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The Forgotten Founding Father – Chief Canassatego There has been reference to the Moors as a force in North America prior to the 1600’s. MacRitchie in “Ancient and Modern Britons” wrote about the Moors that fought the Christians and New England in 1676. An article describing the even used the terms Moor and Indian interchangeably. And the presence of the Delaware Moors, also called Nanticote and Lenni Lenape has also been well documented. Some of the Delawares acknowledge a Moorish (Moroccan) origin for their tribe. According to historians, the Indians (Moors) of the northeast corridor of America were perennially aat war with one another until, as the Iroquois tradition states, Deganawida, a Huron from what is now eastern Ontario, proposed the creation of a league of five Indian nations. He found a spokesperson, Hiawatha, to undertake the arduous task of negotiating with the warring Indian nations. Hiawatha succeeded in accomplishing Deganawidah’s dream, and the Senecas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Mohawks, and Cayugas ceased their struggle and formed a federal union. There is some disagreement about when the league began. There is a good scholarly case to substantiate the traditional oral accounts suggesting the 1100s as the founding of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (the Iroquois called themselves Haudenosaunee, meaning “people of the longhouse”). Another nation, the Tuscaroras, moved northward from the Carolinas, joining the league around 1714. The so-called savages of the New World had formed a federation that would be the envy of Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington. The Iroquoian system, expressed through its constitution, “The Great Law of Peace,” rested on assumptions foreign to monarchies of Europe: it regarded leaders as servants of the people, rather than their masters, and made provisions for the leaders’ impeachment for errant behavior. The Iroquois’ law and custom upheld freedom of expression in political and religious matters, and it forbade the unauthorized entry of homes. It provided for political participation by women and the relatively equitable distribution of wealth. The Iroquois prized individual independence, and their government was set up so as to preserve that independence. The Iroquois confederation contained the “germ of modern parliament, congress and legislature.” The symbol of the Iroquois league’s Great Law of Peace was the Great Tree of Peace. When Deganwidah stood before the first council of the United Nations at Onondaga and planted the Tree of the Great Peace, he planted in the hearts of his people a symbol that was to give power and permanence to their union. The Iroquois excelled at the management of human relationships. To them, peace was the law. Peace was righteousness in action and the great good. They used the white pine tree as their symbol for peace and likened its roots stretching to all corners of the earth to the extension of peace and law to all humankind. The branches symbolized shelter, security, and protection provided by the law of peace. If the law of peace was the constitution of the union of the tribes, then the tree was the living symbol of their constitution. The eagle atop the tree symbolized watchfulness and a need to be ever vigilant and farseeing, and to stand guard to defend liberty, the peace, the union, and the constitution. The war club beneath the tree symbolized the burial of weapons of war because hostilities between the nations ended in union. Contrast the burial of weapons with the eagle on the one dollar bill with olive branch in one talon and 13 arrows in the other. Centuries before Columbus arrived in the New World, democracy was alive and well, just waiting for the “Founding Fathers” to discover it. The American Indians (Moors) established a democratic government of their own before the time of the white man, which is a term that didn’t apply to the European until he successfully invaded America. Early settlers – and later Americans – owed their very existence to the Indians (Moors). As Felix Cohen asserted, “The real epic of America is the yet unfinished story of the Americanization of the white man.” Benjamin Franklin became aware of the accomplishments of the Iroquois League and spread the word through his work as a printer. He published booklets detailing the proceedings of Indian treaty councils as early as 1736. One such council was held in 1744 in Lancaster, PA, where representatives from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania met with the chiefs of the Iroquois League and agreed to an Anglo-Iroquois alliance. Both sides needed this alliance to halt France’s determination to dominate the New World. The colonies agreed to control the recurrent problem of Scotch-Irish frontiersmen who were squatting on Indian land without permission, and in return the Indians (Moors) would side with the English against France. In the course of this meeting on July 4, 1744, the Indian spokesperson, Canassatego, much revered by both Indians and colonists, advised that the colonies unite, just as the Indians (Moors) had done centuries before. “Our wise forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and by your observing the same methods, our wise forefathers have taken, you will acquire such Strength and power. Therefore, whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another,” he said. In 1751 Franklin thought that the colonists should accept the Iroquois advice to form a union in common defense under a common, federal government…. “It would be a very strange thing if Six Nations of Ignorant Savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union and be able to execute it in such a manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble, and yet a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English Colonies.” Franklin served as one of the colony’s commissioners at a meeting in 1753 with the six nations in Carlisle, PA. The Carlisle Treaty, which supported national defense against the French, began Franklin’s diplomatic career. In 1754 the Albany Congress convened to cement the alliance with the Iroquois and to formulate and ratify a plan of uniting the colonies, as Canasstego had proposed ten years earlier. The similarities are obvious between the Albany plan of union created by Franklin and the League of the Iroquois Nations. Franklin proposed that a president-general appointed by the crown preside over the colonies. Each state would retain its internal sovereignty and constitution so that distrust among states due to wide diversity of opinions and geographical separation could be somewhat neutralized. The Iroquois resolved this difficulty by requiring that all “states” agree on a particular action before putting it into effect. Another similarity was that Franklin’s proposed Grand Council and the Iroquois Great Council were both unicameral, unlike the British bicameral system. Franklin’s leadership in proposing the Albany Plan made him the progenitor of the colonial union and a federalist system of government. He was too far ahead of his time, though, and the Albany Plan died in the state legislatures, which pleased the British. It was to resurface two decades later, after the Stamp Act united the colonies, and eventually would result in the Articles of Confederation. However, Prophet Noble Drew Ali taught the Moorish Americans, part descendants of these indigenous Moors, that the free national constitution was ratified in 1774. Noble Drew Ali stated that “the free national constitutional law that was enforced since 1774 declared all men equal and free and that constitution has never been changed.” Starting in October 1775, the flag flown from the American fleet to intercept British supplies coming to Boston had a design that was inspired by the Iroquois League’s Great Tree of Peace. It shows a white ground with a green pine tree and the motto “An Appeal to Heaven.” Also in 1775, a delegation from the colonies met in hopes of negotiating an alliance against the British with chiefs of the Six Nations at Philadelphia. The commissioners repeated almost word for word the speech of Canassatego: “Brothers, our forefathers rejoiced to hear Canassatego speak…[His words] sunk deep into our hearts. The advice was good. It was kind. They said to one another: “The Six Nations are a wise people, let us hearken to them, and take their counsel; and teach our children to follow it.” Our old men have done so. They have frequently taken a single arrow and said, Children, see who easily it is broken. Then they have taken and tied twelve arrows together with a strong string or cord and our strongest men could not break them. See, said they, this is what the Six Nations mean. Divided, a single man may destroy you; united, you are a match for the whole world. We thank the great God that we are all united; that we have a strong confederacy, composed of twelve provinces… These provinces have lighted a great council fire at Philadelphia and sent sixty-five counselors to speak and act in the name of the whole, and to consult for the common good of the people…” The Forgotten Founding Father – Chief Canassatego The role of Chief Canassatego in the creation of the US government.

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