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Eating the once noble turkey, nominated by that one intellectual giant amongst the founders of the USA, Benjamin Franklin, to be our national bird, has come to symbolize much of what is wrong about celebrating this holiday.
The original turkey was a wily, respected bird, the successful stalking of which marked one as a skilled hunter. The fowl that most Americans will be stuffing themselves with this Thursday is raised in cages, being fed increasing amounts of genetically engineered grain, laced with antibiotics. It is so hyper-inbred, the male’s breast is so large females must be artificially inseminated. It would seem being to fat to have sex has now become another addition to the American tradition.
Benjamin Franklin and the Founding Fathers of America didn’t celebrate this holiday. In fact, the Thanksgiving holiday was a public relations gimmick dreamed up by that corporate lawyer turned politician, Abraham Lincoln, during the darkest days of the Civil War in an attempt to win support for an increasingly unpopular war.
No, during Benjamin Franklin’s time, the white settlers were too busy actually dealing with a militant, armed, united, well led and organized League of the Iroquois to be bothered pretending they were friends. One needs to look no further than the so called “Prince Phillips War” in the middle of the 18th century to find some of the most horrendous massacres committed against the “savage” Indian by the “god fearing Christians.”
Yet the nation empire founded by the legendary Hiawatha , the League of the Iroquois, occupied a considerable portion of Benjamin Franklin scholarly attention in his earlier years. As a printer Franklin was in charge of the correspondence between the League of the Iroquois and the colonialists. He became such an authority on the American Indian that he was appointed to his first diplomatic post as Commissioner of Indian Affairs and acted as Ambassador to the League of the Iroquois for the colony of Pennsylvania.
Addressing the Albany Congress in 1754, Franklin called on the delegates from the English colonies to unite along the lines of the League of the Iroquois, something they were not to do until 30 years later.
Benjamin Franklin was also the author of the original, draft constitution. When looking for models for Franklins new “democracy” in European society, you find little in over two thousand years of European history, having to go all the way back to the Roman and earlier Greek city states.
Yet if you look at Franklins neighbors, the League of the Iroquois, and their constitution, you find remarkable similarities with what Franklin envisioned in his Constitution.
The League of the Iroquois was composed of nation “states” which had jurisdiction over affairs in that “state” only. Each “state” had its own elected legislature, which, as in Franklin’s Constitution, chose a number of“electors” to the “federal” League of the Iroquois. These “electors” were accorded to each “state” based on the individual “states” population. The“electors” met regularly in a sacred hall for their deliberations. This “grand council” (the name Franklin used in the original draft of the Constitution for what came to be the Congress of the USA) was unicameral, as was Franklin’s original white settler “council”, later Congress, of the former English colonies.
This Grand Council of the League of the Iroquois declared war and negotiated peace treaties, sent and received ambassadors, decided on new members joining the League and in general acted as a “federal” government whose decisions superseded those of the “states” in affairs of the “nation”.
As in Franklin’s Constitution, in the League of the Iroquois, the electors could not be serving in the military while holding office. In both cases, an electorate chose the electors and could recall their choice at anytime. One of the main differences between the two "democracies" was that in the League of the Iroquois, the electors were reserved for men but elected by the women. In the League of the Iroquois the women elected the leadership, something much more "democratic" than the actual minority of men who got to vote in the USA.
Franklin’s protege, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the final draft of the Constitution, was also a student of the American Indian. Jefferson was the first person to propose a systematic ethnological study of the American Indian so as to “collect their traditions, laws, customs, languages and other circumstances”.
Yet the founding fathers of the USA displayed a savagery in destroying the League of the Iroquois as well as that other American Indian “democracy”, the Creek Confederation that shocked even some of their peers.
That genocide, both good and ill intentioned, was carried out by Europeans against the American Indians is an undeniable fact. The question we must ask is “why did this happen?”.
During the period of the most active genocide against American Indians, slavery was King in America. And as long as Africans in slavery had a place to escape to, as well as base to launch retaliation from, no slave owner was safe. The threat represented by Indian/African unity resulted in the ruthless attacks on the League of the Iroquois, the Creek Confederation, and finally, the so called “Seminole Wars” of the early 19th century.
Seminole is a Spanish corruption of an Indian word for “runaway” or "renegade". The “Seminole Indians” were a mixture of escaped Africans and American Indians, mainly remnants of the Creek Confederation who had escaped to the Florida Everglades. The Seminoles fought the longest most expensive war in American history until that point. Their defeat followed by the “Trail of Tears” death march, ended the last major resistance by American Indians east of the Mississippi River, and secured the institution of slavery in the south. Slavery was King and the Only Good Indian was a Dead Indian became the slogan for much of what was policy
in the USA.
With this in mind, and with “Thanksgiving” once again upon us, it behooves all Americans of good will to take the time to reflect on your real history, to teach this to your children.
TOM MOUNTAIN lives in Eritrea and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org