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Indigenous Americans - How They Established Democratic Governments Long Before The Current United States


Artifacts from a democratic body existed about the year 500 CE, long before the United States Congress was established in 1789. The discovery of democratic institutions in the Americas has been pushed back in time by archeological evidence for many centuries.

The results prove that Indigenous American organizations dedicated to facilitating widespread input into political decision-making existed long before European contact.

Before European explorers and colonists arrived, the First Americans had already been residing in North America for at least 50,000 years.

These native communities adapted their way of life and cultural practices to the specifics of their environments. You may get a quick summary of the first Americans in Digital History.

Indigenous American’s Influence On American Democracy

COPYRIGHT_SZ: Published on https://stationzilla.com/indigenous-americans/ by Dr. Cooney Blades on 2022-09-12T10:49:03.617Z

America's first peoples were practicing a kind of democracy that Ben Franklin and other Founding Fathers would eventually learn from more than 600 years before the United States existed.

An enormous portion of the United States's infrastructure. The indigenous system of government that existed in the 12th century was the inspiration for our modern constitution.

Greeks, Romans, and Enlightenment thinkers are often credited for shaping the United States, but Native American contributions are often overlooked. Canassatego pushed the 13 colonies to work together, claiming they would be stronger against an onslaught of arrows if they stood as one.

Native Americans born in the United States were granted full citizenship in the Snyder Act of 1924. Despite Native Americans' contributions to American democracy, they were among the last citizens to get the franchise.

Ben Franklin advocated for the founders to adopt Iroquois values and practices. Numerous founders have direct experience with Native American democracies.

As we approach the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving in the United States next week, this month should be Native American Heritage Month.

Developments In The Democratic System

Rule by the people, generally via elected representatives, has long been considered by scholars to have extended from ancient Greece to the rest of Europe around 2,500 years ago. From that point of view, there was no democratic government in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans.

Archaeologist Jacob Holland-Lulewicz of Penn State, writer of the Cold Springs paper, argues that reasoning is as flawed as Columbus's belief that he had landed in East India, not the Caribbean, in 1492.

Holland-Lulewicz argues that many Indigenous civilizations, including several that were not fully acknowledged until after the doomed first journey of the Italian explorer, had institutions that allowed representatives of huge groups to rule cooperatively, without monarchs or governing chiefs.

As it turns out, many cultures have had systems in place for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years, to prevent the accumulation of excessive wealth and power by a select few individuals.

The Dawn of Everything, written by the late David Graeber, an anthropologist, and David Wengrow, an archaeologist from University College London, details evidence for such a scenario.

Claims that ancient forms of democratic governance existed have only recently been taken seriously by archaeologists, and only in the past 20 years.

As Spivey-Faulkner puts it, "most of us in the Indian nation take for granted" the political realities of the past will be revealed by scientific research enlightened by Indigenous collaborators.

Indigenous American Leaders

North America lacked monarchies, centralized governments, and a large bureaucracy. In pivotal institutions, people from all walks of life, from homes to communities to clans to religious groupings, could meet on equal footing.

Clans, which spread their influence across society, mediated the discussions between different groups that made up the government. Native American settlements discovered in eastern North America date back to at least the third millennium CE.

In the Wendat and Haudenosaunee confederacies, clan membership determined who got to sit on the councils.

In the eyes of the law, a clansman had no business meddling in the business of another clan. Men and women of a clan did not attend the same council sessions. According to some scholars, a Wendat philosopher may have impacted Enlightenment ideals about democracy.

Good Governance And Equality In The Ani-Aztec Era

It turns out that Tlaxcallan, an ancient Mexican metropolis, was far denser than anybody had realized. An estimated 35,000 individuals called a region of around 4.5 square kilometers home in the early 1500s.

The findings of the excavations and the Spanish narratives point to a time when all people could participate in the government's running. Neighbors might vote for anybody who offered sound advice on community matters.

Political engagement in Tlaxcala was on a level with, if not higher than, in ancient Greek democracies.

Those selected for places on the council were subjected to a public ceremony in which they were stripped nude, pushed, assaulted, and ridiculed.

Those in positions of power who amassed excessive riches faced public censure, dismissal, or even assassination. As the history of this vigorous, egalitarian government shows, political orders come and die.

Native americans are standing in their cultural dresses
Native americans are standing in their cultural dresses

Role Of Indigenous Americans In Shaping U.S. Democracy

Politics among the Wendat and the Haudenosaunee were held together by the social glue of the clan system. Clans acted as mediators between different parts of society to make decisions about governing.

In other words, a clan's members had no business meddling in the affairs of other clans. Native American settlements discovered in eastern North America date back to at least the third millennium CE.

The political foundations of the United States of America may be found in the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776.

Tens of thousands of Native Americans, throughout the American Revolution, were governed under a system that shared many of the same beliefs as those held in Philadelphia.

During the 1740s and 1750s, as colonists sought to negotiate treaties with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Benjamin Franklin gained insight into Haudenosaunee politics. The Indigenous system emphasizes communal obligations, whereas the U.S. Constitution prioritizes individual liberties.

The Haudenosaunee, often known as the "people of the longhouse," established the Iroquois Confederacy by signing a contract known as the Great Law of Peace.

In 1744, Onondaga chief Canassatego gave a speech to the colonists in which he urged them to live the same way. Benjamin Franklin published that speech.

There is some proof that key revolutionaries in the American Revolution understood the fundamentals of their system. Many of the founding fathers used Canassatego's counsel to the Haudenosaunee people in their deliberations on the nature of American democracy.

The Great Seal of the United States has an eagle clutching a bundle of 13 arrows in its talons, and it is featured on the reverse of the dollar note. Native Americans "had a crucial part in the ideological birth of the United States," according to Bruce Johansen's argument. An anthropologist, however, is skeptical that Convention participants would have devised such a structure.

The Constitution's authors were influenced by Indian ideas and imagery of liberty even though they didn't actively want to imitate them. When American Indian democracies are considered, a complete picture of America's democratic past emerges.

People Also Ask

What Is Democracy In The United States Of America?

The Declaration of Independence in 1776 was a watershed moment in American political history, yet by that time, democracy was old hat in the so-called "New World."

There were already thousands of Native Americans living under a government during the American Revolution that shared many of the same objectives as those discussed in Philadelphia.

Was Indian Democracy Practiced In The United States?

Kickingbird, a member of the Kiowa Tribe, and his wife, Lynn, wrote the 1987 book Indians and the United States Constitution: A Forgotten Legacy, which argues that "the democracy they saw implemented was an Indian tribal government immediately over the border from the colonies in the Indian towns." Since 1969, Kickingbird has served as a federal Indian law practitioner.

Why Promote Indigenous Movements In Public Policy?

Facilitate a better general knowledge of indigenous movements and their political, social, economic, and cultural demands to raise public consciousness of their emergence as significant political players.

How Did Native Americans Influence American Democracy?

Native American contributions to American democracy, from the mythical Hiawatha to the Haudenosaunee people, are seldom acknowledged in scholarly accounts of the country's history.

The first Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month celebrate 400 years this year.


Holland-Lulewicz speculates that current democratic states, struggling with widening wealth gaps and widespread mistrust of authority, may benefit from exploring the spectrum of democratic institutions that cultures have built throughout the millennia.

A course on power sharing in indigenous civilizations might be a good place to start for today's stressed-out democracies' leaders and citizens.

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About The Authors

Dr. Cooney Blades

Dr. Cooney Blades

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