The Great Law Of Peace | The Old New World


what was the first democracy in North
America I imagine your first instinct is to think the United States their
Republic was founded in the 18th century and very often the way that Americans
teach history they think that they were the first democracy or at least the
first one since Greece so I imagine the more astute step back viewers will know
that if I started with such a simple question that there’s probably something
going on and there is fewer there is you might have heard of the Haudenosaunee
Confederacy it’s the name the people of the Confederacy prefer for themselves
Haudenosaunee means people of the longhouse you might know them as the Six
Nations or the Iroquois our story today is about the legend of the founding of
this League of peace and the resilience and future of the nations within this
great Confederation according to the oral tradition of the Haudenosaunee we
begin with an Onondaga man named hiawatha his story is very much a legend
passed down by many generations of oral storytellers he was likely a historical
figure but with lots of edits and flourishes over the centuries he lived
during a time in history known as the time of the blood feuds it was a violent
period before the unification of the Seneca Cayuga Onondaga Oneida and Mohawk
violence from one nation to another sparked retaliation which would repeat
in an endless cycle of bloodshed Hiawatha’s story begins with tragedy as
an Onondaga warrior he lost his wife and daughters to the endless conflict
scarring the land the loss sent him into a deep depression and he wandered the
land mourning in his travels he met Deganawida
the peacemaker the Haudenosaunee portrayed Deganawida
as a wise wanderer from the far north he came to this land with a mission to end
the blood feuds and bring peace the two men met somewhere in the Mohawk nation’s
territory a nomad who wanted to bring peace to a war-torn land and a grieving
husband and father in self-exile they both wanted to see an end to the war and
violence plaguing the people of a long time
but Hiawatha was in a deep depression the loss clouding his thinking and he
could barely keep himself together if he were to move forward to save those
people from the endless cycle of war he’d need to process his grief Deganawida taught him an important ritual still held in sacred practice today by
the Haudenosaunee it’s a ceremony of prayer and song used to say way to
process grief for the dead this was meant to replace a practice known as
mourning wars these were Wars not for resources or territory but for revenge a
part of their spiritual healing process the battles included capturing captives
to become spiritual successors of those they’d lost the ceremony was one of the
first concrete steps towards peace a way to put an end to violence met with
retaliatory violence and endless blood feuds and mourning wars that just
rampaged every society and left everyone full of grief and hatred this was a way
to heal the wounds between these groups and for the first time in a long time
make peace the ritual requires a practitioner of a calm mind one
unaffected by grief they would clear the eyes of the mourner from the tears to
clear their vision they’d open their ears to help them hear clearly and their
throat so that they may speak the cloud of pain and suffering would lift and
reason would return if the Haudenosaunee nations were entire tribes in mourning
clouded by the grief of endless cycles of violence than the role of Deganawida would be as a clear-headed outsider who came to this land to perform this
condolence ritual for an entire country Deganawida had healed hiawatha and soon
hiawatha became his follower they traveled along the five original nations
of the confederacy to spread knowledge of the condolence ceremonies they
immortalized the condolence ritual with an intricate pattern of beads on strings
known as wampum to this day the Haudenosaunee use wampum to remember
their history and laws they trace the origin of this
practice to this moment with Hiawatha the pair’s first stop was the Mohawk
nation from there they moved west spreading the knowledge of the
condolence ritual the Mohawks accepted it as well as the Oneida Nation their
third stop was Hiawatha’s home nation the Onondaga there they met with a war
chieftain named a Tatar ho the legends say he had snakes for hair and wielded
dark magic if you don’t choose look at him literally though you could see at
haut our hoe as sort of a counterpoint to Hiawatha both of them representing
the two things that were creating the great pain and sickness of the
Haudenosaunee people before the confederation Atotarho represents the
resistance and the legacy of all of the anger and hatred that had been pent up
through years of war so Atotarho was also a chief who owed his position of power to
war he was a war chieftain and so many before the founding of the Confederacy
held their positions of power based on being part of the warrior caste to stop
the endless cycle of war meant to give up some of their prestige in their
position so while Atotarho represented the anger and the vitriol and the
violence hiawatha represented the pain and the loss both would need to be
overcome in order to build this Confederacy of peace and so when the
pair went to see Atotarho he rejected their proposal they did not let this
rejection defeat their mission soon Hiawatha and Deganawida met with the
Cayuga and Seneca who agreed to join they returned to Atotarho with the
Four Nations backing them he still refused their offer
unable to see past his own rage and hurt the other foreign nations proposed
attacking the Onondaga to force them into the Confederacy but hiawatha did
not want a black mark on the birth of an era of peace he offered Atotarho a
sacred position that of the great chief or chief such ‘m the Onondaga Nation
would also become the home of the Grand Council it would be the meeting spot for
all of the nations to discuss Confederacy
and you know what he agreed the message of peace had gone through from this
moment the Haudenosaunee Confederacy was born after Atotarho experienced his
own condolence ceremony he and Hiawatha were his brothers the early Haudenosaunee
Confederacy was a massive power in the region their ability to cultivate the
three sisters of corn squash and beans led to a vast population hold on I think
I’m getting a collaboration thing one sec hi I’m cogito you can tell it’s
someone from another channel because the art is a better I’ve made a video in
collaboration with step back on the amazing agricultural technology that the
Native Americans possessed if that sounds like something that you’re
interested in then head over to my video once you finish watching this one with
this superior population they were able to expand in two regions less populated
that is until they got farming as well and even the odds I will mention though
these archaeological theories clash with the Haudenosaunee themselves who dispute
this things seem to be going well until the 15th or 16th century the
Haudenosaunee began to face their greatest threat a force which threatens
their existence to this day they met Europeans historians dispute whether
their first interactions with Europeans was in 1535 meeting Jacques Cartier or in
1608 meeting Samuel de Champlain regardless they soon became well known
to the French the French would forgo calling them the Haudenosaunee or the
name of the nation they belonged to opting for the name Iroquois contact was
a disaster the European diseases brought mass deaths to the Haudenosaunee
people as well as every indigenous nation on the hemisphere estimates range
from 80 to more than 90% of the population of North and South America
this mass dying represented about a fifth of the human population in a
never-ending drive to secure more hunting territory for beaver pelts the
Haudenosaunee launched a conflict against the French and their Huron
allies known as the beaver wars they purchased guns from their Dutch allies
in modern-day Albany to fight back scholars now believe this conflict was a
new emergence of the mourning wars they looked for people to bolster their
population captives would become symbolic reincarnation
of the many many lost though they managed to dodge and even expand their
territory by the early 18th century the Haudenosaunee were a major power in
north america they could play the rival empires of the British and French
against each other to their benefit displace from their homes in North
Carolina the Tuscarora asked to join the great Confederacy and they became the
sixth nation today you might hear the Haudenosaunee referred to as the Six
Nations other nations became subjects of the Confederacy and something called
overlordship the Confederacy assimilated them as part of the Covenant chain they
were essentially made tributaries during the Seven Years War the Haudenosaunee
allied with the British against the French
after the British victory they signed a tree ensuring them land to live upon
which settlers could not expand into just want to mention though that many
citizens of the thirteen colonies both ignored this treaty and complained about
it frustration over this qurban expansion as well as many other issues
from the Seven Years War prompted the thirteen colonies to rise against the
British in the American Revolution the Haudenosaunee initially tried to
keep neutral in the conflict as the war dragged on though loyalties to the
British or Americans split the Confederacy they weren’t able to
recreate their great bonfire until after the war in Buffalo but now the nation
straddled two separate countries the Americans demanded through a series of
treaties a majority of Haudenosaunee territory the governor of New York tried
to convince them to sell their land to white settlers even exploiting an
alcohol dependence epidemic to strong-arm them into giving up their
ancestral territory by the 1950s the US was still confiscating land from the
Confederacy after World War two the US began something they called Indian
termination they went through the act of trying to dismantle indigenous
governments in favor of forced assimilation into American culture they
attempted to officially terminate relations on a nation to nation level
nowadays in America the legal status of indigenous people is a messy oppressive
patchwork of laws depending upon who could lobby for their existence to this
day the Haudenosaunee government still exists it still strives to keep a secure
future for its people while resisting colonization this is the
part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy I really want to impress they’re still
alive we tend to conceive of the stories of indigenous people as being past tense
on this long era of decline on this inevitable path towards oblivion but
they are alive they are current they have not just a present but a future and
it’s a future that we can all do something to make better I want to give
a huge shout out to my patrons who without which there would be no step
back at this point I would not be able to afford to do it by the way I’m very
close to making step back my full-time job which will mean more and better
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out Cogito’s video down in the description and come back soon for more
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