Letter to the Editor:
Isadore Warshaw’s June 6 letter (“Column was wrong on grace in land-claim win”) contains several factual errors and deeper misconceptions about early American and Haudenosaunee history needing correction.
He really missed Mr. Kirst’s call for grace and dignity in discussions about the Haudenosaunee and the Onondaga Nation’s call for healing among all people of Central New York.
Warshaw erroneously describes the Haudenosaunee as “uncivilized.” The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which brought peace and order to the indigenous inhabitants of New York state, was founded at Onondaga Lake perhaps as early as a thousand years ago (certainly before Europeans landed at Plymouth Rock).
Our own founding fathers, particularly Benjamin Franklin, were very aware of, and interested in the Haudenosaunee form of government. Many historians feel that Haudenosaunee ideas about governance influenced what would become American democracy. In fact, in 1988, the U.S. Congress acknowledged this Haudenosaunee contribution to American and world democracy.
The Haudenosaunee were by no stretch of the imagination “nomads.” They lived in villages, some quite large with up to 60 longhouses each. Haudenosaunee stewardship of the land was sophisticated, and much impressed Europeans who witnessed this with their own eyes.
Peace treaties affirming Haudenosaunee land rights in New York state were negotiated by the U.S. government including the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, which was negotiated with the Grand Council of the Six Nations by Washington’s personal emissary, Timothy Pickering.
The letter writer seems to imply that our government made this treaty “illegally.” This treaty was one of the first nation-to-nation peace treaties negotiated according to the United States Constitution, and has never been repudiated by the U.S. government to this day.
In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which imposed citizen status on any Native Americans who did not already have it. The Haudenosaunee Grand Council sent letters to the U.S. government rejecting this imposition of citizenship, and instead continues to affirm their status as a sovereign nation.
This lack of basic knowledge of Haudenosaunee achievements, and of basic American history, hurts us all. The intertwined history of both our peoples is one of our greatest assets, but only if the plain facts of that history both proud and painful continue to be remembered honestly.
Ed Dubinsky, North Syracuse – Sue Eiholzer, Jamesville.