The Great League of the Iroquois existed for centuries before both Americas had been discovered by the other continents. Composed of five nations known to us under the names of Mohawks, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca, the Iroquois Confederacy had occupied most of the present-day upstate New York and more, spilling into the southeastern Canada.
What made this confederacy special was their amazingly detailed, well-defined constitution. Recorded by a pictographic system in the form of wampum belts, the league’s laws held on for centuries, maintaining perfect balance between five powerful nations.
More than a few modern scholars believe that USA constitution was inspired by the Iroquois. To what degree, this is another question, but Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and some other Founding Fathers were, undoubtedly, very well-versed in the laws of the Great League, with Franklin advocating a federal system akin to that of the Iroquois and Adams leading a faction that favored more centralized government but still citing some of the Iroquois laws in the process.
So what was this remarkable constitution, and how did it come to life?
The year is 1140 and the war is raging on, relentless, uncompromising, a ferocious warfare, with every nation fighting each other, raiding one another’s towns, seeking revenge against offenses, imaginary or real. Five sister-nations caught in the web of violence and retaliation, unable to escape the hopeless loop.
To settle their differences and make them talk, someone with courage and unusually broad thinking was needed. Maybe a prophet. Maybe just an outstanding man. But an outsider, on that all the versions of the legend agree.
The Great Peacemaker, indeed, according to all sources crossed Lake Ontario, heading from the lands of the Huron/Wyandot people, present day southeastern Canada. For reasons unknown, his own country folk did not want to listen to his message.
However, the time the first novel in the trilogy is dealing with, the main bulk of the work was yet awaiting him. To cross the Lake Ontario was a brave decision. But what made him do that? Did he leave willingly or was he forced to do so?
Tekeni, a captive youth from across the Great Sparkling Water (Lake Ontario), adopted but finding it difficult to fit into his new life, gets caught in the middle of his new country folk politics when a game of lacrosse goes wrong. An act of violence, commenced out of an impulse puts him outside the law, hated by all but one man who is also frowned upon.
Two Rivers was an esteemed hunter and warrior, a local man of impressive abilities and skills, but a strange person with strange ideas that he never bothered to keep to himself. He claimed that the constant warfare was a wrong way of life, that the struggle between the neighboring nations – even the enemy across the Great Lake! – should stop. He maintained that the peaceful existence was possible. A notion that made even his friends shake their heads in doubt. What he said made no sense.
Yet, the man was insistent, arguing with his peers and his elders and betters, even the members of the Town and War Councils, and the Mothers of the Clans. Many eyebrows were raised in disapproval, but now that he was defending an enemy cub guilty of crime, the general displeasure began to turn into anger and hatred. Just whom this man thought he was?
With their trouble mounting and the revengefulness of some people around them growing, both Tekeni and Two Rivers find themselves pushed beyond limits.
An excerpt from “Two Rivers”, The Peacemaker Series, book #1.
Turning abruptly, she faced him, her face barely visible in the faint moonlight, mainly the outline of the beautiful cheekbones, high and oh-so-well defined.
“What do you want?” he asked tiredly, squatting upon the cold sand.
“Me? Nothing! I want nothing from you.”
“Then why did you wait for me here?”
“I didn’t say I was waiting for you!” The fringes decorating her dress jumped angrily as her chest rose and fell. “I came to enjoy some peace and quiet. I was here first.”
He snorted. “Peace and quiet? You don’t look so peaceful. And you were waiting for me here, fuming and getting angrier with every heartbeat.”
The hiss of her breath tore the silence. “I just came to tell you that if you will go on defending the dirty whelp that tried to kill my brother, you will regret it dearly.”
He didn’t turn his head, not surprised.
“Your brother is not dead yet. He may heal. And he was the one to attack this boy. I was there, I saw it all. He grabbed the boy by his throat, and he threatened to kill him, after he hit him in the middle of the game. It was quite a blow, and I’m surprised he didn’t break this youth’s arm. And maybe he did. It was all blue and swollen, but no one paid attention, of course. No one cared for the dirty foreigner. They were busy fussing around your brother, the impeccable Wyandot man.” He raised his hand as she tried to say something, glaring at her in his turn, truly angry now. “Well, I did not intend to defend the wild cub. He was certainly guilty of the charges against him. All I did was to tell the true story when I was called by the Town Council to testify. But now, after talking to you, I may very well do that, try to help that boy. He was treated badly enough, this afternoon, if not through his previous moons here. He was adopted formally, turned into one of us. But he is not treated as one of us now, is he?”
“If my brother dies, he’ll die,” she said stubbornly, turning away and peering at the dark mass of the water below her feet. “Adopted or not, one of us or not. And I’m warning you. Keep out of it. Many people are angry with you as it is. Your attitude is bad enough, without making matters so much worse by helping the filthy cub.” She paused, and he could imagine her lips pressing tightly, unpleasantly thin, an ugly sight, although she was a beautiful woman. “The boy is lost, anyway. If my brother recovers, he will not let this incident pass unavenged. He will kill the boy by his own hand.”
“He can’t take the law into his hands. We are no savages. We have councils to settle such matters.”
A shrug was his answer. He tried to keep his anger at bay.
“How is he now?” he asked instead.
She shrugged again. “He is vomiting, and he cannot see clearly. He is murmuring, coming around, and then going back into the worlds of the Spirits.”
“Not good.” He sighed and more felt than saw her doing the same. “But he still may heal. I’ve seen people recover from head injuries like that. It takes time.”
“I hope you are right.” Her voice stiffened again, turning freezing cold. “But if he doesn’t, this boy will wish he were never born.”
The hatred, he thought, feeling the familiar twisting in his stomach. Always hatred. So much of it. And it is ruling our lives, this ever present sense of being wronged, this persistent need of revenge, this hopeless urge to take our frustrations out on something or someone. And always anger, anger, lakes of anger, not a peaceful moment for anyone, harmful, destructive, corruptive, ruining people and nations. Can’t they truly see the wrong in it?”