The following is the first of three parts .comprising a very
penetrating examination of western civilization as seen from
the perspective of "the most politically powerful and
independent non-Western political body surviving in North
America", the Hau de no sau nee, or traditional Six nations
council at Onondaga, also referred to as the Iroquois Confederacy.
This Basic Call to Consciousness is an expression of their
understanding that "For centuries we have known that
each individual's action creates conditions and situations
that affect the world." Their aim is to promote harmony
and peace in the world.
Excerpts of part I lay the groundwork:
The papers which follow are position papers which were presented
by the Hau de no sau nee to the Non-governmental Organizations
[NGOs] of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in September,
1977. The Non-governmental Organizations had called for papers
which describe the conditions of oppression suffered by Native
people under three subject headings, with supportive oral
statements to be given to the commissions. The Hau de no sau
nee, the traditional Six nations council at Onondaga, sent
forth three papers which constitute an abbreviated analysis
of Western history, and which call for a consciousness of
the Sacred Web of Life in the Universe.
It is a call which can be expected to be both ignored and
misunderstood for some period of time. But the position papers
themselves are absolutely unique -- they constitute a political
statement, presented to a representative world body, pointing
to the destruction of the Natural World and the Natural World
peoples as the clearest indicator that human beings are in
trouble on this planet. It is a call to a basic consciousness
which has ancient roots and ultra-modern, even futuristic,
It is a statement which points to the fact that humans are
abusing one another, that they are abusing the planet they
live on, that they are even abusing themselves. It is a message,
certainly the first ever delivered to a world body, which
identifies the process of that abuse as Western Civilization
- as a whole way of life - and which acknowledges the immense
complexity which that statement implies.
What is presented here is nothing less audacious than a cosmogony
of the Industrialized World presented by the most politically
powerful and independent non-Western political body surviving
in North America. It is, in a way, the modern world through
Pleistocene eyes. . . .
Be that as it may, the Hau de no see nee position is derived
from a philosophy which sees The People with historical roots
which extend back tens of thousands of years. It is a geological
kind of perspective, which sees modern man as an infant, occupying
a very short space of time in an incredibly long spectrum.
It is the perspective of the oldest elder looking into the
affairs of a young child and seeing that he is committing
incredibly destructive folly. It is, in short, the statement
of a people who are ageless but who trace their history as
a people to the very beginning of time. And they are speaking,
in this instance, to a world which dates its existence from
a little over 500 years ago, and perhaps, in many cases, much
more recently than that.
And it is, to our knowledge, the very first statement to
be issued by a Native nation. What follows are not the research
products of psychologists, historians, or anthropologists.
The papers which follow are the first authentic analyses of
the modern world ever committed to writing by an official
body of Native people.
Subject: Akwesasne Notes - http://www.ratical.org/AkwesasneNs.html
- Basic Call to Consciousness 1977
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It was not long ago that the Hau de no sau nee,
or Six Nations, were a powerful people, occupying a vast territory
stretching from Vermont to Ohio, and from present day Quebec to
Tennessee. At the period of first contact early during the 17th
century, the Hau de no sau nee occupied hundreds of towns and villages
throughout the country.
"Hau de no sau nee" is a word which
means "people who build," and is the proper name of the
people of the Longhouse. The early history, history before the Indo-Europeans
came, explains that there was a time when the peoples of the North
American forest experienced war and strife. It was during such a
time that there came into this land one who carried words of peace.
That one would come to be called the Peacemaker.
The Peacemaker came to the people with a message
that human beings should cease abusing one another. He stated that
humans are capable of reason, that through that power of reason
all men desire peace, and that it is necessary that the people organize
to ensure that peace will be possible among the people who walk
about on the earth. That was the original word about laws -- laws
were originally made to prevent the abuse of humans by other humans.
The Peacemaker travelled among the people, going
from nation to nation, seeking those who would take up this way
of peace, offering with it a way of reason and power. He journeyed
first among the Ganienkegaga - the People of the Flint Stone - (Mohawks)
where he sought to speak to the most dangerous of these people,
offering them his message.
He travelled for a long time among the Mohawks;
the People of Standing Stone (the Oneidas), the People of the Hills
(Onondagas), the People of the Swamp (Cayugas), and the People of
the Great Hills (Senecas). Eventually, those five nations were the
initial ones to take up the offer of peace. The nations gathered
together in council, and there they set down the principles of what
is called the Gayaneshakgowa, or the Great Law of Peace.
It is impossible to overstate the power of thought
that emerges from that document. Today, it is almost impossible
for us to recreate the scene of its birth. But centuries ago, a
natural world people gathered together at the head of a lake in
the center of North America's then virgin forest, and there, they
The principles that emerged are unequaled in any
political document which has yet emerged in the event - they evolved
a law which recognized that vertical hierarchy creates conflicts,
and they dedicated the superbly complex organization of their society
to function to prevent the rise internally of hierarchy.
Secondly, they looked into their own histories to discover the things
which cause conflict among people.
They saw, for example, that peoples sometimes
struggle over hunting territories, and they did a curious thing.
They abolished the significance of such territories, and guaranteed
the safety of anyone entering the country of the Hau de no sau nee.
And they established universal laws about the treatment and taking
of game, because the taking of game sometimes caused conflicts.
In the country of the Hau de no sau nee, all people were free, all
had a right to protection under what the Peacemaker called the Great
Tree of Peace.
The basic principles of peace went further than
the simple absence of conflict. An ordered society which has the
capability of protecting people against abuse and which is, at the
same time, dedicated to a containment of hierarchy, is a complex
society. The People of the Longhouse sought to carry the principles
of peace far from the council fires, into every dwelling in the
country of the Hau de no sau nee. Thus does the Great Law establish
more than a code of conduct - it is also the beginning point for
the modern clans. It embodies the foundations of all the customs
of holding meetings, of exchanging messages on wampums, and of assigning
titles to leaders.
The Hau de no sau nee raised their children from
the cradleboard to be participants in the culture. The ways of the
People of the Longhouse have always been powerfully spiritual in
nature, and it is true that the government, the economy, everything
that is Hau de no sau nee has deep spiritual roots.
The papers which follow are position papers which
were presented by the Hau de no sau nee to the Non-governmental
Organizations of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in September,
1977. The Non-governmental Organizations had called for papers which
describe the conditions of oppression suffered by Native people
under three subject headings, with supportive oral statements to
be given to the commissions. The Hau de no sau nee, the traditional
Six nations council at Onondaga, sent forth three papers which constitute
an abbreviated analysis of Western history, and which call for a
consciousness of the Sacred Web of Life in the Universe.
It is a call which can be expected to be both
ignored and misunderstood for some period of time. But the position
papers themselves are absolutely unique - they constitute a political
statement, presented to a representative world body, pointing to
the destruction of the Natural World and the Natural World peoples
as the clearest indicator that human beings are in trouble on this
planet. It is a call to a basic consciousness which has ancient
roots and ultra-modern, even futuristic, manifestations.
It is a statement which points to the fact that
humans are abusing one another, that they are abusing the planet
they live on, that they are even abusing themselves. It is a message,
certainly the first ever delivered to a world body, which identifies
the process of that abuse as Western Civilization - as a whole way
of life - and which acknowledges the immense complexity which that
What is presented here is nothing less audacious
than a cosmogony of the Industrialized World presented by the most
politically powerful and independent non-Western political body
surviving in North America. It is, in a way, the modern world through
Scholars and casual readers alike should question
the significance, in the age of the Neutron bomb, Watergate, and
nuclear energy plant proliferation, of a statement by a North American
Indian people. But there is probably some argument to be made for
the appropriateness of such a statement at this time.
Most of the world's professed traditions are fairly
recent in origin. Mohammedanism is perhaps 1500 years old, Christianity
claims a 2000-year history, Judaism is perhaps 2000 years older
the Native people can probably lay claim to a tradition which reaches
back to at least the end of the Pleistocene, and which, in all probability,
goes back much further than that.
There is some evidence that humanoid creatures
have been present on the earth for at least two million years, and
that humans who looked very much like us were in evidence in the
Northern Hemisphere at least as long as the second interglacial
period. People who are familiar with the Hau de no sau nee beliefs
will recognize that modern scientific evidence shows that the Native
customs of today are not markedly different from those practiced
by ancient peoples at least 70000 years ago. Indeed, if an Iroquois
traditionalist were to seek a career in the study of Pleistocene
Man, he may find that he already knows more about the most ancient
belief systems than do the modern scholars.
Be that as it may, the Hau de no see nee position
is derived from a philosophy which sees The People with historical
roots which extend back tens of thousands of years. It is a geological
kind of perspective, which sees modern man as an infant, occupying
a very short space of time in an incredibly long spectrum.
It is the perspective of the oldest elder looking
into the affairs of a young child and seeing that he is committing
incredibly destructive folly. It is, in short, the statement of
a people who are ageless but who trace their history as a people
to the very beginning of time. And they are speaking, in this instance,
to a world which dates its existence from a little over 500 years
ago, and perhaps, in many cases, much more recently than that.
And it is, to our knowledge, the very first statement
to be issued by a Native nation. What follows are not the research
products of psychologists, historians, or anthropologists. The papers
which follow are the first authentic analyses of the modern world
ever committed to writing by an official body of Native people.
The Highest Form of Political Consciousness
The Hau De No Sau Nee Message to the Western World
The Hau de no sau nee, or the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy,
has existed on this land since the beginning of human memory. Our
culture is among the most ancient continuously existing cultures
in the world. We still remember the earliest doings of human beings.
We remember the original instructions of the Creators of Life on
this place we call Etenoha - Mother Earth. We are the spiritual
guardians of this place. We are the Ongwhehonwhe - the Real People.
In the beginning, we were told that the human
beings who walk about the Earth have been provided with all the
things necessary for life. We were instructed to carry a love for
one another, and to show a great respect for all the beings of this
Earth. We are shown that our life exists with the tree life, that
our well-being depends on the well-being of the Vegetable Life,
that we are close relatives of the four-legged beings. In our ways,
spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.
Ours is a Way of Life. We believe that all living
things are spiritual beings. Spirits can be expressed as energy
forms manifested in matter. A blade of grass is an energy form manifested
in matter - grass matter. The spirit of the grass is that unseen
force which produces the species of grass, and it is manifest to
us in the form of real grass.
All things of the world are real, material things.
The Creation is a true, material phenomenon, and the Creation manifests
itself to us through reality. The spiritual universe, then, is manifest
to Man as the Creation, the Creation which supports life. We believe
that man is real, a part of the Creation, and that his duty is to
support Life in conjunction with the other beings. That is why we
call ourselves Ongwhehonwhe - Real People.
The original instructions direct that we who walk
about on the Earth are to express a great respect, an affection,
and a gratitude toward all the spirits which create and support
Life. We give a greeting and thanksgiving to the many supporters
of our own lives -- the corn, beans, squash, the winds, the sun.
When people cease to respect and express gratitude for these many
things, then all life will be destroyed, and human life on this
planet will come to an end.
Our roots are deep in the lands where we live.
We have great love for our country, for our birthplace is there.
The soil is rich from the bones of thousands of our generations.
Each of us were created in those lands, and it is our duty to take
great care of them, because from these lands will spring the future
generations of the Ongwhehonwhe. We walk about with a great respect,
for the Earth is a very sacred place.
We are not a people who demand, or ask anything
of the Creators of Life, but instead, we give greetings and thanksgiving
that all the forces of Life are still at work. We deeply understand
our relationship to all living things. To this day, the territories
we still hold are filled with trees, animals, and the other gifts
of the Creation. In these places we still receive our nourishment
from our Mother Earth.
We have seen that not all people of the Earth
show the same kind of respect for this world and its beings. The
Indo-European people who have colonized our lands have shown very
little respect for the things that create and support Life. We believe
that these people ceased their respect for the world a long time
ago. Many thousands of years ago, all the people of the world believed
in the same Way of Life, that of harmony with the universe. All
lived according to the Natural Ways.
Around ten thousand years ago, peoples who spoke
Indo-European languages lived in the area which today we know as
the Steppes of Russia. At that time, they were a Natural World people
who lived off the land. They had developed agriculture, and it is
said that they had begun the practice of animal domestication. It
is not known that they were the first people in the world to practice
animal domestication. The hunters and gatherers who roamed the area
probably acquired animals from the agricultural people, and adopted
an economy, based on the herding and breeding of animals.
Herding and breeding of animals signaled a basic
alteration in the relationship of humans to other life forms. It
set into motion one of the true revolutions in human history. Until
herding, humans depended on nature for the reproductive powers of
the animal world. With the advent of herding, humans assumed the
functions which had for all time been the functions of the spirits
of the animals. Sometime after this happened, history records the
first appearance of the social organization known as "patriarchy."
The area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
was the homeland, in ancient times, of various peoples, many of
whom spoke Semitic languages. The Semitic people were among the
first in the world to develop irrigation technology. This development
led to the early development of towns, and eventually cities. The
manipulation of the waters, another form of spirit life, represented
another way in which humans developed a technology which reproduced
a function of Nature.
Within these cultures, stratified hierarchical
social organization crystallized. The ancient civilizations developed
imperialism, partly because of the very nature of cities. Cities
are obviously population concentrations. Most importantly though,
they are places which must import the material needs of this concentration
from the countryside. This means that the Natural World must be
subjugated, extracted from, and exploited in the interest of the
city. To give order to this process, the Semitic world developed
early codes of law. They also developed the idea of monotheism to
serve as a spiritual model for their material and political organization.
Much of the history of the ancient world recounts
the struggles between the Indo-Europeans and the Semitic peoples.
Over a period of several millenia, the two cultures clashed and
blended. By the second millenia B.C., some Indo-Europeans, most
specifically the Greeks, had adopted the practice of building cities,
thus becoming involved in the process which they named "Civilization."
Both cultures developed technologies peculiar
to civilizations. The Semitic peoples invented kilns which enabled
the creation of pottery for trade, and storage of surpluses. These
early kilns eventually evolved into ovens which could generate enough
heat to smelt metals, notably copper, tin and bronze. The Indo-Europeans
developed a way of smelting iron.
Rome fell heir to these two cultures, and became
the place where the final meshing occurs. Rome is also the true
birthplace of Christianity. The process that has become the culture
of the West is historically and linguistically a Semitic/Indo-European
culture, but has been commonly termed the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Christianity was an absolutely essential element
in the early development of this kind of technology. Christianity
advocated only one God. It was a religion which imposed itself exclusively
of all other beliefs. The local people of the European forests were
a people who believed in the spirits of the forests, waters, hills
and the land; Christianity attacked those beliefs, and effectively
de-spiritualized the European world. The Christian peoples, who
possessed superior weaponry and a need for expansion, were able
to militarily subjugate the tribal peoples of Europe.
The availability of iron led to the development
of tools which could cut down the forest, the source of charcoal
to make more tools. The newly cleared land was then turned by the
newly developed iron plow, which was, for the first time, pulled
by horses. With that technology many fewer people would work much
more land, and many other people were effectively displaced to become
soldiers and landless peasants.
The rise of that technology ushered in the Feudal
Age and made possible, eventually, the rise of new cities and growing
trade. It also spelled the beginning of the end of the European
forest, although that process took a long time to complete.
The eventual rise of cities and the concurrent
rise of the European state created the thrust of expansion and search
for markets which led men, such as Columbus, to set sail across
the Atlantic. The development of sailing vessels and navigation
technologies made the European "discovery" of the Americas
The Americas provided Europeans a vast new area
for expansion and material exploitation. Initially, the Americas
provided new materials and even finished materials for the developing
world economy which was based on the Indo-European technologies.
European civilization has a history of rising and falling as its
technologies reach their material and cultural limits. The finite
Natural world has always provided a kind of built-in contradiction
to Western expansion.
The Indo-Europeans attacked every aspect of North
America with unparalleled zeal. The Native people were ruthlessly
destroyed because they were an unassimilable element to the civilizations
of the West. The forests provided materials for larger ships, and
some areas provided sources of slave labor for the conquering invaders.
By the time of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-Nineteenth Century,
North America was already a leader in the area of the development
of extractive technology.
The hardwood forests of the Northeast were not
cleared for the purpose of providing farmlands. Those forests were
destroyed to create charcoal for the forges of the iron smelters
and blacksmiths. By the 1890's, the West had turned to coal, a fossil
fuel, to provide the energy necessary for the many new forms of
machinery which had been developed. During the first half of the
Twentieth Century, oil had replaced coal as a source of energy.
The Western culture has been horribly exploitative
and destructive of the Natural World. Over 140 species of birds
and animals were utterly destroyed since the European arrival in
the Americas, largely because they were unusable in the eyes of
the invaders. The forests were leveled, the waters polluted, the
Native people subjected to genocide. The vast herds of herbivores
were reduced to mere handfuls, the buffalo nearly became extinct.
Western technology and the people who have employed it have been
the most amazingly destructive forces in all of human history. No
natural disaster has ever destroyed as much. Not even the Ice Ages
counted as many victims.
But like the hardwood forests, the fossil fuels
are also finite resources. As the second half of the Twentieth Century
has progressed, the people of the West have begun looking to other
forms of energy to motivate their technology. Their eyes have settled
on atomic energy, a form of energy production which has by-products
which are the most poisonous substances ever known to Man.
Today the species of Man is facing a question
of the very survival of the species. The way of life known as Western
Civilization is on a death path on which their own culture has no
viable answers. When faced with the reality of their own destructiveness,
they can only go forward into areas of more efficient destruction.
The appearance of Plutonium on this planet is the clearest of signals
that our species is in trouble. It is a signal which most Westerners
have chosen to ignore.
The air is foul, the waters poisoned, the trees
dying, the animals are disappearing. We think even the systems of
weather are changing. Our ancient teaching warned us that if Man
interfered with the Natural Laws, these things would come to be.
When the last of the Natural Way of Life is gone, all hope for human
survival will be gone with it. And our Way of Life is fast disappearing,
a victim of the destructive processes.
The other position papers of the Hau de no sau
nee have outlined our analysis of economic and legal oppression.
But our essential message to the world is a basic call to consciousness.
The destruction of the Native cultures and people is the same process
which has destroyed and is destroying life on this planet. The technologies
and social systems which have destroyed the animal and plant life
are also destroying the Native people. And that process is Western
We know that there are many people in the world
who can quickly grasp the intent of our message. But experience
has taught us that there are few who are willing to seek out a method
for moving toward any real change. But, if there is to be a future
for all beings on this planet, we must begin to seek the avenues
The processes of colonialism and imperialism which
have affected the Hau de no sau nee are but a microcosm of the processes
affecting the world. The system of reservations employed against
our people is a microcosm of the system of exploitation used against
the whole world. Since the time of Marco Polo, the West has been
refining a process that mystified the peoples of the Earth.
The majority of the world does not find its roots
in Western culture or traditions. The majority of the world finds
its roots in the Natural World, and it is the Natural World, and
the traditions of the Natural World, which must prevail if we are
to develop truly free and egalitarian societies.
It is necessary, at this time, that we begin a
process of critical analysis of the West's historical processes,
to seek out the actual nature of the roots of the exploitative and
oppressive conditions which are forced upon humanity. At the same
time, as we gain understanding of those processes, we must reinterpret
that history to the people of the world. It is the people of the
West, ultimately, who are the most oppressed and exploited. They
are burdened by the weight of centuries of racism, sexism, and ignorance
which has rendered their people insensitive to the true nature of
We must all consciously
and continuously challenge every model, every program, and every
process that the West tries to force upon us. Paulo Friere wrote,
in his book, the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," that it
is the nature of the oppressed to imitate the oppressor, and by
such actions try to gain relief from the oppressive condition. We
must learn to resist that response to oppression.
The people who are living
on this planet need to break with the narrow concept of human liberation,
and begin to see liberation as something which needs to be extended
to the whole of the Natural World. What is needed is the liberation
of all the things that support Life - the air, the waters, the trees
- all the things which support the sacred web of Life.
We feel that the Native
peoples of the Western Hemisphere can continue to contribute to
the survival potential of the human species. The majority of our
peoples still live in accordance with the traditions which find
their roots in the Mother Earth. But the Native peoples have need
of a forum in which our voice can be heard. And we need alliances
with the other peoples of the world to assist in our struggle to
regain and maintain our ancestral lands and to protect the Way of
Life we follow.
We know that this is a very difficult task. Many
nation states may feel threatened by the position that the protection
and liberation of Natural World peoples and cultures represents,
a progressive direction which must be integrated into the political
strategies of people who seek to uphold the dignity of Man. But
that position is growing in strength, and it represents a necessary
strategy in the evolution of progressive thought.
The traditional Native peoples hold the key to
the reversal of the processes in Western Civilization which hold
the promise of unimaginable future suffering and destruction. Spiritualism
is the highest form of political consciousness. And we, the native
peoples of the Western Hemisphere, are among the world's surviving
proprietors of that kind of consciousness. We are here to impart
1.8 million to ~10,000 years ago
This mammoth, found in deposits in Russia, was
one of the largest land mammals of the Pleistocene, the time period
that spanned from 1.8 million to ~10,000 years ago. Pleistocene
biotas were extremely close to modern ones - many genera and even
species of Pleistocene conifers, mosses, flowering
and others survive to this day. Yet the Pleistocene was also characterized
by the presence of distinctive large land mammals and birds. Mammoths
and their cousins the mastodons, longhorned bison, sabre-toothed
cats, giant ground sloths, and many other large mammals characterized
Pleistocene habitats in North America, Asia, and Europe. Native
horses and camels galloped across the plains of North America. Great
teratorn birds with 25-foot wingspans stalked prey. Around the end
of the Pleistocene, all these creatures went extinct (the horses
living in North America today are all descendants of animals brought
from Europe in historic times).
It was during the Pleistocene that the most recent
episodes of global cooling, or ice ages, took place. Much of the
world's temperate zones were alternately covered by glaciers during
cool periods and uncovered during the warmer interglacial periods
when the glaciers retreated. Did this cause the Pleistocene extinctions?
It doesn't seem likely; the large mammals of the Pleistocene weathered
several climate shifts.
The Pleistocene also saw the evolution and expansion
of our own species, Homo sapiens, and by the close of the Pleistocene,
humans had spread through most of the world. According to a controversial
theory, first proposed in the 1960s, human hunting around the close
of the Pleistocene caused or contributed to the extinction of many
of the Pleistocene large mammals. It is true that the extinction
of large animals on different continents appears to correlate with
the arrival of humans, but questions remain as to whether early
human hunters were sufficiently numerous and technologically advanced
to wipe out whole species. It has also been hypothesized that some
disease wiped out species after species in the Pleistocene. The
issue remains unsolved; perhaps the real cause of the Pleistocene
extinction was a combination of these factors.