Did you know that the native Eastern White Pine of the Northern U.S.was, in a sense, an inspiration for our consitution? The role of the Iroquois in the creation of the United States government has been largely overlooked but their Tree of Peace, the White Pine, was part of the great legacy they gave to our founding fathers.
About 1000 years ago the tribes of what is now the Northern U.S. were mired in violent bloody feuds. According to the Native American legend, the Creator sent a spritual teacher, a Peacemaker, who appeared in the Finger Lakes region of New York to show the way to establish a higher order of human relations.
He called all warring people together and said there must be a concerted effort by all for peace to prevail and through his Great Law and spiritual inspiration, he convinced the warriors of the five warring tribes to form a confederacy, a league of tribes.
His Great Law of Peace laid out a government "of the people, by the people and for the people" with three branches.
The Onondaga, the Firekeepers, are the heart of the Confederacy. Similarly, the U.S. presidency forms an executive branch.
The League's legislative branch is in two parts: Mohawk and Seneca are Elder Brothers who form the upper house, while Oneida and Cayuga are Younger Brothers, similar to the Senate and House of the United States Congress.
The Iroquois' equivalent of a Supreme Court is the Women's Councils, which settle disputes and judge legal violations. (I love that part)
The Peacemaker's Great Law showed how to establish unity and balance amongst diverse human communities and distribute power in a democratic society to assure individual liberty. It was also perhaps the oldest effort for disarmament in world history.
It was called the Path of Peace.
Through their direct contact with the Iroquois League, our founders discovered the model for transforming thirteen separate colonies into the United States. George Washington, after a visit to the Iroquois, expressed "great excitement" over the Iroquois' two houses and Grand Council. And Ben Franklin, after meeting with the Iroquois in 1754, proposed creating a colonial Grand Council that strongly resembled the Iroquois Grand Council. (from 'The White Roots of Peace' by Dr. Paul Wallace).
And at the drafting of the consitiution, one of the framers, John Rutledge of South Carolina, read portions of Iroquois Law to members of the committee.
The Peacemaker called for all warriors of all tribes to bury their weapons and then planted atop them a sacred Tree of Peace, a White Pine. He proclaimed, "If any man or nation shows a desire to obey the Law of the Great Peace, they may trace the roots to their source, and be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree."
He also included, in a symbolic darawing, an Eagle-that-sees-far atop the tree and four long tree roots that stretch out in the four sacred directions -- the "white roots of peace."
Thomas Jefferson adopted the specific symbols of the Iroquois League, giving the U.S. The Tree of Liberty and the Eagle clutching a bundle of thirteen arrows.
Jake Swamp, a spiritual elder and leader of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk, founded the Tree of Peace Society to promote awareness of Native cultures and spiritual values. He has traveled the world planting trees as symbols of peace, and teaching about Mohawk and Iroquois spiritual and cultural values. To date more than two hundred million trees have been planted, from the Catskills to China. The ultimate goal: plant one billion trees becuase, as the Peacemaker said, " in every action we must first consider the future of the children for seven generations to come."