Civic Stories: Indigenous Influence on the Constitution

Civic Stories: Indigenous Influence on the Constitution

What intellectual sources did the Founders use when drafting the Constitution? Join us as we examine the influence Indigenous peoples and tribal governments like the Iroquois Confederacy had on the founders and the ideas enshrined in the Constitution.

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Welcome everyone to the National Constitution Center my name is Madison And I'm a member of the center's Education team and I am so excited to Welcome you to Civic stories I'm Especially excited for this Civic story Though because it's a newer one to us we Are going to be taking a look at Indigenous influence on the Constitution So we are looking at kind of the peoples The places events that formed we the People and one of the sources that we're Going to look at today is of course Indigenous influence So I'm going to have questions for you I Hope you have questions for me and the Best way for you to communicate those Questions is going to be through the Chat feature here or the Q&A box so it's Up to you whichever one you'd like to Choose and I will do my best to save Some time at the end for questions but Before we begin we want to at the National Constitution Center we want to Recognize that we are on the ancestral Lands of the lp H uh of the lp hoking um These are the ancestral lands of the lp Peoples kind of in this Philadelphia Region and we acknowledge that there's Been a long history of broken treaties Forced migrations and fraudulent Agreements such as the walking purchase Of 1737 if any of you are from the

Pennsylvania area you might be familiar With this walking purchase so just Before we begin our program we strive to Understand our place within this Legacy Of colonization and to act as allies to The late people and their vibrant Communities today including the ferally Recognized nations of the Delaware tribe The Delaware nation and the Stockbridge Muny Community we pay honor and respect To the lenp ancestors past and present By committing to build a more inclusive And Equitable space for all so let's Dive right into the Constitution shall We and look at these intellectual Sources so what the framers created in 1787 that long hot summer of 1787 was a Revolutionary form of government we've Got this painting on the screen here It's a nice depiction of the Constitutional Convention you've got George Washington there Ben Franklin Alexander Hamilton a lot of the famous Guys right and in many ways the system Of government of the People by the People for the people that they created Had never been done before it really was Revolutionary however when drafting a New constitution the framers did have Some examples That they could turn to from history When we think of past governments or People uh that may have influenced the Framers in the Constitution's creation

Who or what comes to mind take a second Pop that in the chat who did the framers Study when drafting this new Constitution any ideas take a minute pop It into the chat think about it who did They study I will say that while you're Thinking of this and brainstorming and Popping those into the chat uh James Madison our favorite fourth president Was a bookworm oh my goodness and he Spent the winter and spring before the Convention reading up on so many Different past governments Scholars Everything to go in prepared and ready For class ready for the Constitutional Convention and Miss cunning Tam's class Brilliantly points out one of our Intellectual sources the founders read a Lot of John Lock ver Baron von monu you Know perhaps the ancient Greeks and the Romans certainly the framer studied These examples of government perhaps the Enlightenment thinkers right like we Talked about um monu and lock and some Of the framers even found modern aspects Of modern governments instructive this Is pretty funny uh despite his service In the Revolutionary War Alexander Hamilton remarked to the horror of some Of his fellow delegates uh that he Believed that the British form the British form of government is the best Model the world has ever Produced everyone in the room said sir

We just fought a revolution against them But even so Alexander Hamilton did Believe that the British form of Government was were should be a source When developing the Constitution all of These figures and forms of government Influenc the framers to shape their own Constitution today however we're going To be taking a look and explore another Possible Influence one that is much closer to Home and is often Overlooked here is a letter check out This excerpt a letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1751 to his printer Colleague James Parker he writes it Would be a very strange thing if six Nations of ignorant Savages should be Capable of forming a scheme for such a Union and be able to execute it in such A manner as that it has subsisted ages And appears Indisoluble and yet that like Union Should be impractical for 10 or a dozen English colonies to whom it is more Necessary and must be more Advantageous what do we think of this Letter who do you think Franklin is Referring to in this letter is there Anything about this quote that stands Out to you in this letter and how would You describe Franklin's feelings toward This particular group of people that he Is writing

About who is he referring To what stands out to you and how would You describe his feelings that he's Conveying in this letter how would you Describe his feelings about this Particular group of people yes a lot of You are pouring into the chat because he Says some pretty bold offensive kind of Conflicting things in this letter check It out I highlighted some of what you Have you've included in here six nations Of quote ignorant Savages that they are Capable and that what they've created This form of government appears Indisoluble meaning he's impressed by it It seems like it's a strong union and Then he mentions the colonies and says That the colony should be able to Replicate this because it's much more Necessary for the colonies and more Advantageous as he says for the colonies To have a system of government like this A lot of you have quickly identified his Kind of competing conflicting ideas About this group of people and many of You have correctly identified that he is Discussing the iray Confederacy so he is Referring to the indigenous peoples and Their system of government which some Historians believe influenced many of The principles that we see in our US Constitution now the Six Nations that Franklin is referring to uh in in his Letter um are known kind of more widely

As the iroa Confederacy though they Refer to themselves as the hodon and That's also known they also call Themselves the people of the long housee Now the hodon tribes are made up of the Onida the Onandaga the Kuga Mohawk oh I'm sorry Sona I beat Myself Sona Mohawk and then later on we See uh the Tuscarora join so there is Some debate about when this Union these Six nations were formed uh possibly as Far back as the 12th century when the Great Peacemaker United the Waring tribes they Were quarreling tribes um and Established not only a lasting peace but A framework of government that might Look a little familiar to some of us Today now the laws of the hodon were Known as the Great Law of Peace and it Was originally recorded on wam belts um And this law has been trans translated To written language so look at this Translation here when the Council of the Five Nation Lords shall convene they Shall appoint a speaker for the day he Shall be a lord of either the Mohawk Onandaga or senica Nation the next day The council shall appoint another Speaker but the first Speaker may be Reappointed if there is no objection but Speaker's term shall not be regarded More than for the day anything look

Familiar anything look uh like it might Be seen in the constitution do we see Any of those influences yet check out This other excerpt all the business of The five nations Confederate Council Shall be conducted by the two combined Bodies of Confederate Lords first the Question shall be passed upon by the Mohawk and senica Lords then it shall be Discussed and passed by the Onida and Kuga Lords their decisions shall then be Referred to the onandaga Lords or the Fire Keepers for final judgment The same process shall obtain when a Question is brought before the council By an individual or a Warchief friends Questions for you what stands out about You to these some of these laws of the Hodon do we see any similarities to the Constitution any Connections I see that Bonnie's class Has quickly identified that there Absolutely we see some minds are being Blown right this idea that there is a a Rule of law a separation of powers Certainly principles that we see in the United States Constitution absolutely Like check this out we highlighted some Of them appoint a speaker did we not Just see that that we literally that's Been dominating the news for some time Right appointing a speaker uh addressing This idea of term limits that a Speaker's term shall not be regarded uh

For more than a day certainly we see Some influence here popular sovereignty Voting term limit what about this Section We see again that balance that Separation of powers this kind of Process for the rule of law kind of Articulating how something will go Through the system all of you are Popping in here yes term limits all of These influences are in the Constitution I'm definitely seeing these influences Too so happy I am not alone so this is This is fascinating we see this Translation we see that there are Principles that connect that cross over That perhaps directly influence the Constitution now at the height of the Iroy confederacy's power in the early 1700s they controlled much of the Territory around um Lake Erie Lake hurin I don't know if I got that right sorry Friends in the Great Lakes area or in um In upstate and uh uh Great Lakes area Lake Ontario much of Upstate New York as Well as part of the Ontario and Quebec In 1744 the onandaga chief um keso met With Pennsylvania colonist in Lancaster And spoke about the power power of His Tribe and the importance of unity check Out this Quote canasatego was said to have Remarked that we heartily recommend Union and good agreement between you our

Brethren never disagree but preserve a Strict friendship for one another and Thereby you as well as we will become Stronger our wise forefathers Established Union and Amity between the Five nations and this has made us for Itable this has given us great weight And Authority with our neighboring Nations this is fascinating Insight Right this idea that this theme of unity Is something that we're seeing kind of You know throughout this history here That Unity seems to be The unity seems to be the unifier in Keeping everyone together and creating Allies like April said absolutely so Unity is also kind of building on that Theme Unity is also top of mind for the Creator of this political cartoon has Anyone seen this political cartoon Before pop in the chat has anyone seen This before does it look familiar oh I See a lot of hands raising yes it looks Like we've seen a lot we have some folks Who haven't seen it awesome well don't Worry we're going to talk about it looks Like we're kind of split some yes some No absolutely this is called the join or Diet cartoon so have you seen this Before for those of you who have do you Know who designed it And what message was he trying to Send anybody know even if you don't know Who designed it what do you think the

Creator of the cartoon is trying to send What is he trying to convey to People I have many of you who are Writing that unify the colonies join the Colonies and some of you have correctly Identified this man this is believe it Or not friends a young a a young young Benjamin Franklin portrait of a young Benjamin Franklin this political cartoon Was drawn by Ben Franklin in 1754 and Franklin had been appointed to Attend what would later become known as The Albany Congress where Representatives from Seven colonies as We kind of see in the snake here in this Cartoon here Connecticut Maryland Massachusetts New York New Hampshire Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all of Those uh representatives from these Colonies were going to meet and discuss The French threat uh on and work on a Treaty with the iray Confederacy so as The Albany Congress approached Franklin Was concerned about a recent military Loss to the French and he was clearly Pondering Colonial Allegiance or Colonial Alliance right this idea that We need to unite to confront this French Aggression so a few days after a small Military defeat uh Franklin published an Article about this loss and this cartoon Was featured along onside the article so Accompanying the article is the Joiner Die cartoon with a snake cut into eight

Pieces that symbolize these British Colonies and Franklin's message hit home As the cartoon and article started Appearing in other Colonial newspapers So though the Albany Plan was not Officially adopted some historians Believe that plans for Colonial Union May have been inspired by the iroy that They had warned you know these colonists That unification is is how you're going To get through this so this is a a Pretty popular cartoon some of you may Have seen it um and I'm happy to share a Follow-up resource at the end and you Can learn a little bit more about it so It's it's a fascinating Cartoon now the following decades were Marked by continued conflict right um Discontent within the colonies and Finally in 1776 the colonists gathered Right across the street from the National Constitution Center in the Pennsylvania state house but you may Know it today as Independence Hall to Vote to declare independence from Britain now the Declaration of Independence is absolutely undeniably a Pivotal moment in US history but the American Revolution threatened the unity Now of the iroy Confederacy just one year earlier in 1775 the Onida expressed their desires To remain neutral in this conflict Writing Brothers possess your mind in

Peace respecting us Indians we can Cannot intermetal in this dispute Between you two brothers the qual seems To be unnatural you are two brothers if One blood and we are unwilling to join One side or the other in such a contest For we bear an equal affection to both Of you Old and New England should the Great king of England apply to us for Our Aid we shall deny him if the Colonies apply we will Refuse the present situation of you two Brothers is new and strange to Us check out these highlighted portions These highlighted portions here that we Cannot intermetal in this dispute it is New and strange to us we are unwilling To join as the war progressed though Maintaining neutrality was just Difficult for many of the iroy and many Were forced to choose a side in this Conflict of the Six Nations that Belonged to the iry or the hodon the Mohawk the on a the kuga and the Sena Actively sided with the British while The Onida and Tuscarora supported the Colonists so you see it has now affected This Unity of the iray Confederacy now even with the colonist Victory of the Revolutionary War the Colonists still needed to create a new Form of government that would unify and Endure so the delegates gathered once Again in independent Hall and this time

They drafted the Constitution now the Delegates were able to establish a Supreme law of the land with this Document but what does the document say About indigenous peoples some of which Helped the colonists secure independence From Britain what does it say there are Two sections of article one in the Constitution that specifically refer to These indigenous populations Article 1 Section 2 paragraph 3 Representatives And direct taxes shall be apportioned Among the several States determined by Adding to the whole number of free Persons including those bound to service For a term of years and excluding Indians not taxed three fifths of all Other persons we also see in Article 1 Section 8 paragraph 3 that Congress Shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations and among The several States and with the Indian Tribes so looking at these texts here Friends what stands out to you when you Read these Sections based on this text of the Constitution of the original Constitution do you think the framers of The Constitution view these indigenous Populations as part of this new vision Of We the People are they part of this New Constitution are they are they not Are we somewhere in between take a Minute think about it I see that some of

You are putting in the chat that you're Not sure you think so maybe Yes we yes they are included no they are Definitely not included it's just Something to consider we see too that Three fists yes is not for you're right It's not for natives it was for enslaved African-Americans that's absolutely true Too but do you notice too that they Loop Them in the framers Loop them into the Same section addressing enslaved they Loop the natives in there as well the Native peoples it's very interesting Right I see a lot of a lot of I'm not Sure in the chat and you know what That's totally okay that's fine that's Why we're here today we're learning and It's it's a little bit difficult to kind Of reconcile how the framers felt about The indigenous people think back to Franklin's original letter he talks About how brilliant their form of Government but in the same breath is he Calls them you know ignorant Savages It's something that's very difficult to Reconcile the Constitution also Established the power of the president And the Senate to make treaties with Foreign Nations and in 7 1994 the United States and the six nations of the iroy Confederacy signed the canuga treaty This treaty was to establish peace and Affirm land rights so you see here that It was to affirm these land rights kind

Of giving back what was steved during What was what was seized during the Revolutionary War was an important step And kind of this you know reparation for For all of the effort they had made and Securing independence from Britain um The treaty was also recognized by the Sovereignty of the Nations to govern and Set laws as individual Nations um while Certain provisions of this treaty would Later be violated um portions of it are Still in effect today so based on this Inclusion the the the inclusion to um Make treaties with foreign Nations that We see for the president and the Senate Think about that so they're allowing These you know these indigenous Populations to make treaties with the United States so it would indicate that They do not view them right as as part Of this vision of we the people that's What many of you have stated um I do Think it's interesting though in each Year on November 11th there is a Celebration in New York and observance Of this treaty um by the Six Nations People so that's coming up it's just a Little over a week away and it's um a Big celebration historic commemoration Of this treaty and and kind of all that It Signifies so when we look at this and we Kind of wrap up our time together today I think it's important to note that

Indigenous history in the United States Has often been overlooked and Oversimplified uh throughout our Nation's history the Constitution and Its political structures have been Weaponized to dispossess native peoples Of their lands uh the effects of which Are still seen today that's undeniable There is plenty of work to be done but Small steps forward have been made uh During the 1980s as the bicentennial of The con of the Constitutional Convention Approached um Congress the nation Decided to kind of reflect Um and you know think about the past 200 Years of we the people and the Constitution and its intellectual Sources and Congress passed house Resolution 331 which finally Acknowledged indigenous influence on our Nation's Charter um and it stated the Following that it was to acknowledge the Contributions of the iray Confederacy of Nations to the development of the United States and it also acknowledged the Influence of their political system you Know developed by the iray Confederacy And that there are many Democratic Principles which were incorporated into The Constitution Itself took some 200 years but we do see That finally that there is some Recognition of this influence that the Hodon had on the framers and creating

The Constitution you know it's not Necessarily drawing these big sweeping Generalizations just based off feelings But we're looking at the letters that The framers wrote that they corresponded With each other talking about these Native peoples and their incredible form Of government so the proof is there we Know it is and finally in 19 in October Of 1988 we see that the Congress Acknowledges this um that that there is Influence outside of what we know of the Greeks and the Romans and the Enlightenment thinkers um that the Indigenous influence on the Constitution Is is Real This resolution is a step in The right direction um there is still Work to be done and sometimes that work Can feel overwhelming and impossible at Times s to tackle but we're all doing a Small part of that work today right We're learning this history together so I hope you can go home go to your Students go to your teachers friends Family around the dinner table whatever You want to do and talk about this talk About what you've learned today and open Up a conversation that's the point of Civic stories we're learning all about We the People how that has been expanded How it has been shrunk over the years How it's kind of ebbed and flowed but This is a really important conversation To have I'm so happy that I'm having it

With all of you so I am going to thank You all so much for tuning in I'm going To formally end the recording

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