Native American Political Systems
and the Evolution of Democracy:
An Annotated Bibliography
Bruce E. Johansen
Professor of Communication and
Native American Studies
University of Nebraska at Omaha
1997Books, Scholarly, and Specialty Journals
(*) Ellis, Joseph J. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
On page 101, Ellis summarizes Jefferson's attitudes toward governmental organization: "There was European society, with governments that ruled by force, usually monarchical in form, what Jefferson described as `wolves over sheep.' Then there was American, and to slightly lesser extent, English society, with governments responsive to the populace as a whole, where `the mass of mankind enjoys a precious degree of liberty & happiness.' Finally, there was Indian society, which managed itself without any formal government at all [sic] by remaining small and assuring the internalization of common values among all members." Ellis quotes Jefferson's 1787 letter to Edward Carrington in which he says that "those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their gen'l mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under European governments."(*) Glazer, Nathan. We Are All Multiculturalists Now. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.
On page 40, Glazer observes that the New York State Curriculum of Inclusion contained mention of the Iroquois' formative role in the development of democracy. Glazer does not seem to know what to make of this. On one hand, he writes, based on what he has read, the Iroquois role is "insignificant, perhaps nonexistent." On the other hand Glazer seems to realize that he hasn't read much, since he cites no sources, for or against.(*) Johansen, Bruce E. and Donald A. Grinde, Jr. [Reply to Oppenheimer, "Tribal Lore," below] Lingua Franca, in press.
Johansen and Grinde reply to "Tribal Lore" in Lingua Franca, March, 1997, finding author Mark Oppenheimer's piece "an absurdly biased appeal to authorities with which he chooses to agree." "Instead of engaging our historical arguments, this piece seems to prefer racist innuendo," they write, citing its title and advice to let white scholars do the talking in the debate. Grinde and Johansen note several errors in Oppenheimer's piece, among them an assumption that New York public school students are mandated to study the "influence" idea. They also write that Oppenheimer offers no evidence to support his stated belief that "the ascendance of the Iroquois influence thesis may be short-lived," offering material from this annotated bibliography to show that the debate is still alive and kicking.(*) Oppenheimer, Mark. "Tribal Lore." Lingua Franca: The Review of Academic Life. March, 1997, pp. 8-9.
Oppenheimer quotes extensively from the 1996 forum in William and Mary Quarterly, with a definite anti-"influence" bias. He writes of the idea that "Fancy is a wily seductress," and ends with a string of quotes discrediting the idea from James Axtell, Wilcomb Washburn, and Daniel K. Richter, concluding that "the scholarly community is unswayed by the reply," referring to Grinde and Johansen's case. "The most usable past," concludes Oppenheimer, "may be the real one."(*) Salins, Peter D. Assimilation, American Style. San Francisco: New Republic/HarperCollins, 1997.
Page 90: "As Americans were differentiating themselves from their nominal or actual English ancestors in the realm of ideas, attitudes, and values, whatever remained of English cultural influences was also being progressively diluted by their contact with an ever-expanding array of non-English peoples. First, the European settlers were changed by contact with the real "native" Americans...who introduced them to new foods, new arts and crafts, new modes of shelter, new strategies for survival in the wilderness, and perhaps even some important civic principles." Salins cites Richard Bernstein, Dictatorship of Virtue .(*) Schmidt, Alvin J. The Menace of Multiculturalism. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997.
Schmidt, a professor of sociology at Illinois College, Jacksonville, is a take-no-prisoners opponent of multiculturalism. On pages 43 and 44, at the beginning of a chapter titled "The Facts Be Damned," he lists a number of facts that he says multiculturalists have "invented." One of these is that "the Constitution of the United States was shaped by the Iroquois Indians." He also slams the idea that Crispus Attucks, the first casualty of the Boston Massacre, was black (He was only half black. The other half of his ancestry was American Indian.) Schmidt says that the "influence" idea is "undocumented." Schmidt would rather history stress the cruel and violent aspects of Native American cultures, which he says squishy-soft multiculturalists downplay. Schmidt is barely getting warmed up. Later in the book, he argues that American Indian cultures were environmentally destructive and that women in native societies lived "in virtual slavery." On pp. 52 and 53, Schmidt returns to the "influence" issue, calling it a "fabrication." He also asserts that multiculturalists exaggerate the role of Iroquois women.(*) Sonnie, Amy. "Sally Roesch Wagner: Reconstructing Women's History." Listen Up! [Voices From the Syracuse University Women's Collective]. Spring, 1997, pp. 4-5.
This article describes Wagner's research and lectures at Syracuse University during the Spring of 1997, when she held a distinguished visiting professorship at Syracuse University. The article notes that Wagner is working on a book titled Is Equality Indigenous? which "focuses on...the Iroquois' influence on early feminism."(*) Tillyard, Stella. Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798), Chatto, 1997.
Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798), describes the life of an Irish aristocrat who studied Rousseau, and then traveled to America as a high-ranking officer in the British Army. In America, Fitzgerald was adopted by the Iroquois, which he used as examples in his advocacy of an egalitarian state, especially the abolition of primogeniture. Returning from America and the Iroquois, Fitzgerald witnessed the early days of the French Revolution, then returned to Ireland to advance the cause of complete human equity and shared property there. He died in a Dublin jail at the age of 35 in 1798 following an abortive Irish uprising against British rule. Fitzgerald died slowly and painfully of a gunshot wound sustained during the rebellion; the British denied him medical treatment to spare themselves the embarrassment of putting him on trial.(*) Tilton, Robert S. [Review, Hauptman, Tribes and Tribulations (1995)] American Historical Review 102:1(February, 1997), pp. 177-178.
In a favorable review, Tilton notes that "in the third essay he critiques the widely held (and widely taught) belief that the framers of the Constitution looked to the Iroquois Confederacy as a model by pointing out that James Wilson's ideas can be traced more clearly to Montesquieu than to the Iroquois."Newspaper and Magazine Articles
(*) __________. "Feminist Scholar to Speak at UVM." Burlington [Vermont] Free Press, February 26, 1997, p. 1-B.
Announcement of a lecture by Sally Roesch Wagner, "Native American Roots of Feminism," as 3:30 p.m. February 26 at the University of Vermont. This lecture was co-ordinated by Donald A. Grinde, Jr., director of ethnic studies and professor of history there.(*) __________. "Performance Features Portrayal of Suffragist." UIS [University of Illinois at Springfield] Weekly, March 17, 1997, n.p.
Announcement of a March 26 performance in character of Matilda Joslyn Gage by Sally Roesch Wagner, at the Studio Theatre, University of Illinois at Springfield. The article also notes that Wagner will give an additional lecture on "The Indigenous Roots of Feminism..." A similar announcement appeared in the Springfield State Journal-Register, n.d.(*) Bedy, Zoltan. "Feminist Pioneer Named Visiting Scholar." Syracuse Record, January 21, 1997, p. 2.
This piece in the house organ of the Syracuse University administration describes the appointment of Sally Roesch Wagner as a visiting distinguished professor in women's studies: "Wagner is a feminist historian who has done extensive research on [Matilda Joslyn] Gage, and other areas of feminism, particularly as it has been influenced by Native American thought."(*) Hillaire, Darrell. "Sovereignty is Unity of Purpose, Clarity of Mind." Indian Country Today, May 5-12, 1997, p. A-5.
Hillaire, vice chairman of the Lummi Nation (Washington State), surveys legal concerns related to Native American sovereignty, noting that the United States and Native American nations had a peer relationship when the U.S. Constitution was adopted, a fact that helped shape the character of U.S. government through diplomatic interaction: "The Iroquois Confederacy provided a model for the Founding Fathers in drafting the U.S. Constitution. Immediately after the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress sent ambassadors to the Indian nations."(*) Johansen, Bruce E. "The Iroquois: Present at the Birth." Wall Street Journal [Letter to the editor], April 10, 1997, p. A-15.
Johansen is replying to a review (below) by Afrocentricism critic Mary Lefkowitz (below). He asserts that giving credit to the Iroquois does not demean classical Greek or English precedents for United States basic law, but "simply add[s] an Iroquois role to the picture." He concludes: "We can have our Greeks, and our Iroquois, too." (*) Johansen, Bruce E. "Politically Pluribus." Omaha Magazine, July/August, 1997, p. 61.(*) Lefkowitz, Mary. "Out of Many, More Than One." Wall Street Journal, March 24, 1997, p. A-16.
Johansen debates multicultural education, including the Iroquois contribution to democracy, with Doug Kagan, Nebraska state chairman of the Nebraska Conservatives for Freedom, in their bimonthly "On Opposite Sides."
This is a review of The Menace of Multiculturalism (by Alvin J. Schmidt) and We Are All Multiculturalists Now, by Nathan Glazer. The review begins: "Does the U.S. Constitution owe more to the 18th-century Iroquois than it does to the ancient Greeks? No, but many younger people may answer yes, because it is what they have learned in school. The history that children learn is not necessarily a record of what actually happened in the past; rather, it is often an account of what parents and teachers believe they ought to know." Later in the review, Lefkowitz, a professor of classics at Wellesley College, writes that "however impressive the governmental organization of the Iroquois nation, the inspiration behind the Constitution may once again be credited to the European Enlightenment, and the ancient Greeks..."(*) Lowen, J. Trout. "The Iroquois-Suffragist Connection: Researcher Says Native American Women Helped Steer 1800s Equal Rights Agenda." Syracuse Herald-American, April 6, 1997, pp. AA-1, AA-5.
This article, which occupied the top half of the "Central New York" section page in the Sunday Herald-American, includes a lengthy description of Sally Roesch Wagner's recent work regarding the influence of Iroquois women on nineteenth-century feminists, especially Matilda Joslyn Gage. Wagner at the time was finishing a distinguished visiting professorship in women's studies at Syracuse University. Lowen writes that "Wagner believes Iroquois women had a powerful influence on the women's rights movement, and on the seemingly utopian society that [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton, [Lucretia] Mott, and Gage envisioned when they penned the Declaration of Sentiment, a virtual call to arms, in 1848." This declaration was a convening document of the Seneca Falls conference that heralded the beginnings of organized feminism in the United States. The article says that Wagner relates her work to assertions that the Iroquois also helped shape the ideological corpus of democracy in the United States during the previous century.(*) Yardley, Jonathan. "Lament For A Common Culture." Washington Post [Book World], March 16, 1997, p. X0-3.
In an otherwise laudatory review of Nathan Glazer's We Are All Multiculturalists Now [Harvard University Press, 1997], Yardley scores Glazer for coming "dangerously close to endorsing bad history -- the ostensible influence of the Iroquois on the framers of the U.S. Constitution, for example..." He cites the idea as an example of multiculturalism as "mere feel-good amateur therapy." In an attempt to be sympathetic to Indians in this regard, Yardley says that Glazer "falls over backwards."Other items
- (*) Fax from Jun Hoshikawa, Yakushima, Kagoshima, Japan, January 10, 1997. Hoshikawa says he is writing a chapter on "The Iroquois roots of democracy, feminism, socialism, and environmentalism" in his next "non-fiction essay book about the spiritual thread running through many of the indigenous cultures of the Pacific Rim." He says that Exemplar of Liberty (1991) "has been a tremendous help in deciphering the White Roots of Peace in the maze of cultural transformation in the Western hemisphere..." His fax also contained questions about the political situation in North America during the eighteenth century.
- (*) E-mail from Don Grinde, January 13, 1997: He has been in contact with Pete Jemison regarding a proposal from WNED, Public Broadcasting System affiliate in Buffalo seeking $50,000 seed money to stage a two-hour debate on the "influence" issue. Exemplar of Liberty (1991) is being used as a reference source for the grant proposal.
- (*) Bruce Johansen discussed the "influence" issue on Radio KCXL, Kansas City, Missouri, on Heartland of America Forum, Jan. 21, 1997, with host Richard Boyden.
- (*) E-mail from Jose Barreiro, editor, Native Americas, Cornell University, Jan. 22, 1997: "As far as the influence idea, an interesting anecdote is when the big Mayan delegation came to Akwesasne (1981) to learn about the Great Law of Peace to consider as a model for the now-surfacing Mayan confederacy. Influences cut many different ways." Barreiro was working at Akwesasne Notes when the Mayas visited in 1981.
- (*) Documentary film, "Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper." This hour-long film was advertised in a catalogue published and circulated by Films for the Humanities and Sciences (P.O. Box 253, Princeton, NJ 08543--2053). A description of the film in the catalogue says that "The extent to which Native American philosophies have affected the dominant American culture is explored."
- (*) Brochure, "Sally Roesch Wagner: Women's Studies Distinguished Visiting Professorship in the Humanities, Spring 1997, Syracuse University." This brochure describes Wagner's historical performances of Matilda Joslyn Gage, who lived near Syracuse, and who was an adopted Iroquois. Gage, an early feminist, "described the position of Iroquois women as far superior to that of...non-Indian women, writing: `The division of power between the sexes in this Indian republic was nearly equal.'" The brochure also lists Wagner's performances and lectures as part of the professorship, including "Mini-course: Iroquois Women and feminism," and "February 5: The Influence of the Iroquois Women on the Early Women's Rights Movement." Previous holders of this professorship include Noam Chomsky, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, and Saul Bellow.
- (*) Leaflet, Friends of Ganondagan [Victor, N.Y.]: "Cultural Lecture Series." Feb. 24, 1997: Sally Roesch Wagner: "The Untold Story of the Iroquois Influence on Early Feminists," 7:30 p.m., Victor Intermediate School Auditorium. The leaflet also includes a lecture by John Mohawk, May 19, 1997, "Iroquois Influence on American Democracy." Ganondagan is an Iroquois cultural site south of Rochester, New York.
- (*) Leaflet for lecture, "Iroquois Women's Influence on American Feminists," Sally Roesch Wagner, feminist historian, and Audrey Shenandoah, clan mother, Onondaga Nation, Feb. 24, 1997, Syracuse University Student Center.
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