Although the Unites States Congress publicly recognized the intellectual contributions of the Iroquois on the evolution of the American governmental system and its constitution, the issue has been furthermore researched and examined. Many scholars still do not identify with the Iroquois influence thesis. It has been characterized as “elaborate hoax” or “political-correctness horror story”. (“Sauce for the Goose” 624) The opposed scholars argue that the image of the Iroquois Confederacy with its utopian organization and forward way of thinking differed considerably from the British-American image of them. Moreover, the general assumption states that the Iroquois concept of representative confederacy, based on unity and unanimous view of all, was not as clear to American leaders as the proponents of the Iroquois influence thesis tend to advocate. Thus the understanding of the Iroquois Confederacy was not sufficient enough to take it as a model for the Founding Fathers’ own purpose of drawing up a new political entity. Historians and observers’ perception of the native societies was based on their own cultural background and upbringing, which influenced their interpretation of the Iroquois social and governmental system. In addition, the opponents claim the nineteenth- and twentieth-century observations of the Iroquois Confederacy, conducted by historians such as Lewis H. Morgan, were only a mere idealization of the League at the peak of its greatness during colonial times in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century. (Tooker 313)
Elisabeth Tooker further asserts the fact that although two such unique similar confederacies emerging in the same place may raise a question of connectivity between those two (305), it was purely coincidental based on circumstantial evidence suggesting so.
It is extremely problematic to measure the amount of intellectual exchange between the native societies and the settlers, since no hard evidence can be conducted for this purpose. However, there are visible commonalities between the Iroquois Great Law of Peace and the U.S. Constitution, between the structure of the Iroquois Confederacy and the government of the United States. When examining the true origins of the American political development, the multidimensionality behind its evolution must be recognized. United States was not derived from a single example, such as the Ancient governments, British monarchy or the Iroquois Confederacy. The founders analyzed every available source and chose the best features to create a new identity. It’s a unique mixture of ideas from both the European and Native American societies. “The fundamental ideas that formulated our [American] political identity arose out of a blending of European and American antecedents. “ (Exemplars of Liberty Introduction)
Needless to say, identification of the indigenous aspect in the development of the United States is essential for a complete apprehension of the reasons and notions that led the Founding Fathers to establish a new order unseen till then, and for a proper examination of the American political history.
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Summary The aim of the thesis is to examine the Iroquois Confederacy as a uniquely democratic political system of government and to establish the amount of influence the Iroquois had on the Founding Fathers and their ideas of democracy in creating the United States. The thesis analyzes the structure of the confederacy and its own constitution, followed by an examination of the Anglo-Iroquois relations during the most transformative period in American political history. The main part is concerned with the Iroquois influence thesis. By the analysis of several perspectives on the subject from various proponents and opponents of the Iroquois influence, the thesis tries to find if the Founding Fathers modeled the United States after the Iroquois Confederacy and as to what role the Iroquois played in development of this new political entity.
Resumé Cílem této práce je prozkoumat Irokézskou konfederaci jako jedinečného demokratického systému vlády a zjistit jak veliký vliv měli Irokézové na Otce Zakladatele a jejich představy o demokracii při vytváření Spojených států amerických. Práce analyzuje strukturu konfederace a její vlastní ústavu, následováno analýzou vztahů mezi Irokézi a anglickými přistěhovalci během nejzávažnějšího období v americké politické historii. Hlavní část práce se zabývá Irokézskou tezí. Analýzou několika různých perspektiv od různých zastánců a odpůrců Irokézského vlivu, se tato práce snaží zjistit, jestli Otcové Zakladatelé vytvořili Spojené státy podle modelu Irokézské konfederace a jakou roli hráli Irokézové při vývoji tohoto nového politického celku.
1 Morgan, Lewis H. League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee or Iroquois. Ed. Herbert M. Lloyd. Dodd, Mead and Company. New York: 1904. p.6
2 Hall, Loretta. “Iroquois Confederacy”
3 Morgan, Lewis H. League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee or Iroquois. Ed. Herbert M. Lloyd. Dodd, Mead and Company. New York: 1904. p.50
4 Researched from Arthur Parker’s version and J.N.B. Hewitt’s version
5 Term borrowed from Starna’s essay “Retrospecting the Origins of the League of the Iroquois.”.
6 Tha-do-da-ho is one of many versions of Adordahoh’s name. It was used in Hewitt’s essay “Legend of the Founding of the Iroquois League”
7 Wampum belts served as mnemonic devices carrying important messages or recalling important historical events. They consisted of several strings of shell beads creating desirable symbols and designs. The width and length of each wampum belt determined its function and significance. (Snyderman 469-470)
8 Also could be referred to as sachems or Rodiyaner (translated to English as “nobleman”) (Hale 31)
9 The statement was taken from Fenton’s, "Structure, Continuity, and Change in the Process of Iroquois Treaty Making," p. 22 and quoted in Crawford’s “A security regime among democracies; cooperation among Iroquois nations,” p. 379
10 “American” referring to the Natives as they were being called at that time (Johansen, Grinde Chapter 4)
11 It refers to George II. who was at that time the King of Great Britain (Encyclopedia Britannica)
12 In the Great Law of Peace the number of arrows is only five, with each representing one nation. The commissioners said twelve, as one for each colony.
13 The term was used by Phillip A. Levy in his critical essay “Exemplars of Liberties: The Iroquois Influence Thesis and the Problem of Evidence”
14 Confederation of twelve Achaean cities of the northern Peloponnese in ancient Greece (4th century BC), as means of protecting themselves against attacks of pirates (Encyclopedia Britannica)
15 League of twenty-three republics on the Lycia Peninsula in Turkey formed in the 5th century BC (Muller)
16 Twelve neighboring tribes formed around a religious centre, at first it was the shrine of Demeter, later the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Encyclopedia Britannica)