FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Iroquois Way of Impeachment

Not only does American democracy rank a miserable 17th on the list of the world’s modern democracies (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy); it also doesn’t fare well when compared with traditional Native American democracies, in particular, with the Iroquois Confederacy–the Haudenosaunee–“the oldest living participatory democracy on earth.”

In “Perceptions of America’s Native Democracies,” Donald A. Grinde Jr. and Bruce E. Johansen point out that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among others, could benefit–and did benefit to some extent–from Native Americans’ experience in designing functional democracies. Unfortunately, being racist and sexist as well as mostly contemptuous of direct democracy, our Founding Fathers failed to take full advantage of the political genius of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: The Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, the Senecas, and the Tuscaroras. Among the Iroquois provisions absent from the U.S. Constitution is the law that allows Iroquois clan mothers to initiate impeachment against incompetent or criminal political leaders, or “sachems”:

The rights, duties, and qualifications of sachems were explicitly outlined, and the clan mothers could remove (or impeach) a sachem who was found guilty of any of a number of abuses of office–from missed meetings to murder.

Had our Founding Fathers been less prejudiced and more inclined to study Native American political philosophy seriously, they would have learned a valuable political lesson from the Iroquois. Today the mothers of U.S. soldiers killed in wars started by the neocon armchair warriors in the White House would have the moral and legal authority to initiate impeachment of these immoral “sachems.” In the case of the worst crime of the 21st century–the U.S. war on Iraq–the Iroquois law would give Cindy Sheehan and thousands of American mothers the legal power to force impeachment proceedings in the Supreme Court by bypassing an irresponsible or incompetent Congress.

Once removed from office, Bush and other warlords like Cheney and Rumsfeld would be subject to our criminal laws–no pardon or parole being available to officials thus impeached. (Consider the advantage of this provision if Nixon had been sent to prison, instead of being pardoned by President Gerald Ford, an immoral decision that has had tragic consequences.)

The genius of Iroquois democracy to empower mothers, “the Lifegivers of our Mother Earth,” with impeachment authority is that such a law restrains expedient political power with apolitical moral judgment. Iroquois women were not part of the political/military elites and did not feel compelled to compromise moral principles under political pressure. Not our elected representatives in Congress, not our career female politicians like Clinton or Pelosi–but ordinary American citizens, mothers of U.S. soldiers, should ultimately keep executive power in check.

It may be that the Iroquois impeachment law is the only efficient way for modern democracies to balance political expediency with moral responsibility.

KAZ DZIAMKA is editor of the American Rationalist and teaches English and Native American Studies at the Albuquerque Central New Mexico Community College. Email: kazd@nmia.com

 

More articles by:

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail