Updated: Jun 8
881 YEARS OF NATIVE AMERICAN
An Overview By: Lisa McQuail and Martha Davis (Lene Lenape Delaware Munsee Tribe)
Authors’ Notes: This is the first of a series in the IRONING IT OUT NEWSLETTER on Native American Mediation (Peacemaking) techniques by Lisa McQuail and Martha Davis. The overall series will demonstrate that traditional Native American peacemaking techniques have proven to be valuable in Native Americans negotiating treaty terms (such as preserving traditional hunting and fishing rights, water rights, sacred sites, and land tenure), navigating intra-tribal, inter-tribal, US-and state-and local-based non-tribal court-adjacent mediation, non-tribal community-based communication and healing such as racial reconciliation, and many other more prosaic community building activities.
This first article reveals that some American vital democratic principles, including the US Constitution framework, courts and mediation outside of or parallel to court action, may have at least a partial origin in Native American culture, and proposing that the principles of Native American mediation, or “peacemaking” might be incorporated back into tribes that are “re-acculturating” their historic ways, as well as into non-Tribal US local, state and federal mediation programs.
Future articles will move on to continued Native American attempts at traditional peacemaking and negotiation during two centuries of warfare and US Treaty creation through the 18th and 19th centuries, US government ordered removals, (peaceful leaving), resettlement, forced re-education (“Indian Schools”) and the perpetual struggle between Native Americans and the US and State governments (and corporations) over land rights and mineral rights and right-of-way. We will focus more deeply on the importance of Native American ritual and symbolic objects that represent and embody the peacemaking process, particularly the importance of Wampum Belts to Algonquin culture. We hope to interview an important leader of the Standing Rock pipeline demonstrations so that we can examine the traditional Sioux culture’s approach to that recent emergency where the tribe felt that running the pipeline under a Missouri River reservoir called Lake Oahe would jeopardize the main water source for the reservation, and disturb sacred sites in violation of tribal treaty rights. We also would like to revisit the March 2023 papal refutation of the Doctrine of Discovery later in 2023 to examine what, if any, peacemaking and mediation US and Canadian Tribes have accomplished surrounding the issues of tribal land tenure and tribal sovereignty by the end of 2023.
Indigenous Democracy in North America
The Iroquois (Haudenosaunee, meaning “peoples of the longhouse”) operate the oldest continual democracy on earth, known as the “Iroquois Confederacy”, which was founded by Deganawidah, the “Great Peacemaker”, in 1142. The six tribes of the confederacy are the original five: Mohawk (Kanienkehaka, or "people of the ﬂint country”), the Onondaga (“people of the hills,”) the Cayuga (“where they land the boats”), the Oneida (“people of the standing stone”), and the Seneca (“the people of the big hill”), and the sixth tribe, the Tuscarora nation (“people of the shirt”), which joined the Confederacy in 1722. The five original tribes were constantly engaged in warfare to the detriment of each tribe. Deganawidah and Hiawatha, chief of the Onondaga, traveled to each of the five original tribes to try to work out a peaceful resolution.
Haudenosaunee Democracy and the US Constitution
The Haudenosaunee resolution was based on peace and consensus among the leaders of all of the tribes, and the Iroquois structure of governance is exactly reflected in the US Constitution:
• Restricts members from holding more than one oﬃce in the Confederacy.
• Outlines processes to remove leaders within the Confederacy.
• Designates two branches of legislature with procedures for passing laws.
• Delineates who has the power to declare war.
• Creates a balance of power between the Iroquois Confederacy and individual tribes.
On October 4th, 1988, the US Senate passed House Congressional Resolution #331, which acknowledges the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations to the development of the United States Constitution, reaffirms the continuing government-to-government relationship between Indian tribes, reaffirms the trust responsibility and obligation of the Government to Indian tribes, including Alaska Natives, and acknowledges the need to exercise good faith in upholding treaties with the various tribes.
How did the Iroquois influence the US Constitution and the structure of the US government? In 1744, the Onondaga leader Canassatego gave a speech urging the 13 colonies to unite, as the Iroquois had at the signing of the Treaty of Lancaster. Benjamin Franklin participated in the 1754 Native American/colonial Albany Plan of Union, which inspired Franklin to print Canassatego’s speech. In the speech, Canassatego suggested that the 13 American colonies unite as the 5 Haudeneshone tribes had done, saying that many arrows bundled together cannot be broken. This image inspired the bundle of 13 arrows held by an eagle in the Great Seal of the United States.
The Doctrine of Discovery and Indigenous Land Rights
It is our view that we are currently at another crucial point in the history between Native Americans and the US and Canadian governments: On March 30th, 2023, from his hospital bed, Pope Francis and the Vatican formally repudiated the 1493 “Doctrine of Discovery”, a Papal Bull that instructed the world’s nations on dividing up and taking possession of newly discovered indigenous lands. Pope Francis was responding to demands from Indigenous groups worldwide including Native Americans, especially in Canada. In his message of peace and reconciliation, Pope Francis stated: “Never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.”
In the US and Canada, a further step must be taken by the West to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery: In 1609 King James I of England in his role as the Defender of the Anglican Faith rewrote the Doctrine of Discovery (Anglican version) to launch the royally sponsored “Virginia Company”:
“James, by the grace of God, King of England Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith &c. Whereas our loving and well-disposed subjects… and divers others of our loving subjects, have been humble suitors unto us, that we would vouchsafe unto them our license, to make habitation, plantation, and to deduce a colony of sundry of our people into that part of America, commonly called Virginia, and other parts and territories in America, either appertaining unto us, or which are not now actually possessed by any christian [sic] prince or people, situate, lying and being all along the seacoasts between four and thirty degrees of Northerly latitude from the Equinoctial line, and five and forty degrees of the same latitude”.
Through these two decrees, nearly all of the land occupied by Native Americans was “Patented”, or assigned, to European settlers, with the exception of discrete “Reservations” where Native American Tribes were to be “Sovereign” within certain limits. For instance, the early colonial treaties (1612-1677) in the colony of Virginia required such traditional Native American tribute of “three arrows” and “twenty beaver pelts” as a “quit rent”, or “tax” to the Governor of Virginia. In Virginia, the pattern with Native American land rights was set: pushing Native Americans further and further away from settlers, creating “reservations” to corral Indian Nations, and yet allowing attrition of these Indian reservation lands through continual patent and sale.
If King Charles III and the Archbishop of Canterbury follow suit and repudiate the Anglican version of the Doctrine of Discovery, then perhaps the US Government can take on more than just a good example of democratic structure and be open to a Native-American style mediation leading to a new, more equitable system of Treaty-granted Native American land tenure.
Mediation on a Tribal Local, State and National Judicial and Agency Level: Virginia
Currently, in Virginia, the former colony where the Doctrine of Discovery (Anglican Version) was first played out, there are 11 state recognized tribes: Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond, Monacan, Nottaway, Cheroenhaka Nottoway, and Patawomack. As of January 29, 2018, Virginia had seven federally recognized tribes: the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan. The latter six were recognized through passage of federal legislation in the 21st century. There are several other tribes that are seeking to organize and obtain State and/or Federal recognition.
There are currently election disputes in two Virginia tribes which are being simultaneously examined, avoided, adjudicated, literally fought out and litigated within each tribe, each county government (when the Sheriffs are summoned), each state, and in Federal Court and the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs.
It is possible that if traditional Native American mediation techniques could be successfully incorporated into these many parallel tribal actions, especially simply to facilitate actions, events and projects where tribes members could be able to participate in “the tribe being the tribe”, such as Pow Wows, tribal meetings, traditional culture classes, traditional ceremonies, etc., peace could be fostered. Tribes can request that Native American mediation techniques be incorporated into local, state, and Federal administrative and court processes. It’s very important that in the adoption of Native American peacemaking that guidance be given by a tribe with an unbroken Native American democratic tradition, such as the Haudenosaunee in New York, the Navajo in the American Southwest, the Nez Perce in Idaho, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho in Wyoming, the White Mountain Apache in Arizona, the Cheyenne-Arapaho and Kiowa Nations in Oklahoma, the Skokomish, Swinomish, and Sauk-Suiattle Nations of Washington, the Tlingit Indians of the Yukon region of southeastern Alaska (particularly the Organized Village of Kake), the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in Michigan, and the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.
What is Native American Peacemaking (Mediation)?
Native American peacemaking was observed by Westerners early on in nearly every geographical part and in every major linguistic group in North America, including the Powhatan Confederation in Virginia, the Haudenosaunee (Iriquois) Confederation in New York, the tribes of the NW Coast, Alaska Natives, Plains tribes, Pueblo culture, etc. Native American peacemaking is similar to mediation, however, mediation is meant to solve legal issues between two individuals or entities, whereas Native American peacemaking is meant to mend or heal relationships, and “reset” a tribe or group of tribes after a major conflict, sometimes involving multiple individuals or entities, including many families, clans and tribes.
Each session begins and ends with a Native American prayer. Traditionally, this would not usually have been a verbal performance or group recitation of a prayer. Even today, most likely a leader will silently pray and burn incense including any single herb or mixture of sage, sweet grass, cedar, sage and tobacco, in a quahog (clam) shell, abalone shell, or in a wooden vessel, as an offering. Tobacco might be communally smoked in a ceremonial ceramic or stone pipe that is passed among the disputants and the facilitators (Tribal elders and/or council). Participants most often sit in a circle, and in a traditional peacemaking circle a “talking stick” or “talking feather” is passed from participant to participant, and the person who holds the stick for a set amount of time and can by rights speak without interruption.
Native American peacemaking has two goals: to solve the immediate relationship difficulty, and, through the introduction of peacemaking, to help reset the tribe to help the tribe evolve from a culture of conflict to a culture of peace and reconciliation.
Native American Material Symbols of Peace
Physical symbols of a successful peacemaking are important to perpetuating Native American peace and include incense itself, which, when used daily in individual and family prayer can evoke the memory of both prayer and peacemaking, the peace pipe, and small and simple or elaborate wampum (a highly valued purple and white Quahog [clam] shell article, or, in Virginia, “roanoke”, or black and white shell), such as a wampum jewelry item or a more elaborate wampum belt created over weeks or months to commemorate an important treaty or agreement (see below). These items are treasured and are important symbols of the power of peacemaking and mediation.
Adopting Native American Techniques in a Non-Native Mediation Setting
Just as the US House and Senate acknowledged Native American influence on the US Constitution, it is important that non-native groups be careful incorporating Native American techniques in a non-native community or court setting, and acknowledge the origin of any Native American peacemaking techniques they employ. There is a fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural honoring and adoption. For instance, non-natives should not wear Native regalia unless it is given to them. Non-Natives should not perform Native American prayers in a public setting unless they have been specially initiated into a tribe and trained to do so.
Native vs. Non-Native Adoption of Native American Democracy and Peacemaking Techniques
David D. Raasch, Associate Judge, Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Court, has said that ironically—and frustratingly—many non-Native communities are adopting tribal practices more rapidly than many Native communities. ‘We see a lot of what I consider some of our indigenous concepts being used more in non-Indian communities than we our using them ourselves, and that bothers me. I get requested in Green Bay to go to these Neighborhood Watch groups and establish community circles, and we are not doing it in our own reservation.”
Perhaps the building interest in Native American Peacemaking in Non-Native community groups and Non-Native court mediation settings will build acceptance among the tribes themselves, state and local lawmakers, courts, tribal lawyers, and Federal Agencies and will serve to build a set of resources for tribes to institute Native American Peacemaking for their own conflict resolution toolbox, as well as position tribes to be expert consultants to non-tribal mediation court systems and community groups, which could be an important consultancy business for Native American tribes.
The Iroquois and the Development of American Government; Donald A. Grinde, Jr.; Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 21, No. 2, The Scholarship of Cultural Contact: Decolonizing Native American History (Spring 1995), pp. 301-318.
Congressional Record, US Government Printing Office, 100th Congress, 2nd Session, 1988.
Peacemaking Today: Highlights of a Roundtable Discussion Among Tribal and State Practitioners,
Editor Notes: Martha Davis is full blooded Native American, Lisa McQuail serves many tribes in a consulting capacity. This article, number one in a series, is first published worldwide in this Newsletter. It is Copyright 2023 Martha Davis and used with permission.
The article expresses the authors’ views and not necessarily those of the publisher (Lalo Publishing) or those of Conflict Management Consortium LLC (CMC). For example, in CMC mediation (private or court referred) a major step in the process facilitation and CMC training is maintaining relationship.
News From LALO Publishing
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