with the semantics of that term. While the Rotinonshón:ni are both matrilineal and matrilocal, and the women do have a role in consensual politics and in selecting and removing men from leadership positions; women do not wield power over men the way men wield power over women in a patriarchal society. Anthropological archaeologist Dean Snow, explains this very well: "Iroquois women were not matriarchs, or Amazons, or drudges. They were Iroquois women, who lived in a nonhierarchical society in which their role as food producers was properly appreciated and in which the elevation of some aspects of kinship to political significance gave them influence that they might not otherwise have had." (36)
Another anarchist anthropologist, David Graeber, described the overlapping councils by gender:
Another indication of differences between the Rotinonshón:ni and European settler society comes from that same Sullivan expedition in 1779 that destroyed so many Rotinonshón:ni towns. While preparing to attack and destroy the towns, General James Clinton even remarked that the Rotinonshón:ni men never raped women, and that some measures needed to be taken to prevent American soldiers from raping. (38) Among the Rotinonshón:ni, violence against women, including spousal abuse, was harshly punished by a woman's kin. (39) A man who abused a woman could not be selected as a roiá:ner. (40)
Divorce was easy and common, so much so that Jesuit missionary Father Jacques Bruyas, while regarding divorce as the greatest sin among the Rotinonshón:ni, explained that "There is as great ease in breaking marriages as in making them -- the husband leaving his wife, and the wife her husband, at pleasure." (41) Since the husbands lived with their wives' kahwá:tsire (matrilineal clan), in divorce former husbands had to leave the home. While the majority of the property as it was held in common through the matrilineal clan, personal possessions were always kept distinct between a husband and wife. (42) Children remained with the mother after divorce, (43) a contrast to the paternal ownership of children which was the standard in the continent's European settler society until it was replaced by maternal preference in custody in the 1920s. Kanatiiosh (Barbara Gray) has argued that "western law emerges with a structure based on hierarchy, which I believe is attributed, to their treatment of women as secondary citizens. Whereas, Haudenosaunee law emerges with a democratic structure based on equality and goodwill for all." (44)
Family planning was essential to women, who had the responsibility for farming, and often chose to limit the number of children for whom they were responsible at any one time. There were many abortifacients and fertility medicines known to Rotinonshón:ni herbalists. (45) Christian missionaries, and later in the early 19th century the Shotinontowane'á:ka prophet Ganioda'yo, who codified Karihwí:io or Gaiwiio ("the good message"), preached against divorce and abortion, while emphasizing the relationship of husband and wife over that of mother and daughter. (46) Wallace, a psychological anthropologist and historian, regarded the reforms of the Karihwí:io as "the sentence of doom upon the traditional quasi-matriarchal system." (47) Kahentinetha Horn, the editor of Mohawk Nation News, has asserted that the polity's "structure has been modified to accommodate the Gai'wiio. For example, instead of the Clan Mothers appointing the Chiefs according to the Old Way, in the Gai'wiio the Chiefs select the Clan Mothers." (48)
Over time, individual households of nuclear families replaced the traditional longhouses as residences. The situation had so changed by 1850, when Lewis Henry Morgan published his classical ethnographical study The League of the Ho-de'-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois, he observed that women, and only women, were punished for adultery by public whipping. (49) In 1924, an elected band council, rather than the traditional polity, governed Ohswé:ken; women were initially deprived of suffrage. (50) At Onondaga, Tonawanda and Tuscarora, the iakoiá:ner never lost their rights to select roiá:ner. (51)
Drawn by Joseph Keppler, "Puck", 1914 (52)
This difference in regards to suffrage was something well known to Rotinonshón:ni. Gawasco Waneh (Arthur Parker) wrote in 1909: "Does the modern American woman [who] is a petitioner before man, pleading for her political rights, ever stop to consider that the red woman that lived in New York state five hundred years ago, had far more political rights and enjoyed a much wider liberty than the twentieth century woman of civilization?" (55)
Modern feminists might regard the traditional division of roles according to gender as less than egalitarian. Some contemporary Rotinonshón:ni would agree, and argue that traditional gender role division is obsolete, while also pointing out that some of that division had its origin in colonial gender roles imposed by European cultural imperialism. One example is the concern raised by Taiaiake Alfred:
Bookchin rarely examines the Rotinonshón:ni polity, and the few times he addresses it in print, he is dismissive. In the course of his dismissals he often repeats the common academic myth that the conflicts of the 17th century, misnamed "the Beaver Wars," were fought over economic control of the fur trade. While it is true that the primary European interest in the conflict was to secure access to large quantities of low-cost beaver fur (in exchange for goods produced solely for indigenous consumption), there were other, potentially more important, reasons for the Rotinonshón:ni involvement in those conflicts.
As pointed out earlier, the Rotinonshón:ni were not primarily a foraging society. The majority of their food came from horticulture, so they faced no need to relocate into territory held by others due to overhunting. In the early years of European colonization, disease greatly reduced indigenous populations before the settlers arrived in large numbers. During the Beaver Wars, there was actually much more available land per capita, due to this population reduction, than there had been before the arrival of the Europeans. While warfare did take on cultural and economic attributes, understanding the Beaver Wars only in terms of the fur trade and the role of warfare in culture is far too simplistic. Bookchin is right about the linguistic and cultural similarities between the Wendat and Rotinonshón:ni, and that itself is the key to understanding the determination with which the Rotinonshón:ni prosecuted their wars with the Wendat, Kakwa:ko, Erielhonan (Erie), Tionontati (Petun), Wenrohronon (Wenro), and Susquehannock nations.
Bookchin mentions the rise of "cultural attributes" of warfare. One such attribute practiced by the northern Iroquois-speaking peoples, not only the Rotinonshón:ni, was the mourning war. When people died in the Iroquois communities, the grieving relatives expected the dead to be symbolically replaced as soon as possible. Quite unlike the European settlers' notion total war, a mourning war was ultimately ritualistic, and was not aimed at the eradication of an enemy or seizure of their territory. Rather, the goal was to take captives, who would replace the dead. Losses among warriors involved in the mourning wars could also be called on to be replaced. Large-scale casualties were rare, and when they did occur, they were considered great tragedies. Since disease was regarded as a hostile attack by unknown agents, those who died from sickness had to be replaced by mourning war. This process of replacing the dead by assigning their names and responsibilities to others is referred to as requickening.
Mourning war had at one time often involved cannibalism and torture, but these practices had completely died out of Rotinonshón:ni society by the 18th century. Central to the Rotinonshón:ni polity was the ceremony of condolence. Tekanawí:ta gave this ceremony to Aiewáhtha, to help with his grief so that peace would be possible between them and Thatotáhrho. Condolence would allow for blood feuds to end, and for people within a nation to be requickened, with the use of wampum, into new titles to replace the dead. Condolence has been seen as a replacement for the mourning wars. Some critics argue the Rotinonshón:ni polity simply caused the nations of the confederation to redirect their blood fueds outward.
Map by Rebecca Wilson
Darren Bonaparte cites an old oral tradition about the Kaniatarowanénhne (later known as the St. Lawrence river): "[T]here was once a great confederacy that had villages on the St. Lawrence River. After a shooting star destroyed one of their villages on the St. Lawrence, the confederacy broke down, leaving two or three smaller confederacies in their wake who eventually became hostile to each other. The Huron Confederacy, north of Lake Ontario, and the Iroquois Confederacy were two of those; a third would be the people archaeologists refer to as the "St. Lawrence Iroquoians." (61)
When Jacques Cartier first explored the Kaniatarowanénhne in 1535, he encountered Iroquois-speaking communities all along the river between major settlements of Stadacona (near Quebec City) and Hochelaga (Montreal). When Samuel de Champlain came to the river in 1603, those Iroquois-speaking communities were gone. By the early 17th century, “[t]he Jefferson County Iroquoians had disappeared, probably absorbed by the Iroquois. The St. Lawrence Iroquoians had been incorporated into the Huron confederacy, as had people from other clusters around modern Toronto, the Trent River valley, and elsewhere just north of Lake Ontario,” (62) although some may have also joined the Kanien'kehá:ka. (63)
The first published account of contact between Europeans and the Rotinonshón:ni is Champlain’s. In 1609, he and his Algonquian allies encountered a group of Kanien'kehá:ka near Crown Point. Champlain introduced the Rotinonshón:ni to the use of firearms by killing fifty of them including three Kanien'kehá:ka roiá:ner, one of whom carried the name Aiewáhtha.(64) This was a huge defeat by the standards of the mourning wars. The French continued to ally themselves with the Algonquian and the Wendat, and the Rotinonshón:ni began trading with the Dutch by 1614. In 1615, Champlain led Wendat and Andastes in an attack on the Rotinonshón:ni at an Ononta'kehá:ka village, killing many, including another roiá:ner. In the central nation of the Great Longhouse, the Ononta'kehá:ka village was the council fire and symbolic heart of the Rotinonshón:ni. (65) Firearms and forged blades were now part of warfare between Iroquois-speaking peoples. (66) From the perspective of the Rotinonshón:ni, access to guns and metal became a priority, driving their trade with the Dutch, who were willing to trade these for beaver pelts. It became necessary to secure a stable supply of pelts, and to deprive their enemies of the same.
In 1634, a plague of smallpox hit the Rotinonshón:ni, halving their population (67) and forcing relocations for the entire five nations as they fled diseased villages. While already engaged in wars with multiple indigenous nations and the French, and with changes to their economy and material technology, it must have seemed an apocalyptic scenario. The Wendat and other nations were similarly affected by epidemic diseases. There were unprecedented calamites for Rotinonshón:ni and Wendat societies, and the cultural tradition of mourning war called for replacement of all the dead through warfare.
Natoway combines a number of oral traditions, historical, and archeological research with his narrative of "The Great Epic." In it, he relates that differences in wealth developed among the Wendat, based on the Jesuit policy of only trading with those Wendat who converted to Christanity. Jesuits and Christanity were also blamed for the disease within the community, and some traditional Wendat voluntarily joined with the Kanien'kehá:ka and Shotinontowane'á:ka to attack Wendat converts to Christianity, even going so far as to lead them in battle. (68) Graeber notes the changes in economic structure of the Wendat, but not the Rotinonshón:ni: "Delage argues that among the Huron, new regimes of property and the possibility of personal accumulation, really emerged only among converts to Christianity; among the Five Nations, they do not seem to have emerged at all." (69)
Snow has claimed that during the final Rotinonshón:ni campaign against the Wendat in 1648, more than a thousand Wendat fled their villages, and seven hundred were taken prisoner or killed. In the following fall, the Kanien'kehá:ka-Shotinontowane'á:ka army numbered over a thousand men, including adopted Wendat who had been "fully integrated" into Rotinonshón:ni society. By 1651, another group of five hundred Wendat were brought into the Shotinontowane'á:ka nation, but were given autonomous control of their village. (70)
The Beaver Wars continued. The Erielhonan, with Kakwa:ko and Wendat refugees among them, were dispersed westward or absorbed into the Shotinontowane'á:ka, Ononta'kehá:ka, and other Rotinonshón:ni nations. (71) By 1657, the Rotinonshón:ni had defeated their Iroquois-speaking enemies to the north and west. Kanien'kehá:ka and Shotinontowane'á:ka went to Quebec to convince Wendat refugees to return with them. According to Snow: “A village of perhaps 570 Hurons was built near the three Mohawk villages that existed there at the time… [A] decade later Jesuit missionaries would note that two-thirds of the Mohawk village of Caughnawaga was made up of Huron and Algonquian captives and adoptees.” (72) Tionontati and Wenrohronon were also attacked, dispersed, and absorbed by the Rotinonshón:ni.
The post-dispersal history of the five nations of the Wendat, as described by John Steckley, holds that the Ataronchronnon (Bog) disappeared, the Atahontaenrat (Deer) joined the Shotinontowane'á:ka in an independent community, Arendaeronnon (Rock) joined the Ononta'kehá:ka, and the Atinniawenten (Bear) joined the Kanien'kehá:ka. The Atingeennonniahak (Cord) remained as the sole Wendat nation. (73)
In his military history of the Rotinonshón:ni, Daniel P. Barr compares accounts of the conflict and determines that:
The descendents of captured Wendat adoptees were fully integrated into Rotinonshón:ni society and treated as equals. One notable example is Joseph Brant, Thaientané:ken, who was descended from Wendat captives adopted by the Kanien'kehá:ka both on his father and mother’s side. (75) Thaientané:ken went on to become a ohnkanetoten, and led war parties against the United States during the Revolutionary War. His efforts helped establish the community at Ohswé:ken, the Six Nations reserve along the Grand River. The town of Brantford is named for him, as is the Tyendinaga Mohawk Community at the Bay of Quinte. It should be noted again that various versions of the Kaianere'kó:wa hold that Tekanawí:ta originated from the Wendat nation, that the iakoiá:ner Tsikónhsase came from the Kakwa:ko nation, and even that Aiewáhtha was from the Ononta'kehaka nation, was adopted by the Kanien'kehá:ka, and became a roiá:ner there. From the perspective of many Iroquois speakers, they were the same people; membership among the warring nations could be quite fluid.
Warfare with the Susquehannock continued. Over time, more of them were adopted into the Rotinonshón:ni, often into the Oneniote'á:ka nation. The last Susquehannocks were not adopted, but were massacred by English settlers from Maryland. “By spring of 1669, a permanent village of Indian Christians had grown up around Raffeix’s Saint Francois Xavier des Pres mission. The first settlers were a diverse group of 'free Iroquois' and Erie, Huron and Susquehannock adoptees of the Oneidas.” (76) They were later joined by many Kanien'kehá:ka, and eventually this community moved to Kahnawà:ke.
The Wendat-Kanien'kehá:ka Peace Belt (77)
While there may have been economical and cultural motivations for Rotinonshón:ni participation and prosecution of the Beaver Wars, the result was far from genocide of their opponents--rather, it was the political unification of most northern Iroquois-speaking peoples under the Kaianere'kó:wa. It bears emphasizing that, according to Wallace, "[a]doption was so frequent during the bloody centuries of the beaver wars and the colonial wars that some Iroquois villages were preponderantly composed of formally adopted war captives." (79) Adoption was as much a form of political unification of other Iroquois-speaking peoples, who already shared cultural traits, as it was cultural assimilation. Autonomous villages were common. The Beaver Wars might best be seen as bloody civil war among Iroquois-speaking people in the context of a larger series of devastating tragedies, not a genocidal conflict based on resource acquisition. Increasingly, the Beaver Wars are being referred to as the Iroquois Wars--which seems far more appropriate since the majority of the participants were Iroquois-speakers. Further context is provided by considering that the Beaver Wars were contemporary with the Thirty Years' War on the European continent, and with the English Civil War. All three were fought with similar weapons. In his "Great Epic," Natoway depicts the Beaver Wars as a usurpation of authority by the ohnkanetoten and war captains, leading the longhouse of the Rotinonshón:ni to fracture, and finally to crumble during the American Revolution. (80)
On August 27, 1999, the four surviving nations of Wendat came together in a "tree of brotherhood" under the unity proposed by the Peacemaker of "peace, power, and righteousness" with leaders who have skins "seven span thick". It seems that the message of the Kaianere'kó:wa was finally received by all of the Wendat.
Some have been tempted to submit a particular translation and transcription of the Kaianere'kó:wa to a political-science constitutional analysis. Depending on the version of the Kaianere'kó:wa, an analyst might come to the conclusions that Donald S. Lutz has: that the Rotinonshón:ni was not a participatory democratic confederacy of equal nations, but rather a hereditary oligarchy in which the Kanien'kehá:ka enjoyed a privileged position in making proposals to the council. (81) Lutz only consults the versions of the Kaianere'kó:wa published by Gawasco Waneh (Arthur Parker). In fact, his analysis focuses only on a single version written by Dayodekane (Seth Newhouse), and ignores a different version approved by the roiá:ner at Ohswé:ken, which was included in Gawasco Waneh’s volume. According to Snow, “The Newhouse version tells us as much, if not more about political conditions on the Grand River at the end of the nineteenth century than it does about the origins of the League” (82). The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee believe that no one version is preferred and that "many traditional leaders feel that none of the written versions have all of the known oral history included." (83)
Atsenhaienton (Kenneth Deer) objects to the Kaianere'kó:wa even being called "the Great Law" and those that would treat it as such: "it's not a law: it's guidelines to help people get to harmony and coexistence... They look at the Great Law and interpret it the way a constitutional lawyer would. That's not the way it was intended to be treated." (84) Even if the Kaianere'kó:wa should not be given a strict legalist reading, among its principles is a metaphor for amendment: "adding to the rafters" of the long house. This includes meetings among the traditional Rotinonshón:ni involving not only the roiá:ner but all the people, as a check on their power. (85)
The influence of Lewis Henry Morgan's study of the Rotinonshón:ni on Marx and Engels' concept of a stateless communist society is well known. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Engels summarized Morgan's description of the Rotinonshón:ni society:
While Engels is right to commend the communal economy, sexual equality, and horizontal political structure of the Rotinonshón:ni, he erred in claiming that there were no ranks of social prestige with political responsibilities. The anthropological definition of “egalitarian” is narrow. There are some "rank societies in which positions of valued status are somehow limited so that not all those of sufficient talent to occupy such statuses actually achieve them. Such a society may or may not be stratified. That is, a society may sharply limit its positions of prestige without affecting the access of its entire membership to the basic resources upon which life depends" (87) While the numbers of roiá:ner and iakoiá:ner were limited by the Kaianere'kó:wa to certain kahwá:tsire, positions of ohnkanetoten were open to all men on the basis of merit and selection by the roiá:ner council. As has already been explained, Rotinonshón:ni society had a communal work and consumption ethic (the communal economy of the "one bowl"), so although ranks of prestige did exist, they did not serve in a position of accumulating or redistributing wealth.
Graeber, who as an anarchist is quite suspicious of all hierarchy, says of the traditional Rotinonshón:ni, "for all the complex federative structure, society was in most respects highly egalitarian. Office-holders, male and female, were elected from among a pool of possible heirs; the offices themselves, at least the male political ones, were considered as much a responsibility as a reward as they involved no real material rewards and certainly granted the holder no coercive power." (88)
While it is often argued that the roiá:ner were traditionally selected from certain matrilineal lines, and that not all kahwá:tsire were able to select candidates, this varied over time and location. Teiowí:sonte describes modern debates around heredity: "To some, heredity is the very essence of Haudenosaunee governance and an integral factor in leadership selection... To others, this concept represents the infiltration of European corruption into Haundenosaunee leadership selection and the fortification of a class system invading our traditional concept of democracy with notions of royalty. Likewise, advocates against the heredity concept believe it to be a non-traditional convention that is a fairly recent development resulting from colonization." (89) Snow claims that “Each nation devised its own internal mechanism for selecting and organizing its League Chiefs”(90); and that ohnkanetoten were created to specifically deal with the issue of empowering men who did not come from the distinct matrilineal lines eligible for becoming roiá:ner. (91) He argues further that at times, the ranks may have represented a political class distinct from the common Rotinonshón:ni, and a class of slaves made up of captives who had not been adopted (92)--a situation which would have been most pronounced during the Beaver Wars.
Graeber notes this as well. "It was around this period one reads accounts of a society effectively divided into classes, with adopted prisoners doing the bulk of the menial labor and with members of their adopted families having the right to kill them for the slightest infranctions or impertinence... [T]his exceptionally brutal period did not last long: the children of these captives were considered full members of their adoptive clans." (93) As we have seen from the life of Thaientané:ken, the descendents of adoptees had the same political rights of common Rotinonshón:ni and could be selected as ohnkanetoten. It is seemingly without contradiction that Snow also describes how little authority came with rank: "Although men appointed by each ohwachira probably met as a village council, they had little authority beyond the force of their personalities. This in turn meant that face-to-face persuasion was the rule.” (94) Kanatiiosh emphasizes that "being a chief or a clan mother is just as important as being a person without a title, for all people are held responsible for preserving and protecting the Great Law of Peace." (95)
Circle Wampum (96)
Those familiar with the institution of consensus-based spokecouncils, used recently in the protests against corporate neoliberalism ("anti-globalization"), will notice many similarities with Kahentinetha Horn's description of consensual decision-making among the Kanien'kehá:ka:
The Kaianere'kó:wa lacks the monopoly of force and the authority of coercive control that define statist polities. It is a mutual agreement of non-aggression among its participants, aimed primarily on maintaining peaceful relations among them, rather than a guiding document for the rule of elites over the rest of society. Richter has stated that "the coercive exercise of authority was virtually unknown" among the Rotinonshón:ni,(103) and that their "political values were essentially noncompetitive." (104) Graeber believes that “the entire political apparatus was seen by its creators primarily as a way of resolving murderous disputes. The League was less a government, or even alliance, than a series of treaties establishing amity and providing the institutional means for preventing feuds and maintaining harmony among the five nations that made it up. For all their reputation as predatory warriors, the Iroquois themselves saw the essence of political action to lie in making peace.” (105)
Justice among the traditional Rotinonshón:ni was the responsibility of everyone, particularly one's matrilineal kin. The focus was on condoling kahwá:tsire for their loss and on regulating social behavior through popular opinion, rather than through justice administered by a specialized class. While some see the offering of wampum to the family of a murder victim to as a reparational payment, comparable to the Northern European weregild, Morgan claimed that "the present of white wampum was not in the nature of a compensation of the life of the deceased, but of a regretful confession of the crime, with a petition for forgiveness. It was a peace-offering, the acceptance of which was pressed by mutual friends, and under such influences that the reconciliation was usually effect, except, perhaps, in aggravated cases of premeditated murder." (106)
Wallace's interpretation echoes Engel's analysis of Rotinonshón:ni justice: “Behavior was governed not by published laws enforced by police, courts, and jails, but by oral tradition supported by a sense of duty, a fear of gossip, and a dread of retaliatory witchcraft. Theft, vandalism, armed robbery, were almost unknown. Public opinion, gently exercised, was sufficient to deter most persons from property crimes, for public opinion went straight to the heart of the matter: the weakness of the criminal.” (107) And Kanatiiosh argues that European settler "hierarchy breeds competition, and competition breeds anger, resentment, hatred, and can lead to revenge, which only continues the vicious cycle of violence. Western society is dependent on imprisonment, fines and other punishments, which are supposed to keep social order." She contrasts that system of coercive punishment with the legal principles of the Kaianere'kó:wa, which created a "shared community where people have mutual respect for the entire group rather then interested only in one's self. Perhaps a little spirituality, shame, guilt, and respect of self and community would be the best elements to include in a recipe for a true system of justice." (108)
Richter repeatedly describes the traditional polity of the Rotinonshón:ni as a "nonstate society" (109) and "a system dependent upon voluntary compliance". (110) His insistence on the difference between the Rotinonshón:ni and the colonial states it was contemporary with is worth emphasizing:
While the exact definition of a "state" is elusive, none can deny that states wield a legal monopoly of violence, and that the state therefore takes a coercive role in regards to its citizens. In respect to the degree of a given polity's coercive control over its constituent members, we can imagine a spectrum with the totalitarian state on one end and a stateless society, an anarchy, on the other. Societies that are more ranked and stratified are more statist. Along this spectrum, the Rotinonshón:ni polity falls toward the pole of statelessness, having extremely limited ranking, and lacking in both coercive authority and economic stratification.
The anarchist historian George Woodcock believed that the Rotinonshón:ni's polity amounted to a stateless confederation: "a common council of sachems, in whose selection the women, whose influence derived from their control of agriculture, played a great role; but this council did not interfere in the internal affairs of the tribes, so that it remained the coordinating body of a true confederation rather than the government of the state." (112) Colonial historian Francis Jennings recognizes that it was "a league of friendship and mutual assistance, but ... a league of consultation and contract rather than a government of legislative command". (113) Member nations "never gave up their power of individual decision. Often they struggled for dominance within the league, and sometimes (though rarely) they came to blows with each other. These phenomena were also to be observed among colonial towns and villages, but whereas the Iroquois tribes maintained local independence throughout their existence, the colonies gradually came under more and more effective central controls." (114) All Rotinonshón:ni nations are equal, regardless of their number of clans, size of territory or numbers of population. (115) Bookchin, who so often suggested New England town-meeting democracy as a basic building block of libertarian municipalist confederation, would have done well to have taken the advice of Mitchel Cohen, and examine the Rotinonshón:ni polity as an example of the very sort of ideal of that he was advocating:
Thu 23 May, 07:01
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