Encounters with American Indians affected Franklin’s plans for U.S., speaker says.
By Sarah Moses
Many scholars have debated whether the Iroquois Confederacy influenced the creation of American democracy, but for author and educator John Mohawk the similarities are clear.
Mohawk spoke to about 150 people Tuesday at Syracuse Stage as part of the “Onondaga Land Rights and Our Common Future” educational series.
His talk concentrated on the role of American Indians and the formation of democracy.
Mohawk said Benjamin Franklin’s frequent encounters with American Indians and the traditions of the Haudenosaunee influenced his plans for a new government.
“The first draft of the first proposal for the unification of the Colonies was very similar to the Iroquois Confederacy,” said Mohawk, a Seneca.
He said Franklin proposed that representatives from the Colonies attend a central council, similar to the use of the Onondaga Nation as the meeting place for the Iroquois Confederacy.
“When someone sees something that works, they adapt it to fit what they need. The American government was inspired by the Indians’ government and adapted it to their needs.”
Mohawk spoke about the various accounts of Europeans who joined American Indian villages and refused to go back to their homes.
“During this time, a lot of people who had the choice between living with the Indians or the Europeans decided that they would rather live with Indians,” he said. “The women, for example, had more rights than they would have had in the English Colonies.”
Mohawk said there are injustices that continue within democracy in 2006.
“We are the people of North America and we will never be done with our understanding of the principles of democracy and the freedoms that come along with it,” he said. “We can’t take a tradition and put it on a piece of paper; we have to live it.”