Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Peacemaker

The Ho De No Sau Nee, the People Who Build, live in New York State and Ontario. Before the Europeans came, they ranged over far more extensive lands. In 1977, the United Nations hosted a conference for so-called indigenous peoples in Geneva. I'm not sure how the people so labeled define their commonality, but essentially these are peoples who possessed a cultural identity prior to the European conquest of much of the world, who are now subsumed within larger nation states. The Ho De No Sau Nee, who English speaking people call by a name the French called them, Iroquois (a term they do not recognize as coming from their own language) presented documents about their history and cultural tradition, which they collected in a book called Basic Call to Consciousness. I will paraphrase a bit as I condense.

According to their tradition, which as far as I know they first wrote down themselves for that occasion, long before the European conquest they experienced a social crisis. The six nations in the region were in continual conflict. Blood feuds between clans and villages meant that no-one was safe. A young man of the Wyandot, north of Lake Ontario, argued that the system of blood feuds should be abolished. He got no hearing in his own land so he traveled south to the land of the Genienkahaka, the people of the flint, who we call the Mohawks, where he started to preach and win converts to his ideas.

As I understand it - and if by some chance any of the Ho De No Sau Nee should read this please set me straight - he had three major categories of ideas.

First, he said that some force or being must have created the world. He didn't claim to know very much about the creator, but he did not believe that the creator would have wanted human beings to abuse one another. He argued that humans should create a social order to abolish war and robbery. His view was very different from the view of Jews and Christians, however, about the relationship between humans and the creator. He did not believe that the creator had given humans dominion over the earth. On the contrary, "The principle of righteousness demands that all thoughts ofprejudice, privilege or superiority be swept away, and that . . . the creation is intended for the benefit of all equally, even the birds and animals, the trees and the insects, as well as the humans. . . . Nothing belongs to humans, not even their labor or their skills, for ambition and abilities are also the gifts of the creator. Therefore all people have a right to the things they need to survive, even those who do not or cannot work, and no person has a right to deprive others of the fruits of those gifts."

He also argued that humans were given the gift of reason in order to settle their disputes without violence.

Finally he argued for a principal translated into English as Power, but which is nearly the opposite of our own idea of power. "Peace . . . flourished only in a garden fertilized with absolute and pure justice. It was the product of a spiritually conscious people. "

He set up a constitution for a confederation of the six nations which was radical but reasonable for a hunting and gardening society. It included parallel political structures for men and women, and the abolition of territoriality. It's specifics are not evidently adaptable to our current circumstances, but it may be instructive if we consider it in its context.

To my way of thinking, the story of the Peacemaker is particularly instructive because it shows that, while people everywhere tended to feel that the universe must have a creator, their ideas about the creator could be very different. If God demanded that the Hebrews follow the laws of the Pentateuch, and later that they accept Jesus as their personal savior or else He would torture them for eternity in hell, he evidently didn't bother to tell most of the world's population, but allowed them to come up with their own ideas, presumably at the cost of their immortal souls. That was not nice of Him at all.