Our forefathers were amazing men but even they had to glean their wisdom from somewhere and building a great nation wasn’t something schools taught. Our history books didn’t cover it but we owe a ton of gratitude for the start of our amazing country to the leader of the Iroquois Confederacy, Canassatego (1684–1750), and the Six Nation Council.
The Six Nations-were a league of Indian tribes that included the Cayuga, Iroquois, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. They put together a system of government which would allow them to work together on things that were mutually beneficial like security and trade but left each tribe the autonomy to operate on their own in matters that affected them locally so they could maintain their own cultures.
Canassatego met with colonists as a diplomat for the Six Nations 25 years before our Declaration of Independence. He was extremely well liked and some colonists considered him one of the wisest men they had ever known or read about. He took the time to educate them on how to create a centralized government for the primary reason to provide services to the colonies. The point he stressed was that it worked for them because the central government (council), was there to serve the tribes not the other way around.
Representatives of each tribe would meet at least a couple of times a year to make sure everyone was pleased with how things were going and if there were any needs that had to be addressed like food supplies, land encroachment by settlers, or trade problems. Indians had pride in their own tribes but they were also very proud of being part of the Great Council because it gave them greater leverage in dealing with Britain (including our colonies), and France.
Benjamin Franklin was a great admirer of Canassatego and this is why he fought so hard for the colonies and later state rights. He kept a watchful eye on others who were framing the Constitution to ensure the Federal Government had limited powers and that it served the greater good of each colony (i.e. domestic and international trade, monetary system, military, postal system, etc.).
It’s believed that Canassatego was assassinated (poisoned), by a French spy while the Six Nations were working with Britain and the colonies to prevent France from getting a foothold in the Ohio Valley. Sixteen years after his death some of our forefathers wrote a beautiful letter to the Iroquois Nation crediting Canassatego and the Six Nation Council for helping them better understand how to establish an effective system of government; yet as I wrote earlier, our history books didn’t capture this bit of our history. We were told how awesome our forefathers were but we weren’t given insight into why they were so awesome besides their personal stories of triumph over the British monarchy.
I wrote this article because I strongly feel that Canassatego and the Six Nation Council deserves for us to remember their contributions to our great country. There are so many unspoken heroes. I hope you’ll do what you can to pass this story on so they get the legacy they deserve.