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Copyright 2001

Dr. Barbara A. Traudt

University of Denver

Graduate School of International Studies



Locke -- dry, cold, languid, wearisome, will live forever.

Montesquieu -- rapid, brilliant, glorious, enchanting, will not outlive
this century. -- Jeremy Bentham1

John Locke, empiricist, physician, philosopher and political theorist, may not
live on forever in men's memories, but throughout history will certainly be

honored by the very existence of the numerous societies he conceptually helped to

create. While his political and social philosophy is the very mortar of today's

republican societies, his "labor theory of value" was a convincing weapon against

the idle Aristocracy ruling 17th Century Europe. He was the first political theorist

to argue for the right of revolution if government usurps its duties to its citizenry.

His arguments were, in and of themselves, revolutionary and insightful for his


John Locke had a radical new idea to offer peoples everywhere. In a time

where "Divine Right of Kings" was the traditional way of ruling societies, and
where a propertied Aristocracy controlled virtually all territory while landless

peasants worked for bare subsistence, Locke argued that those who work the land

deserve its bounty -- not absentee or idle landowners. For Locke argues that

ownership of land can be had only via one's labor -- never one's position in


Further, along with Thomas Hobbes, Locke argued that societies were formed

and legitimate only on the basis of popular consent. Both men argued that a kind

of "social contract" was formed among men, in order to secure their liberty. This,

they argue, was the true origin of society. Therefore it is also the true origin of

power: consent of the people, not divine mandate! The implications of these ideas

were to be enormous.

Where Locke is held dear is in the conclusion he draws from the above

argument. Unlike Hobbes, he argued that if a society is based on popular consent,

the citizenry had the right to change the government if power is usurped by those

entrusted to govern. Locke, in effect, was the first theoretician to argue for the
unequivocal right of revolution by the people if those in a position of power

abused it. This argument was in and of itself revolutionary in 17th century

England -- so much so that Locke spent years of his life exiled from the land

where he was born, to the only liberal bastion of the time, the Netherlands. The

Two Treatises originally was considered such a seditious document that even after

Locke finished his exile and returned to England, he would deny almost to his

death his authorship of the work. Dunn elaborates, "Locke remained, however, not

merely unwilling to disclose his authorship of the . . . Two Treatises, but more

than a little hysterical when friends incautiously or inadvertently threatened to

disclose it for him" (Dunn, 1984, pp. 14).

Today, all representative democracies owe Locke a great debt. Lauded as the

"father of Liberalism" -- that political doctrine that intertwines representative

democracy, individual liberty and a free-market economic system as the basis for

society -- Locke's influence on today's world, while frequently under estimated,

has been tremendous. Cranston explains,

Locke was many other things -- economist, diplomatist, theologian,

traveler, scientist, physician, pedagogue as well as philosopher . . . .
Our modern Western world has been made by scientists, merchants,
statesmen, industrialists; Locke was the first philosopher to expound

their view of life, to articulate their aspirations and justify their
deeds. No philosopher has exercised a greater influence. . . .
(Cranston, 1961, pp. 7).

Further, Locke developed and outlined one of the outstanding economic

theories of the former millennia: "the labor theory of value". A scorching blow to

an idle Aristocracy that controlled all land, this theory was so diverse that its

argument, a justification for allocation of private property from the "commons" by

individuals vis-à-vis one's labor, was a foundation for Karl Marx's justification of

worker-owned industry and communal property. The impact of the "labor theory
of value" on today's economic systems has been enormous. Yolton argues, ". . .

Locke's account of property, . . . together with Locke's other views on civil

government, has been a staple in twentieth-century political theory . . . . (Yolton,

pp. 188).

Interestingly enough, there was another group whose political system, one of

extensive participatory democracy, heavily influenced the founding fathers of the

United States, and whose communal economic system, at the same time, also

provided a working model for the "founders" of communism, Karl Marx and

Fredrick Engels.

The Haudenosaunee people -- as a group better known as the Six Nation

Iroquois Confederacy, had a working democracy in effect at least two hundred

years before John Locke was born. This was important, for in the 1700s there

were few examples of existing democratic states to be used as models for the

fledgling "American colonies". Monarchs continued to control Europe, and

European states controlled the majority of the southern hemisphere in this age of

expansive colonization. The "founding fathers" of the United States found a

theoretical model of representative democracy in Locke's work, and a working

model of participatory, deliberative democracy in a confederation of six Native
American Nations, who called themselves "the people of the long-house": in their

language, the Haudenosaunee.

The Six Nation Iroquois Confederacy consisted of the original five nations: the

Mohawk, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, and in the 1700s were

joined by the Tuscaroras who migrated north from the Carolinas. Initially the

community of five bands resided in the vicinity of what is now Montreal, Canada,

and somewhere over 500 years ago migrated to the central New York area.

Around 1450, a man named Deganawidah, the "Great Peacemaker", came to the
Nations and offered them a radical new idea: of forming a League of Five

Nations, and "constructing a political philosophy based on rational thought"

(Wallace, pp. xv.). Their participatory democratic system was one of the first to

exist in the history of mankind.

The Oglala Lakota people of the great plains are the second indigenous group

this work focuses on. The Lakota people consisted of seven bands: the Oglala,

Brule, Sisseton, Minneconjou, Black Feet, Hunkpapa and Yankton, and identified

themselves as the people of the "Seven Council Fires". Initially living in the

woods of Minnesota, they were pushed westward in an early attempt to escape the

encroaching European and other indigenous tribes similarly migrating. The first

time they are mentioned by Europeans was as late as 1640 (Walker, 1982, pp. 11).

They found a homeland on the plains of the midwest, and came to call the Black

Hills of South Dakota the nation's cosmological birthplace. Today the bands are

scattered on reservation lands throughout South Dakota. The Oglala Lakota, the

main source for this work, live mainly on the Pine Ridge Reservation, an

impoverished and troubled community in the south-west corner of the state.

The internal political system of the Haudenosaunee was instrumental in the

development of democracy in the "Americas" -- as a hard-found example of a
working participatory government that found its basis in separation of powers,

checks and balances, and participatory democratic government. Thomas Jefferson,

Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine all visited and/or studied the Six Iroquois

Nation Confederacy in an attempt to learn their system of participatory

democracy. The Six Nations "Wampam Belt", a beaded declaration of the uniting

of the Confederacy and the embodiment of the Six Nation's constitution, served as

an important basis for the 13 colonies' Articles of Confederation. Later, it was

influential in the drafting of the Constitution of the United States.

The Haudenosaunee were at the same time influential on the work of Marx and

Engels, as an example of a working communal economic system, where each

contributes according to his ability, and receives according to his needs. Engles

particularly studied the Haudenosaunee, and discusses them extensively in his

work, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.

It is interesting to note that both Locke and the Haudenosaunee were

instrumental in the development of the emerging United States, as well as key in

the development of communal economic theory. Both have had a tremendous

effect on the development of world political systems. The two have a further

connection -- Locke, acquiring his information from travel books and

correspondence from the "Americas", mis-used Native Americans and their

communal societies in attempting to justify a social system based on private

property via individual appropriation.

Locke used indigenous Americans as examples of how an individual can

appropriate "private" property, when the world was "given by God to men in

common", according to his biblical beliefs. The majority of his examples and

assumptions concerning Native Americans were incorrect, as the idea of "private

property" on "Mother Earth" was an anathema to indigenous groups generally.
Rather, at the very basis of their beliefs was the idea that the earth was "given" to

no species at all: it belongs to the Creator; all life were to share in its bounty

equally. Human beings had a special responsibility as rational creatures to care for

the Earth so that she may continue to give life to all generations to come.

For indigenous Americans, the idea of ownership of land was an unfamiliar

concept: it was like attempting to own the air that one breathes; the sky above; or

the water in the rivers, oceans and seas. While individual Nations claimed

territorial hunting or fishing grounds, the concept of individual private ownership

of the land was non-existent. Communities of people lived together and shared

particular territories, but human life was believed to be too fragile and fleeting to

proclaim itself as owner of the complex system called Mother Earth. Mankind's

status, rather, is a humble one, as caretaker of the Earth, its steward and guarantor

of continued health for the generations of all life to come. Human beings, as a

rational species, have a special responsibility to the rest of Creation: to sustain the

Earth so that she may continue to give life to all of the unborn generations.

Mankind cannot "own" the Earth; rather it is borrowed from the future


Haudenosaunee and Lakota social and political thought, like economic

philosophy, was dramatically different from that of John Locke's. The structure of

their society was based on active, participatory democracy; absolute liberty of the

individual; and a communal system of material goods and land tenure that left no

person hungry, and none without the material necessities of life (as long as those

necessities were available at all). Those things that were life-sustaining: such as

food, water, shelter, clothing and warmth, were considered communal goods.

None should go hungry while others were well-fed, as in the belief structure of

indigenous Americans, all living things were to share Mother Earth's bounty


The philosophical premises of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee versus those of

John Locke could not be more fundamentally opposed to one another. For Locke,

conceptually, physical existence was based on the biblical idea of the world as a

hierarchy, with mankind at the top, and all other life forms below. The Earth and

all her bounty was given to man for his use, for his needs, while all other creatures

were to be under man's dominion.

Conversely, indigenous groups conceptually saw the world as a circle, so that

literally, all parts of Creation held an equal and necessary place relative to one

another -- and none stood alone inside the center. The Earth belongs only to the

Creator himself, while her bounty belongs to all. All things stand equal in the

circle of life because all things are related and necessary to each other and to the

whole. As modern man is learning, one part of the circle cannot be destroyed

without destroying the entire hoop.

Hence, all things on Earth, below and above, deserve respect, as all living and

non-animate beings hold inalienable the right of preservation. Non-animate

beings, born of Mother Earth, enjoy the same right to preservation as do animate

beings -- for the granite mountain top, the thunderstorm, the rivers, the seas, and

mankind are of the same origin.

These and other fundamental philosophical differences between Lockean and

the two indigenous societies led to distinct political, social and economic theories

and systems. In this work, I begin by examining the philosophical foundations of

two Native American societies -- the Haudenosaunee (or Iroquois) and Oglala

Lakota (Sioux), and compare and contrast them with those of John Locke. Further,
the social systems that develop from these philosophical foundations are acutely
distinct, and in a time of newly developing democratization in the international

arena, both call for intensive re-examination. For as long as the world believes,

along with John Locke, that individual liberty, democratic governance, a

communal economic system insuring that all have access to the most fundamental

necessities in life are conflictual concepts, it is being denied an important

perspective: that of the "fourth" world of indigenous peoples. This perspective

dares to go beyond representative democracy to true participatory democracy; it

ensures the absolute liberty of each to fully develop their individuality as they see
it without undue societal interference; it guarantees the necessities for self-

preservation are distributed equally among all in society; and finally, it is an

ideology based on the premise that both living and non-living things deserve

respect, as each is an integral part of the circle of life and its sustainor, our Earth.

The indigenous paradigm, I will argue, is more democratic -- if our standard

for democracy is meaningful, extensive, individual participation in a self-

governing society, than Locke's representative democracy. It ensures the

individual liberty necessary for each person to be free to follow their own

conscience; influence decision-making in political and social matters; for each to

fully develop their potential as an individual (as Locke would argue for); yet at the

same time provides the ultimate safety net for all of mankind: community. Not

welfare, but community.

Lockean theory focuses almost exclusively on the individual, where each is on

their own in society to make their own way economically, via their labor. In

Lockean society, poverty is generally blamed on the individual, due to "lack of

industry". Social factors (the necessity of unemployment in a capitalist society,

which keeps wages low and an ever ready pool of laborers for the industrialist; the
lack of equal opportunity for individuals due to race, gender or class; the depletion
of high-paying blue-collar employment with a simultaneous increase in minimum-

wage service sector jobs) are either completely ignored or extensively


The idea of communal "rights" for those things that are human necessities is

distinctly at odds with Locke's ideas of "just" acquisition of private property. For

Locke, labor begets property; labor by the individual, not by a community.

"Communal" rights do not exist; only individuals have rights. And while Locke

believed in charity, his views towards the poor tended to be somewhat appalling.
Stannard argues,

Only through the ability to exercise . . . individual acquisitiveness,

thought Locke, does a man become fully and truly human . . . .
Locke's proposals for how to treat the landless poor of his own
country -- whom he considered a morally depraved lot -- were
draconian: they were to be placed into workhouses and forced to
perform hard labor, as were all their children above the age of three
(Stannard, pp. 234).

Because surely, argues Locke, if an individual works hard, they will acquire

sufficient private property and material wealth. Locke argues, "God gave the

World to Men in Common; . . . it cannot be supposed he meant it should always

remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the Industrious and
Rational" (II, pp. 333, #34). Industry in the form of labor begets property: if you

have no property, you are lacking in industriousness. Dunn explains the

inappropriateness of this argument today.

Property rights founded directly upon labour, in his eyes, neither

required regulation by governments nor permitted much just
modification by governments. But labour had done mankind nothing
but good. The role of money was altogether more ambiguous.
Money had introduced in full measure reasons for quarreling about
title, and doubts about largeness of possession. It was money which

meant that right and conveniency no longer went together (Dunn,
1984, pp. 40).

James Walker further explains that Europeans rejected the indigenous idea of

community and in fact "devoted themselves to every possible means of destroying

the old social groupings and of forcing the Lakotas to face the world as

individuals, modeled on the image of European immigrants to the plains"

(Walker, Society, pp. 3).

Community is where no child, no elder, nor person is neglected, because in

truth, we are all related. A community is where all take a certain responsibility in

the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual welfare of each, as all are

theoretically brothers and sisters. A community is where there is no drastic

division of "yours" and "mine" when it comes to the Earth's gifts to us as two-

leggeds: food, water and warmth. These gifts, those things necessary for self-

preservation, are the right of all persons, of all life walking upon this Earth. Just as

one cannot deny others of the air they breathe to live, one should neither be denied

water to feed their children's thirst, nor food to quench their hunger. Just as

important, one should neither be denied one of the most basic things for man's

preservation: love and respect.

While Locke might argue that a communal economic system is inconsistent

with furthering individual liberty (as it restrains absolute liberty in the

marketplace), indigenous Americans saw the situation otherwise -- that individual

liberty -- the ability for each person to develop their full potential, can exist only

through community. Individuality (as opposed to individualism -- the "take care of

number one first" ethic) -- that potential that all humanity holds within, if only

allowed to develop -- can only exist where there is deep respect and care for all

humans in society, regardless of blood lines, citizenry, amount of material

possessions, and those other qualities that are so fundamental to justification of

the world of prejudice. The Creator gave the world to all that exists upon it, and

community for human beings -- those creatures that are inherently social and

experience a genuine need for one another -- is fundamental to human existence.

For an individual alone could never have provided adequately for himself, as

the necessary interdependence of man is what has advanced society throughout the

ages. In hunting, building, feeding and clothing ourselves, we need each other as

we need the air that we breath and the water that we drink. We trade with one
another in order to have the luxuries of shelter and warmth, clothing and food. An

individual -- without the implements that only people working together (society)

can provide, cannot survive adequately on his own.

The indigenous American recognized this formally, as their most serious

punishment for a member of the Nation was banishment from the tribe. While

other individuals (his wife, children, or whomever) could accompany the banished

person, without the security inherent in associating with a community of people,

banishment usually was a passive death sentence -- for no individual could

survive on their own.

The Haudenosaunee and Lakota; the two Nations I discuss in depth, and most

indigenous peoples throughout the world, had a truly unique view of what was

important in the scheme of life. Material possessions beyond those necessary for

continuation of life were not among the top of the list. Rather, the quest for

harmony: within one's own soul, with one's environment, with the Creator and the

Earth were fundamental to living a fulfilled lifetime.

Likewise, the quest for harmony was the distinguishing feature of their social

and political systems, being an end in itself. Both groups instituted a system of
democracy where each individual participated extensively in democratic
deliberations affecting the whole tribe, and every voice; those of the women, the

elderly, even what Lockean society would deem "children" -- those under 16 --

were heard and respected as equal to all others. Decision-making came after

extensive deliberation, was traditionally unanimous or consensual (in order to

achieve harmony), and leaders had no power to create laws against the will of the


Leaders, in fact, had no "power" at all, as power was not a tool in

Haudenosaunee or Lakota society. They could force or enforce nothing on the

individual or community. Rather, a leader's primary tool was that of persuasion

via community respect. In both indigenous societies, one was never forced to go

against his own conscience: for traditional leaders could commit no man to action

or non-action: that was up to the individual's own will.

Conversely, Locke's society establishes as its main objective the preservation

of life, liberty and estate, all of which he puts under the title of "property". Locke

further insists that the guarantee of individual liberty; appropriation of private

property by individuals from "the commons"; and a representative form of

government based on consent are intertwined concepts necessary to a government

whose duty is the preservation of property. Equality, economic and social, is left

to the individual, and hence not a major concern of government as long as liberty

remains unhindered.

However, in a society without economic and social guarantees, equality of

opportunity is a necessary condition in order to ensure individual liberty. Without

certain basic social guarantees, such as assurance of food on the table, availability

of health care, and other basic necessities of life, equal opportunity does not exist.

Without it, Rousseau's argument holds: "for let a giant and a dwarf set out in the
same road, the giant at every step will acquire a new advantage over the dwarf"
(Rousseau, pp. 208-209). So it is in a society in which liberty is emphasized and

equality of opportunity an adage in order to justify the position of the

economically advantaged.

In this work, I argue that the indigenous system of liberty of the individual and

the opportunity of each to fully develop their "individuality", through democratic

equality and a communal system of material goods and land tenure, can result in

the establishment of a societal "common good".

Why the communal system of those things necessary to sustain human life?
(Note, I argue not for the complete wiping clean of the slate, i.e., redistribution of

wealth in equal shares to all. For even in indigenous societies "possessions"

beyond those that are inherent to sustaining life itself were not distributed equally,

rather, these things came from the merit and industriousness of the particular

individual, and hence varied with each.) Without the basics in life in a capitalist

society, individuals find themselves on a virtual hamster wheel; trying to get

ahead, while in reality working to maintain one's current position. Without the

basic sustenance of life, individuals rarely have the opportunity to discover their

unique individuality -- they are too busy trying to scramble for their own

preservation. Locke himself seems to acknowledge that keeping the poor

impoverished would dissuade them from being involved in the political arena.

He also apparently believed that the great disparity between the

incomes of laborers on the one hand and landholders on the other
would be the most conducive to internal peace and stability because
in their efforts simply to survive workers would be less likely to
forment discord. . . . Six years later Locke concluded that the best
dike for withstanding such a deluge of popular unrest, in addition to
sound economic policies, was greater labor discipline by means of a
more severe poor law [emphasis mine] (Wood, pp. 44).

If individuals are in poverty, they are inhibited in their ability to fully develop

their political selves and their own individuality. This is problematic of course, as

both the individual and society suffer as society looses the richness of diversity

and slowly decays within. For what would today's world be like if those persons

who advocated an end to slavery had not been a part of the diverse conversation of

the common good? What would life be like if the "radical" ideas of Martin Luther

King had not flourished like a rose in a garden of opposition? Individuality can

only be discovered by exposure to these attractive diverse ideas, vis-à-vis

deliberative participation, born and bred in the political arena. Each individual has

this potential to make a significant contribution to humanity, if only allowed to


Every human being, via the fact that each has the capacity to reason, deserves

respect, simply by virtue of being human. Inherent in this concept is the idea that

clothing, food and shelter are but the very foundations of respect: for one's self

and for others. All human beings deserve to eat, and be sheltered from the harsh

elements that nature so often provides.

Unfamiliar to the children of 21st Century Lockean society (and we have

become a Lockean society), and according to indigenous thought, the Earth's

bounty belongs to all, not just to those who "appropriated" it earlier than others.

Surely each human being deserves these small pittances from the vast pool of

resources available. For without some kind of security when it comes to the very

basics to sustain life, all the liberty in the world can never makeup for the lack of

equality of opportunity.

True democratic government and a communal system of material goods and

land tenure, are not, as Locke would have us believe, conflicting ideas. In fact, it
is through the combining of the two that individuals and individuality flourishes,
because all then hold equality of opportunity as well as the right to individual


As individuality flourishes, through sharing with all persons the necessities to

sustain life, every individual is given the equality of opportunity that is their

inherent right by virtue of their being human. As the opportunity for individuality

to flourish and grow emerges, society and all within it similtaneously flourishes:

as new ideas are generated, and as ideas of a social and political public good are

deliberated. Deliberation of viewpoints on instituting a common good in society is

the life-blood of better living for humans, and all life on this Earth. Hence, a

common good for all is established in society by allowing each to flourish, not

only those with the money and power to do so. Indigenous societies prove to be

the valuable examples of just how harmonious a society can be when based on

these fundamental, non-conflictual concepts.

The comparison of Lockean representative democracy and ideas of private

property with those of the Lakota and Haudenosuanee is a project that has

tremendous potential in the ever-changing political world. The value of the

ancient beliefs and ways of Native Americans are incontrovertibly important, as

people everywhere look for more just ways of conducting human relations on a

large social scale. Indigenous thought gives us such a unique view of the

possibility of building a harmonious society based on democracy, freedom,

compassion and respect. In an ever-changing world, every paradigm holds an

important place, and indigenous world views have been tragically overlooked in

the development of the industrialized "1st" world. This trend needs to be reversed.

The Haudenosaunee showed the "founding fathers" of the United States a

working participatory democracy that had existed peacefully within the 6 Nations
for hundreds of years before any European state achieved such a high ideal. The
same group demonstrated pure communal living, where each gave according to

their ability, and received according to his or her needs; having an important

influence on the advocators of communal democracy, Marx and Engels. Having

so much influence on such important and lasting social systems, a re-evaluation

and thorough study of the social theory of these two indigenous Nations is clearly

needed. What they have to offer the 21st Century could be of immense


The Lakota have been less understood and studied than the Haudenosaunee.
Historically, the Lakota and most indigenous Nations had no written language, but

rather a rich oral tradition that had at its basis the belief that when we speak, our

words must come from the heart. By writing them down, we lose the sincerity and

clarity of oral communication -- the words "become cold" in their written form.

They become something to be examined from the head only -- a classic use of

reason without the ethical knowledge that comes from the heart.

The Lakota recorded time through winter counts -- a person was trained from

childhood to remember the major event that marked each year: each year counted

by its winter. Lakota winter counts could go back hundreds of years, and being the

keeper of the count was considered a special honor for the individual. Each of the

seven Lakota bands had such an historian within their circle.

The history of the Lakota Nations was most frequently passed down from

generation to generation via long nights of story-telling. Elders were the historians

invested with the honor of relating specific incidents and legends of the Nations'

histories, keeping traditions and beliefs alive among the people. Further, culture

and history were emphasized through ritual and ceremony. "Give-away"

ceremonies taught generosity; Sun Dances: devotion, sacrifice and prayer;

Yuwipi: faith and healing; the Sweatlodge: purification and humility.
Hence, Lakota culture, society and tradition were not recorded in any kind of

written form until the inception of the European -- and, problematically, the truth

of indigenous societies and tradition became distorted through eyes that could not

see objectively beyond their own religion and culture. The Natives were

considered "pagans" believing in multiple gods, or barbarians having no morals or

"civility". Locke states of "primitive peoples",

. . . no one will believe that the law of nature is best known and
observed among these primitive and untutored tribes, since among
most of them there appears not the slightest trace or track of piety,
merciful feeling, fidelity, chastity, and the rest of the virtues; but
rather they spend their life wretchedly among robberies, thefts,
debaucheries, and murders. Thus the law of nature does not appear
to be written in the hearts of men, if those who have no other guide
than nature itself . . . live in such ignorance of every law, as though
there were no principle of rightness and goodness to be had at all
[emphasis mine] (Locke, 1954, III, pp. 139-141).

Yet he persists in using indigenous peoples in the "Americas" as examples of

natural man. After centuries of massacres of native peoples, and the genocide that

is continued upon them today in the form of reservation life, the answer to the

question of who was and was not "civil" is a much different one than would be

believed by European society.

I cannot over-emphasize the problematic state of authentic discussion of

especially Lakota but also Haudenosaunee philosophy and social systems. As

stated above, both Nations had no "written" language. The Haudenosaunee are

well-known for their way of recording history: through the shell beads of a

"wampam belt". Each wampam belt told a story: whether of battles and victories,

or most often, of peace negotiations and treaties made between Nations or

peoples. Always, one person of the tribe was taught from childhood how to read

the belts, how to read the stories so that history was immortalized for the


As there is no written information on Lakota philosophy until contact with

Europeans, it is especially problematic to rely on literature for this project. "Truth"

can rarely be found in books, when it comes to Lakota or for that matter any

Native American Nation's philosophy. While Haudenosaunee ways were studied

and written about by Europeans much earlier than the Lakota, and much more is

documented about their political and social system, the philosophy that is the
foundation of their lives is under-documented and has been skewed through eyes

that were not empathetic to their culture or spirituality.

In many cases, Europeans interviewed indigenous elders or warriors or women,

and recorded their words verbatim -- these are some of the better sources.

However, there is still the problem of translation -- were the words of elders

correctly translated into such a foreign tongue as English? Frequently, they were


How does one go about looking for "truth" in a society where so little written is

historically correct? With lack of definitive written "truth", there is only one

answer -- to go to the reservation, to speak and spend time with the elders, the

holy men, the medicine men; to go to ceremonies: sweatlodges, sundances and

giveaways; to talk with the people, and listen to their stories of ancient times and

ancient ways, before the coming of the white man.

I will not discuss sacred ceremonies or spiritual rites in this work -- that is not

my province -- but it must always be remembered that the philosophical, political,

social and economic systems of these indigenous groups are so intertwined with

their spirituality as to be inseparable. Always, harmony with the Creator and all

life were at the basis of each and every aspect of living. This must be kept in mind

as the following words are read.

It is important to keep in mind, that while the Lakota and Haudenosaunee

actually implemented their social and political systems, Locke's system is solely a

theoretical model, and many of the finer points of the construction of his society

are left open to the reader's imagination. Locke never detailed the exact structure

of political society, rather, he lays out the legislature and executive's power,

duties, and responsibilities in his theory based on consent of the people.

The question I will be asking will be one fundamentally opposed to Locke's

beliefs -- Are extensive, participatory democracy; the right to individual liberty;

institution of a communal system of material goods to sustain life; based on

respect for the Earth and all upon her, necessarily conflictual concepts? Can

liberty and democracy be consistent with communal living? Can this type of living

lead us to a better life, a fuller life, based on respect, freedom, compassion for

one's fellow man and the Earth that gives us life?

As "democratization" expands around the northern hemisphere of the globe, it

becomes increasingly important to examine other philosophies of governance (can

we become a more democratic society?), society's responsibilities to its people

(should the right to the necessities that sustain life belong to the people?),

distribution of wealth and material goods within and without societys (can we

equitably distribute wealth without destroying individual liberty?), and our current

attitude of destruction towards the Earth. I believe this comparison can be quite

valuable in this ever changing political world. I believe it is imminently necessary

that we change our attitudes about our fellow humanity and the sustainability of

Mother Earth in the face of the current environmental and ongoing human
devastation we are witnessing.
What would today's society look like, if the ways of the Native Americans had

been honestly evaluated? Can we learn from and improve modern systems

through a discussion of a distinctly different world view? What did (and do)

indigenous Americans have to offer the world of philosophy, politics and society,

that seldom has been heard? I hope to examine these questions, and more, in the

following work.



Thus in the beginning, all the world was America. –Locke2

Locke's Second Treatise of Civil Government begins much in the way Thomas

Hobbes began his classic work Leviathan: by theorizing man's "natural" condition

in a pre-societal world. The premise goes back to before the beginning of "civil

society", when men wandered alone on vast tracks of unencumbered land. What

state, they question, is man naturally in? Are there natural laws governing men

and men's behavior? What are these laws and how are we endowed with them?

How do they relate to and regulate civil society and government?

For Hobbes, the idea of the "state of nature" was an analytical device,

convenient to the understanding of "natural" man, and following, as a device to

understanding the origin of political power and political society at large. His idea

was simply a conceptual one: how and why had society been formed in pre-

societal Europe? What were the "natural laws" that men were bound to follow?

Was a "God-given" edict the origin of political power in society, or was there

another origin based on "consent": an original "social contract" made between

men in order to secure themselves and their possessions?

Locke similarly begins his work with his own "social contract" theory.

However, his reasoning is distinctly different from that of Hobbes. For Hobbes,

the state of nature leads to a state of war of "all against all", necessitating the rise

of government, which once formed, is absolute and cannot be changed.

What the state of nature [for Locke] is the condition in which God
himself places all men in the world, prior to the lives which they live
and the societies which are fashioned by the living of these lives.
What it is designed to show is not what men are like but rather what
rights and duties they have as the creatures of God (Dunn, 1984,

Locke agrees that indeed the state of nature leads to a state of war between

men due to a lack of authority to arbitrate disputes. Hence, civil society based on a

"social contract" and consent between men remedies the inconveniences of the

state of nature where there is no binding arbitrator for disputes. Where Locke

disagrees with Hobbes is in the recognition that government itself can be a threat

against its own citizenry. Hence Locke's insistence on the citizenry's absolute right

of revolution against government if that government becomes tyrannical and/or

usurps its duties to the people.

Government is established by consent of the people: therefore, logically they

have the equivalent right of extracting that consent when government ceases to act

for the common good. Locke argues that governments themselves can institute a

"state of war" against their own citizenry when they usurp power and deny their

citizens basic civil and political rights. Locke specifically argues against Hobbes'

absolute sovereign when he states: "[It] is to think that Men are so foolish that

they take care to avoid what Mischiefs may be done them by Pole-cats, or Foxes

but are content, nay, think it Safety, to be devoured by Lions" (Locke, 1960, II, pp.


The idea of consent of the people as basis for government and the equivalent

right of revolution if that government usurps its duties to its citizenry were one of

Locke's greatest gift to humanity. He argues,

For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands

appointed to administer Justice, it is still violence and injury,
however colour'd with the Name, Pretenses, or Forms of Law, the
end where of being to protect and redress the innocent, by an
unbiased application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is
not bona fide done, War is made upon the Sufferers, who having no
appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in
such Cases, an appeal to Heaven (Locke, 1960, II, #18-27, pp. 322).

The founding fathers of the United States would clearly agree; for they took

Locke's ideas and instituted a revolution that changed the world. Cranston argues,

"the makers of the American Revolution claimed to be Locke's disciples in

politics" (Cranston, 1961, pp. 29). Further, "It was the vigour of its [The Second

Treatise] insistence on the illegitimacy of taxation without representation that

nearly a century later so endeared it to the American colonists" (Dunn, 1984,


Locke's "appeal to heaven" is a conceptual tool used by him to justify the right

of revolution. The "Law of Nature", God's law, is the very basis for laws in civil

society. "For him [Locke], political rights follow from political duties and both

derive from God's will" (Dunn, 1984, pp. 31). When society's laws go against

natural, or God's law, then there is no appeal left to earthly government. God's law

is always superior to that of those that govern, because natural law is always

superior to man-made law. "Locke's 'right to rebellion' -- the right of men to

overthrow a ruler who failed to respect the Natural Rights of his subjects -- thus

derived not only from the idea of the social contract but from the supremacy of

God's law to man-made law" (Cranston, 1961, pp. 16).

When government becomes unjust, when it becomes tyrannical, no longer is

there an unbiased arbitrator here on Earth, and no longer is there a place to appeal

injustice in the kingdom of mankind. In such cases, the people themselves have

the right to take matters into their own hands and rebel. They have the absolute

right to revolution in order to secure their liberty from the tyranny of injustice that

usurpation of power by government institutes.

The "Law of Nature" is the highest of all laws, known by men through use of

their reason. However, even Locke could not explain men's capacity to understand

God's law. “. . . he [Locke] chose not to discuss at all the question of how men can

naturally know the law of nature, the binding law of God, on which, according to

the argument of the book, all human rights rested and from which the great bulk

of human duties more or less directly derived” (Dunn, 1984, pp. 29). Further,

[God's] requirement for all men in the state of nature is that they live
according to the law of nature. Through the exercise of his reason
every man has the ability to grasp the content of this law. . . . Locke .
. . was by the early 1680s far from confidant of how exactly they
held and ought to exercise the capacity to understand it (ibid, pp.

Many scholars have argued that Locke's state of nature was, like Hobbes, only

an analytical devise, used to demonstrate the common sense of Locke's arguments

and to justify his political philosophy. Others have argued the opposite: that for

Locke, the "state of nature" was not just a conceptual tool. Cranston has argued

that Locke believed that the "state of nature" actually existed in ancient Europe:

that in fact solitary man actually came together with others to form the social

contract that created society.

Locke believed that the social contract had actually taken place. He
believed it was a fact of history that men had once lived in a state of
natural anarchy and had then banded together to form political
societies. For Hobbes the social contract was only an analytic device,
an attempt to apply the method of Galileo to the study of civil
society . . .(Cranston, pp. 15).

Other scholars agree.

But for Locke, of course, it [the state of nature] was not a piece of
history at all, being as much present in the world of his day as a
thousand years earlier and shadowing every human political
community throughout any possible future. What it showed men was
not how the past once was, but merely what human political
authority could amount to (Dunn, 1984, pp. 48).

Many scholars have argued that Locke had in fact a living, existing example of

a state of nature. He used this example, most often incorrectly, to justify his

arguments concerning the "state of nature", "natural man", "natural law", and the

general inconvenience (so he will argue) of the pre-"civil" society, pre-"private

property" world. For Locke, that convenient example was 17th Century "America"

and indigenous Americans. Locke states, when discussing a theoretical agreement

between peoples, "The promises and Bargains . . . between a Swiss and an Indian,

in the Woods of America, are binding to them, though they are perfectly in a State

of Nature, . . . " (Locke, 1960, II, pp. 14). Barbara Arneil, in Locke and the

Americas argues: "John Locke saw America as the second garden of Eden . . .

America thus represents for Locke and his readers a two-sided Genesis, a place to

find both the origins of their past and the promise of their future" (Arneil, pp. 1-


Locke frequently used Native Americans as examples while making his

argument on the acquisition of land vis-à-vis his "labor theory of value". Most

importantly, Locke uses his beliefs regarding Native Americans to justify his

theory of private property -- how a man may justly come to have property in those

things given by God to mankind in common -- especially the acquisition of land.

The vast majority of Locke's citations on Native Americans are within Chapter

Five of The Treatises: that chapter concerned with acquisition of property.

It is here Locke lays out his "labor theory of value", as it came to be called.

Essentially, he argues, that whatever man "mixes his labor with" in a state of

nature becomes his property. Land lying "idle" -- defined by Locke as uncultivated

and unenclosed, was considered "waste". Hence, land that was used for hunting or

gathering, such as the North American continent, would be considered "idle" and

"waste" in Locke's estimation, and therefore defined as open for cultivation. For,

Locke argues, labor increases the amount of production land is capable of, and

more production enlarges the common stock of all mankind. Aaron argues of

Locke's theory: "Thus so long as a thing is possessed in common no one is using

it. Land which is common is uncultivated" (Aaron, pp.277). For Locke,

uncultivated translated into “waste”.

In making his arguments for the appropriation of private property by

individuals from a common stock, indigenous Americans play an important role.

For it is the Native in the woods of "America" to whom Locke looks to for

justification of the "labor begets property" assessment that is so central to his

overall argument. Unfortunately, Locke's information on Native Americans was

limited, often incorrect, and frequently simply ignored. Wood argues,

It is clear, nevertheless, that Locke in chapter 5 was resting his

natural history of property on other kinds of uncited evidence, for
example: the extensive travel literature and accounts of America that
described a condition seemingly analogous with the life of man in its
original form (Wood, pp. 52).

Land held in common by Native American tribes was often cultivated: Nations

east of the Missouri typically cultivated land and even plains tribes did a limited

amount of cultivation. Benson argues,

Consider the Cheyenne [considered a hunter/gatherer society of the

great plains], for example. . . . They began moving west in the
seventeenth century and sought sanctuary along the Missouri River
in the Dakotas, where they built earth-lodge villages and adopted
corn farming. During the eightieth century they were pushed further
and became a nomadic horse tribe of the Plains (Anderson, pp. 36).

The Haudenosaunee are well known for their construction of immovable

"long-houses" and the cultivation of nearby lands. Their name itself means

"people of the long house". Not only did they build relatively permanent

structures, but also they saved the lives of the first European settlers in America

by teaching them cultivation techniques.

While Locke was involved in the administration of the Carolina colony in 17th

Century "America", and held interest in the Royal African Company (a prime

player in the slave-trade in the Americas), the majority of his information

concerning Native Americans came from his library of travel books and

correspondence with Carolina settlers. "Locke based his account of natural man

on the descriptions provided by the dozens of travel books he had in his library on

the Americas" (Arneil, pp. 22). He also corresponded extensively with

administrators and settlers of the Carolina colony, in his official status as

"Secretary" to the colony. Through these correspondences he acquired what first-

hand information on the indigenous inhabitants he could. Unfortunately, these

reports lacked a fundamental objectivity and were typically inaccurate, as

European eyes were rarely objective in the evaluation of indigenous cultures.

Accurate information on Native peoples, societies, and culture was almost non-

existent at the time (and is actually still quite difficult to come by . . . ). Rarely

does one find objectivity in the early European depiction of indigenous

Americans; in the structure of their societies; their democratic spirit of governance

nor communal sharing of material goods were frequently divulged. Rather, they

were considered by some as the "noble savage", while for others, the later word

alone captured their assessment succinctly. Few academics (the most likely place

to find some kind of "objective" study) in Locke's time had scrutinized Native

American philosophy, culture, and/or social structure. It remains understudied to

this day.

Locke never visited the Americas in his lifetime. Hence, he lost the chance to

learn first-hand of the ways of "natural man". He would have learned that they did

not believe that their Mother, the Earth, could be "owned": it was like trying to

"own" the air, the sky, and the sunshine upon the Earth. They did not believe that

nature's bounty was created for mankind's benefit over any other species. They did

not believe that if an individual killed a deer in the woods, it became his personal

property: rather, it was a gift for the entire Nation: for if one had food, all had

food. Many things that Locke assumed to be true never were. Had he met and

experienced indigenous Americans, his theory, and specifically his labor theory of

value, may have been a significantly different work.

Further, Locke was "selective" in his use of examples from the small amount

of information on indigenous Americans that he could glean from his travel

books. Only those that fit with his theory and thus supported his arguments,

especially those regarding private property and the indigenous American, were

espoused in the Two Treatises. “Locke chose only those aspects of American life

which fit his theory. While Amerindians are used by Locke to explain his

principles of natural rights and civil obligation, an understanding of the 'real'

natural man is partial and distorted” (Arneil, pp. 23).

Further, "He ignores those writings, amongst his books on Americas, which are

opposed to his conception of natural men; for the goal is. . . to use them to

illustrate his own ideas" (ibid, pp. 16).

Locke's continual misrepresentation of these Nations had important

consequences for his theory of private appropriation, as well as for the subsequent

mass of humanity who built their societies on Locke's foundations. Many of his

premises justifying acquisition of private property were based on false

assumptions of a people who lived democratically and believed in the care and

welfare of the entire community as more important than their own individual


If Locke had examined these social systems, he would have been enchanted to

find a society that was rich in political deliberation and respect for individuality,

and disappointed to learn that Native American Nations lived communally when it

came to the necessities of life, as both concepts of "private" and "property" were a

anathema to their philosophy and social structure.

There is evidence that many of the claims based on indigenous Americans that

Locke asserted in his Two Treatises are distorted and/or false. Premises are the

foundation of any philosophy or theory. If the foundation is weak, if the

suppositions are false, the legitimacy of the theory suffers. It is clearly time to re-

examine the arguments, to re-evaluate the ground Locke stands on. For if Locke

had actually met and sought to understand "natural man", a different concept of

society, politics and property might have emerged. There is no need here to argue

the importance and influence of Locke's Two Treatises on representative,

capitalist societies today. A more interesting question might be, What were the

tenants of Native American societies, and how would modern society look, if we

had truly known the ways of the Native Americans?



The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man‟s heart away from nature
grows cold, and that lack of respect for living, growing things soon
leads to lack of respect for human beings too. So he kept his heart
close to nature‟s softening influence. –Luther Standing Bear3

The philosophical foundations of Lakota and Haudenosaunee ways of living

are in some ways similar to those of John Locke‟s: but generally there is to be

found a unique core of beliefs that sets Locke‟s individualist concept of reality on

its head.

Locke was an extreme individualist. He generally disregarded the importance

of the group or the community within states, hence, they have no place in his

theory. His arguments on the "state of nature" and the "state of war" concern only

individualistic, not social man. His views on private property, government, and

the social contract likewise recognize only atomistic man; never "social man", nor

the bond of ethnic groups, nor community.

The free individual tends to be depicted as largely isolated, a mere

individual with no social ties. But man is by nature social. The
'unsocial' individual of the pre-political stage is an unreal
abstraction. Thus historically and psychologically the theory of the
social contract is defective (Aaron, pp. 273).

Locke's individualism - the belief that we were originally isolated and continue

to be -- is a major foundation for his theoretical paradigm to come. Locke never

recognized the inherent community that has always existed among mankind, nor
the fact of our necessary interdependence, as would the Lakota or Haudenosaunee.
The concept of community and harmony are probably the true foundations of

indigenous societies.

Rather than viewing the world as isolated individuals in a dance of interaction,

mankind has traditionally existed in community with others, according to

indigenous theory. Locke opposes this view, and argues for the right of the

individual first, the community at large second (if we view the needs of the

indigenous community as similar to government representation in Lockean


It must be concluded that the problem of the relations between

individual and community is one which Locke does not finally solve.
Nevertheless, Locke's individualism is a fact and needs to be
stressed. He is first an individualist in so far as he sets as narrow
limits as are possible to the state's power. Government can demand
the individual's obedience only in limited spheres (Aaron, pp. 285).

While in Lockean society the individual is first and the group has few rights to

undermine individual liberty, in indigenous society the community's needs are

superior to that of the individual.

For in these societies, "individualistic" man did not exist. While individual

liberty was adamantly respected, the indigenous American believed that he or she

was an inherent part of something bigger than what a solitary individual could

ever achieve. They were a part of the Nation, of the community first, and an

individual second. O'Brien explains, "The community and an individual's

responsibility to the community were more important than the individual and his

or her rights within society. A person's rights and privileges never exceeded that

person's duties and responsibilities" (O'Brien, pp. 15). While in Lockean society,

"The state is made for the individual and not the individual for the state. It is in

this sense, more than in any other, that Locke is the champion of individualism"

(Aaron, pp. 286). He continues, "Locke is an individualist; yet his individualism is

left undefined, for no definite solution is to be found in his works of the vexed

problem of the relations between individual and community" (ibid, pp. 284).

Native American "community" was a much more entailed concept than just

that of a "small society". The Haudenosaunee Nations numbered over 20,000

people and the Lakota, thousands.

Community entails active participation among people working together to

build their lives, as well as individual responsibility to forward the common good
of the whole. Daly and Cobb argue that the following must be present for a

community to exist.

It does entail that membership in the society contributes to self-

identification. . . . (1) there is extensive participation by its members
in the decisions by which its life is governed, (2) the society as a
whole takes responsibility for the members, and (3) this
responsibility includes respect for the diverse individuality of these
members (Daly, pp. 172).

Hence, community and society are not interchangeable concepts. While we are

all in society, very few of us exist in community with our fellow man. Daly

continues, "We want a term that suggests that people are bound up with one

another, sharing, despite differences, a common identity. We want to emphasize

that people participate together in shaping the larger grouping of which all are

members" (ibid, pp. 170).

While indigenous Americans always conceptualized the entire world of nature

as relations: one's brother the wind; one's sister the moon; or one's mother, the

Earth; one's fellow humans in a community were conceptually considered family.

"All relations, not of the immediate family, and all close friends were tahunsa, or

cousins, . . . ." (Walker, 1982, pp. 149). This included adopted whites and

members of other friendly Nations. It was each person's inherent responsibility to

care for every other person in the community. The Native Americans knew what

the European-American has forgotten: that we as people can move mountains

when we work together.

Human beings are inherently social, as opposed to Locke's idea of the

individual as isolated and competitive. Mankind has not progressed due to the

reason, talent and inventions of individuals alone; rather, we have always been

interdependent in a social context, in order to progress. Edison alone didn't create

the electric light -- he stood in need of makers of fine steel plates and wires, glass

manufactures, and an entire theory of "electricity", all developed over centuries, in

order to realize "his" great invention. Einstein's contributions to science had their

foundation in the successes and failures of the people before him. What, he asked,

is wrong with Newtonian physics? He built on knowledge (correct or incorrect)

gleaned from two millennia of work by other theorists. Watkins and Crick did not

"discover" the structure of DNA by themselves, they built on the work of

numerous past and present theorists, including Rosalind Franklin.

All great progress for humanity is the result of interdependence between people

cooperating out of intrinsic necessity. Try to build your own home. You will need

the steel from mine-workers, a blacksmith to fashion hammer, nails, and saws for

the lumber, and glass-makers for your windows. One man alone does not build a

home -- many in fact are needed in all phases of construction.

As independent as we want to believe we are, we are inherently in need of one

another's assistance to live comfortably and prosper. Locke's "individualistic" man

never really existed; social man does. Daly and Cobb argue, "Our basic conviction

is that persons are internally related to one another (i.e., their relationships define
their identities as persons) so that any view of people that treats them as self-
contained individuals falsifies the real situation" (Daly, pp. 169). Our actions do

not exist in isolation: rather they have their foundation in the larger world of

social interaction.

It is that ability to learn what mankind before us has to teach that makes human

beings so unique. Our knowledge comes from millenniums of learning by our

elders. For what is learning, if not building a foundation for progress on the work

of previous human beings? Even our own personal knowledge is the result of

human beings cooperating to retain and build upon the knowledge our ancestors
worked so hard to gain.

In order to achieve this, communities and societies had to exist so that

knowledge could be transmitted and preserved. Mankind, therefore, is inherently

interdependent. If we each had to start from step one as an individual, we would

not have gotten very far as a species. It is our interdependence that has allowed us

to progress.

Locke seems to deny that since the time of the evolutionary beginning of

humanity, human beings have never been alone. Families, clans, and friends were

undoubtedly the first "societies". The simple need for cooperation between two

people in order procreate is evidence enough of this.

Thus, his premises regarding indigenous Americans as individualistic man are

quite problematic. Individuals could rarely survive alone in the woods or on the

plains of the Americas, but communities of people could. Individuals could not

adequately provide for themselves alone, nor could they procreate on their own,

but groups of people working together could.

The foundation for law in Lockean societies is based solely on the individual.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees individuals the right to life,
liberty and property. Individuals have rights, groups do not. This is especially true
in the case of property. Hence, individuals have a Constitutional right to "own"

private property, while traditional “collective” ownership is not recognized.

The U.S. government in fact implemented this very idea into action when, in

1887 it passed the Dawes Act, breaking up reservation (communal) land and

dividing it into individual shares. Roback argues,

The advocates of private ownership had great expectations for the

policy. They claimed that individual ownership of land would
civilize and Christianize the Indians and that it would break up the
authority of the tribe. The argument also included the standard
common property argument that individual ownership would be
more economically productive (in Anderson, pp. 23).

The result was devastating to the Native Americans -- much reservation land was

permanently lost to the people as a result of the policy. Roback continues,

"Allotment failed because it privatized the land among individuals without

understanding the existing family and tribal structure or the property rights

structure that accompanied it" (ibid, pp. 23).

Indigenous groups tended to acknowledge the "right of use" of communal

territories, but they were never considered owned by the people. Rather, the

opposite was true, i.e. the people belonged to the land. Rather than believing in a

private property ethic, human beings, as the rational species, had a special

responsibility to care for the Earth, so that it could support all life to come. It was

never owned by the people, but rather borrowed from the future generations of all

life to come. "People did not own the land and resources; instead, individuals had

a responsibility toward all aspects of life" (O'Brien, pp. 15).

The community working together provided food and shelter for all, at least

when times were good, game was plentiful, and Europeans weren't. Hunting

parties of the most able men provided meat for the entire community, while the

women worked together converting the hides and skins into clothing and tools --

and shelter in the case of the Lakota. The Haudenosaunee lived together (literally)

in long-houses containing several families, and the women communally cultivated

their land while the men fished or hunted. It was people working together that

brought prosperity to indigenous Americans, i.e., those things necessary to sustain

a comfortable, peaceful existence among a community of people.

While individual life is fleeting, the community, the Nation, "the people" as an

entity in and of itself, lived on forever. To this day on the reservation they speak
of the "Lakota people", or “Indian people”, as a viable, sovereign entity: and it is -

- a community of people who believe that the whole constitutes more than just the

sum of its parts.

Hence, a compassionate and self-sacrificing ethic for others in the community

was more indigenous to Native Americans than what Locke argues are the

essential traits in all mankind. Self-sacrifice for one's fellow man and "the

common good" were endemic. It was the community, the people as one being, as

one entity working together, that ensured survival for all. If an individual died, he

or she could be sure that their loved one's would be well fed, loved and cared for

by the Nation as a whole. This is the ultimate kind of security -- the kind money

can never buy -- community.

At the same time individual rights were adamantly respected, especially the

right of each individual to follow his or her own conscience. No "chief",

"headman" or "Sachem" could force an individual to act against his or her own

conscience -- as following the path of one's own heart -- the path to harmony

within, is one of the most fundamental premises of Native American philosophy.

Harmony, rather than power, was in fact the chief end of political society for the
Lakota and Haudenosaunee.
Locke's philosophical premises regarding "human nature" were fundamental in

justification of his argument for man's need to enter into civil society. However,

they are problematic in two ways: the first being the claim that such a thing as one

common "human nature" exists; the second, the assumption that this questionable

"human nature" exists in a negative form, i.e., that human relationships are

inherently conflictual; that self-interest and greed lye at the foundation of our very

nature; that man cannot be objective when his own interests are at stake.

Without an objective arbitrator (such as government provides), man is not only

in a state of nature, according to Locke, but inevitably falls into a state of war with

all the rest of mankind. Antagonisms of man against man are endemic in this

natural state -- because humanity is by nature self-serving and self-interested.

Locke believed these traits are carried with us into society. Dunn argues,

Both locally and nationally Locke espoused the claims of authority,

stressing the gross untrustworthiness of the majority of mankind, at
worst a real threat of anarchy and at best a formidable impediment to
decency. (Dunn, 1984, pp. 24).

The debate about human nature is as old as man himself, and I will not

undertake in this work to decide the question for humanity. But a few facts need

to be noted: that human beings are not inherently anything when it comes to vice
or virtue. For each aggressive human being we can find one who demonstrates

compassion; for each that hates, one that loves; for each who is self-serving and

greedy, one that is giving and kind.

The debate on "human nature" will continue to rage: it cannot be settled here.

The problem of course comes when one bases an entire theory, an entire ordering

of society, on what are questionable foundations. In the style of Hobbes, Locke's

view of human nature is an important foundation for his entire theory, because it
is this conflictual nature that necessitates the rise and institution of government.
For the Haudenosaunee, the very opposite is true. It is mankind's capability for

rational thought that is the very cornerstone of a democratic, harmonious system

of government.

After years of warfare between Nations, a great man known as Deganawida, or

simply, the "Peacemaker", put before the people of the Haudenosaunee the idea

that all human beings possessed rational thought, and as such, are capable of

building a society based on peace and harmony.

Rather than believing in an inherently conflictual "human nature", it is man's

rational "nature" and his capability to live peacefully with other human beings that

is the foundation of society. Hence, while reason and its ability to bring harmony

is the basis for implementation of a system of governing for the Haudenosaunee,

man's conflictual "nature" is the rationale according to Locke.

As in the style of most 17th Century Europeans, the biblical belief that the

earth and all within is here for man's use, for man's dominion is fundamental

premise in Locke's Treatise. Locke states, "God and his Reason commanded him

[man] to subdue the Earth, . . ." (Locke, 1960, II, #32, pp. 332). ". . . subduing or

cultivating the Earth, and having Dominion, we see are joyned together. The one

gave Title to the other" (ibid, #35, pp. 334).

Locke's view of man's relationship with the Earth focuses on dominance and

"subduing". Subduing entailed cultivation, according to Locke, or the land was

considered "waste". It is a hierarchical relationship with the Earth, and an

exploitative one, that generates wealth through the exploitation of her resources,

including human beings. This rationale turned into policy in the Americas was

devastating for the indigenous peoples.

Divine guidance told the settlers that they were to multiply and
replenish the earth. If Indians were not physically dwelling on and
planting the earth, it was being wasted. The Whites could take it and
use it themselves, buying it from Indians if, indeed, they could find
Indians who claimed ownership of it. Or, if the Indians refused to
sell it, they could take it by force. Much of the land, of course,
contained hunting grounds or fishing stations. But the Whites came
to regard it as wasteland . . . (Josephy, pp. 8).

This view is directly opposed to Native American philosophy, which argues

that man has not dominion, but rather is only a part and parcel of all living things

in existence, all of whom deserve the same respect that one would give a brother.

Not only living creatures had a right to continue their existence, but the rivers, the

seas, the oceans, mountains and plains all are respected as relatives -- clearly not

something to be "dominated or subdued". Luther Standing Bear argues, ". . . here I

find the great distinction between the faith of the Indian and the white man. Indian

faith sought the harmony of man with his surroundings; the other sought the

dominance of his surroundings" (Standing Bear, pp. 196).

While Locke's philosophy regarding the earth and her resources is patriarchal

and domineering, Native American philosophy is matriarchal and sustaining.

Locke's philosophical conception of the world is hierarchical, like a pyramid, with

mankind at the top, dominating and subduing the earth and its bounty for his own

purposes, regardless of the consequence to the rest of all life. For Locke, other

living and non-animate beings were placed conceptually at the bottom of the

pyramid -- created specifically for mankind's use. He states, "God gave the World

to Men in Common; but . . . he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest

Conveniences of Life they were capable to draw from it [emphasis added] . . ."

(Locke, 1960, II, #34, pp. 333). Nature, then, is to serve mankind's needs

according to Locke.

Native American philosophy on the other hand is based conceptually on the

circle. The circle has many meanings for indigenous groups: the circle of life; the

revolving seasons; the cycles of nature; and time. Yet the circle represents

indigenous philosophy in two critical respects: the idea that everything in creation

is connected to everything else in nature, hence, we are all literally relations; and

that all things in creation have an equal place in the natural order of things. None,

not even mankind, stands alone in the center.

The preeminent tangible symbol of traditional Lakota religion was the

circle. The Lakotas perceived everything in the natural world as circular
(except rock), for roundness was indicative of life itself. For this reason the
circle was held to be sacred (wakan). Sun, sky, earth, moon, a human body,
a tree trunk, day, night, a year, a man‟s life – all these were sacred circles. In
respect for this natural order, the Lakotas made circular tipis, pitching them
in camp circles, and sat in circles for ceremonial occasions. The wholeness
of the circle, without beginning or end, represented the wholeness and
oneness of the universe (DeMallie, pp. 80).

All life on Earth, and not just human beings, are inherently connected to one

another, in that they form a circle of life facilitating one another's existence.

Mankind cannot live without the "plant people". They create more than just food

for humans: they also create oxygen for us to breathe, while we give off the

carbon dioxide they need to live. The four-leggeds once provided meat, shelter,

warm clothing, tools, and heat (buffalo chips) for indigenous Americans. They

sustained physical life for human beings. The plant people sustained the four-

leggeds. The rich soil sustains the plant life. Decaying organic matter (plant,

animal and human) sustains the rich soil. And so all were connected, necessary

and intrinsic parts of the circle called "life". To destroy any part of the circle: to

decimate the wolves or coyotes or wipe out what we deem to be "pests" is to

endanger the whole. For if any species is lost, the hoop is broken.

Mankind has no more right to decimate a species than another species has the

right to obliterate humankind.

Indian religious and political values were based on the belief that a
spiritual force lived within every natural being . . . Human beings
were not considered superior to and above nature but rather were
thought to be connected to and part of nature (O'Brien, pp. 14-15).

Just as all entities are intrinsically connected, they are also inherently related in

indigenous American philosophy. All entities are all of the same origin -- one

omnipotent Creator and the Earth he created to sustain life. “All life forms that

comprise the universe, from the stars in the sky to the grasses on the earth, were

considered as one” (DeMallie, pp. 80).

Science agrees -- that there is a common ancestry among all life (see Chapter

4) just as all that exists in the universe has a common beginning. And importantly,

it is not just living, breathing things that are included in this circle of life; non-

animate beings -- the "rock people", the "stone nation" -- hold an equally

important place to those of the living. Note the terminology, denoting both

relationship and community; the respect given to non-humans is evident.

We believed that the spirit pervades all creation and that every
creature possesses a soul in some degree, though not necessarily a
soul conscious of itself. The tree, the waterfall, the grizzly bear, each
is an embodied Force, and as such an object of reverence" (Eastman,
1980, pp. 15).

The term "Mitakuye Oyasin" reflects this belief. Mitakuye Oyasin means

literally "all my relations" or "all my relatives". Conceptually it states that "we are

all related", and refers not just to humankind. The Lakota believe that one

omnipotent Creator called Wakan Tanka (literally Great Holy or Great Mystery) or

Tunkashila (literally Grandfather), is the source of all life and all that exists in this

universe. At the same time they recognized that the Earth he created is the mother

of all physical life -- she provides food and water and the heat and shelter

necessary to sustain the physical body. All in existence on this Earth and on this

universe, are therefore inherently our relations, as we all came from the same

origin. Tunkashila, or Wakan Tanka is the giver of the soul, of that energy we call

the "life force", just as the Earth our Mother gives us physical life. Hence, all

manifestations of Creation were acknowledged as such, respected, and celebrated

as relations of the human being.

Naturally magnanimous and open-minded, the red man prefers to

believe that the Spirit of God is not breathed into man alone, but that
the whole created universe is a sharer in the immortal perfection of
its Maker. His imaginative and poetic mind, . . . assigns to every
mountain, tree, and spring its spirit, nymph, or divinity either
beneficent or mischievous (Eastman, 1980, pp. 122).

It is one Creator alone that created the Earth, the Sun, and the universe as we

know it, and so these things were to be revered -- never "worshipped" -- by the

two-leggeds. Standing Bear, a Lakota, explains,

The Lakota loved the sun and earth, but he worshipped only Wakan
Tanka, or Big Holy, who was the Maker of all things of earth, sky,
and water. Wakan Tanka breathed life and motion into all things,
both visible and invisible. He was over all, through all, and in all,
and great as was the sun, and good as was the earth, the greatness
and goodness of the Big Holy were not surpassed. The Lakota could
look at nothing without at the same time looking at Wakan Tanka,
and he could not, if he wished, evade His presence, for it pervaded
all things and filled all space (Standing Bear, pp. 197).

Early Europeans didn't take the time or lacked the compassion and insight to

understand the concept, and frequently argued that indigenous Americans

worshipped many different gods. George Bird Grinnell, a white anthropologist,

demonstrates this in the following: "The earth is regarded as sacred, often it is

called the "mother" and it appears to rank second among the gods [emphasis

added]" (Grinnell, pp. 3)!! This from a man who was adopted and lived with the

Cheyenne! Indigenous Americans were an enigma to encroaching European-


Essentially, according to indigenous philosophy, Locke just got everything

backwards. Rather than mankind having dominion over the Earth, the Earth has

dominion over us. We are literally of this earth. It is from her bounty that physical

life springs forth. She nurtures us, she is forever giving. As small children, it is the

air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink that allows us to grow into

adults. It is from her womb that we grow and live. She is our mother, in the literal
sense of that term. From her mountains we find nourishment for the soul; from the

plains, nourishment for the body. Her rivers quench our thirst, her oceans feed us

and cradle us as we are their children. The Native American will argue what

should be obvious yet is obscured,

It is by the earth . . . that we live. Without it we could not exist. It

nourishes and supports us. From it grow the fruits that we eat, and
the grass that sustains the animals whose flesh we live on, from it
comes forth, and over its surface run, the waters which we drink. We
walk on it, and unless it is firm and steadfast we cannot live
(Grinnell, pp. 3).

Mankind is has no right to dominion and subjection. Rather he is only on equal

terms with the rest of creation, and it follows that the rest of creation has as much

right to continue its existence as do human beings. Each part, each being, each

object in this universe is an intrinsic part of the whole, no one more important

than another, as all are related and necessary to facilitate one another's existence.

Luther Standing Bear explains,

. . . this was in accordance with the Lakota belief that man did not
occupy a special place in the eyes of Wakan Tanka, the Grandfather
of us all. I was only a part of everything called the world. I can now

see that humaneness is not a thing which can be ordered by law. It is
an ideal to be lived (Standing Bear, pp. 22).

This conception of man's place is essentially non-anthropomorphic -- non-

human centered. Man does not occupy a special place at the center of the Creator's

universe, rather we are but a small part of his overall creation.

From Wakan Tanka there came a great unifying life force that
flowed in and through all things -- the flowers of the plains, blowing
winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals -- and was the same force that had
been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred and
brought together by the same Great Mystery. Kinship with all
creatures of the earth, sky, and water was a real and active principle..
. . This concept of life and its relations was humanizing and gave to
the Lakota an abiding love. . . . it gave him reverence for all life; it
made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal
importance to all (ibid, pp. 193).

Perry, elaborating on Chief Seattle's famous speech, eloquently reminds us that:

We are part of the earth and it is a part of us. The perfumed flowers
are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great condor, these are our
brothers. The rocky crests, the juices of the meadows, the body heat
of the pony, and man all belong to the same family (Gifford, pp. 32).
. . . The rivers are our brothers; they quench our thirst. The rivers,
between the tender arms of their banks, carry our canoes where they
will. If we sell your our land, you must remember, and teach your
children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must
henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give to any
brother (ibid, pp. 34-5).

While Locke will argue that humans are superior to all creatures, the Lakota

and other indigenous American groups tend to recognize that mankind has

inherent limitations comparatively to other creatures of the Earth. Man has not

the swiftness of the horse, the eye of the eagle, nor the longevity of the Oak ---

we are but two-leggeds. We have much to learn from nature herself if only we

can learn to listen. Indigenous Americans knew how to open their minds to the

lessons of the 4-leggeds, the plant-people, and the stone-nation.

[A Lakota women] humbly seeks to learn a lesson from ants, bees,

spiders, beavers, and badgers. She studies the family life of the
birds, so exquisite in its emotional intensity and its patient devotion,
until she seems to feel the universal mother-heart beating in her own
breast (Eastman, 1980, pp. 33).

If we can only learn to watch; to be silent; to open our eyes and ears and

minds, the Earth has much to teach us. Human beings must learn to approach

nature with great humility, for comparatively we are inherently limited and but

a small (though destructive) species in the circle of life.

Mankind must humbly acknowledge his place in the order of things, and that

place is not domination over the earth and all she holds, but rather as a brother

to all in existence. We are but equals to the “stone nation”, the rivers and trees,

the snakes and field mice. We have no right to “dominate and subdue”: that

right is retained by the Creator and his creation, Mother Earth. For to they alone

belongs the power to destroy the most presumptuous of men, the strongest of

fortitudes, and all creatures walking, crawling and flying.

As human beings, as "rational" creatures, we do have a special

responsibility to the Earth. It is our duty to preserve her for the future

generations to come. An ancient proverb, origin unknown, illustrates this very

indigenous belief. 'We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors, we have

borrowed it from our children'. In essence, man has not dominion over the

earth; we are rather stewards or trustees, here to protect and ensure the survival

of all so that our children's children may enjoy her bounty side by side with the

"animal people", the "plant people" and the "stone nation": all existence on the
Earth. Our duty to the Creator, to the Earth, to our children and ourselves, is to
respect, share, and actively protect the Earth so that she may continue to give

life to Creation.

Respect and responsibility for the Creator's creation: the Earth and all of her

bounty, is an inherent part of Native American day-to-day life. It is as well a

philosophical foundation that captures the very essence of the concept of

ecology. Human life is important, but other lives: the plants, the animals, the

rivers, the oceans and air also have the same right to continue their existence,

and deserve the same respect, as does each human being.

This is where Locke and his understanding of earth as "property" to be

"dominated and subdued" went completely wrong from an indigenous (and

environmental) stand point. The earth was to be used for mankind's benefit, for

"the greatest conveniences of life they were capable to draw from it" (Locke,

1960, II, #34, pp. 333) according to Locke's biblical beliefs. It was "given" to

mankind to dominate, the animals for his use, the resources for his taking. We

witness as a result of this philosophy the plundering, the pillaging, the outright

degradation of the only planet we have to walk upon, Mother Earth. Until "civil

society" recognizes the importance of every part of the cycle of life as necessary

for the continuation of the whole, and the absolute necessity of respect for each

individual atom, whether part of a two-legged, a four-legged, or the granite of a

mountain-top in this continuing circle of life, we will accelerate on the current

road to ecological destruction -- and eventually our own.

Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit
upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know. The
earth does not belong to the white man, the white man belongs to the
earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which
unites one family. If we kill the snakes, the field mice will multiply
and destroy our corn. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the
earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth (Gifford, pp.46-7).

This acknowledgment of the inherent interconnectedness of all life is

evident in Standing Bear's words, "The white man considered natural animal

life . . . as 'pests.' Plants which the Indian found beneficial were also 'pests'.

There is no word in the Lakota vocabulary with the English meaning of this

word" (Standing Bear, pp. 165). Everything on the Earth has its own intrinsic

purpose, regardless of mankind's understanding, and were offered the respect

that was due any entity of Creation.

The fundamental concept for indigenous Americans when approaching the

"natural world" is that of respect: respect that comes from the heart and that is

applied universally. Respect, incidentally, is the very foundation for what is

termed "political" or "environmental" correctness. It is its very definition. Which

brings us to another critical premise for Locke: the primacy of human reason over

the ethical knowledge that comes from the heart.

As with traditional western political theorists, Locke argues that reason is the

supreme "law of nature", which men are bound to follow. Thus reason alone

becomes the ultimate guide in life for all mankind (incidentally, he argues that

"savages" did not possess reason in his Essay on Human Understanding). Locke

argues that,

The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it, which obliges
every one: And Reason, which is that Law, teaches all mankind, . . .
that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another
in his life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions (Locke, 1960, II, #6, pp.

The espousal of reason over emotion is conceptualized as fundamental to the

"civilization" of mankind. It is further a fundamental tenet in the spread of the

white man‟s “manifest destiny” over indigenous peoples. Locke agreed. Dunn
argues of Locke's theory,
It is reason that distinguishes man from beast, and the way of reason
is the way that God wills men to follow. It is through the exercise of
their reason that men can and should know what God wills them to
do; and it is their reason that enables them to judge what it would be
best to do where God's will does not enter directly into the matter.
(Dunn, 1984, pp. 46).

Indigenous Americans disagreed. One uses reason when concerning earthly

things, but ethical and spiritual understanding come from a separate place. Reason

may separate men from the beasts, but in absence of the ethical knowledge that

comes from within the human heart, it has led to societies that are overly

individualistic and competitive and hence destructive to the human soul and its

physical environment.

Reason has been the major tool of destruction of both the Earth and mankind

itself. The ominous threat of nuclear weapons; the decimation of the world's major

source of oxygen, the rainforests; and the continuing genocidal policies of States

everywhere, are significant examples of man's use of reason without joining the

ethical knowledge that comes from within. Human beings may be the only life

form with reason, but we are also the only life form capable of destroying all that

exists on the Earth, including ourselves.

The Haudenosaunee founded their democratic society on the basis that

mankind has the ability to reason, and hence the ability to use that reason to create

a peaceful social order. Likewise, according to the Lakota, the use of reason is one

of mankind's most powerful assets. However, the Nations realized that reason

alone is not enough to guide human beings down an ethical, and hence self-

enriching, path.

Is reason alone enough to order the passions of man? Reason comes from the

head, while the passions of men are ordered from the heart. Without an ethical
'check', reason can be twisted into rationalization. Within the human soul, within
the human heart, lay the ethical knowledge necessary to guide men to right

actions. Indigenous Americans knew that one must "think through their heart",

and not their heads alone, in order to achieve this. Sun Chief, a Hopi remembers


I had learned many English words and could recite part of the Ten
Commandments. I knew how to sleep on a bed, pray to Jesus, comb
my hair, eat with a knife and fork, and use a toilet. . . . I had also
learned that a person thinks with his head instead of his heart
(McLulan, pp. 108).

Yes, ideas come from the mind, from the head, but they must be "run through

the heart", according to indigenous philosophy. Only through looking within and

ethically evaluating our reason can we be sure that our actions are just. Without

that ethical knowledge, reason can easily be twisted into rationalizations.

Rationalizations serve to sanctify questionable actions. Hence, is it not possible to

rationalize, and therefore sanctify, almost any action?

As two-leggeds, the worst tragedies we have experienced have been the result

of rationalizations in absence of an ethical check. The horror of Nazi

concentrations camps; the genocide of indigenous peoples by governments

everywhere; and the threat of bio-chemical holocaust, were all products of reason

without an ethical check.

Western law based on reason has led to the decimation of indigenous

Americans world-wide. The “American” policy of destruction of the buffalo in

order to force plains Nations on to the reservations, the rationalizations of Locke

and his theoretical successors to justify the taking of Native lands and the

decimation of its peoples are only but a few such examples. George Bird Grinnell,

the white anthropologist adopted by the Cheyenne, appallingly reasoned in his

writings that,
We may regret the crushing out of the race [Native peoples] before
the march of civilization as we regret the extinction of other natural
things, but we must recognize it as nothing more than the operation
of the inexorable natural law that the weaker must perish while the
fitter shall survive (Grinnell, pp. 6).

These policies were continued by the United States government well into the

20th Century, as official doctrines of "assimilation" and "termination" became

popular in the 1950s.

As discussed earlier, the "Dawes Act" forced reservation (communal) land to

be broken up and allotted to individual tribal members in the form of private

property. Unfortunately, the effect of the act was to also allow the now

"individually owned" lands to be sold to whites by Native Americans who, denied

their traditional hunting grounds and their major means of sustenance -- the

buffalo, were now forced to sell their land in order to obtain money to buy food,

clothing, and other necessities of life. Government commodities were too few to

adequately feed the people, and money, the new and only way to provide for

sustenance in a market economy, could be made only by selling off individual

plots of land to European-Americans. Much of the reservation lands were lost as a


Further, the U.S. government in the 1940s and 1950s began a policy of

"termination" involving dozens of indigenous Nations. The tribes would simply

no longer exist, according to the Federal government, after the current tribal

members were deceased. The Termination of the Menominee Indians Act of 1954

states, "At midnight of the date of enactment of the Act the roll of the tribe . . .

shall be closed and no child born thereafter shall be eligible for enrollment, . . . "

(Prucha, pp. 234). The Federal government could then stop providing support

(commodities, etc.) for tribal members, as well as divide up the now defunct

reservations into privately-owned individual plots, bought by white Europeans at

fire-sale prices.

There is a distinct difference between "reason" and "ethical reasoning". One lay

in the minds alone of mankind, where rationalizations frequently disturb the very

equilibrium we try to achieve in life, taking us down the path that enlarges that

void deep within all human souls. Ethical reasoning, on the other hand, comes

from a combination of the heart and the mind, i.e., the soul. This can facilitate the

experience of peace, of harmony with one's own self and the exterior world. It can
lead to the eventual fulfillment of that void inside that all humans inevitably try to

fill, and it can lead to realization of a common good for all of mankind.

This is why the ethical reasoning of the Native American, as opposed to use of

simple reason as Locke argues, is so fundamental to human life. Only through

achieving an inner harmony vis-à-vis ethical knowledge, not reason alone, can we

as two-leggeds find peace in our soul and in our world: the peace that all humans

strive to find, although in distinctly different ways. It also appears as a dramatic

distinction between the two opposing philosophies.

Indigenous Americans knew that spirituality was the true blood of life and

facilitated the triumph of the human soul. The ability to think through one's heart -

- ethical reasoning -- is the first step on that long "red road". Human beings try to

actively fill the void within, whether through excessive acquisition of material

goods; success; fame; alcohol; drugs; or whatever seems to fit. Each of these

unfortunate attempts only serve to enlarge it, until eventually its demands become

unyielding. Spirituality, for indigenous Americans, was the only way to fill that

void, although there are many paths to that way. This is critical to human life, as it

is only through this kind of ethical reasoning, rather than simple reasoning, that
we as two-leggeds can enjoy a truly fulfilled lifetime.
For indigenous Americans, ethical reasoning is inherently related to justice.

Justice, in this culture, is the achievement of internal harmony -- it is something

that comes only from within. "There is no word in the Lakota language which can

be translated literally into the word 'justice'; nevertheless, there was the certain

practice of it as evidenced in the phrase Wowa un sila, 'A heart full of pity for all'"

(Standing Bear, pp. 137). Justice occurs when balance is achieved between the

souls of men. It is when things have returned to a balanced state of equilibrium,

where this equilibrium creates harmony -- peace of soul -- within that justice
triumphs. The very essence of justice then, is internal balance.

The problem with seeking "justice" from without is that it is not long

satisfying. The traditional idea of justice as a system of arbitration between people

leaves too many individuals discontent on both sides of the equation, creating

serious disequilibrium in lives and the harmony that was the objective of

indigenous societies.

Further, it rarely serves to disarm a particular injustice. The victim of violent

crime finds no justice in the imprisonment of their abductor, their thief, their

attempted murderer. It is only through acceptance, growth and the ability to move

on after that harshest of struggles: betrayal, by humanity, one's own body, or life

itself -- that harmony is re-established and justice is finally served. For the thief in

the night takes more than just one's belongings, and the rapist more than just one's

security. They take the soul by taking the humane-ness out of humanity.

The wheels of justice move slowly, but they do move. As humans, it is as

important to find justice within as it is to realize it without. It is when the soul can

find peace again and there is no more need for unanswerable questions to be

asked, that justice has been truly served. Justice, harmony, and their foundation,
ethical reasoning, are the basis of a happy existence and fulfilled lifetime for the
individual. For without ethical reasoning the dangers of rationalizations are

unleashed, and every act becomes the rational one, regardless of its irrationality.

For Locke's premises go beyond the political arena: they go all the way to

man's purpose in this life. For Locke, preservation of life, liberty and property

were not only the end of government, but also essential for man's development, so

that each could fulfill his life as he thought fit.

Through individual liberty, each person could enrich themselves as human

beings, and be free to explore their own individuality without government

interference. Locke was sincere on his insistence of the absolute liberty of the

individual against government.

Locke's individualism is largely a question of emphasis. He puts all

his stress on the rights of the individual which should never be
sacrificed except in the extreme case in which the freedom of one
individual must be curtailed to give freedom to others (Aaron, pp.

Liberty meant opportunity for Locke: at least for those with enough land and

material subsistence to be considered "citizens".

For only property owners could be citizens in Locke's political theory. Yolton

stresses the importance of landed property for Locke when he states, "[Locke's]

essays make the same point: 'For what justice is there where there is no personal

property or right of ownership?'" (Yolton, pp.213).

The problem came for those whose "liberty" in the marketplace kept them in a

position of impoverishment, as Locke's theory leaves no room for economic

equality or even rights above subsistence assuming one worked actively. Locke

fails to note that without the necessities for self-preservation, without food in

one's stomach and warmth and shelter in the cold, liberty is inherently restricted,
by virtue of impoverishment. Those without the most basic necessities rarely are
able to fully develop their individuality, and society itself suffers as a result of that

loss. Hence the problem with Lockean theory: the ownership of property gave one

liberties that indigenous Americans believed were inherent, property or no.

In modern Lockean societies, property came to define the person. Material

wealth, possessions, land: these became the yardsticks by which man is measured,

and an entire world came to accept these things -- as not only the definition of

success, but of the man himself. Property came to be an end in itself, rather than a

means to an end -- preservation of life. And material wealth can never be an end
in itself, for greed is insatiable; and security cannot be bought at any price other

than death. Material wealth becomes a heavy chain to those who have it, and the

end of the rainbow for those who have it not.

For the Lakota, material wealth mattered not. "Wealth" was measured not by

how much a person had, rather, by how much one gave.

Little children were taught to give and give generously. A sparing

giver was no giver at all. Possessions were given away until the
giver was poor in this world's goods and had nothing left but the
delight and joy of pure strength. . . . The greatest brave was he who
could part with his most cherished belongings and at the same time
sing songs of joy and praise (Standing Bear, pp. 14-15).

Further, "generosity, was, next to bravery, considered the highest virtue, so no

visitor was permitted to go from a tipi hungry" (Walker, 1982, pp. 65).

In indigenous societies, the wealthiest person was never he who had the most,

but rather he who gave the most. Generosity -- that ability to give and give freely -

- defined wealth. "As a child, I understood how to give; I have forgotten that grace

since I became civilized . . . Any pretty pebble was valuable to me then; every

growing tree an object of reverence" (Eastman, pp. 88), stated Ohiyesa. For the

Native American knew that true wealth is something that can only be defined

internally -- it can only come from within.

Material goods needed only to be adequate for survival for the members of the

Haudenosaunee and Lakota. While Locke argues of indigenous societies that "a

King of a large fruitful Territory there feeds, lodges, and is clad worse than a day

Labourer in England" (Locke, 1960, II, #41, pp. 339), indigenous peoples of the

Americas would disagree. For true wealth has never consisted of material

possessions, and before the coming of the European, sustanence was plentiful.

Any and all goods were to be used by band members at the call of
need. If a man were without a horse it was the chief's place to see
that he got another; if a family needed a tipi it was the duty of all in
the band to lend hands in getting another . . . There was no possible
excuse for hoarding; on the contrary it stood for selfishness and lack
of self-restraint, since all goods or accumulated property were
tacitly for the purpose of distribution [emphasis added] (Standing
Bear, pp. 168-169).

Material possessions were to be shared communally, as the idea of one having

plenty while others suffer and are hungry was an anathema to their philosophy.

Indigenous Americans knew that wealth was an internal quality, and can be

bought only at the price of experience and respect. Wealth, for the indigenous

American, was establishment of inner harmony. Harmony with nature. Oneness

with the Creator. Harmony in community. Giving of one‟s self. These were the

things that a man was measured by -- internal qualities that brought internal


Material possessions can never bring wealth – they only bring material

possessions. And one cannot eat their gold, nor receive affection from their silver.

The only material possessions that mattered to Native Americans were those

that were life-sustaining -- and those were to be shared communally -- and those

of a spiritual nature; pipes, eagle feathers, sage, cedar and sweetgrass. Hence, ". . .

the love of possessions has appeared a snare, . . . it was the rule of his [the

Lakotas] life to share the fruits of his skill and success with his less fortunate

brothers. Thus he kept his spirit free from the clog of pride, cupidity, or envy, . . .

" (Eastman, 1980, pp. 10).

The indigenous American would give and give until he was poor in earthly

possessions but rich in the joy of giving. And the people would ensure that the

giver would not go hungry or cold, as they too always gave back. This is the true
nature of wealth; it is never something that can be bought and sold. It can only be

earned, in terms of wisdom, inner peace and harmony of soul.

Locke's focus on liberty rather than equality is another fundamental premise in

the Two Treatises. Locke believed in political but not economic or social equality

for citizens. Citizenship belonged only to the literate, educated, and propertied

(read here: wealthy) white male sector of society. Political equality was (for

citizens) to be guaranteed and protected by government as an essential part of its

duty to further the common good of individuals. However, political equality was

interpreted narrowly: "one man one vote", rather than its broader meaning: equal

influence in the political arena.

Social and economic inequality on the other hand, was for Locke inherent in

society due to liberty manifested by men‟s individual capabilities and industry (or

lack there-of). For Locke, the poor are in such a state due to their own failings,

their own laziness, and hence government need not look to economic or social

equality for citizens. He states,

. . . different degrees of industry were apt to give Men Possessions in

different proportions, (Locke, 1960, II, #48, pp. 343) [and further,]
Men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal Possession of
the Earth,. . . This partage of things, . . . an inequality of private

possessions, men have made practical out of the bounds of societie, .
. . (ibid, #50, pp. 344).

Fundamentally, Locke argues, human beings in a state of nature are by the law

of nature (reason) equal to one another, at least when it comes to life and liberty.

However, Locke argues in the following quote that God makes distinctions among

men (inherent in his comment about "rank" in a state of nature), and that only

those who enjoy material wealth -- man having accepted unequal and

disproportionate shares of the earth through their industry and labor -- should be

politically equal (inherent in the "without subordination or subjection clause").

Likewise, those who do not enjoy material "wealth" -- in this case land, will not

enjoy citizenship, nor political equality. He states,

. . . there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same
species and rank [emphasis added], promiscuously born to all the
same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should
also be equal one amongst another [ditto] without subordination or
subjection . . . ." (ibid, #4, pp. 309).

Locke apparently is arguing that even in a state of nature, some men are superior

to others. It is, however, interesting to note that "rank" is a social distinction, as in

derived from society, one not generally applicable to men in a "state of nature".
These persons who are, shall we say, more equal than others, are presumably

those that acquired property in the form of material goods or land in that time

before estate met estate. Inequality in society, according to this argument, is a

natural result of inequality of industriousness.

Locke denies citizenship for those who do not own property in the form of

land. He, unlike Rousseau, does not recognize that once societies are formed and

estate meets estate, so that no "vacant" land was left for the taking, society itself

may be the very perpetrator of the economic inequality that gives birth to political

inequality. Economic inequality (poverty) is what denied men the property

necessary to become citizens in the first place, thereby negating any possibility of

attaining political rights. His own theory demonstrates how true this is in a

capitalist society. If you are not a property-owner you are not a citizen; if you are

not a citizen, you have no political rights, no political equality. Does social and/or

economic inequality undermine political equality? In Locke's theory, clearly. By


In a world of scarcity, where all land has been appropriated, the opportunities
for men to enrich themselves by their industry alone fall only to the very few,

while the vast majority may very well be industrious yet impoverished. Hence

Locke's argument fails in a 20th Century context. Dunn argues,

most of the world is America no longer -- not simply because human

labour has vastly increased its productivity, but also because human
beings have discovered how to make possible a very different scale
of economic inequality from that which the order of nature itself
makes directly possible (Dunn, 1984, pp. 39).

Locke assumes that social and economic inequality derive from the man

himself. Government is instituted in order to protect private property and its

owner; and while this is initially defined as life, liberty and property, it is material

goods and land that Locke concentrates on in both obtaining citizenship and in his

labor theory of value. Wood states, "Coming to Chapter 5 . . . the most obvious

characteristic is not simply property but landed property" (Wood, pp. 49).

Other theorists have disagreed with Locke's premise, notably Jean-Jacques

Rousseau and Karl Marx. Rousseau argued that it is society itself that gives birth

to social and economic inequality. For how can any human be economically

unequal in a perfect state of nature where each has the ability to appropriate what
is needed to sustain one's own existence? Economic inequality cannot exist in a
state of nature when each has equal access to resources, and the lives of

indigenous peoples confirms this. It is rather society's creation of "private"

property that produced inequality!

So, when estates increased so much in number and in extent as to

take in whole countries and touch each other, it become impossible
for one man to aggrandize himself but at the expense of some other;
at the same time, the supernumerary inhabitants, who were too weak
or too indolent to make such acquisitions in their turn, impoverished
without having lost anything, because while everything about them
changed, they alone remained the same[emphasis added], were
obliged to receive or force their subsistence from the hands of the
rich. And from that began to arise, . . . domination and slavery
(Rousseau, pp. 225).

If the Native Americans are representative of this state of nature, we know

there was never economic inequality (as the following chapter discusses in detail),

because material goods and land tenure were used communally and for the tacit

purpose of distribution, not one individual's pleasure over another's. Thomas

Paine agrees.

To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to

have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it
is as this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in
that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty
and want present to ur eyes in all the towns and streets of Europe.
Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized
life . . . .(Paine, pp. 479). . . . Civilization, therefore, or that which is
so called, has operated two ways; to make one part of society more
affuent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot
of either in a natural state (ibid, pp. 480) It is a position not to be
controverted, that the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state, was and
ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human
race. In that state every man would have been born to property (ibid,
pp. 481).

Rather than a lack of industry, it is the established laws of private property and
the disparity of material wealth they produce that instituted economic inequality
and correspondingly political inequality. The "propertied" in society indirectly

denied equality to the masses while at the same time retaining the majority of

political power and wealth, by creating societies that established and legitimized

unequal property relations.

It is the bounds of society itself, then, that deal the cards to the masses of

humanity. It is society itself that promotes the very scarcity that is so intrinsic to

impoverishment, by cementing established inequality in property relations. In

today's society, millions work overtime at minimum-wage jobs, hundreds of

millions work for dollars a day, and the endless struggle of trying to "get ahead"

turns as a hamster wheel; where you work harder only to remain where you began.

Indigenous Americans would eventually suffer great consequences as a result

of Lockean property-relations, as the great sea of Europeans moved westward

across the continent. Their acknowledgement of non-ownership of land led to the

denial of their territorial rights, their expulsion, and eventually their decimation.

Surprisingly, Karl Marx, who would become the leading intellectual critic of

Lockean theory, believed that Locke was correct; that all value indeed is the

product of labor, as it makes resources as well as land more profitable. However,

is it not then the individual laborer that should receive the profits from his

industriousness, instead of the owner of land and/or capital? Marx essentially

answered the question that has been so vexing to Lockean scholars. “Why does

the landowner receive the profits of his servants' labor? If all value comes from

labor, why doesn't all profit go to the individual laborer?” Marx‟s answer? That

such a society (a capitalist one) has its very foundations in economic inequality for

the laborer, while owners of land and capital reap the profits created by the


Therefore, according to Marx, such a society is a haven of injustice for mankind,

and more "just" societies, communal ones, should be implemented. Marx, the

Lakota and Haudenosaunee would agree with Rousseau's following interpretation

of the entire situation.

The first man, who after enclosing a piece of ground, took it into his
head to say, this is mine, and found people simple enough to believe
him, was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, how
many wars, how many murders, how many misfortunes and horrors,
would that man have saved the human species, who, pulling up the
stakes or filling up the ditches should have cried to his fellows:
Beware of listening to this impostor; you are lost, if you forget that
the fruits of the earth belong equally to us all, and the earth itself to
nobody [emphasis added] (Rousseau, pp. 211-212).

This, essentially, is the "anti-Lockean" position in an eloquent nutshell.

Inequality is engendered by society itself and the private property ethic, where

some have a great largess, while the multitude enjoys very little. The situation

becomes cyclical -- economic inequality produces political inequality which

produces more economic inequality -- and without a societal check on a rolling

stone, the division of wealth becomes more polarized leaving more people

politically and economically impotent. How can one, even in today's societies,

participate and contribute to the political agenda equally if they cannot put food

on the table to feed their children, or afford shoes to keep their feet warm and dry

in the harsh winters and floods of springtime?

Clearly, political participation is the first to suffer from great inequalities of

wealth, when the poor have not the time nor inspiration to meaningfully join the

political debate. In not doing so, political deliberation and society suffers a loss of

viewpoints that may be whispered yet dominant, "radical" yet popularly held. The

political system then stops reflecting the will of the people and reflects only the
will of a few. Democracy degenerates into oligarchy. More become discouraged
and drop out of the political debate. In doing so, we all lose access to that

diversity of opinion of a common good so important to meaningful political

deliberation, and become victims of a framework that narrowly limits our options

to a chosen few.

As equality is downplayed in Locke's social philosophy, so is the concept of

individual liberty espoused. Free-enterprise for the poor! Liberty to be poor or

rich, liberty to participate in the market place, in the economic sphere, in the

inevitable land-grab that is so dominant within "white" society. Men should be

free from the constraints, and the tyranny, of government! Government power

must be limited to the preservation of life, liberty and property for citizens, and

otherwise men are to be considered free and at liberty to order their life as they

will. There is no recognition of social or economic constraints on liberty, nor

inherent societal inhibitions on "individuality" -- the wholeness of the person --

rather than individualism -- that ethic that argues “every man for himself”.

For Native Americans, all persons participated politically and socially, and

economic inequality was non-existent. Both liberty and equality were respected as

a fundamental tenant of their philosophy. Individuals were always at liberty to

follow their own consciences, even if it went against a treaty had been signed by

others in the Nation. That treaty bound only signatories as no one person could

make decisions for another, as that would be the embodiment of a denial of

individual liberty, just as it would be the ultimate denial of individuality.

But equality was also important, both politically and economically. In council,

all could speak of their concerns. Economically, the community as a whole was

cared for -- elders did not go hungry, nor orphans or widows. All shared those

things necessary for physical survival -- food, clothing, shelter, the warmth of a
fire: just as the four-leggeds shared their bodies to keep the two-leggeds warm and
fed; just as the rivers share their water to quench our thirst, and just as the Creator

shares his wisdom through our own hearts. There was no such thing as economic

or political inequality in indigenous societies -- Native American women and

children had political rights hundreds of years before European women knew such

respect. Even beings not yet conceived held economic rights -- the rights to be

born on a planet that had the capacity to sustain their lives as well as those of their


Native Americans, much like Rousseau, believed that one could not own the
Earth and that her bounty was for all to share. For how can one sell the sky, the

air, the oceans or rivers, or, likewise, the Earth that all men walk upon? How can

you sell all that you have to exist upon? It is like selling your own mother.

Generally, Locke's philosophical premises, the foundations of a political theory

that has had a major impact on today's societies, are distinctly at odds with those

of Native American philosophy. His assumptions regarding indigenous Americans

are misleading, inaccurate and most often incorrect. Having no personal

experience with them, and obtaining his information from European settlers who

misinterpreted Indian ways, it is not surprising that this misunderstanding should

develop. However, the impact of Locke's work is so integral to modern society

that a re-examination of the facts needs to be calculated.

What role have the property-less in Locke's society? Does equal opportunity,

the justifying foundation for an economically unequal world, really exist for those

without economic resources? Is the only option for those that have not land and

capital to become servants of those that have? Are they doomed to labor and bring

profit only to the "owning" class, and never themselves?

The following in this work will examine and compare Locke's views of
property, land, and governance with those of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee.


One does not sell the land upon which the people walk. --Crazy Horse4

What is it that the white man wishes to buy, my people ask me? The
idea is strange to us. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of
the land, the swiftness of the antelope? How can we sell these things
to you and how can you buy them? Is the earth yours to do with as you
will, merely because the red man signs a piece of paper and gives it to
the white man? If we do not own the freshness of the air and the
sparkle of the water, how can you buy them from us? Can you buy
back the buffalo, once the last one has died? –Ted Perry5

Chapter Five of the Second Treatise, “Property”, encompasses some of

Locke's most fundamental and compelling arguments. It is historically important

as its arguments are intrinsic to today's western capitalist republics. It is here that

he lays out his renowned labor theory of value, and convincingly argues against

the right of an idle Aristocracy to harvest all profit of other's labor.

Further, the majority of his references to Native Americans are to be found in

this chapter. Indigenous Americans, or rather how Locke perceived them, played a

critical role in the justification of Locke's theory of private property, based on his

labor theory of value. Most frequently, his assumptions as well as his claims are

inaccurate. Having only the benefit of a travel library and correspondence with

American settlers as a source of information, Locke's lack of accurate information,

and his tendency to assume what was not true as universal, led to the introduction

of false premises regarding the Native American and the ensuing idea of

appropriation of "private property".

Locke wrote against the interests of the land-owning Aristocracy of 17th

century England. While vast-tracks of land were held by a very few, the laborers

themselves barely received subsistence in an oppressive economic era. Locke's

chapter on property was a perfect instrument, arguing for the right of the laborer to

receive the profits of his work. Dunn argues,

. . . the main stimulus which led him in chapter V of the Second

Treatise to discuss property in our sense, entitlement to material
possessions, was the wish to deny a right on the part of a reigning
monarch to do as he chose with the material possessions of his
subjects, without their express consent (Dunn, 1984, pp. 41). . . . But
what he needed, to refute royal claims to dispose of their subjects'
possessions as they thought best, was not a theory of why every
subject was fully and unequivocally entitled to everything which he
legally owned, but simply an explanation of why private property
could be (and often was) a right against even a legitimate political
authority (ibid, pp. 42).

Further, Locke's labor theory of value holds an important place in the history of

mankind for another reason: for while Locke, the "father" of representative

government, espoused this theory to justify appropriation of private property, Karl

Marx, the "father" of communism, used the idea as a basis to justify the institution

of communal economic systems.

Locke's argument for appropriation of private property via one's labor was an

important foundation for the emerging capitalist economy that would eventually

dominate the world economy. Locke argues, "thus the turfs my servant has cut . . .

become my property" (Locke, 1960, II, #25, pp. 330). Not only does my labor

beget surplus production and therefore profit, but that of my laborers also

becomes my property, once they have received basic sustenance as a result of their

labor. This is problematic in the sense that the concept of what is "my labor" has

apparently been left open to definition by Locke. Aaron argues,

What precisely is the produce of my labour? It obviously includes what I

produce by the labour of my own hands. But what of the wealth produced by
my beasts of burden and by my machines? Even more, what of the wealth
produced by my servants and employees? . . . Locke writes, 'Thus, the grass
my horses have bit, the turfs my servants have cut, . . . become my Property,
without the assignation or consent of anybody'. . How seriously should we
take this sentence? Is it meant to be a justification of capitalism (Aaron, pp.

Only in a capitalist society does the fruit of one's labor (profit) go to the owner

of land and/or capital. Hence, in arguing for appropriation of private property by

individuals, Locke was in effect laying a foundation for capitalist economies.

Dunn agrees. "The tangled history of the labour theory of value . . . in the

justification and rejection of capitalist production, was already foreshadowed in

the ambiguities of the theory which he fashioned" (Dunn, 1984, pp. 44).

The rejection of capitalist production that the labor theory of value promoted

was to be found in the works of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels, and other

communist writers of the last two centuries. For if labor begets all value, then

surely those who labor deserve the profit -- not the owner of land and capital.

Thus the turfs a servant has cut belong logically not to the master but rather to the

laborer, according to Marx. Max Beer, in The History of British Socialism, notes

that the theory "was destined to be made into the main weapon of socialism"

(Beer, pp. i.57), and Aaron argues "Locke here suggested a labour theory of value

which was to be extensively developed by later thinkers, particularly socialist

writers" (Aaron, pp. 227).

Locke's labor theory of value was critical as a justification for both communist

and capitalist economic systems, and as such a basis for today's worldwide

economic systems.

Further, the labor theory of value was especially useful in the appropriation of

"vacant" land in the Americas; a fundamentally wrong premise to begin with, but

one Locke frequently used as an example. "At one level of description, the aim of

Locke's argument is to demonstrate that men can legitimately acquire individual

property rights in things in the state of nature" (Sreenivasan, pp. 140). This "state

of nature" existed in 17th century "America", according to Locke, and he does not

fail to note this in his chapter on property.

Whatever else it may be, Chapter 5 is a significant argument for justifying

enclosure in England. Beyond this, however, it is an ingenious rationale for

empire, defending by implication the establishment of colonies and plantations in

America and elsewhere and the enclosure and improvement of wastes in those

wildernesses. Witness these words of Locke and all they suggest: "Yet there are

still great Tracts of Ground to be found, which . . . lie waste, and are more than

the People, who dwell on it, do, or can make use of, and so still lie in common

(Locke, 1960, II, #45, pp. 341).

Locke sets out in the Second Treatise to justify the private appropriation of

land by individuals, working in the context of the biblical belief that the earth was

given in common to all men, to 'subdue' and establish 'dominion'. In effect, he is

trying to argue how one might "justly" come to have private property in anything

if God gave the Earth to men in common.

Ideas of "ownership" and what constitutes "ownership" were problematic for

colonizing 17th century England. Spain claimed possession of Central and South

America by right of conquest (the conquered lost all claim to property), and

backed up this forceful acquisition of Latin America by papal decree. The

argument, later enumerated into law, was that the Lord Jesus Christ had given

Peter, (and hence the following Popes), the divine mandate to "'feed my sheep'"

(Williams, pp. 14), to lead his people to Christianity. The Spanish believed that

this was a God-given mandate to convert non-Christian peoples (pagans by

definition). Indigenous peoples in "Latin America" were given the choice to

convert or have everything (including their life, liberty and land) taken from them.

And so conquistadors killed and enslaved, making war upon the indigenous

inhabitants. The Spanish took their lands by force. Law, founded upon the Pope's

"God-given mandate", was indeed the instrument of empire for the Spanish in the


However, the English condemned the nature of Spanish conquest, and the

extent of sheer brutality in Christ's name led them to look for another way to

"lawfully" acquire property in "the Americas". Traditionally in 17th century

England, it was occupancy that gave the right of "possession", as in Grotius'

famous example of the theater seats (common property until occupied, private

thereafter for the duration of occupation). In the case of the Americas, however,

15 million Native Americans occupied the land, while many Englishmen were

"absentee-owners". The question of how they could justly acquire property in far

away occupied lands was a central one. “England, France, Spain, little Portugal,

all quarreling fiercely, and fighting with each other for the biggest share in the

new continent . . . all recognized the Indians' 'right of occupancy' as a right; a right

alienable in but two ways, either by purchase or by conquest” (Jackson, pp. 9).

John Locke's labor theory of value was the perfect instrument for a different

kind of empire. Occupancy would no longer defined "possession" of land; rather,

it was labor (and enclosure) that demarcated private property from the common


God gave the World to Men in Common; but since he gave it them
for their benefit, and the greatest Conveniences of Life they were
capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should
always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of
the Industrious and Rational, (and Labour was to be his Title to it) . .
. (Locke, 1960, II, #34, pp. 333).

Locke's argument is that we come to have private property in those things in a

state of nature that we mix our labor with. Locke states, "Every man has property

in his own person" (ibid, #26, pp. 328), hence, "the Labor of his body, the Work

of his hands, are properly his" (ibid, #27, pp. 329). The apple I pick from the wild

apple tree to quench my hunger, or the water I ladle from the stream to feed my

thirst become my property via my labor input. "The labour that was mine,

removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my Property in

them" (ibid, #28, pp. 330).

However, Locke argues that there are natural law limitations on personal

acquisition of property. A man may not take all and leave nothing for others. For

his first "natural" limitation is that " . . . Labour [makes something] the

unquestionable Property of the Labourer, . . . at least where there is enough, and as

good left in common for others" (ibid, #27, pp. 329).

What about land? When one appropriates land, is he not lessening the common

stock available to mankind? According to Locke, the answer is no. He argues that

as land is cultivated, it becomes 10 fold more productive than when laying idle,

therefore actually increasing the "common stock" of material goods available to

all mankind.

For the provisions serving to the support of humane life, produced

by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are . . . ten times more,
than those, which are yielded by an acre of Land, of an equal
richnesse, lyeing wast in common. And therefor (sic) he, that
incloses Land and has a greater plenty of the conveniencys of life
from ten acres, than he could have from an (sic) hundred left to
nature, may truly be said, to give ninety acres to Mankind (Locke,
1960, II, #37, pp. 336).

Hence, according to Locke, appropriation of land as private property by an

individual does not deplete the common stock of material goods available to

mankind; rather, it increases it by making land more productive.

While the above may be a valid claim, distribution of the common stock

certainly will not be equitable. Herein lies the major failing of Locke's renowned

theory of value. Common man, servants and serfs, will not benefit: it is the

owners of land and capital that will keep the Lion's portion of the newly created

wealth, leaving only sustenance wages for those who labored. The impoverished

will remain so even though there are more products on the market, for Locke's

theory has the effect of creating great inequalities of wealth among members of

society. For even if increased supply enlarges the common stock and lowers cost

in economic theory, if in societal realty it is inequitably distributed the poor

receive no benefit. Less land is left for others to appropriate to sustain themselves,

although theoretically more goods are left "in common" for others. In order for

"common man" to benefit from a theoretically increased supply in a society that

tolerates economic inequality, there must be no scarcity, so that distribution will

be equitable. Locke acknowledges how critical the assumption of a lack of

scarcity is to the appropriateness of his argument, when he states,

Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of Land, by improving it,

any prejudice to any other Man, since there was still enough, and as
good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use. So that in
effect, there was never the less left for others because of his
inclosure for himself. For he that leaves as much as another can
make use of, does as good as take nothing at all. No Body could
think himself injur'd by the drinking of another Man, though he took
a good Draught, who had a whole River of the same Water left him
to quench his thirst. And the Case of Land and Water, where there is
enough of both, is perfectly the same (Locke, 1960, II, #33, pp. 333).

Locke tacitly acknowledges that his labor theory of value works fairly (to

everyone's advantage) only in a society and time where no scarcity exists. For in a

world of scarcity, in an environment of limited resources, man can no longer

appropriate without that appropriation affecting others. It is, in a world of scarcity,

a zero sum game. The assumption that one may take for himself while leaving

"enough and as good" in common for others is clearly inappropriate. Thomas

Paine agreed.

And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by

cultivation, from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is
made, the idea of landed property arose from that inseparable
connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the
improvement only, and not the earth itself, that is individual
property. Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated land owes to the
community a ground-rent . . . (Paine, pp. 481).

While cultivation may make the land more productive, increasing mankind's

over-all stock of produce, individual appropriation of land clearly decreases the

amount of land left in common for others. Land, unlike water or food, is a

distinctly finite entity. While cultivation may bring mankind more corn or wheat

at the market place, this is not a fair trade-off for denial of access to land and its

natural resources by the "common man". Claiming "private property" depleted the

common stock of land and hence the availability of its produce (even if

numerically enlarged) to the average person. This must have been clear even in

the 17th Century -- surely Locke could envision a time where all land would be

occupied, just as all Europe was in the 1600s. Paine writes of individual

cultivation of land when he states,

But the landed monopoly that began with it, has produced the
greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of
every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them,
as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss, and has
thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not
exist before (ibid, pp. 483).

Individual appropriation of land could not help but deplete the common stock

available, and as the better land is always appropriated first, the "enough and as

good" argument falters badly. "On the face of it, scarcity of land blatantly offences

against the sufficiency limitation [leaving enough and as good in common for

others] -- where some have no land, it is clear that 'enough and as good' has not

been left for others" (Sreenisvasan, pp. 36).

Regardless, Locke persists. He in fact argues that ninety-nine percent of the

value of all things we use or possess are a result of our labor, and labor alone. He

does not acknowledge the intrinsic worth of natural resources and in fact stresses

that "the Earth furnished only the almost worthless materials" (Locke, 1960, II,

#43, pp. 340) for man to work with. He states,

I think it will be but a very modest Computation to say, that of the

Products of the Earth useful to the Life of Man 9/10 are the effects
of labour: nay, if we will rightly estimate things as they come to our
use, and cast up the several Expenses about them, what in them is
purely owing to Nature, and what to Labour, we shall find, that in
most of them 99/100 are wholly to be put on the account of labour
(ibid, #40, pp. 338).

Locke does not indicate a recognition that all we physically are and have; all

things necessary for self-preservation are a result of the Earth's natural resources.

This is where all inherent value lay. In fact, he emphasizes the very opposite. He

states, "Nay, the extent of Ground is of so little value, without labour, . . . " (ibid,

#36, pp. 335) and continues to argue that in Spain land was being given away if

one was willing to work it.

While Locke argues that it is labor that gives things 99% of their value, the

indigenous American would disagree. Part of this is a conceptual difference

between definitions of "value". For Locke, value means market price, trade price,

material price in an economic system based on individual ownership. For Native

Americans, value is what is life-giving, i.e., the continuance of the flowing rivers,

the life around us, plants and animals that support and give us life; the air, the sun,

the Earth herself, and inherently central: the spirituality that in itself creates,

promotes and ensures the harmony of spirit necessary to a meaningful, fulfilled

lifetime. The idea of material, monetary value in an economic system was

unfathomable. One could not eat gold, nor could it provide heat on a cold winter

morning. The buffalo, the rivers, the Earth: these were the things of value. These

were the things that were life sustaining.

For what good is gold, when the air is so foul that one cannot breathe, when

the fish of the sea turn black from ceaseless dumping, when all water is polluted

by insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers and chemical waste filtering through the

Earth's surface? Where will the rich buy their air when it is too brown to breathe?

Where will they buy their food when all water has been poisoned? Where will

they place their steps when no unpoisoned Earth remains to walk upon?

We are all, literally, of the Earth. The rocks, the sandy soil; plant life and all

green living, breathing things; the four-leggeds and winged creatures; the sea and

man are of the same origin. This is the very foundation for the concept of

mitakuye oyasin: respect for all humanity, all life, and the Earth herself: for we are

all related.

While labor may make things of the Earth more valuable, the true origin of

their value is in the fact that they exist at all, that they are born of the Earth. All

material items come originally from her; our material bodies come from her.

Regardless, Locke persists. His second "natural" limit on property is that one

may not take so much as will spoil and be wasted, for he that does so harms all

mankind by lessening the common stock. Locke argues that "Nothing was made

by God for man to spoil or destroy" (Locke, 1960, II, #31, pp. 332). One may not

take so much as will waste, as this is an offense to all mankind (note: Locke

tacitly acknowledges inherent scarcity in society here, for if there really were

plenty for all, the apple rotting in the barrel would offend no one).

However, with the invention of money as representative of wealth, Locke

argues that an individual can now take more than he can use without the hazard of

spoilage, by exchanging goods for these precious metals. He argues, "he might

heap up as much of these durable things as he pleased [gold and silver]; the

exceeding of the bounds of his just Property not lying in the largeness of his

Possession, but the perishing of any thing uselessly in it" (Locke, 1960, II, #46,

pp. 342).

Unfortunately, Locke's argument regarding money cannot help but undermine

his initial limit on appropriation of private property: that one leave enough and as

good in common for others. For if many take more than they can use, and hoard

that wealth in the form of gold and silver, they serve to harm their fellow man, as

they are decreasing the common stock absolutely. It is a world of scarcity, and as

such, if one hoards a great largess there can never be "enough and as good" left in

common for others.

The invention of money greatly amplifies the inequality of

possessions made possible by the 'different degrees of Industry'
which men display (II, 48). It makes it possible, in Locke's
judgment, for a man fairly to 'possess more than he can use the
product of', since he can hoard up, without injury to anyone, the
value of the surplus which his property produces, in the form of gold
and silver (II, 50) (Dunn, 1984, pp. 39-40).

What Locke unfortunately ignores in his argument against spoilage and the

convenience of trading for durable metals is that excessive build-up of wealth by

one -- regardless of how well it keeps -- destroys the possibility of leaving enough

and as good in common for others in any society where scarcity exists. How can

one hoard goods without injury to anyone? With Locke's argument of gold and

silver, he has completely undermined his first limitation on appropriation of

private property -- that we leave enough and as good in common for others.

Wood goes so far as to argue that it is the introduction of money itself that is

the very foundation of scarcity. "The historical catalyst that effects the transition

from abundance to scarcity is the introduction of money" (Wood, pp. 35). Other

scholars agree.

[The] situation changes with the advent of money because money is

imperishable and thus unaffected by the spoilage limitation. . . . As
money may be accumulated indefinitely without violating the
spoilage limitation, so too now may land; 'the exceeding of the
bounds of his just Property not lying in the largeness of his
Possessions, but the perishing of anything uselessly in it' (II, 46).
Hence, inexorably, the use of money leads to a scarcity of land . . . .
In addition to scarcity of land, the use of money also makes possible
the 'disproportionate and unequal Possession of the Earth' (II, 50).
More accurately, it makes possible exaggerated inequality
(Sreenivasan, pp. 35-36).

Exaggerated inequality is a trademark of Lockean society. Locke's theory

completely ignores the costs and effects on the individual as well as society of

great social and economic inequalities. While Locke argues on one hand that men

have agreed to disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth by virtue of

their industriousness (or lack there of), he is completely missing an important

concept: that of the necessity of equality of opportunity in an inequalitarian social

system. He comments not for instance, on why his industrious servant -- the

masses of mankind -- has not the opportunity to become enriched by his or her

own hard labor. Why must one be a servant and receive only subsistence wages if

equality of opportunity truly exists? Why is he unable to freely cultivate and reap

the full harvest of his labor if scarcity is not an impediment?

Locke firmly argued that one should not take more land than he can cultivate,

and was adamant about this in his dealings with the "American" colonies: for

nothing was given to man to lye in waste, synonymous with spoilage in Locke's

estimation. He emphasized, in his remarks on the administration of the Carolina

colony, the importance of colonial settlers not enclosing more land than they

could cultivate. For if labor is what begets property, then idle land can belong to

no one, regardless of whether or not it is enclosed. This was an important

argument, not just against the excesses of the Carolina settler's land claims, but

against those of Native Americans' as well. For if indigenous lands were not

cultivated according to a European definition, they were then open to

expropriation. The Homestead Act in the 19th century United States was the very

embodiment of Locke's theory of acquisition of property. Imagine the possibilities

the theory held for Europeans going off to the "Americas", to work "free" land

that would eventually become their own -- through the product of their labor.

This policy would become especially problematic for indigenous Americans.

This system tends to be rampantly individualistic and inherently non-community

oriented. While economic liberty for the individual is a necessity for accumulation

of private property, economic inequality or a lack of social and economic rights is

explained away by individualism itself. For Locke, and for the primacy of private

property as an economic doctrine, the blame for social or economic inequality

rests solely on the individual. Persons are in poverty due to their own failings –

not social structure. Locke's prescriptions for the impoverished were rather

draconian even for his time. He believed the poor should be impressed into labor

at less than the going wage or military service, depending on age and ability (see

chapter 6).

in its context [Locke's poor law], it is clear that Locke decidedly

does not mean that everyone has a right to meat, drink, and whatnot,
even if he does not work; indeed, his proposed reforms could
scarcely have had a more contrary objective. Locke's brief in making
his proposal was [on poor laws] 'to consider of some proper methods
for setting on work and employing the poor of this kingdom, and
making them useful to the public, and thereby easing others of that
burden' (Sreenivasan, pp. 43).

There is no recognition for Locke of the inherent role society itself plays in the

impoverishment of millions. For if political inequality is linked to economic

inequality, poverty is a function of society itself. And in Lockean political

systems, the economically unequal suffered similar political inequality.

The solution to poverty, according to Locke, rests with the individual. He must

be industrious and thrifty, for if he were, surely riches would follow. It is therefore

a personal failing on the part of the impoverished that bring about that pervasive

state. This is fundamental to Locke's liberalism: explain at the individual level,

and never the systematic one. Use data pointing to why an individual is

impoverished (low-paying job, not enough education, not working full-time)

rather than explaining why there is impoverishment in a society based on private

property (structural unemployment as intrinsic to capitalism, the loss of high-

paying blue-collar industries as U.S. corporations move overseas and the

subsequent creation of low-paying service-sector jobs, the lack of equality of

opportunity). The focus is on the liberty of the individual to be poor or rich, while

simultaneously denying any sociological factors inhibiting economic well being.

This is essentially the private property ethic at its worst. For billions in this world

work ceaselessly and the opportunities to get ahead are few and rarely to be found.

Equality and the right of all people to more than just basic subsistence get lost

in the primacy of liberty and individualism in Locke's theory. Rather than being

the solution to the war of all against all, could it not be true that the inequality

engendered by society in fact breeds it?

Thomas Hobbes was right. The war of "all against all" exists, but it was the

society that was to end this condition that gave birth to it. Go to any 3rd world

country today: 75% of the world's population will tell you, the war exists. It exists

in societies throughout the globe; it exists in democracies as well as dictatorships;

in capitalist and in communist societies. The war of all against all exists between

the haves and have-nots of the world. And it is society that has created this war;

with a rampant individualism that pits man against man. Extremes of the private

property ethic engage the haves against the have-nots in a zero-sum game; and the

pervasive lack of a real sense of social responsibility by individuals in Lockean

society: that all-encompassing societal good of simple compassion for one's

fellow living creatures, has created a different kind of war.

Jean-Jacque Rousseau convincingly argued that inequality is bred by society

itself. Thomas Hobbes argued that the "state of nature" leads to a state of war of

all against all -- the inception of society ends this war and brings order. I argue

that inequality in society breeds exactly what society was born to prevent: the war

of all against all. Society and its inequalities gave birth to the very monster it was

to slay.

What I term "rampant individualism" is the continuing trend towards de-

humanization of all life around us, including our fellow man. Fear and a lack of

respect are key in turning people toward isolation from one another.

Individualism, in its extreme form, denies the brotherhood of all mankind,

endorses extreme competition, and isolates us from each other. Frequently, it

isolates us from our own true selves: from looking within and following our

ethical conscience. Respect for ourselves and others, the most fundamental thing

to being human, gets lost in the primacy of economic liberty and individualism.

At the very basis of this is the private property ethic, where everyone is

"looking out for #1”: where the neighbor's poverty is the neighbor's problem and

no one else's responsibility. A lack of community, and respect for the humanity of

individuals is the result of such rampant individualism. Fear keeps us separate;

fear keeps us isolated. The homeless wander the streets while a hungry dog has a

better chance of acquiring compassion than does a human whom fortune has


The private property ethic has come to mean that while few live in splendor

and largess, the majority struggles ceaselessly. Social and economic inequality,

entrenched into society, is certain to undermine political equality, as keeping food

on the table and a roof over one's head becomes an all-encompassing task. Politics

begin to seem insignificant and far away, while the voices of the shrinking middle

class echo against the palaces of the rich. And more people fall into poverty every

day, never to return, regardless of how hard they scramble to try to crawl out. And

Locke's individualism and theory of appropriation of private property have

contributed significantly to this world paradigm. Locke's labor theory of value,

while instrumental in economic theory, has unfortunate defects in its account of

"natural" man, as well as that of "economic" man.

The foundation for Locke's argument for private property is fundamentally

opposed to Native American philosophy. Locke argues that the biblical

commandment for mankind to subdue and hold dominion over the earth translates

into a command to cultivate the soil, using any ensuing product of cultivation for

mankind's benefit. Dominion and subduing, according to Locke, are one and the

same, as it follows naturally that one should have dominion over the soil he has

cultivated. Dominion implies ownership.

It is interesting to note that Locke interprets "subduing" solely as cultivation of

the Earth. It is agrarian labor and agrarian labor only that he focuses on in his

chapter on property -- the labor of the hunter-gatherer gives one no rights to

property in the form of land.

However, according to Locke, the labor of the hunter-gatherer does however

give one absolute "property" rights in what he takes from the land: the deer, the

elk, the bear, as one has "mixed his labor with it".

Unfortunately for Locke, this premise is mistaken. In indigenous societies,

food was shared communally, and all persons involved in the hunt -- all able-

bodied males, as well as those were not: the elderly; the sick; the widow shared in

whatever was taken. Back at the camp, the deer taken in the woods belonged to

nobody yet fed all. James Walker, a physician on Pine Ridge from 1896 to 1914,

records the rules of the hunt, and the rules of communal food, in Lakota Society.

He states,

Rules of the hunt, recognized by all: All must move together. No one
must take advantage to get at the game before the others can profit
from it. If anyone stampedes the game he must be punished. The
meat gotten during a hunt must be fairly and equally divided among
all members of the party" (Walker, 1982, pp. 32).

Locke was wrong. Just as shelter was provided and communal, all food was

shared, and one of Locke's main arguments for private property is undermined.

For Locke argued that, "Thus the Law of reason makes the deer, that Indian's who

hath killed it; 'tis allowed to be his goods who hath bestowed his labor upon it,

though before, it was the common right of everyone (Locke, 1960, II, #30, pp.

331)". An "Indian" in the "Americas" hunted with his fellow man, and the game

that was taken was shared in common -- among members of the hunt, as well as

the entire tribe. “It was every person's duty to see that the right of every other

person to eat and be clothed was respected and there was no more question about

it than there was about the free and ungoverned use of sunshine, pure air, and the

rain with which they bathed their bodies” (Standing Bear, pp. 124).

Those not able to provide for themselves were always taken care of by the

people as a whole, and it was considered a great honor to feed the needy. "A few

honored hunters were selected to shoot for the old, the crippled, the blind and the

sick, . . . (Sandoz, pp. 51). For the individualist ethic of 'I have mine, you get

yours' did not exist in Lakota society. Rather, all human beings equally deserved

to share in the bounty of the Earth and its Creator. All should share in common

those things necessary to preservation.

For the Lakota, food is always communal "property". To this day on the

reservation, if one kills a deer, people come from all around to take a part of that

meat in order to feed their families, and it is willingly shared. This remains from

the dictum in ancient Lakota society, that as long as there was meat, everyone ate.

Charles Eastman remembered, "As a child, I understood how to give; I have

forgotten that grace since I became civilized" (Eastman, 1980, pp. 88). The deer

taken in the woods was not the property of the individual who killed it. All were

fed by the meat of that deer, elk, or buffalo, denoted as the property of one in a

theory based upon false assumptions. And although Walker only mentions

dividing the meat amongst the members of the party, in Native American

philosophy and practice, the women, children, elderly and those that could not

provide for themselves were the first to be taken care of.

However, Locke's argument of enclosure of land as fundamental to his

justification of acquisition of "private property" would eventually doom tribal

rights to territory. Enclosure from the commons, was, for Locke, central to the

idea of "private property", as without it, all land was considered a part of the

common stock. "Improvement of the wastes meant for the improvers, as it did for

Locke, enclosure. . . ." (Wood, pp. 63), and, “The foremost argument for

enclosure, shared and constantly stressed by Locke, was the enormous advance in

productivity. Increase in productivity meant burgeoning profits. An appeal to self-

interest was usually made, often cloaked in the guise of the common interest”

(ibid, pp. 65).

In the case of "America", where indigenous territories were understood by the

invisible lines of rivers and streams, the enclosure argument essentially justified

the taking of the entire continent by any European willing to enclose and cultivate.

Even if indigenous groups could prove that they did indeed cultivate crops for

general subsistence, Locke's argument of enclosure ensured that they would have

no rights when it came to land tenure. The white man defined land tenure in one

way: any other use of land, however coherent, was denied to the indigenous in the


Labor, and cultivation of the land, increases the stock of all mankind in Locke's

theory. It also gives property rights. Contrary to Locke's belief, that America was

an uncultivated area and "waste" land, many indigenous American Nations did

cultivate land, but they did not physically enclose it from the commons. Lewis

Henry Morgan notes of the Iroquois,

The abounding supplies of corn yielded, with light cultivation, by

their fruitful fields, and the simple fare of the Indian, rendered the
prevailing hospitality an inconsiderable burden. It rested chiefly
upon the industry, and therefore the natural kindness of the Indian
women; who, by the cultivation of the maize, and their other plants,
and the gathering of the wild fruits, provided the principal part of
their subsistence, . . . (Morgan, 1975, pp. 329).

Wallace, a great friend of the Haudenosaunee, records that "The Indians of the

Five Nations . . . lived in good houses, built walled towns for their protection and

supported themselves by the cultivation of the soil. Corn, beans, and squash, the

"Three Sisters," formed the staple of their diet, with venison and fish in season"

(Wallace, pp. 7).

Likewise, plains Indians also cultivated maize, although in a distinctly different

way of than that of the white man. Rather than clearing huge fields, maize was

planted at various intervals where the sun and the earth could easily facilitate their


Indigenous Americans cultivated land, but in a different manner than the

European. They had no need for fences or man-made enclosures, they had no

concept of enclosing ground, as they had no need to: invisible lines separated one

tribe's "territory" from another, and although this was the most frequent form of

dispute among tribes, the territories were basically understood if not accepted.

Their hunting grounds and the right to hunt and gather was their major form of

mixing one's labor with the Earth -- and although they also cultivated (but never

subdued) the Earth, Locke's theory on enclosure was an important instrument to

deny them their communal lands.

Land, according to Locke's chapter on property, was to be claimed private

property via agrarian labor in an enclosed area. Hunting, fishing and gathering, the

major modes of labor undertaken by indigenous Americans, did not give one any

rights to the land, whether for use or ownership, according to Locke -- his chapter

on property specifically neglects these forms of livelihood as a valid claim to

"property". What cultivation of land was done was either ignored by Europeans

(the earliest owed their lives to indigenous cultivation -- remember that first

Thanksgiving dinner?) or not recognized as such -- the differing systems of

cultivation gave the European an excuse to deny indigenous Americans' claim to

their own cultivated areas.

A similar false assumption on the part of Locke was his argument that

"America" was vacuum domicillium -- a vacant wasteland. Locke states,

labour makes the far greatest part of the value of things, we enjoy in this
World; And the ground which produces the materials, is . . . at most, but a
very small, part of it; So little, that even amongst us, Land that is left wholly
to Nature, that hath no improvement of Pasturage, Tillage, or Planting, is
called, as indeed it is wast; and we shall find the benefit of it amount to little
more than nothing . . . (Locke, 1960, II, #42, pp. 339).

"Waste" land, according to Locke, translates to "uncultivated". However, for

Native Americans, clearly the land was considered anything but waste. It is the

Mother of all life, a Garden of Eden where they rarely knew want until the

encroachment of the European. All their needs and wants were satisfied and

fulfilled from the Earth and her offspring. The buffalo gave food, shelter, clothing,

tools, even a major heat source (buffalo chips). The land gave berries, roots, and

grains, with only a minimum of human cultivation -- often, none at all. The land

in the "Americas" was fertile, productive, and supported all life indiscriminately.

How then, can something this rich and giving be called "waste"? Locke's answer?

It's uncultivated. Locke argues, “For I aske whether in the wild woods and

uncultivated wast of America left to Nature without any improvement, tillage or

husbandry, a thousand acres will yield the needy and wretched inhabitants as

many conveniences of life as ten acres . . . that are well cultivated” (ibid, #37,

pp. 336).

I have already pointed out that this was an incorrect assumption on Locke's

part. Parts of "America" were cultivated, but by a different culture, in a different

manner. Regardless, the forests and plains rich enough to support the life of the

buffalo and mankind could hardly be considered "waste".

The assumption inherent in Locke's argument is that of the "Americas" as

waste and vacant land. Locke states in his chapter on property, "plant in some in-

land, vacant places of America," (ibid, #36, pp.335).

Perhaps it was the lack of enclosure by the various tribes, the lack of

recognition that indigenous Americans were indeed rational human beings

deserving respect, or just plain greed that gave Europeans the idea that the vastly

occupied tracks of land were "vacant". Conservative estimates place the

population of Native Americans at fifteen million people living in this land that is

called “America” before the advent of Europeans. This is hardly what could be

called "unoccupied". However, as the first Americans were soon to learn,

definitions are everything.

Another problematic conception in Locke's theory of property is that of only

recognizing private, rather than communal, "ownership". Why, one may ask

oneself, must "property" be "private"? Time Incorporated owns Temple Industries,

making it one of the largest landowners in the country. The stockholders of Time,

Inc. are certainly individuals, yet ownership is made up of the group. Groups

rarely have rights, and have had to fight hard for those; but individuals have

"inherent" rights. There is no recognized right of "the people", and no communal

rights of property. Why can only individuals own property in Locke's theory? At

the time Locke was writing, there certainly was communal ownership of land in

England. It was called "the commons". Locke states,

'Tis true, in Land that is common in England, or any other country,

where there is Plenty of People under Government, who have Money
and Commerce, no one can enclose or appropriate any part, without
the consent of all his Fellow-Commoners: Because this is left
common by Compact, i.e. by the Law of the Land, which is not to be
violated. And though it be Common, in respect of some Men, it is
not so to all Mankind: but is the joint property of this Countrey, or
this Parish (Locke, 1960, II, #35, pp.334).

Clearly Locke acknowledges the idea of communal property. Even Peter

Laslett, a renowned Lockean scholar, notes the inconsistency. “Here Locke seems

to recognize the inappropriateness of agrarian enclosure to his argument, but he

persists. His statements are accurate, but vague, and it is interesting that the words

'Countrey' and 'Parish' are used where 'Manor' might be expected” (Locke, 1960,

II, pp. 333, footnote #35).

Native Americans had always held land in common, for use but not ownership.

The idea of individual ownership was inconceivable, even beyond the problems of

the concept of "ownership". The tribe, the people, the Earth, water and sky were

as one family. The idea of an individual seizing land and saying "this is mine" was

as foreign as the European invading indigenous territories. Common territories

were held in trust by the people of a particular tribe for use by future generations.

"Reservation" land to this day belongs theoretically to the tribe as a community,

but is in fact held by separate individuals.

Locke's arguments for "property" all focus on the individual and "private", not

common, property. It is the individual who by his industriousness encloses land

from the commons and thereby claims private ownership. The Native American

idea of common areas for the group as a whole were diametrically opposed to

Locke's conception of property prerequisites.

In a sense, tribal occupation of lands: of hunting grounds, could be interpreted

as a kind of "private" (community, not individual) "property" (without the concept

of ownership -- rather as that of steward or trustee).

Economists are accustomed to using the individual as the unit of

analysis. However, economists treat "firms" and "households" as if
these were individual decision-makers and as if these were natural
and well-defined units of analysis. Yet the new theory of the firm . . .
and the new house hold economics . . . teach us that these are
groups, not individuals, and that these groupings are not exogenous.
Rather firms and households take many different forms and
structures . . . . Once we acknowledge this point, it is no longer
obvious whether "privatization" as practiced by Europeans is
superior to "collectivization" as practiced by Indians. At one level of
analysis, tribal lands are privately owned by tribes, that is, members
of other tribes cannot use these lands without making some
arrangements with the owning tribe. On the other hand, tribal lands
are owned collectively among all the members of the tribe (Roback,
in Anderson, pp. 6).

Clearly we can conceive of indigenous lands in two different senses. Were

indigenous lands collective "properties", or was some kind of privatization in

effect? The answer, as opposed to Locke's, is probably both.

For Native Americans, the term "property" itself is problematic. Property

implies ownership, and for Locke, individual ownership. The Lakota argue that

the only thing that a human truly owns or "possesses" is his own body: everything

else belongs to the Creator. One cannot own the air, the oceans, the rivers nor the

Earth: they are of the Creator and therefore properly belong to him. We as human

beings are also of the Creator, but our bodies we can temporarily call our own.

Hence, Locke's conception of "property" in the sense of ownership is an anathema

to indigenous Americans.

Thus, Sundances and rattlesnake dances were offerings to the Creator --

offerings of much more than money every Sunday in the collection plate -- they

are offerings of the only thing we truly possess and hold precious: one's own body.

While Europeans decried these rites as "savage and barbaric", on closer inspection

one finds that every religion, every spirituality has a time of sacrifice for the

Creator. Whether that be the Christian idea of Lent, the Hindus' days of fasting, or

Islams during Ramadan, there is always a time of sacrifice for the Creator.

Indigenous Americans, believing all one could offer was what one truly owned,

gave literally of themselves.

As far as material goods and land, both the Lakota and Haudenosaunee had

what was essentially a mixture of "personal" material goods for use by the

individual, tribal use of certain areas or territories for hunting and gathering, and

communal material goods, such as food and the essential instruments of life,

necessary for the common good of the people.

Other than the intrinsic "possession" of one's own body, individual tribe

members always had what may be termed "personal possessions" -- their pipe,

clothing, medicine bags, etc. Possibly a song that only they could sing, or a story

that was theirs to tell, could be considered a property right that belonged to that

individual only. Grinnell states,

His food, arms, and clothing, his horses and other livestock, are his
to do what he pleases with: to sell, to give away, even to destroy. He
may have sole right in his tribe to carry some ceremonial object, to
sing some sacred song, to tell some particular story. . . . This is a
property right that is respected by others and one that he may usually
divest himself of by giving it away or selling it (Grinnell, pp. 1).

After death, rights to the "property" of the deceased were shared with the

community at large, not inherited down a single-family line.

To the Plains Sioux nothing that was made less by division could be
inherited. A good name, the art and craft designs of such things as
the arrows and the regalia of the men, the patterns for beading and
painting by the women, these were passed on to the heirs, . . .
Everything else was distributed in a Giveaway Dance after the
owner's death. Some special items went to friends or relatives, but
most of the divisible property was handed to the needy and the sad

and the unlucky, where it lifted the heart and was of use (Sandoz, pp.

For both the Haudenosaunee and the Lakota, important material goods, such as

the teepee and family belongings (tools and skins), belonged to the woman in each

family and were passed down through the female line. This matrilineal system

was to ensure that the children would always be cared for, as far as shelter,

clothing, food, etc. The men, if alienated from their family, were assumed capable

of taking care of themselves. The children, however, are the future of any people

as a whole, and their welfare must be ensured. "Plains Indian society was a

matrilineal one. The husband joined the wife's people so if something happened to

him as hunter and protector, she and her children would be with relatives, with

people who would care for them, care for their own" (ibid, pp. 58). Walker wrote


The property of a family all belonged to the woman except the

personal apparel, implements, and insignia of the man, and the
horses, which were common property of the family. The offspring
belonged to the woman while they dwelt in the tipi with her. . . . The
tipi and family belongings were considered her property (Walker,
1982, pp. 57).

Lewis Henry Morgan attests to the Haudenosaunee also having a matrilineal

system. He argued that "Not the least amazing amongst their institutions, was that

which confined the transmission of all titles, rights and property in the female line

to the exclusion of the male" (Morgan, 1975, pp. 84.) Again, as the women gave

birth to and raised the children, their welfare must take precedent over that of the

fathers, if the life of "the people" were to continue.

In Locke's patriarchal and patrilineal society, the absence of such a policy has

led to what scholars call "the feminization of poverty" in the last few decades.

Single parent households, headed by women in absence of the men that were part

of the procreation process, have an enormous incidence of poverty in the United

States today. And it is the children who suffer -- lack of adequate food and

clothing, and the ensuing loss of adequate education and equality of opportunity

(try taking an academic test when your stomach is growling from hunger and

you're not sure where your next meal is coming from). And this is not to mention

the emotional turmoil that goes on in an impoverished household. Indigenous

Nations generally insured their children's welfare by ensuring that "property" was

passed matrilineally, so that the women and children were provided for.

Other than personal possessions, some scholars have argued that the idea of

"hunting grounds" or tribal "territories" encompasses the idea of "private

property". This idea is somewhat problematic in that indigenous peoples never

believed they owned the land, and “property" implies ownership. They took from

it what they needed to survive, and gave back to it what they could to sustain it, in

order to secure its continual prosperity. Grinnell explains,

They cannot conceive of the individual ownership of land; they think

of their land as held by the tribe for those who shall come after them,
who in turn may occupy it. . . . There was no individual ownership
of land, but there was tribal ownership. In some cases a tribe
occupied certain lands to the exclusion of all others. In other cases
various tribes, friendly or allied, occupied or controlled certain
territory from which they expelled other people who ventured on it.
Again large tracts of land may be claimed -- even though not
permanently occupied or controlled -- by half a dozen tribes and
might serve as hunting grounds for them. . . . his [the Native
American's] land he could not sell and would not think of selling any
more than he would think of selling the rivers or the springs. The
rights in the land of those unborn were as clear as his own, as clear
as those of his ancestors. These rights could not be alienated
(Grinnell, pp. 2-3).

Further, what was considered "selling" of the land was interpreted by

indigenous Americans as "permits to use the land for a term and on conditions"

(ibid, pp. 2).

Land was something one obviously could not own. It was held for
tribal use and for posterity. Sale of land to the Sioux meant sale of
use. When Indians, from Plymouth Rock to Oregon, sold an area
they thought of it as a temporary arrangement. When payment
ceased, the land returned to the tribe, or so they believed as long as
they could. To the Sioux, land, the earth, was revered as the mother
force in the Great Powers from whom all things came. Plainly
nothing could ever be done to diminish this land, nothing to make it
less for all those whose moccasins walked upon it, and for all those
whose tracks were still to come (Sandoz, pp. 83).

Often, European settlers tried to find or convince a tribal member to claim

ownership of land so they could "buy" it from its "owner". Writing in 1907,

Grinnell explains,

Until within comparatively recent times, all land sales and all
treaties have been make by the Indians on the theory that they were
passing over to the white people certain rights of occupancy -- were
lending them the use of the land . . . ; yet the Indians looked forward
to a time at the end of the loan when the land should be returned to
them (Grinnell, pp. 4).

Even in the case of tribal "hunting grounds", they were not absolutely the

domain of a particular tribe. For the Haudenosaunee, a (friendly) traveler passing

through their domain was allowed to take what game he needed to survive while

passing through, but no more. The respect for human life took precedent over any

conception of tribal "territories".

Fredrick Engels studied the Haudenosaunee and what he termed their "system

of primitive communism" extensively. In The Origin of the Family, Private

Property and the State, he argues that "A man in need of food when in another's

trapping [or hunting] area could even kill beaver, a most important fur-bearing

animal, but he could not kill one in order to sell the fur" (Engels, pp. 20). Further,

it is argued that,

the assumption that privately held hunting tracts were aboriginal was
questioned by the Canadian anthropologist Diamond Jenness, on the
basis of his work among the Ojibwa and the Sekani Indians, and by
Julian Steward, who found evidence of their late development . . .
Detailed archival and field research . . . showed that the hunting
ground system had indeed developed as a result of the fur trade, and
further, that it did not involve true land ownership. One could not
trap near another's line, but anyone could hunt game animals, could
fish, or could gather wood, berries or birchbark on another's grounds
as long as these products of the land were for use, and not for sale
(ibid, pp. 19-20).

The Haudenosaunee, those "fierce warriors" indigenous to the east coast of the

United States, believed that sustenance for human beings was more important than

a private property ethic.

Yes, these tribes did engage in warfare against others, and the

Haudenosaunee's' reputation for vigilance in warfare is renowned. For the

Haudenosaunee, the conquered were asked to join the Confederacy or be driven

from their lands. "When about the year 1651 the Iroquois had conquered the Eries

and the 'Neutral Nation', they offered to accept them into the confederacy on equal

terms; it was only after the defeated tribes had refused that they were driven from

their territory" (ibid, pp. 159). Even historical "enemies" were recognized as

human beings first.

Similarly, the Lakota also allowed other Nations to camp, hunt and fish on

their "territorial" spiritual grounds -- the Black Hills of South Dakota. Chief Red

Fox states that traditionally,

Other tribes went to the wilderness health resort [in the Black Hills],
and the Sioux did not molest them when they pitched their tepees, . .
. . They hunted the deer and the elk and the bear which had been
placed there in abundance by the Creator to provide meat and fur for
his children (Red Fox, pp. 22-23).

Land use in indigenous society was intrinsically for the continued existence of

all peoples, not only those of the local community. For in Native society, the

concept of community and communal rights of the "people" is an important one.

Luther Standing Bear notes, "To the Lakota every other individual in the tribe was

as important as himself and it was his duty to preserve the identity of the tribe"

(Standing Bear, pp. 67). A Lakota's duty was to preserve and protect the

community -- even at the expense of their own life. While individuality and the

right to follow one's conscience were adamantly respected, the good of the

community was the first concern of the traditional first Americans. The "people",

in the form of the community, live on forever, while individuals live and die. Such

is the circle of life.

Though each person became individualized -- could be as truthful, as

honest, as generous, as industrious, or as brave as he wished -- could
even go to battle upon his own initiative, he could not consider
himself as separate from the band or nation. Tribal consciousness
was the sole guide and dictator, . . . for one to cut himself off from
the whole meant to lose identity or to die (ibid, pp. 124).

Hence the importance of communal food, shelter -- the necessities of life -- in

order that the "people" would continue to survive. Never to let another go hungry

while others feasted, the Lakota and Haudenosaunee believed that food was

sacred: it was a gift from the Creator and Mother Earth and was to be shared. It is

the staple of all mankind. "Indians do not have to be reminded to feed the hungry,

clothe the poor, or to give shelter to those in need. They do it instinctively and

sincerely, and with pleasure" (Red Fox, pp.30). To keep food from one that is

hungry is to deny them air to breathe, the earth to stand upon, or a drink from the

ceaseless flow of the rivers.

When food was brought into the village, the sharing must be equal
for old, young, sick, disabled, and for those who did not or could not
hunt as well as those who hunted. There must be no hungry
individuals; so long as one had food, all would have food. There was
never the hungry on one hand and the overfed on the other. All
shared food as long as there was any to share (Standing Bear, pp.

The "Iroquois" called themselves the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, meaning "people of

the long house". Their name itself is a reference to their communal way of living,

their communal households, and their communion with all life. For in a

Haudenosaunee village, many families lived together in a single long-house.

Further, it is a reference to the Confederacy itself, and the conceptual idea of

Six Nations -- six separate tribes -- being one people under one communal "roof".

It is a reference back to the idea that "we are all related" and share the shelter we

call Mother Earth.

For the Haudenosaunee did not live in portable housing as did the Lakota.

Rather, they build permanent long wooden structures, much like the European's

house but longer, wherein several families would live. Each family had its own

fire (its own area) in the long house, and frequently four or five families would

live together under one roof. Everyone was housed in this way, and as such,

everyone was guaranteed shelter. There could be no homelessness when homes

were implicitly for sharing. Engels argues that,

the household is maintained by a number of families in common and

is communistic; the land belongs to the tribe, only the small gardens
are allotted provisionally to the households [the community of each
longhouse] . . . There cannot be any poor or needy -- the communal
household and the gens know their responsibilities toward the old,
the sick, and those disabled in war (Engels, pp. 159).

The Lakota too had a belief in the importance of sharing in common those

things necessary for the sustaining of human life. If a teepee was needed, the men

in common provided the hides, while the women worked together to tan and sew

them into shelter for the needy. Shelter was always available and provided for

those that could not or did not provide for themselves.

One of the major premises of Lakota and indigenous philosophy generally

comes into play here. For it is he who knows how to give that is considered rich,

he who is poor in material possessions wealthy, and he who knows how to share

forever endowed. For by doing so he demonstrates his knowledge that wealth is an

internal quality, not that which exists in an outward display of material


It is important to note, that the "giving" ethic applied to all facets of life for the

indigenous American. If a marriage was to take place, a baby was born, in honor

of the dead, and in honor of the living, "give-aways" took place, as part of the

traditional ceremonies of the people. Rather than receiving presents upon special

occasions: births, marriage, death, one gave away gifts to their fellow community

members. Hence, just as with the circle of life, material possessions were

acknowledged as impermanent and thus shared by all through a circle of giving.

This is truly the ideal of a communal economic system, and for the first

Americans -- it worked.

But herein lies the real proof of the communal ethic among Native Americans.

For obviously, if one gives away all they possess, they would have no blankets to

lie upon, to stay warm at night, no buffalo robes to warm their bodies during the

day, no tools or material possessions with which to sustain human life. One

needn't worry in Lakota or Haudenosaunee society, because all others were

instilled with the same giving ethic. Hence, often one would give away

everything, only to have the necessities and other possessions given back to them

by others in society. Material possessions, then, truly became communal, as they

were given and received by various individuals within the community.

In any truly communal situation, not only individuals have standing in the

struggle to survive, but just as important is the survival of the people as a whole.

For indigneous Americans this was an inherent part of the balance necessary to

sustain the circle of life.

This group or communal identity is unfamiliar to the children of individualism,

where the individual is recognized and "the people" are not; where Social

Darwinism: the survival of the fittest, natural selection, man against man, the

haves against the have-nots; is espoused as the fundamental premise of society.

For indigenous Americans, community was everything. When a child was

born, it was the responsibility of the entire community to raise him or her. Lakota

children were always given "second parents" at birth, to facilitate the instruction

and raising of the child. "The children in a real sense belonged to the group as a

whole; an orphaned child suffered a personal loss, but was never without a

family" (Engels, pp. 33). If a child went down the wrong road, philosophically or

spiritually, it was considered the entire communities responsibility to put that

child back on "the red road" (the path of indigenous spirituality and community

harmony). Sandoz, discussing the major punishment for offenders of the

communal order (ostracism), argues, "In any case the ostracism was a sad thing, a

community failure" (Sandoz, pp. 34), as all had a responsibility in raising the

young to follow that "red road". And just as the community had a responsibility to

the child, so the child had a responsibility to his community.

During the newborn minutes, that newborn hour, Indian children,

boy and girl, were taught the first and greatest lesson of their lives:
that no one could be permitted to endanger the people by even one
cry to guide a roving enemy to the village or to spoil a hunt that
could mean the loss of the winter meat for a whole band or even a
small tribe. In return the child would soon discover that all the
community felt an equal responsibility toward him. Every fire
became like that of his parents, welcoming the exploring, the
sleeping or injured toddler. Every pot would have a little extra for a
hungry boy, and every ear was open to young sorrow, young joys
and aspirations (Sandoz, pp. 20).

Alternatively, in Lockean society, mankind is encouraged to be competitive

and suspicious of others. Mankind is not to be trusted, as in the state of nature,

according to Locke, we degenerate to a state of war with one another as we cannot

objectively arbitrate our own disputes. That is our very nature.

Unfortunately, an extreme individualist ethic pits person against person, man

against man, the haves against the have-nots, effectively isolating us from the

world and from each other. Individual consciousness is as advanced as group

consciousness is denied. The individual is encouraged to "take care of number one

first", to be competitive, and not to risk compassion for one's fellow in need. We

are taught he is down and out because of an inherent fault within -- blame the

individual, never the circumstances, and certainly not the social structure. As Karl

Marx aptly remarked, "circumstances make men, just as much as men make

circumstances" (McLellan, pp. 12).

As the Lakota recognize, the true cause for corruption and greed in an

individual's behavior is a community failure: a societal one. There are no inherent

"bad apples" in the human race, just bad circumstances. Because human beings

have reason, they also hold within them the capacity for ethical knowledge. That

capacity must be nurtured and developed by the community or society for the

individual to flourish. This is forgotten and the individual forlorn in an extreme

individualistic society. We deliberately remain separated from humanity, fearful

of others: hostile even, to the rest of human life in such an environment. We

become separated from the world, nature; from life itself.

Albert Camus, discussing the individual quest of humans to find meaning in

life, summarized our separation from each other and our world succinctly.

If I were a tree among trees, a cat among animals, this life would
have meaning, or rather this problem would not arise, for I should
belong to this world. I should be this world to which I am now
opposed by my whole consciousness and my whole insistence upon
familiarity. This ridiculous reason is what sets me in opposition to
all creation. . . . And what constitutes the basis of that conflict, of
that break between the world and my mind, but the awareness of it?
(Needleman, pp. 255)

We are set apart, as individuals rather than an inherent part of the whole, because

our consciousness separates us from our world. The Lakota, the Haudenosaunee,

and most indigenous groups never separated from the world -- they understand

that they are an inherent part of the whole -- that in Camus' sense they are the

world. They are not differentiated from it or other members of their community by

an extremist individual identity.

Further, in Native American society, while recognizing the importance of

community, individual conscience was at the same time respected. Morgan writes

of the Haudenosaunee, "It would be difficult to describe any political society, in

which there was less of oppression and discontent, more of individual

independence and boundless freedom" (Morgan, 1962, pp. 139). For in indigenous

society, the individual could never be forced to go against his or her conscience in

any decision -- following one's heart, and making the ethical decision, took

precedent in tribal life. However, the idea of the continuance of the life of "Indian

peoples" (as they call themselves), the community, and the Nation, was, and still

is, of utmost importance to the lives of indigenous Americans.

In Lockean society, individualistic societies, people try to ensure the

continuance and health primarily of those they personally love. This is usually

achieved economically, by "providing for the future", whether through education,

trust funds, inheritances, or providing advantageous opportunities. It is an

individual family line that one has a responsibility to care and provide for, not the

rest of humanity. Providing for other's or their children economically is not a

moral dictate.

This, unfortunately, is the individualist ethic at its worst, denying the very

essence of community: to care only for one's family while tens of thousands of

children worldwide die of starvation each day.

For why shouldn't the United States feed the world when it has such an

overstock of grain that farmers are often given government subsidies not to grow

corn or wheat, in order to keep prices high (by keeping quantity low). Is this not a

travesty to the entire human race, when people are dying daily from want of bread

and clean drinking water?

For indigenous Americans, it is not an individual family line that they seek to

preserve for the future: rather, they attempt to ensure survival of "the people" as a

whole, the future of all generations to come, blood-related or not. While this may

in antiquity have been a clan, i.e. a family group, the Haudenosaunee numbered

over 20,000 individuals and dozens of tribes in the time period in which they

flourished -- clearly not a mere family grouping.

Further, for indigenous Americans the concept of preserving or ensuring

survival for future generations focuses on protection of Mother Earth rather than

increasing personal material wealth. For it is only she who can ensure life and

sustain the generations to come.

This is a vast theoretical distinction between Lockean and indigenous society.

For in indigenous society there was recognition that material wealth is far too

tenuous and fleeting to provide a sense of security to two-leggeds. For how secure

is wealth in the face of environmental devastation? How secure is your home

when the Earth's forces could demolish it in seconds? There is never enough

material wealth to provide true security: hence greed's insatiable nature. For one

can never have enough money or material possessions to be secure in this world.

Rather, for the Lakota and Haudenosaunee, the survival of all generations of

the future is insured through protection of the life-giving forces: the water, the

heavens, and the Earth. As long as the Earth was tenderly cared for, as long as the

water flowed and the four-leggeds graced the Earth with their presence, security

for future generations of all people was ensured. For in a land of such plenty, how

could anyone be left without those things necessary to sustain life? It was

inconceivable to the indigenous American that scarcity could abound when the

Earth has so much to give.

To deny to one's fellow man those necessities to sustain life -- food, water,

shelter -- is to deny that all life is related. It is to deny the necessity of balance and

harmony to continue the circle of life. To serve solely oneself while one's

neighbor is in need is to personally harm all Creation. To harm Creation is to

harm the Creator himself.

The belief, elaborated upon below, that one cannot continually take without

giving back is central to indigenous philosophy. Creating and continuing a balance

among all things was and is a primary goal of each individual and the life of the

Nation. To create harmony one must always give to others what they are in need

of to sustain life, if one has the capability. James Walker argues that,

Generosity was, next to bravery, considered the highest virtue, so no

visitor was permitted to go from a tipi hungry . . . If one had
sufficient supplies and failed to give feasts, such a one was
ostracized until he redeemed his reputation by some notable deed or
by giving a generous feast to many guests (Walker, 1982, pp. 65).

Food was indeed considered communal, as the staple of all life, as the right of

all life. Lewis Henry Morgan argued that in Haudenosaunee society,

Under the operation of . . . a simple and universal law of hospitality,
hunger and destitution were entirely unknown among them. . . . He
[the Iroquois] would surrender his dinner to feed the hungry, vacate
his bed to refresh the weary, and give up his apparel to clothe the
naked. No test of friendship was too severe, no sacrifice to repay a
favor too great, . . . With an innate knowledge of the freedom and
the dignity of man, he has exhibited the noblest virtues of the heart,
and the kindest deeds of humanity . . . (Morgan, 1975, pp. 328-9).

As important as communal sharing of food, of the concept of giving to one's

fellow humans, was the concept of giving back to the Earth for the gifts she

endlessly endows upon us. This follows the indigenous idea that one cannot take

endlessly from the Earth, the Creator, and Creation itself, without destroying the

balance necessary for the continued existence of all life. Perry explained this

eloquently when he stated,

The white man does not understand. One portion of land is the same to him
as the next, for he is a wanderer who comes in the night and borrows from
the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and
when he has won the struggle, he moves on. He leaves his father‟s graves
behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children. And
he does not care. The father‟s graves and the children‟s birthright are
forgotten by the white man, who treats his mother the earth and his brother
the sky as things to be bought, plundered, and sold, like sheep, bread, or
bright beads. In this way, the dogs of appetite will devour the rich earth and
leave only a desert (Gifford, pp. 39).

One must never take anything without giving something back. This is the very

basis of balance and harmony. The scales must weigh evenly. By taking without

giving back, we deplete resources for future generations. Young Chief, a Cayus

Indian, said "The Great Spirit, in placing men on the earth, desired them to take

good care of the ground and to do each other no harm . . ." (McLuhan, pp. 8). It is

the rule of Karma; from the other Indian religion. It is Newton's third law of

physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

We must give back to the Earth. For indigenous Americans, a part of any food

taken from the Earth: whether roots, cultivated maize, berries, buffalo, deer or elk,

was always returned to as an offering of thanks for her endless gifts. At each meal,

a special plate was prepared and set outside as an offering to the spirits and the

Earth, thanking her for her bounty. Lewis Henry Morgan stated of the

Haudenosaunee, “It was also their custom to return thanks to the trees, shrubs and

plants, to the springs, rivers and streams, to the fire and wind, and to the sun,

moon and stars; in a word, to every object in nature, which ministered to their

wants, and thus awakened a feeling of gratitude” (Morgan, 1965, pp. 164).

Frequently, this idea of "giving back" was misinterpreted by Europeans as

worship of the object itself. They rarely took time to understand that all life, all

objects, are a part of the Creator's gifts of creation. The Native American believed

one should thank him, for all aspects of creation.

Tobacco was often used as a “gift” to Mother Earth, a pinch being put out and

left as an offering. Tobacco was considered precious because of its general

inavailability (especially for the plains‟ tribes). One always gave back to the Earth

what one considered precious or sacred -- tobacco and food are but small

examples. One gave what one considered precious, for a sparing giver was no

giver at all. And one always gave back to all the relations a part of what one took

for use by humans. Sandoz observed,

And when the [buffalo] robes were tanned, painted and worked with
dyed quills or trade beads, the finest one of all was taken to the top
of a hill and left there as a gift of gratitude offered to their brother,
the buffalo, because so many of his relations had died to feed his
brother, the Indian, who would, in his turn, die and feed the grasses
(Sandoz, pp.54).

Tobacco offerings were given at sunrise, to thank the Creator for the new day

and the Earth for her bounty, and at sunset the same ritual of prayer and thanks

was repeated. As Sandoz observed, the human body after death is even returned to

the circle of life, to give strength to the four-leggeds and winged-creatures by

fertilizing the Earth with our bodies' decay. The respect and appreciation shown

by Native Americans for the gifts of the land were marked as deep upon them as

the joy of the children they bore.

As opposed to Locke's labor theory of value, the Lakota and Haudenosaunee

had a distinctly different view of value. As discussed above, what is valuable is

what is life-giving: the sun, the water, the clean air, and most importantly, Mother

Earth herself as the sustainer of life. While Locke argues that it is labor that gives

all things their value, and that nature has provided only the almost worthless

materials that man may mix his labor with, indigenous Americans disagree.

Sreenivasan argues, "Since the original natural materials had some use (value) in

their common state, the complete product does not represent labour's contribution

to the common stock." (Sreenivasan, pp. 56). Native Americans would take this a

step farther. All value comes from Mother Earth, not our labor. It is she who

furnishes all the materials we need and use in every facet of our lives. While labor

might make materials more valuable, it is the fact that we have anything to work

with at all that holds true value. Hence, a "Earth-centered" theory of value might

be an appropriate term to describe indigenous Americans' view of the situation.

All living and non-living things have the Earth as their mother, as all life

depends upon her bounty to grow and subsist -- from bacteria to plants to animals

and man, all life exists through her. Plants, through nourishment and water in the

soil, carbon dioxide in the air and the process of photosynthesis from the sun grow

and prosper. These plants provide nourishment for herbivores, and through

nourishment, water, and the air necessary for life, young herbivore turns adult and

begin the cycle of life again through procreation. Herbivores provide food for

carnivores. As human children, it is food from the Earth, plants and animal life,

water and air, which allows us to grow into adults. When our bodies die and

decay, they provide nourishment for the soil, which nurtures the plant life, and the

cycle begins again. We, through the chain of life, are literally of the Earth -- our

bodies are of her, as it is her bounty that changes us into adult human beings and

sustains physical life. Labor may have made her bounty more useful, but

regardless, it is because of her that material possessions -- things of value -- exist

at all.

Geology explains how the Earth herself, through internal dynamic processes

called tectonic movement, continually works to renew the circle of life. Batholiths

of granite reach to the sky only to be eventually eroded into the sandy beach and

washed out to sea. Dense oceanic tectonic plates submerge under the more

buoyant continental plates, moving down into the Earth's mantle and eventually

becoming hot molten magma. The magma then cools in the earth's interior, only to

once again reach the surface in either a molten state, as volcanic lava or extrusive

igneous rock, or during the constant uplift Earth‟s mountain chains experience.

Geology thus explains how the Earth herself is involved in a continual cyclical

processes, ever regenerating, ever renewing. As with the life upon her, she herself

renews in a circular pattern.

J.E. Lovelock put forth the theory of the Earth as a self-regulating entity in his

theory of "Gaia". He found that the "chemical composition of the atmosphere and

of the oceans was biologically controlled" (Lovelock, pp. x) by the Earth herself.

He states of his initial research, "Our results convinced us that the only feasible

explanation of the Earth's highly improbable atmosphere was that it was being

manipulated on a day-to-day basis from the surface, and that the manipulator was

life itself" (ibid, pp. 6). He continues, "thinking about life on Mars gave some of

us a fresh standpoint from which to consider life on Earth and led us to formulate

a new, or perhaps revive a very ancient, concept of the relationship between the

Earth and its biosphere [emphasis added]," (ibid, pp. 8). He concludes,

The result . . . was the development of the hypothesis that the entire
range of living matter on Earth, from whales to viruses, and from
oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity,
capable of manipulating the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall
needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its
constituent parts (ibid, pp. 9).

As geologists will argue, the Earth is a dynamic entity capable of regulation of the

oxygen content of the atmosphere and the saline content of the oceans.

In a heated debate over the teaching of evolutionary theory, Dr. Charles G.

Hoogstraten, from the University of Colorado Department of Chemistry and

Biochemistry, argues in an editorial,

The common ancestry of all life on Earth is one of the intellectual

foundations of all of biology, critical to the understanding of
essentially all contemporary research. . . . The evidence for the
common descent of all living things, dating back to Darwin's own
detailed studies of barnacles and orchids and continuing to cutting-
edge molecular studies, is overwhelming and beyond refute (Co.
Daily, pp. 6, 9/5/96).

The common ancestry of all life on Earth. Native Americans have known this,

that we are all related, for thousands of years before Darwin read his first bible.

Not only do the natural sciences reinforce and legitimize the ideas that all life on

earth is related, by being of a single origin; but as well that the Earth herself is a

dynamic entity capable of self-regulation (oxygen and saline content) to sustain

the life that is of her origin. As indigenous Americans will argue, the whole is

more than just the sum of its constituent parts.

As opposed to Locke's labor theory of value, indigenous Americans argue for

an Earth-centered conception of value. All we have and are come from Mother

Earth. All physical life comes from her, as do all material possessions. The

implications are three-fold. First, that we are all related, and hence are all

brothers: the oceans; the granite of the mountain top; the four-leggeds, and man

are of one origin. Secondly, that the Earth herself is a dynamic entity, capable of

constant regulation of herself and her environment. Locke was wrong. Man has

not dominion over the Earth, the Earth has dominion over mankind, a mere link in

the circle of life. She must be sustained so that life is sustained. And finally, that

in order to build this sustainable future, “value” in the 21st Century desperately

needs to be redefined in terms of the Earth. These fundamental differences are the

undercurrents that sweep away any similarities between indigenous and Lockean

societies. For the Lakota and Haudenosaunee believe,

the natural world [is] a rational existence while . . . human beings

possess an imperfect understanding of it. The idea that human beings
have an imperfect understanding of the rational nature of existence is
something of a caution for the Haudenosaunee in their dealings with
nature. Conversely, the idea the natural world is disorganized and
irrational has served as something as a permission in the West and
may be the single cultural aspect which best explains the differences
between these two societies' relationships to Nature (Wallace, pp.

This generation of human beings has an active responsibility to future

generations. We literally hold the fate of the Earth, and all life on and within her,

in our very hands. The rights of future generations, when it comes to the

preservation of the Earth, are, in indigenous societies, as real as the rights of

current generations.

In this "Earth-centered" conception of value, humans are stewards of the land

or in a sense, trustees, for the future generations of all life to come. Rather than

mankind having dominion, the indigenous American understood that our place is

a humble one, as caretaker of the Earth, so that she may support the generations to

come. In our humility, we must recognize that we are but two-leggeds: fallible,

and vulnerable. Our reason is of value but must always be tempered by ethical

reasoning that comes from within.

The Earth is to be respected as are all our relations, as all have a right to life, to

her bounty. We, as the rational species, hold in our hands the fate of all life on this

planet. Hence human beings have a special responsibility to the Earth: it is up to

us to protect her for all generations of life that is to come. Indigenous Americans

recognized these principles: that all value comes inherently from the Earth, and

without her resources, mankind's labor is meaningless. Value comes not from

capital nor principally from labor: rather it is inherent in the very Earth we walk

upon. Her concerns must guide our actions,or the road to ultimate destruction

surely will be traversed. Therefore she above all is to be protected.

There is one last point about Locke‟s chapter on property that must be

clarified. Locke arues that

There cannot be a clearer demonstration of anything, than several

Nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in Land, and poor
in all the Comforts of Life; whom Nature having furnished as
liberally as any other people, with the materials of Plenty, i.e. a
fruitful Soil, apt to produce in abundance, what might serve for food,
raiment, and delight; yet for want of improving it by labour, have not
one hundredth part of the Conveniences we enjoy: And a King of a
large fruitful Territory there feeds, lodges, and is clad worse than a
day Labourer in England (Locke, 1960, II, #41, pp. 338-9).

Locke's incorrect use of the word "King" in describing Native American

Sachems, Headmen, and "Chiefs" will be discussed in the following chapter.

However, the question of quality of life that Locke addresses deserves

examination. For indigenous Americans: well-fed; well-clothed; sheltered and

warm before the coming of the European, enjoyed a quality of life unknown to

wage laborers in 17th Century England. What they enjoyed was a fullfilled life. A

life filled with happiness and prosperity of a kind that Locke could not even

conceive of in 17th Century England.

Pascal, the French philosopher once said that all the evil in the world comes

from not being able to sit quietly in a room. To do so requires peace of mind,

harmony of spirit, and fulfillment of the void we all encounter inside. In the 20th

and 21st centuries, power, greed, fame, and wealth: these are our weapons against

that emptiness within.

I have continually discussed, that wealth -- true wealth, is a quality that comes

from within. It comes from fulfillment of that void. For Pascal, there was only one

way to fill it. He once argued that in every man there is a God-sized void, which

only God can fill. The Native Americans were rich in that fulfillment -- and had

no recollection of a void. Their philosophy recognized that life was about

harmony and oneness with the Creator and all of Creation. It was as intuitive and

inherent as one's own heart. The separateness we feel in mass society did not exist

in a time and place so long ago lost. Quality of life comes from within -- this we

know. It is highly doubtful that a Native in America suffered more than a day

laborer in England. For "What is Life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is

the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across

the grass and loses itself in the Sunset" (McLuhan, pp. 12).



Those constitutions which consider the common interest are right

constitutions, judged by the standard of absolute justice. Those
consitutions which consider onlythe personal interests of the rulers
are all wrong constitutions, or perversions of the right forms.

Democracy. Everybody is for it, everybody wants one, and in the United States

we believe we live in one. But what does the term democracy really mean?

Certainly it is a much more entailed concept than that of its literal Greek

translation, "rule by the people". For after all, who are "the people": a limited

minority; a disassociated majority: the few who participate in the voting process

or all citizens at large? What components are inherent to the concept of legitimate

"rule”? How is such rule instituted: by direct governance and intimate

participation by the people themselves, or by selection from a narrow range of

candidates to be “representatives” in decision-making? Do the two principle

features of regularly scheduled elections and opposing political parties really

encompass the concept of freedom that we so often associate with the term

“democratic governance”?

Or is "democracy" a more meaningful concept; one much more elaborate than

the above framework will allow? Could democracy encompass some kind of

extensive, meaningful participation, where personal involvement in community

affairs translates into actual influence on the part of those governing? Should

democracy encompass its original promise: of rule from below, of the people

themselves legislating important matters, rather than the "rule from above" that

we have come to expect in a republican system? Could political equality, the very

cornerstone of democracy, be re-translated, from the very limited "one man one

vote" interpretation, to that of equality of influence among citizens?

Further, should action be taken to terminate the vast economic inequality that

cannot help but undermine political equality? Or will "democracy" forever remain

a system where the majority are politically disenfranchised, while the few hold
dear a choice between a limited elite while no substantive alternatives are

realistically available?

If it is mere elections and political parties that qualify a state as "democratic",

then South Africa during Apartheid (racial separation) was a democracy --

regardless of the fact that the vast majority of its inhabitants were not considered

"citizens", and held no electoral or political rights; nor the civil liberties and

institutions available to affect any kind of meaningful change in the political


El Salvador, ruled by brutal military regimes for decades, could (and is,

according to the U.S. State Department and the major media) also be considered a

"democracy" under the above definition. Regularly scheduled elections occur,

where the Christian Democrats (who are neither) traditionally challenge

"ARENA" (known locally as "the death squad party"). This “democratic” choice

so lauded in the U.S. media, comes from the brutal period from 1979 to 1990,

where more than 75,000 mostly unarmed civilians were beaten, tortured, raped

and murdered by their country's armed forces at the bequest of this "democratic"

(and U.S. supported) government.

Clearly "democracy" is a much more complex concept than just that of

competition between political parties and regularly scheduled elections. Any state

calling itself a "democracy" must, for that term to be meaningful, answer

positively to the following questions. Are the majority of citizens represented by

the parties in question? Can new parties be created with ease, and are minor

parties able to voice their opinions and allowed access to the mass media? Do new

social ideas have equal and immediate access to the public forum, where they are

allowed to whither or bloom on their own merit? Do all citizens have equal
influence over government, no one more than another, regardless of economic

disparity, race, ethnicity, sex, age, disability or religion? And to facilitate the

democratic process, is there an independent judiciary and a truly free and diverse

media willing and capable of acting in a "watch-dog" role over government,

legislation and policy?

Democracy necessitates extensive participation and deliberation of all views in

the political arena. All must have equal access to the political debate and the

developing agenda. Voting once every two years, and being presented with a

choice between two idealistically similar candidates, does not a democracy make.

In fact, Noam Chomsky argues that "a capitalist democracy is, at best, a very

limited form of democracy" (Chomsky, pp. 117). He argues that “democracy” in

the United States essentially encompasses

a one-party state, where the ruling party has two factions that
compete for control of the government. U.S. political history is, to a
significant extent, a history of conflict among those in a position to
make investment decisions; . . . . The general public is afforded an
opportunity to ratify elite decisions, but the option of participating in
making them is limited, very largely, to privileged elites (ibid, pp.

In other words, the choices presented to citizens in a representative form of

government such as the United States‟ are so limited as to make very little

difference in the structure of society. In the U.S.‟s version of Locke‟s

representative form of government, it can be argued that the two major competing

parties‟ platforms are more similar than different. Both support the essential

features of the system inplace: intense individualism rather than community

orientation; emphasis on a strong defense to enable the domination and subjection

of Third World peoples; facilitation of the economic health of our multinational

corporations (and general protection of monopoly capitalism internationally) at

the expense of these peoples; and a minimun of welfare assistance (in the sense of

government involvement) to placate an insidious minority, while providing no

substantial change in the quality of life for the majority of its citizenry (such as

meaningful health care reform, subsidized housing for the elderly and

impoverished, etc.). Essentially, the choice presented, between elites who merely

emphasize different aspects of the same system, is little choice at all.

For a wide range of political parties that truly represent the citizenry is

fundamental to the democratic process. Where is the working class represented

among the elites to be chosen from? Where is the middle-class, and the working

poor? Who represents the myriad of the impoverished: be they elderly, sick, or

unemployed? They are nearly invisible in this limited “representative” democracy,

without the financial support or media coverage to begin to fairly compete in a

“democratic” election.

Without adequate representation of the majority of citizens – not just registered

voters – being available among competing parties, “free competition” in elections

becomes the monopoly of elites.

Voting every two to four years itself is a very limited form of participation.

Meaningful participation would include active involvement in the decision-

making process. As the Lakota and Haudenosaunee have shown, when all voices

are admitted to the public forum, not only do new options present themselves, but

more people are satisfied whatever the outcome, simply because their positions

have been heard and debated by decision-makers. Of all aspects of "democracy",

probably the most fundamental is that of political deliberation that includes the

entire citizenry and not merely a representative legislature.

First and foremost, democracy implies public deliberation in some

form. The deliberation of citizens is necessary if decisions are not to
be merely imposed upon them. Consent is, after all, the main feature
of democracy. That citizens give themselves their own laws not only
makes the laws legitimate but also provides the citizens with reasons
to be obligated to obey them. According to most proponents of
deliberative democracy, political decision making is legitimate
insofar as its policies are produced in a process of public discussion
and debate in which citizens and their representatives, going beyond
mere self-interest and limited points of view, reflect on the general
interest or on their common good (Bohman, pp. 4-5).

Only in democratic states can individuality be explored and realized through

public debate on diverse conceptions of a common good. Authoritarian regimes

and dictatorships have never allowed development of individuality of the masses -

- in fact, that has been their worst fear. For at the core of political repression is the

demand for oppression of individuality, as an empowered individual is a time-

bomb in a repressive society. For as people discover their individuality, they

become empowered to fight for their rights and liberties and those of others.

Aristotle believed that only in the political arena can we achieve the mutual

exchange of ideas of a common good that contribute to each persons individuality.

A polis [Aristotle's conception of what we today consider a

democracy]. . . necessarily requires a difference of capacities among
its members, which enables them to serve as complements to one
another, and to attain a higher and better life by the mutual exchange
of their different services (Aristotle, pp. 41).

This intrinsically includes the mutual exchange of different ideas, the very

basis of developing individuality. Hence the extreme importance of political

deliberation coupled with extensive participation, in any system claiming to be a

democracy. Bohman argues, "Deliberation was thought by Aristotle to be the

paradigmatic activity of political virtue and self-rule. Only those that deliberate

well can maintain their own self-government" (Bohman, pp. 23).

Alan Gilbert agrees, and argues that "the aim of a democratic political life is to

ensure a diverse conversation about the common good" (Gilbert, pp. 337). Why is

"a diverse conversation about the common good" essential to a democratic

community? Because diversity in the political arena is intrinsically "good" -- it

allows individuals the opportunity to fully examine diverse options on what, for

them, would create "the good life" -- not that of material largess, but rather a life

that is led in an ethical manner. A "good" life is one where persons can develop

their individuality fully without restrictions on personal liberty such as political or

economic oppression. Because economic oppression -- that tendency towards vast

inequalities of wealth in a society -- inhibits development of individuality and

destroys equality of opportunity, it inherently undermines the "democratic"


Democracy, in its more meaningful definition, is intrinsic to individuality.

Through democratic discourse, diversity is as a gift to the citizenry. Through such

discourse, we explore unique ways of becoming all we really can be as human

beings, as individuals or as a part of a community. Gilbert argues,

political philosophy depicts those communal arrangements most

conducive to the full expression of humanity or, in Hegelian terms,
individuality. For Aristotle, these arrangements involve an active
public life, centering on debate among citizens over a common good
(Gilbert, pp. 17).

It is only through the political arena that real diversity of views are espoused,

considered and debated, and through this process, spread among the citizenry. For

there are few other areas in our lives where true diversity of views can be

experienced. In other sectors of life; family, church, school and peer groups, we

tend to be close to those who hold similar viewpoints to our own, hence real

diversity is never introduced.

There is a definite link between political deliberation and the ability for an
individual to fully develop as a human being. For where else will widespread

diversity of views be presented for all individuals to consider? Diversity, as the

engine of individuality, in a democracy resides in the political arena -- the only

place that can contain the widespread differentiation of the world views of 6

billion people on planet Earth!

It is typically through political discourse that new perceptions and ideas are

allowed to take seed, grow and prosper. The universal condemnation against

slavery, an institution accepted as "a natural state" in the world of men for

thousands of years, began with a few small (yet radical) voices making themselves

heard. Once they grew loud enough to reach the ears of the political arena, these
ideas came to be debated among the masses and then within the legislature.

Eventually this "radical" idea, of slavery as inhumane, came to be accepted as the

norm, and resulted in condemnation of the system and then the viability of the

institution of slavery world-wide. And it is only in the political arena that these

radical new ideas, great differences of opinions, and multitudes of views on any

issue can be brought to the forefront to be debated amongst the people. Moral

progress is the result of such action.

What is "moral progress"? It is when society begins to condemn

institutionalized injustice, such as slavery; condemns the propensity to go to war

rather than the use of diplomacy; condemns prejudice against persons based on

their uniqueness or difference from the majority that moral progress is being

made. It is when society takes a stand to no longer tolerate injustice against

persons and instead demands to implement those changes necessary in order for

social justice to prevail.

Those that argued for an end to war as the means to settle disputes, those that
cry out as the rainforests -- the Earth's oxygen factory -- are burned to make room

for cattle, those that were abolitionists when slavery was the norm, those that

advocated guarantees of equal rights for homosexuals were (and in some cases

still are) once considered dissidents, trying to undermine the existing

"foundations" of society. Soon after, such radical concepts were put on the

political agenda for deliberation, and by way of that deliberation came to be

debated among the people and change, positive change was implemented.

Through deliberation in the political arena, each individual has an opportunity

to grow richer from the outpouring of diverse ideas, and a "common good",

whether through the search for individuality or the advent of moral and social

progress can be realized. Hence, democratic deliberation is inherent to personal

progress, which can translate into social progress as more diverse ideas become

"accepted" by democratic society. Social and therefore "moral progress" brings the

possibility to all humanity of living a better, more fulfilled lifetime. Hence,

democracy and the search for individuality are intrinsically connected and

inherently linked.

In a representative structure such as Locke advocates, deliberation of ideas is

generally left to the halls of Congress. Participation by the citizenry essentially is
limited to the voting booth, on a one, two, or four year basis. Yes, we can write

letters to the editor, letters to our representatives, and participate in grass-roots

organizing. Yet this has very limited influence (in the majority of cases) on actual


Clearly participation must be expanded beyond the act of voting for the term

“democracy” to be at all meaningful. Chomsky argues that

Meaningful democracy must be based on an organizational structure

that permits isolated individuals to enter the domain of decision-
making by pooling their limited resources, educating themselves and
others, and formulating ideas and programs that they can place on
the political agenda and work to realize. In the absence of such
organizations, political democracy is the domain of elite groups that
command resources, based ultimately on their control of the private
economy. At best, the range of possibilities is limited in a capitalist
democracy in which the public is excluded from participation in the
basic decisions concerning production and work (Chomsky, 123).

Without guarantee of the ability to participate equally, democracy becomes the

domain of the elite. Some kind of political equality, then, becomes an intrinsic

part of any democratic system.

True democracy is born of political equality. It sounds good. But what do we

mean by that statement? What is political equality? In a representative system, it

is interpreted narrowly, yet it is reasonable in a partipatory democracy to broaden

its conceptual definition and thus make the term more meaningful.

Representative governments, such as Locke advocated, argue the dictates of

the concept are satisfied by the interpretation of “one man, one vote”. This is the

“narrow version” interpretation. Certainly in the voting booth, a small farmer‟s

vote is counted as equal to the CEO of the corporate farm‟s vote. Theoretically,

therefore, it would seem that each has equal political influence.

But does this hold true when confronting the actuality of representative

government? Does that individual family farmer have the same political influence

on decision-makers as the CEO of a large corporation? Can he provide the

lobbyists, the campaign contributions, the sheer clout, to have access to his

representative‟s ear? Certainly the CEO can accomplish this. And until the CEO

and the family farmer have the same access and political power, political equality

cannot possibly exist in any meaningful sense of that term.

A more sophisticated definition of “political equality” would necessitate that

each individual have access to and equal influence over representatives, no one

more than another. This would require that all citizens, not solely elites, would

have access to the public forum; to the decision-makers; and the opportunity to

become one of the decision-makers if the public so desires.

Clearly campaign finance reform would be central, as big money tends to lead

to unequal influence on decision-makers. The initiation of public forums directly

with representatives would be a further step, to assure accurate represention of

each‟s constituency. Theoretically, this would allow all citizens‟ voices to be

heard. An elimination of the lobbying system would further facilitate equality of

influence. Gilbert argues that a more just democratic system can be achieved, even

in today's mass-societies, via

referenda on important issues, publicly supported, decentralized

access to media, and perhaps proportional representation of parties
in a legislature. These measures are designed to elicit informed
citizen participation on major policies. . . . The vigor of the local
institutions, not the competition of parties, would be the pivotal
feature of -- and thus a commonality in -- an effective democratic
regime (Gilbert, pp. 334).

Further, leaders, as in indigenous systems, must learn to be followers. While in

representative systems decision-makers are in a position of power, they should
consider their position as one of responsibility to a power-holding citizenry. In a

democracy, good leaders must remain followers. Their first and foremost

responsibility is to act in a way that furthers the common good, rather than their

own personal good. This is their undeniable responsibility, and any violation

should be met with immediate impeachment and removal from public office.

Rousseau argues that a government employee (and they are employees of the


obliges himself not to use the power with which he is entrusted

except in conformity to the intention of his constituents, to maintain
every one of them in the peaceable possession of his property, and
upon all occasions prefer the public good to his own private interest
[emphasis mine](Rousseau, pp. 236).

For the representative that follows his own or corporate mandates is undermining

the very system that sustains him.

Many social theorists, from Aristotle to Rousseau and Rawls, have further

emphasized the importance of social and economic equality as a necessity to any

kind of meaningful democracy. All argue that the ability to participate equally in

the political arena are undermined by economic inequality in a capitalist

democracy. Locke agreed with Aristotle, in his views that only property-owners

(people with similar economic means) should be citizens. Hence, he seems to

recognize the necessity of economic equality for political equality to exist.

Aristotle argues, “The best form of state will not make the mechanic a citizen. .

. . [citizen excellence] cannot be attained by every citizen, . . . but can only be

achieved by those who are free from menial duties” (Aristotle, pp. 108). ". . .

Aristotle believed deliberation to require strict equality. For Aristotle, not only

must citizens be roughly equal economically, as propertied male heads of

households; they must also be the same in their general capacities, . . . " (Bohman,

pp. 109).

Theorists have argued that Locke believed only in political equality for citizens,

as the necessary ingredient in any just political system, never the importance of

social or economic equality. But if we the above argument a little farther -- that

Aristotle believed only property-owners should be citizens (and therefore a part of

the political deliberation inherent to a just political order), this implies that

Aristotle believed economic equality, as well as social and political equality, are
intrinsic to a deliberative political system.

John Locke agrees with Aristotle. He believed only property-owners (and

hence those with similar economic means) should be citizens, i.e., political equals

with equal votes. Can this not be interpreted as an inherent recognition by John

Locke himself of the intrinsic importance of economic and social equality in a

deliberative, participatory society?

While scholars have traditionally argued that Locke believed only in political

equality, the above argument, if applied to Aristotle, can certainly be made about

John Locke. For Locke tacitly recognizes the importance of economic equality in

order to achieve democratic ideals. Unfortunately, for Aristotle and Locke this

meant only those with property should be citizens, while for Rousseau and Marx,

it meant that all citizens should be property-owners. For the Lakota and

Haudenosaunee it meant that all should have equal access, no one more than

another, to the basic necessities of life.

How does economic inequality undermine political equality? The homeless in

the United States lose their political rights to participate simply because they do

not have an address -- and one cannot vote without an address in the United
States. Their loss of political rights is a direct result of their impoverishment.
Further, on a more day-to-day note, if one is struggling just to put food on the

table and keep a roof over one's head, participation in politics becomes a kind of

luxury one rarely has time for. Gutman & Thompson agree that without the basic

necessities of life, political opportunity is denied to a large part of the population.

In the theory of deliberative democracy, liberty takes priority over

opportunity, but in actual deliberation about public policy
opportunity often comes first. One reason is that since so many
disputes about policy assume that the basic liberties of citizens have
been guaranteed, the main challenge is to secure their opportunities.
. . . the basic opportunity principle, . . . provides standards for
distributing health care, education, security, and . . . income and
work. All these goods are basic because citizens needed them to live
a decent life and to enjoy other non-basic opportunities (Gutman, pp.

Political theorists from Aristotle to Marx have convincingly argued for the

necessity of enough leisure time so that the citizenry may be fully and equally

educated to all political options and agendas, and may therefore participate more

fully. Sufficient leisure time is possible only if all have access to basic economic

necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter and health care, so that all have the

ability and interest to participate. Accurate knowledge and enough free time to

educate oneself on the issues and opinions of a diverse citizenry are intrinsic to a

participatory, deliberative society. Bohman argues,

The lack of . . . efficacious participation, or adequate public

functioning, by the socially less well situated is the primary problem
of inequality in democracies, and deliberation is no exception. Social
inequalities tend to reduce the efficacy and influence of less well off
deliberators . . . . (Bohman, pp. 108).

For without the basics in life: food and clothing, shelter and warmth, one‟s

interest in the political arena is a low priority. Surely if you are struggling to live

from paycheck to paycheck, these concerns are more immediate than political

deliberation that may have little or no effect on decision-makers. The time to fully

participate is a luxury for those citizens struggling to feed their families. Karl

Marx found this problem to be endemic in “western” republicanism. “Marx

juxtaposed the distinctly political rights guaranteed in various modern

constitutions and the reality of civil society, showing that within existing social
institutions civil rights are not achievable by all citizens” (Bohman, pp. 9-10).

I have discussed in previous chapters why and which economic guarantees are

essential to a just society. Food, clothing, clean air and water, shelter, health care

and warmth in the cold are the minimum human necessities that each person

surely deserves access to, by virtue of their humanity alone. Out of a vast pool of

resources, this kind of economic guarantee for individuals and families would

scarcely be felt in modern societies with a small redistribution of resources -- say,

by reducing the military-industrial complex's vast waste of economic resources.

Cutting a few Stealth bombers or other excessive military expenditures would be a

way to redistribute wealth to create a more just society, while the cut would

scarcely be felt by the population at large. Workers could be re-educated into non-

military production.

John Rawls argues that in order to create a society where economic inequality

doesn‟t undermine justice, two principles are foremost.

the first requires equality in the assignment of basic rights and

duties, while the second holds that social and economic inequalities,
for example inequalities of wealth and authority, are just only if they
result in compensating benefits for everyone, and in particular for
the least advantaged members of society. . . . It may be expedient but

it is not just that some should have less in order that others may
prosper (Rawls, pp. 14-15).

A clean wiping of the slate and equal distribution is not necessary -- but the basic

sustenance of life is a right that should belong to the people.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau argues that economic inequality is actually born of the

bounds of any "private-property driven" society itself, and as such, interferes with

any attempt for political equality on the part of the impoverished.

I conceive of two sorts of inequality in the human species: one,

which I call natural or physical, because it is established by nature
and consists in the difference of ages, health, bodily strengths, and
qualities of mind or soul; the other, which may be called moral or
political inequality, because it depends upon a sort of convention
and is established, or at least authorized, by the consent of men. The
latter consists in the different privileges that some men enjoy to the
prejudice of others, such as to be richer, more honored, more
powerful than they, or even to make themselves obeyed by them
[emphasis mine] (Rousseau, pp. 175).

Karl Marx believed that social and economic inequality is a necessity -- in fact,

an intrinsic part of the structure -- of any private-property based society. Structural

unemployment, and therefore economic disparity, is inherent to a capitalist

society, as it provides a ready pool of cheap labor for the industrialist. He states,

"The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its

growth, and therefore, also the absolute mass of the proletariat and the

productiveness of its labor, the greater is the industrial reserve army" (McLellan,

pp. 54). Such disparity in wealth leads to disparity in political influence. Marx

explains how our social, economic and political relationships structure our

individual consciousness.

the anatomy of civil society is to be sought in political economy. . . .

In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations
that are indispensable and independent of their will, . . . . The sum
total of these relations of production constitutes the economic
structure of society, the real foundations, on which rises a legal and
political super-structure and to which correspond definite forms of
social consciousness. The mode of production of material life
conditions the social, political, and intellectual life-process in
general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their
being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their
consciousness. . . . From forms of development of the productive
forces these relations turn into their fetters [emphasis mine]
(McLellan, pp. 19).

Gilbert agrees. He states,

liberalism recognizes the equal worth of persons with regard to the

law and democracy, or, more exactly, an equally sufficient capacity
for agency. Yet capitalism produces constant inequalities of worth,
hierarchies of status. . . . Capitalism is thus inconsistent with the
basic moral insight into the mutual regard [respect, in indigenous
terms] among persons and the social individuality characteristic of
modern liberalism, . . . (Gilbert, pp. 276-277).

Each of these theorists, and many more, argue that economic inequality cannot

help but undermine political equality in a democracy. What then can be the

objective of democratic society, if not to give its citizens politically liberty and


Alan Gilbert argues that "A liberal theory claims broadly that the best social

and political arrangements are those most favorable to the pursuit by each

individual of a good life, just as she sees it, so long as she does not harm others"

(Gilbert, pp. 4). This, according to Gilbert, is the end for any democratic society,

and it intrinsically necessitates both political equality and basic economic

guarantees to promote the ability of each person to fully develop their


True democracy safeguards liberty and freedom, by ensuring economic

disparity does not undermine the ability of all to participate in the political arena.

It is rule by the people, not by an economic elite nor corporate mandates. It is

realization of the promise of social interaction and deliberation promoting each

person's individuality. In necessitates genuine, extensive choice that is

representative of the population; accurate information via a truly free (and not

corporate-owned) media, available to all; and protection against infringement of

individual or group rights, in order to promote liberty for all. Yet at the same time,

true democracy must instill a sense of social responsibility; of good citizenship,

tolerance, and respect for diversity in every person. For liberty and equality are the

foundation of the formation of diversity and individuality that is the true end of
any democratic system.

Democracy necessitates extensive deliberation and participation in order to

create an exchange of ideas that promotes diversity, individuality and social

progress in the political arena. Political parties should be representative of the

citizenry, and therefore requires a multitude of parties competing with equal

resources and equal access to the media and therefore the population at large.

Political equality, in the form of equal influence rather than just "one man one

vote", and equal access to the political debate are further inherent necessities,

before we can call any state "democratic".

Democracy is clearly a much more elaborate concept that just that of voting

every two years for competing political parties. It requires citizen participation

and deliberation on a day-to-day basis. Any democratic society must be under the

people's control and not that of economic elites and corporate mandates. If we try

and extend, or more appropriately, re-evaluate our conceptions of what it means to

be a "democratic” society, it becomes clear that competing political parties and

elections are not its cornerstone. Rather, it is meaningful, productive participation

and extensive influence on decision-makers by the citizenry that define

“democracy”. For Locke‟s limited conception of “representative” government can
degenerate into a simple radification of elite decision-making – unlike the

participatory political systems of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee.

Clearly, in the 21st Century, we must look openly and objectively for a more

inclusive definition of democracy, if we want this term to be at all meaningful.


The end of Government is the good of Mankind, . . . --Locke7

In his first two chapters of the Second Treatise, Locke begins laying down the

philosophical foundation for his political theory. Thus, he introduces us to his

most important premises in these chapters.

Locke begins with the concept of political power. Government, politics and

power naturally go hand in hand in Locke's theory. Locke argues, “Political power

then I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently

all less penalties, for the regulating . . . and preserving of property . . . and all this

only for the public good” (Locke, 1960, II, #3, pp. 308).

Similar to Max Weber's definition of the state, 'that entity with a legitimate

monopoly on force', Locke accepts that politics, power and force are an inherent

trio necessary to the functioning of civil government. In Lockean societies the

term "politics" is defined as "power": that ability to make an actor do something

that he or she would not normally do.

For the Lakota and Haudenosaunee, politics is not about power. It is not about
force, nor preserving private property in society. Rather, the purpose of the

political arena is to create harmony: among individuals and in relationship to the

Earth and all of her manifestations. Harmony was the very objective of political

society and the reason for its existence. The use of power and/or force always

disturbs harmonious equilibrium. "The primary goal of religion and politics was to

achieve harmony between all elements -- the land, plant and animal life, and the

human community. . . . Traditional tribal governments reflected . . . religious

values of responsibility and harmony" (O'Brien, pp. 15).

Hence, persuasion was the sole weapon of elders, holymen and headmen.

Henry Louis Morgan, the anthropologic "father" of the Haudenosaunee states,

If we seek their warrant for the exercise of power in the etymology

of the word ho-yar-na-go'-war, by which the sachems [chiefs] were
known as a class, it will be found to intimate a check upon, rather
than an enlargement of their authority; for it signifies, simply,
"counselor of the people", . . . (Morgan, 1975, pp. 70).

Locke's arguments as espoused in the Two Treatises are the very foundation for

representative democracies of the 20th and 21st century. The treatises are a

manuscript for a diverse political theory based on consent of the governed,

separation of power, and the right of revolution if government usurps its duties.

His writings have become, in essence, the very heart of liberalism as a political

doctrine -- that theory that argues for individual liberty, economic liberty, and

representative government as the basis of civil society. The enormous effect of his

work cannot be underestimated in shaping today's "democratic" societies.

The question of why Locke wrote the Two Treatises has been a matter of

debate among scholars for centuries. One of Locke's main purposes was to

contradict Robert Filmer. Filmer had argued that government was based on a God-

given mandate to Kings, and therefore absolute authority rested with unopposible

monarchs. This "Divine-Right" was a result of God's giving Adam absolute

authority over the world, and Kingly authority was derived through Adam's

lineage. Locke adamantly disagreed with Filmer, and found important flaws in his


even if Filmer could show that Adam had received absolute powers
over others, to complete his argument it would still be necessary for
him to prove that the English kings had inherited these powers. It
would still be necessary for him to trace the succession from Adam

to Charles II, a task which, as Locke easily shows, is completely
impossible (Aaron, pp. 275).

A refutation of Filmer was clearly one of the objectives of the work. The First

Treatise focuses extensively on this argument, and Locke's assertions that

government cannot be based on a God-given mandate are compelling. Ashcraft


He is relentless in exposing to ridicule 'all the windings and

obscurities' of Filmer's 'wonderful system' . . . , and the overall effect
of Locke's critique is devastating. Long before the language of
unmasking and ideological conflict became fashionable, Locke
provided an example of what is meant by destroying an opponent's
position through challenging the world-view with which he has
identified himself (Ashcraft, 1987, pp. 60).

Further, Locke seeks a refutation of Thomas Hobbes' absolute sovereign. For

Locke espouses a similar social contract theory -- initially argued by Hobbes --

that government can be based only on consent of the governed. Both authors agree

that in a "state of nature", men banded together for protection, and agreed upon a

social contract: an agreement of how to create a just society. Both agree that this

original contract to unite for mutual preservation was the real basis for civil

society, and hence the source of political authority. Where Locke and Hobbes part

ways is in the question of the extent of power held by the sovereign. For Hobbes,

both the social contract and the sovereign are absolute. Once agreed upon, men

did not have the right to withdraw consent, even if the sovereign usurps his duties

and becomes tyrannical.

For Locke, usurpation of power by the sovereign returned to the citizenry the

right to dissolve the government, by initiating resistance if necessary. For if

government is based on consent, then the people have an intrinsic right to

withdraw that consent if those in positions of authority usurp power. Dunn argues,

"As we have it today, the Two Treatises is a work principally designed to assert a

right of resistance to unjust authority, a right, in the last resort, of revolution"

(Dunn, 1984, pp. 28). Aaron agrees.

if a monarch seeks to rule without the legislative body, if he

interferes with its work and liberty, if he changes the method of
electing the legislative without the consent of the people, if he
'delivers the people into the subjection of a foreign power', or, lastly,
if he so neglects his executive duties as to cause the country to fall
into a state of anarchy, then the people have a right to dismiss him.
A monarch (or any other person) who seeks to become tyrant and to
take absolute powers upon himself threatens the inner harmony of
the society. He has put himself into a state of war with the people,
and the people have a right to use force against him in order to rid
themselves of him (Aaron, pp. 282-283).

Hence, Locke's argument that men in a state of nature are subject to a state of

war of all against all, holds true as well in civil society. For if leaders usurp duties

and powers, they put themselves in a state of war with the people. For with an

absolute sovereign in power, the war of all against all is indigenous to society

itself. As Locke states against Hobbes' absolute sovereign, "[It} is to think that

Men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what Michiefs may be done them

by Pole-Cats, or Foxes, but are content, nay think it Safety, to be devoured by

Lions" (Locke, 1960, II, #93, pp. 372). Further, "If the rulers themselves

threatened civil peace and order, their subjects would have every right to judge the

degree and immediacy of the threat and, if this seemed sufficiently serious, to

resist it as best they could" (Dunn, 1984, pp. 35-36).

It has been long debated whether the Two Treatises were written as a

justification for the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in England, before or after the

revolution. What is clear, is that the work is a justification for the implementation

of the parliamentary rights -- a constitutional monarchy -- that was the focus of the


Locke's doctrine of the right of resistance was further used as a justification for

the American Revolution, as the writings of Thomas Jefferson will attest to. His

arguments for representative government, something the colonists found lacking

in their relationship with Great Britian, formed the very basis for dissent. His

declarations of the rights of the citizenry to dissolve government if that

government acts in its particular, rather than the common, interest, was central to
the arguments Jefferson incorporated in the Declaration of Independence. Ashcraft


As a political text, the Second Treatise sets out to provide a

justification for the political authority of those who have decided to
resist, on the grounds of self-defense (of their "lives, liberty,
property and religion") the actions of a tyrant -- one who exercises
'force without lawful authority' (Ashcraft, 1986, pp. 319).

For when even a legitimate leader breaks the law of nature (and reason is that

law according to Locke), he threatens the common good itself. “The law of

reason and equity is the tie which God has given men to secure them from injury

and violence. To break it is to transgress against the whole species by infringing

its peace and safety” (Dunn, 1969, pp. 169).

Regardless of why is was written, Locke's work has had an enormous impact

on 20th and 21st Century political systems. From the intractable right to

government based on consent of the governed, the espousal of a representative

system based on majority-rule, and the right of dissolution of government if that

entity usurps power, today's western republics are a clear reflection of Lockean


Locke never elaborates on the details of the political system his paradigm

espouses. Rather, he gives only a broad outline of what that system would

necessarily encompass. Property-owners, with an enormous stake in the political

system by virtue of ownership, would comprise the citizenry. A representative

legislature selected through consent of the people should hold supreme power,

making the laws of the land. Legislative power is to separated from

implementation and enforcement, i.e. executive power. Majority rule was to be the

governing principle of the decision-making process. And of course, when the

legislature or executive usurps power or becomes tyrannical, sovereign power is

returned to the people who may dissolve the government and institute an new one

that governs for no other purpose than the public good.

The institution of government is based, as is the Haudenosaunee's, on man's

capacity to reason. Knowledge of natural, or God-given law is based on the belief

in man's ability to act rationally. Mankinds' laws in society must therefore reflect

that capacity.

One of its [the Two Treatises] central arguments was that men were
supposed to be free because that was appropriate to their status as
rational individuals. It is this combination of the assertion that
individual men are responsible for their own actions and should be
free because of their capacity to reason, with the limitation of
political authority to the preservation of individuals' property,
including their liberty, that gives rise to the classic view of Locke as
a founder of liberalism [emphasis mine] (Marshall, pp. 217).

Any man who puts himself under a despotical government goes against this

natural law of reason. "To consent to place oneself in that position would be to

renounce one's humanity, to relinquish the natural freedom to be master of one's

life in accordance with the dictates of reason" (Grant, pp. 71).

Generally, Locke discusses two essential duties of government: protection of

property; and the dictate that it rule only for the public good. How does

government achieve a public good? Locke states,

whoever has the Legislative or Supream Power of any Common-

wealth, is bound to govern by establish'd standing Laws,
promulgated and known to the People, and not by Extemporary
Decrees; by indifferent and upright Judges, who are to decide
Controversies by those Laws; And to imploy the force of the
Community at home, only in the Execution of such Laws, or abroad
to prevent or redress Foreign Injuries, and secure the Community
from Inroads and Invasion. And all this to be directed to no other
end, but the Peace, Safety and publick good of the People (Locke,
1960, II, #131, pp. 398-9).

However, minority factions have little chance at implementing their conception

of a public good in such a majoritarian society.

the defect in Locke's position is that he does not discuss the case of
the individual who, for one reason or another, finds the restraints
imposed upon him by the community unjust, a violation of what he
conceives to be his individual rights. What if the dictates of a man's
conscience and the civil law conflict (Aaron, pp. 285)?

Locke doesn't specifically address minority factionalism, or how the minority

is to make its voice heard in the decision-making process. The majority can never

force the minority to surrender inalienable rights: such as life, liberty and

property, without due process of law: as men would never consent to this

condition under the original social contract.

However, minority dissent is never addressed in Locke's theory. It is, however,

dealt with effectively in traditional Lakota and Haudenosaunee political thought.

Majority rule intrinsically leaves a dissatisfied minority. Harmony was the

objective in indigenous societies, and a dissenting minority destroyed such

harmony. Hence, all decisions were made by consensus, never majority rule. If

consensus could not be reached, the decision had to be set aside. A member of the

Lakota or Haudenosaunee community who dissented was never ignored in the

political debate. And as respect for following individual conscience was a key

aspect of indigenous society, no man could force a minority to go along with a

majority decision. Hence the consensual nature of the decision-making process.

For both Locke and indigenous societies, formulation and rules of political

society are legitimate only when based upon consent of the governed. For Locke

this consent derives from the original social contract, which man having made in
the state of nature, remedies the vast inconveniences of having no objective

arbitrator for disputes. In such a state of nature, each man is judge and executioner

in his own disagreements, and man, holding self-love foremost, will always be

biased in his own favor. Hence the inherent inconvenience of the state of nature,

and the necessary rise of political societies in order to remedy them.

the end of Civil Society, being to avoid, and remedy those

inconveniencies of the State of Nature, which necessarily follow
from every Man's being Judge in his own Case, by setting a known
Authority, to which every one of that Society may Appeal upon any
Injury received, or Controversie that may arise, and which every one
of the Society ought to obey; . . . (Locke, 1960, II, #90, pp.367).

Consent is the very mortar of society. Locke argues, "the beginning of Politick

Society depends upon the consent of the Individuals, to joyn into and make one

Society; who, when they are thus incorporated, might set up what form of

government they thought fit" (ibid, #106, pp. 381-2), and further, "Men being, as

has been said, by Nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be . . .

subjected to the Political Power of another, without his own Consent" (ibid, #95,

pp. 374). Only through consent is governmental authority legitimate, and only

through consent can it legislate for the whole.

In civil societies political authority rests in the last instance on
agreement, on consent. . . . On any given occasion in an absolute
monarchy most of its inhabitants may well have a duty to obey the
holder of political power, if what he commands is at the time
beneficial or if disobeying him will cause pain and danger to others;
but the holder of political power has no right to command his
subjects. Only the agreement of adult human beings can give
another human being political authority over them [emphasis mine}
(Dunn, 1984, pp. 49-50).

Interestingly enough, while Locke repeatedly uses indigenous Americans in the

Treatises as examples of "natural man" in a "state of nature", he never

acknowledges the civility reached in these societies nor their incredible ability to

organize a truly democratic system of government. Apparently, he had evidence to

the contrary in his own library.

McFarland argues that Locke specifically knew about indigenous political

organization, but chose not to acknowledge it. He states,

The best example of Locke's ability to ignore the evidence about

Indians of the New World was his use of Garcilaso de la Vega's
book, Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru.
. . . John Locke had the French translation of the book in his library
and quoted from it in the Two Treatises of Government. . . . John
Locke ignores the descriptions of the Inca's amazing degree of
government sophistication. Arnold Toynbee described the Inca
Empire as follows in his forward to the book, 'It was authoritarian,
bureaucratic, and socialistic to a degree that has perhaps not been
approached by any other state at any other time or place. It is
amazing that the Incas should have created and operated one of the
most high powered bureaucracies known to history so far, without
possessing the instrument of writing -- an instrument that might have
been supposed to be indispensable for this purpose if the Inca
bureaucracy had not proved that it is not'" (McFarland, 1998).

While the Incas may have been south of the indigenous territory discussed,

Locke clearly had knowledge of their socio-political organization, as well

information on their extensive cultivation techniques. He discusses Josephus

Acosta‟s work on the Incas of Peru, arguing “And if Josephus Acosta‟s word may

be taken, he tells us, that in many parts of America there was no government at

all” (Locke, II, #102, pp. 379). Yet in the same paragraph he continues,

These men , „tis evident, were actually free; and whatever

superiority some Politicians now would place in any of them, they
themselves claimed it not; but by consent were all equal, till by the
same consent they set Rulers over themselves. So that their Politick
Societies all began from a voluntary Union, and the mutual
agreement of Men freely acting in the choice of their Governours,
and forms of government (ibid, #102, pp. 379).

The fact that he further ignored reports of indigenous civilizations in the

Carolina colonies, where he was an administrator, underscores his knowledge of

the degree of sophistication of indigenous governments. He was aware, as

discussed earlier, of indigenous social and agricultural organization, via regular

reports from the Carolina settlers. Yet apparently Locke chose to ignore such

reports. While arguing that only cultivation of land yields ownership, and that the

"America's" were a vast wasteland due to lack of cultivation, Locke had

information to the contrary.

Regardless, while Locke outlines his ideas of consent and his "right of

revolution" in the Treatises, he never explicitly details his theory of representative

government. He discusses the duties and responsibilities of the legislature and

executive branches of government, but never specifically outlines a working

political system. Rather his idea is to espouse the necessary ingredients for a

government based on consent. His ideas on a "representative" social order are

mostly conceptual and generally not detailed. What we do know about Lockean

political theory is that it strives for consent of the people, representative

government, majority rule, separation of powers, and the right of revolution as its

fundamental goals. A truly revolutionary document, the Two Treatises began a

tradition of liberty we tend to take for granted today.

Liberty was important for Locke. True political liberty, virtually unknown in

his day of aristocratic decrees and government by Divine Right, allowed for

progress by individuals and society. By ordering society to govern in the people's

interest, and to allow individual liberty in the fullest sense, individuals had the

opportunity to prosper in both a personal and social way. Individual liberty then

translated into a good for the society as a whole, as society progresses. Gough

though Locke firmly believed that government and law were

necessary for the preservation and indeed the enlargement of liberty,
he never identified liberty with obedience to law. The essence of
liberty was to be 'free from restraint and violence from others'. It was
not, indeed 'a liberty for every man to do what he lists' (Gough, pp.

Locke states,

the end of Law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and

enlarge Freedom: . . . where there is no Law, there is no Freedom.
For Liberty is to be free . . . . to dispose, and order, as he lists, his
Person, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the
Allowance of those Laws under which he is, and therein not to be
subject to the arbitrary Will of another, but freely follow his own
(Locke, 1960, II, #57, pp. 348).

For John Locke, "true" or "radical" democracy, i.e., where all persons can

deliberate in order to influence decision-making, was problematic. Locke held a

great distrust of the masses. In the 17th century in which he wrote, the majority of

the world's populace was illiterate, poor and property-less. Fear that the masses, if

allowed to participate democratically, would simply vote away the rights and

property of the elite, was a prevailant concern. Somehow, government must

insulate itself from this kind of 'tyranny' of the masses.

As unfamiliar as republican government was to the world of 17th century

Europe, so too was the idea of universal suffrage. The citizenry itself had to be

limited according to Locke. As Aaron understates, "Locke apparently would not

grant universal suffrage" (Aaron, pp. 285).

Dunn agrees. The Leveller and the Chartist movement were groups who

campaigned for the endowment of all persons under government with full rights
of citizenship: not just those with landed property.

[Locke] neither expected, nor, as far as we know, would he even

have desired, a realization in his day of the radical programs for
extending the right to vote put forward by the Levellers in the
English Civil War or by the Chartist movement a century and a half
after him (Dunn, 1984, pp. 33).

Locke advocates a two-fold approach to avoiding "the tyranny of the majority".

One is to limit the citizenry to those who hold property interests in common. The

second is insulation of legislation from majoritarian trends via a representative

legislature. Representatives were to use their best judgment in decision-making

rather than pure majority mandate, to serve as a check on power.

Those with common interests -- property – will elect the representatives, not

the masses. While everyone must give his consent to society, not everyone need

participate. Those without landed property had less interest in government

according to Locke, and hence were not a necessary part of the citizenry.

Politics in the Two Treatises was concerned with protection of

property, including liberty from arbirary (sic) interference, and not
with liberty by political participation. Liberty in political society in
the Two Treatises involved simply not being subjected to a
legislature that had not been established over you by your own
express consent, . . . . Beyond the need for express consent to join
the society, a singularly attenuated form of political activity, there
was no need for political activity by the individual in the Two
Treatises either through participation in the government itself or
even by the exercise of the franchise (Marshall, pp. 217).

Locke states that men have

to unite for the mutual Preservation of the Lives, Liberties and

Estates, which I call by the general Name, Property. . . . The great
and chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and
putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their
Property (Locke, 1960, II, pp. 395, #123/124).

Further, "in this [preservation of property] we have the original right and rise of

both the Legislative and Executive Power, as well as of the Governments and

Societies themselves" (ibid, pp. 397, #127).

But it is not all property that give men the right to participate. Initially defined

as life, liberty and estate, in the context of who would make up the citizenry,

Locke focuses on estate. It is ownership of land that separates the citizenry from

the masses. Cranston explains Locke's reasoning.

Precisely because they had not more than a bare subsistence,

working men were excluded from the full responsibilities and
privileges of political society. For, as Locke said more than once,
'the great and chief end . . . of men's uniting into commonwealths
and putting themselves under governments is the preservation of
their property'. And although Locke said he used the word 'property'
to mean 'that property which men have in their persons as well as
their goods', he often also used the word in its more limited and
familiar sense. The labourer's only 'goods' was his capacity to work,
and the sale of that to an employer left him with nothing. If the
labourer had therefore little material interest in the commonwealth,
neither had he much rationality to contribute to it. 'The greatest part
of mankind have not the leisure for learning and logic.' For these
reasons Locke looked askance at 'numerous democracy' (Cranston,
1961, pp. 32).

In his Letter on Toleration, Locke more clearly defines the kind of property he

believes it is government's duty to protect. He argues,

preserved by pains and industry; for those things that are necessary
to the comfortable support of our lives, are not the spontaneous
products of nature, nor do offer themselves fit and prepared for our
use . . . . [Men entered society] that by men have also their temporal
lives here upon earth; . . . they have need of several outward
conveniences to the support thereof, which are to be procured or
mutual assistance and joint force, they may secure unto each other
their properties, in the things that contribute to the comforts and
happiness of this life . . . men thus enter into societies, grounded
upon their temporal goods . . .[emphasis mine] (Locke, 1990, pp.

Locke implicitly leaves out the ideas of life and liberty in the above statement

as part of his definition of property. Since every man has a property right in his

life and liberty, according to Locke, insistence on landed property as the basis for

citizenry in civil society is quite problematic. What about the masses, who held

little or no material possessions, nor land? For surely those without estate enjoy a

personal property interest in their lives and liberty. Yet for Locke, the property-

less masses had to claim land, enclose and cultivate it, in order to be granted the

power to participate in a representative system.

For Locke, those without landed property were in such a position due to their

own failings. His philosophy toward the poor, in fact, was somewhat draconian, as

discussed in Chapter 4. Cranston explains,

he regarded poverty not as a misfortune but as a sign of moral

failure. Unemployment, Locke wrote, was due to 'the relaxation of
discipline and the corruption of manners' and the first step 'towards
setting the poor on work' should be the closing of 'unnecessary
alehouses'. Next, he recommended that any man found begging
should, if under fifty, be impressed for three years' naval service, or,
if over fifty, be sent to prison for three years' hard labour. Women
found begging, he suggested, might have lighter sentences, but girls
as well as boys under fourteen should be 'soundly whipped'. Locke
also proposed . . . they [the idle] should be put to work with private
employers for less than the rate of pay, under threat of impressment
(Cranston, 1961, pp. 30-31).

For the Lakota and Haudenosaunee, participation in the decision-making

process was not only allowed, but expected from all interested parties. Decisions

were never made until all voices were heard and all opinions given sincere

consideration and discussion. To limit the decision-making process to a limited

few was an anathema to democracy. How can the people rule, if the people‟s

voices cannot be heard, or their opinion never considered?

For Locke, as the mass power had to be limited, their insulation from political

decision-making became an important conceptual problem. Hence the idea of

direct democracy, where each decision is voted on by the entire populace, was

considered not only impractical, but also dangerous by Locke: too much power in

the hands of the property-less masses. To insulate the government from the

changing winds of majority rule, representative, rather than direct democratic

participation was key.

Representative government tends to be a good insulator. In the time before

instant communications, and now in the time of sound-bites and public-relations

people, decisions can be made by legislators and the real effect not reach the

constituency for years, or even decades. Many times, the constituency has no idea
of the long-range effect on public policy – witness the massive military build-up

under Ronald Reagan and the ensuing national-debt disaster that was predictable.

It is easy to push your position and downplay the consequences and/or opposition

when you are holding the power and your voice is heard by many. For Locke had

in mind that the elite in society should be the major decision-makers: logically,

most decisions would then be in the interest of the elite. Representatives of the

propertied-citizenry were to use their own judgment, clearly, rather that simple

majority sentiment in the decision-making process.

Although Locke argues for “consent of the people” as the basis for

government, he manipulates and so limits this conception as to make it almost

unrecognizable as any kind of “democratic” system. Essentially, in Locke‟s

“republic”, “the people” are defined as the few, while “consent” is manipulated

from an elected legislature. As I argued earlier, infrequent voting for a bare choice

of representatives hardly encompasses the idea intrinsic to aquiring the “consent

of the people”.

Having discussed limits on the majority, Locke emphasized the importance of

also limiting power in government. He was well aware of, and explicitly

acknowledges, the problems of concentration of power in the Two Treatises. After

all, too much power in the hands of decision-makers created the repressive

conditions and the exile he endured in 17th Century England.

He therefore argues for a legislative body, elected by the citizenry, as the

supreme power of the land, with an executive branch to enforce decisions. Both

were to work through majority rule. Seats were to be elected on a frequent basis so

that there was a consistent opportunity to remove and thus restrain the power of

the individual politician.

Laws are made by collective bodies, meeting periodically, and all

lawmakers are subject to the laws they make. They are lawmakers,
but not rulers. The personal ruler is replaced by an institutional
system that ensures no man is above the law. And all of this serves
as security against abuses of government power (Grant, pp. 83)

Representatives of the people comprise the sovereign decision-making body

for the whole. In other words, it‟s the representatives that actually participate in
decision-making, while the people need only give their consent. Locke states, " . .
. in a Constituted Commonwealth, . . . there can be but one Supream Power,

which is the Legislature, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet . . .

there remains still in the People a Supream Power to remove or alter the

Legislative" (Locke, 1960, II, #149, pp. 412-413). Aaron agrees.

Who is sovereign in Locke's state? . . . the legislative again is

responsible to the people and can be dismissed by the people. No
doubt, the proper answer to the question is that the people are
sovereign -- although this answer would be clearer if we knew more
precisely whom we are to understand by the term 'the people'
(Aaron, pp. 281).

Further, only acts by those given a grant of power by the people, the Legislature,

have "the force and obligation of Law, . . . . For without this the law could not

have that, which is absolutely necessary to its being a Law, the consent of the

Society, . . . ." (Locke, 1960, II, #134, pp. 401). Hence the legislature, retaining

power via the force of the consent of the people, retains the supreme power of

making the law over the people themselves.

Locke outlines the extent of legislative power.

First, They are to govern by promulgated establish'd Laws, not to

be varied in particular Cases, but to have one Rule for Rich and
Poor, for the Favourite at Court, and the Country Man at Plough.
Secondly, These Laws also ought to be designed for no other end
ultimately but the good of the People. Thirdly, they must not raise
Taxes on the Property of the People, without the Consent of the
People, given by themselves, or their Deputies. . . . Fourthly, The
Legislative neither must nor can transfer the Power of making Laws
to any Body else, or place it any where but where the People have
(ibid, #142, pp. 409)

Division, and therefore limitation of governmental power, were key to Lockean


The Lakota and Haudenosaunee people had, long before Locke was even born,

implemented separation of power into their social organization. They saw it as a

necessary check on the tendency for power to corrupt those that wield it. It is

argued in the following Chapter that the “founding fathers” of the United States

even visited and studied the Haudenosaunee to learn of their unique system for

maintaining a democratic society, and that separation of powers was a well

established concept in their societies well before the first shots of the

Revolutionary War rang out.

Legislative and executive powers were also to be separated under Locke's

theoretical system. For the power to both make and execute the laws, men

behaving out of self-love, easily leads to usurpation of power and tyranny. One

way to avoid the abuse of power was to simply divide the legislative from the

executive into distinct bodies. He states,

And because it may be too great a temptation to humane frailty apt

to grasp at Power, for the same Persons who have the Power of
making Laws, to have also in their hands the power to execute them,
. . . . the Legislative and Executive Power come often to be separated
(ibid, #143-144, pp. 410).

Although common practice today, Locke's idea of separation of power in order

to limit power was revolutionary for western European societies of the day.

Generally the monarchy held the privilege of making and executing the law, and

arbitrary abuse was widespread and commonplace. In fact, for western societies

(because Native American groups had already incorporated the idea of separation

of powers in their traditional political system centuries earlier), Locke may have

been the initiator of the idea of separation of powers. While Montesquieu details

separation of powers almost 200 years later, Locke began the process with his
insistence on separation of executive and legislative branches in order to avoid
usurpation and tyranny. Gough argues, "As long ago as 1836, however, a German

writer, Carl Ernst Jarcke, detected in Locke the originator of the doctrine of the

separation and balance of powers, . . . ." (Gough, pp. 104).

Judicial power, for Montesquieu, necessarily should be placed in a separate

body from the legislative or executive. Although Locke never explicitly discusses

the judiciary, "He seems to include it in his executive power, which is concerned

with the whole administration of the laws" (ibid, pp. 108). Grant apparently

agrees. She argues that the separation of executive and legislative branches
includes the idea of an impartial avenue of appeal, i.e., a judicial sector.

First, an avenue for an appeal must be open to the subjects even

against the actions of the government. This requires both that
executive officers be responsible for their actions and that the
legislative and executive functions be placed in separate hands.
Otherwise there is no authority that can serve as an impartial judge
(Grant, pp. 73).

The executive power of government, at least for Locke, then has twin

responsibilities: of execution & enforcement, and as impartial judge in legislative


In practical implementation, a lack of clear separation between the judiciary

and the executive would most likely be problematic. Impartial justice in

legislative disputes is always better served if the judiciary has no political

motivation (such as re-election) nor specific agenda for public policy. Democratic

theorists, such as Alan Gilbert, have argued that a free and independent judiciary

is intrinsic to a democratic system. For otherwise justice is calculated by political

prowness rather than by the idea of fairness and equality.

Generally, the legislature need not be continually in session in Lockean theory,

as laws can be made in a short period of time. The executive branch, on the other

hand, need be continually in office.

But because the Laws, . . . have a constant and lasting force, and
need a perpetual Execution, or an attendance thereunto: Therefore
'tis necessary there should be a Power always in being, which should
see to the Execution of the Laws that are made, and remain in force
(Locke, 1960, II, #144, pp. 410).

A fundamental executive power that Locke adamantly argues for is that of

executive prerogative -- that ability to act for the common good without the

prescription of law. Locke argues, "Where the Legislative and Executive Power

are in distinct hands, . . . there the good of the Society requires, that several things

should be left to the discretion of him, that has the Executive Power" (ibid, #159,

pp. 421).

What powers of discretion should be left to the executive? Clearly, to avoid

tyranny and a usurpation of power the executive has no right to override

legislation randomly. But in limited cases, executive prerogative is a legitimate

check on legislative power. Locke argues,

the Ruler should have a Power, in many Cases, to mitigate the

severity of the Law, and pardon some Offenders: For the end of
Government being the preservation of all, as much as may be, even
the guilty are to be spared, where it can prove no prejudice to the
innocent (ibid, #159, pp. 421).

His reasoning is twofold: that the legislative body is not continually in session,

while the executive is, and therefore some discretion must be left to the decision-

maker in power. Further, legislative decision-making is inherently a slow, time-

consuming process. Some decisions must be made quickly, such as action in war

or pardoning an innocent man, and because "it is impossible to foresee and so by

laws to provide for, all Accidents and Necessities that may concern the publick; . .

. " (ibid, #160, pp. 422). Hence, his argument for the necessity of executive


For Locke, although limits on the "tyranny of the majority" were intrinsic to

government, majority rule was the only practical and just way to choose

representatives and to legislate. Once the social contract is formed, every person

obligates himself to abide by the decision of the majority. He argues, "And thus

every Man, by consenting with others to make one Body Politick under one
government, puts himself under an Obligation to every one of that Society, to

submit to the determination of the majority" (ibid, #97, pp. 376). Further,

Wherever men live in community with one another, he is saying, the

relations between them can be described in terms of an agreement
which, . . . assigns to its numerical majority a right to make
decisions which are binding upon the minority. The majority-
principle is, in a word, implicit in the logic of community life
(Kendall, pp. 112).

Clearly for Locke, without majority rule government would be inefficient and

seriously impeded in its ability to carry out its functions.

For that which acts any Community, being only the consent of the
individuals of it, and it being necessary to that which is one body to
move one way; it is necessary the Body should move that way
whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the
majority; or else it is impossible it should act or continue one Body,
one community, which the consent of every individual that united
into it, agreed that it should; and so every one is bound by that
consent to be concluded by the majority. And therefore we see that
in Assemblies empowered to act by positive Laws . . . the act of the
Majority passes for the act of the whole, and of course determines, . .
. the power of the whole. (Locke, 1960, II, pp. 375-6, #96).

Native Americans disagree. Majority rule always lives a dissatisfied minority,

and as harmony is the goal of the indigenous political structure, could never
fullfill the requirements of democratic governance. Rather, rule was by consensus.

And while we typically think of indigenous Nations at that time being small and

scattered, the Haudenosaunee implemented a consensual system of decision-

making in a society with over 20,000 members in 5 different communities.

While for Locke the majority holds power to act for the whole, the government

itself can be dissolved by the citizenry if it is found to be acting foremost in its

own interest rather than that of the common good. Here Locke‟s true genius

shines, and this argument has probably been his major contribution to political
theory. For Locke, contrary to Hobbes, argues absolutely for the right of

revolution and institution of a new government if that existing usurps its duties

and ceases to act for the public good. The social contract remains, yet government

is dissolved "from within" by its own citizenry. They then have the “natural right”

to institute a government that will act for the common good.

Wherever Law ends, tyranny begins, if the Law be transgressed to

another's harm. And whosoever in Authority exceeds the Power
given him by the Law, and makes use of the Force he has under this
Command, . . . which the Law allows not, ceases in that to be a
Magistrate, and acting without Authority, may be opposed, as any
other Man, who by force invades the Right of another (ibid, #202,
pp. 448).

Locke's arguments for the right of resistance brought about a new paradigm in

social theory. His writings have had the effect of creating dramatic change in

societies throughout the world. His arguments were the very foundation of the

American Revolution, and the major justification of Parliamentary revolutions

throughout Western Europe in the 18th through 20th Centuries. His arguments for

the right of returning power to its original source if government usurps its duties

are eloquent and inspiring. The effect his work has had on people and states
throughout the globe has been enormous.
Used in part by Thomas Jefferson to assert the rights of man in the Declaration

of Independence, Locke's arguments are compelling.

As Usurpation is the exercise of Power, which another hath a Right

to; so Tyranny is the exercise of Power beyond Right, which no
Body can have a Right to. And this is making use of the Power any
one has in his hands; not for the good of those, who are under it, but
for his own private separate Advantage. . . . [and he] makes not the
Law, but his Will, the Rule; and his Commands and Actions are not
directed to the preservation of the Properties of his People, but the
satisfaction of his own Ambition, Revenge, covetousness, or any
other irregular Passion (ibid, #199, pp. 446).

For Locke, the foundation of the right of revolution is that the usurpation of

power by those entrusted to govern actually returns society and the individual to a

state worse than that of the original state of nature. In a state of nature, each has

the right to defend themselves: in a state of tyranny, all natural rights are

jeopardized. Government has in fact returned society to a state of war, where there

is no longer an objective arbitrator for disputes. "For where-ever any two Men are,

who have no standing Rule, and common Judge to Appeal to on Earth for the

determination of Controversies of Right betwixt them, there they are still in the

state of Nature, and under all inconveniencies of it, . . . " (ibid, #91, pp. 370). In

fact, not only do they live in a condition with no just arbitrator for disputes, but a

despotic power to contend with as well. This is clearly a worse position to be in

compared to the natural rights we enjoy in the state of nature: life, liberty and

property. Locke continues,

to the Subject, or rather Slave of an Absolute Prince: That whereas,

in the ordinary State of Nature, he has a liberty to judge of his Right,
and according to the best of his Power, to maintain it; now whenever
his Property is invaded by the Will and Order of his Monarch, he has
not only no Appeal, as those in Society ought to have, . . . [but] is
denied a liberty to judge of, or to defend his Right, and so is exposed
to all the Misery and Inconveniencies that a Man can fear from one,
who being in the unrestrained state of Nature, is yet corrupted with
Flatter, and armed with Power (ibid, #91, pp. 370).

Mankind under any sovereign who usurps power is essentially returned to a

state of war inherent in the state of nature. For as Locke states, "the Person of the

Prince by the Law is Sacred; . . . . unless he will by actually putting himself into a

State of War with his People, dissolve the Government, and leave them to that

defense, which belongs to every one in the State of Nature" (ibid, #205, pp. 450).

But although government may put itself into a state of war with its citizenry, it

is not an absolute dissolving of society. Rather, it is government that is dissolved,

while the social contract remains intact. The people are then empowered to return

power to its original source. What original source does power derive from? The


If, however, the government ceases to exist and is dissolved this

does not mean the dissolution of the political society. It means that
the sovereignty has returned to its original source, the people, who
have the right and the power to set up a new legislative and
executive. It is in this sense that 'the community perpetually retains a
supreme power' (II, #149) (Aaron, pp. 282).

The people are then at liberty to institute new government. Locke reaffirms,

"For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to

administer Justice, it is still violence and injury, . . . the Sufferers, who having no

appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such Cases, an

appeal to heaven" (Locke, 1960, II, #20, pp. 322). In other words, it is between

man and God.

Locke distinguishes between dissolution of government and dissolution of

society, but regardless, a usurpation or tyranny can inherently lead to either. Force

by conquest from a foreign power can lead to the dissolution of society, of the
social contract as a whole. Force without right by the governing elite is no better:
yet it leads only to the dissolution of government. Neither, however, could

possibly be based on consent, the only legitimate foundation of society. Ashscraft

argues, "What Locke has tried to demonstrate, . . . is that there is no difference

between a "foreign" and a "domestic" invasion, either in terms of the use of "force

without authority" or with respect to the people's right to resist a conqueror or

tyrant" (Ashcraft, 1986, pp. 401).

Remember, for Locke, participation in the political process was not intrinsic to

representative society, rather, consent is the basis. The inception of society,

therefore, is based only on prior consent, which implies that even though specific

governments may be dissolved, the social contract remains. Government,

therefore, can be dissolved while society continues to exist.

If society itself, and hence the social contract, is dissolved, it is generally from

without: when conquered through war with a foreign nation. Locke states, "The

usual, and almost only way whereby this Union [political society] is dissolved, is

the Inroad of Foreign Force making a Conquest upon them" (Locke, 1960, II,

#211, pp. 454). Once society is dissolved, government clearly cannot remain, and

both are thereby dissolved from "without"

When does the government dissolve from within? Dissolution from within is

based on usurpation of power and inception of tyranny by those entrusted to

govern. This can be done by either the legislative or executive power. Locke

explicitly outlines the conditions for dissolution from within.

Hindering legislative power, via its function as the branch of government most

directly representing the citizenry and supreme lawmaker, was to deliberately

inhibit the political process. It is to usurp power by denying it to it rightful owner:

the people. Locke argues that "'tis in their Legislative, that the Members of a
commonwealth are united, and combined together into one coherent living body.
This is the Soul that gives Form, Life, and Unity to the Commonwealth: . . . (ibid,

#212, pp. 455).

The legislature is dissolved when changed or altered. When rule is made and

enforced by "Arbitrary Will in place of the Laws" (ibid, #214, pp. 456), the

legislature has been changed.

When the Legislative is prohibited from acting freely or assembling "in due

time" (ibid, #215, pp. 457), the legislature is altered, as removing legislative

freedom is denying the basis for government: consent of the people.

When the electoral process is altered without consent of the people, the

legislative is altered. Locke states, "When by the Arbitrary Power of the Prince,

the Electors, or ways of Election are altered, without the Consent, and contrary to

the common Interest of the People, there also the Legislative is altered" (ibid,

#216, pp. 457).

As people consent to the social contract only of the society in which they

reside, that power can never be transferred into other hands, i.e., a foreign power.

For the social contract is based on men's securing unto themselves their life,

liberty and estate, and "this is lost, whenever they are given up into the Power of

another" (ibid, #217, pp. 458).

As government can be dissolved from within due to changes or alteration of

the legislative, so too can the executive be the cause of dissolution. When the

executive is no longer administering the laws, or no longer doing so with justice,

the executive dissolves government. ". . . The breach of trust, in not preserving the

Form of Government agreed on, and in not intending the end of Government it

self, which is the publick good and preservation of Property. . . . a King has . . .

put himself in a state of War with his People" (ibid, #239, pp. 474).

Laws cannot function without their administration, and without laws, there can

be no government. Locke argues that a government is dissolved "when he who has

the Supream Executive Power, neglects and abandons that charge, so that the

Laws already made can no longer be put in execution. This is demonstratively to

reduce all to Anarchy, and so effectually to dissolve the Government" (ibid, #219,

pp. 459).

Once government is dissolved, sovereignty returns to its original source: the

people. It is the rightful duty of the people to erect a new government that will
rule only in the public interest.

when the Government is dissolved, the People are at liberty to

provide for themselves, by erecting a new Legislative, differing from
the other, by the change of Persons, or Form, or both as they shall
find it most for their safety and good. For the Society can never, by
the fault of another, lose the Original Right it has to preserve it self
(ibid, #220, pp. 459).

The contribution that Locke made to not only political theory but to the actual

world of the 17th through 21st Centuries has been absolutely enormous. Witness

the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and even the Russian

revolution. Locke gave them the justification they needed while creating the ideas

that legitimized them. Locke's views on the right of revolution were not only

revolutionary in and of themselves but a major catalyst for world change. As the

first political theorist to claim for the people the right of dissolution, removal and

re-instatement of a new legislative and/or executive, Locke brought forth an idea

that would clearly change the world.

His arguments did not go unpunished. Locke frequently answered criticisms in

the Second Treatise that his theory was too radical: that as a result of his

arguments, men everywhere would rise up and initiate violent revolution at the

slightest provocation; that anarchy would generally prevail if we were to believe

Locke; and societies everywhere would collapse and fall in a torrent of civil war.

What will stop men from formenting revolution over minor disputes with the

leadership of society?

Locke believed that men generally will suffer greatly before they resort to

extreme action, and only the greatest of usurpation's will bring about such a state.

"Locke admits the right to rebellion. . . . To the objection that this will make for

unsettled government, Locke answers that the people are usually very loathe to
rebel, that they will suffer much before they resort to force" (Aaron, pp. 283).

Locke himself states,

Such Revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement in

publick affairs. Great mistakes in the ruling part, many wrong and
inconvenient Laws, and all the slips of humane frailty will be born
by the People, without mutiny or murmur. But if a long train of
Abuses, Prevarications and Artifices, all tending the same way,
make the design visible to the People, and they cannot but feel, what
they lie under, and see, whither they are going; 'tis not to be
wonder'd, that they should then rouze themselves, and endeavor to
put the rule into such hands, which may secure to them the ends for
which Government was at first erected; . . . (Locke, 1960, II, #225,
pp. 463-464).

Dunn argues that, "Locke certainly wrote to proclaim a right of revolution; but he

was not in any sense an enemy of political authority. Within its due constitutional

limits political authority was an immense human good "(Dunn, 1984, pp. 51).

Locke, in fact, did not always believe in the right of revolution for the

citizenry. His views changed and developed over his life-time, and as he became

more involved and less welcomed in 17th century British politics, his outlook

changed dramatically.

. . . only in the case of the right of resistance did he explicitly and

decisively reverse a theoretical view which he had defended at
length in earlier works. Both in the Tracts of 1660 and in the Essay
on Toleration of 1667 the duty of a subject in the face of unjust
commands of his sovereign was clearly asserted to be to obey these
commands passively; not of course in any sense to endorse their
justice, but at least to recognize the authority from which they issued
and certainly not at any price to obstruct them forcibly, let alone to
attack their author. As recently as 1676 he had argued once more
that although human political authorities are designated by human
laws, the duty of political obedience is laid down by the law of God
'which forbids disturbance or dissolution of governments', and that
every human being is obliged in good conscience to obey the
government under which he or she lives (Dunn, 1984, pp. 28-29).

The change in Locke's position comes clearly from his involvement in politics at

the time. His original orthodoxy changed when Charles II, a Catholic, took the

British throne. Locke's skepticism that a Catholic should hold legitimate rule over

an Anglican state led him to believe that the people should hold the right to

institute government based on consent. His writings and ideas became so seditious

that eventually he was exiled to the Netherlands.

The pivotal point in his political views, from a commitment to

passive obedience to a vindication of the right of resistance to unjust
political authority, was a change in his conception of how men could
and should judge what is capable of preserving their society. Instead
of leaving this judgment entirely to the ruler and retaining for the
rest of the population merely the right to believe their own religious
beliefs (a right which in any case he supposed that they had no
power to abandon), Locke in the Two Treatises returned the right
and duty of judging how to preserve society to every adult human
being (Dunn, 1984, pp. 31).

Regardless, his views on consent and the right to dissolve and institute new

governments are enormously compelling and have had a positive effect on the

humanity constituting western, liberal republics. Locke's insights on the

inalienable right to institute government via consent, and to remove that consent if

necessary, have led to more just political institutions in the 21st Century.

Locke's Second Treatise has had a tremendous effect on today's western

political systems. From the right of individual acquisition of private property,

representative government based on consent of the people, majority rule, limits on

both majority and governmental power, and the right of resistance to unjust

authority, Locke's political ideology is essentially the basis for the western

capitalist republics that comprise the "First World" today. Locke's ideas of

separation, and hence balance of power, were an ingenious development on the

path of social progress. To limit power by dividing it was an idea unknown in the
European world of his time, although well-known in the indigenous world of the

Haudenosaunee and Lakota.

Although Locke‟s ideas have been enormously influential, many of these same

ideas had been incorporated into indigenous societies long before Locke ever

wrote the Treatises. While Lockean and indigenous political ideas have many

similarities in common, such as the ideas of separation and balance of power,

ruling for the common good, and consent as the basis for government, many were

in conflict.

Locke agreed that government should act in the best interest of the people,

although there is some question as to who would be considered "the people" under

a Lockean representative society. He argues,

The end of Government is the good of Mankind, and which is best

for Mankind, that the People should be always expos'd to the
boundless will of Tyranny, or that the Rulers should be sometimes
liable to be oppos'd, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their
Power, and imploy it for the destruction, and not the preservation of
the Properties of their People (Locke, 1960, II, #229, pp. 466).

Lakota and Haudenosaunee political systems were, like Locke's, based on

consent of the governed. The social contract was for them never absolute: if an

individual or group split from the tribe, he and his family, and whoever wanted to

go along, could start a new band with the help and support of the old one.

However, for the two indigenous groups, all persons in the community had not

only an inherent right to participate in the decision-making process, but as well a

duty to participate. As decisions were to be made for the common good, only the

input and deliberation of all perspectives could achieve this very high ideal.

Women, children, elders, and men, all had a say in the decision-making process.

For the Lakota and Haudenosaunee, harmony, not preservation of property is the
basis of the political system. As harmony was the ideal, decisions were never

based on majority rule: majority rule always left a dissatisfied minority. Rather,

decision by consensus was the governing principle of the political system. And if

consensus could not be reached, then the decision was put aside, for further


For Locke, leaders: the legislative and the executive, were never in a position

of absolute power. ". . . Absolute monarchy", he wrote, ". . . is indeed inconsistent

with Civil Society" (ibid, #90, pp. 367). Leaders were to serve the interests of the

public good, and absolute power is generally opposed to the better interests of the

community. Hence, the people held sovereign power, but vis-à-vis a

representative legislature and other elected officials.

For the Lakota and Haudenosaunee, power never left the hands of the people

themselves. Leaders, in fact, had no access to power, no "monopoly on force":

rather, persuasion was their only weapon. A Lakota Headman or Haudenosaunee

Sachem had no power to command an individual, much less the group. They were

facilitators. Extensive deliberation continued until a decision favorable to the

whole Nation or Nations was consensually arrived at.

Typically, a consensual decision could be arrived at that was believed to be in

the best interest of the people. Since all persons had a part in decision-making,

decisions tended more often to reflect the good of all rather than that of a few.

Power, generally, had no place in the political philosophy or systems of either


The emphasis on protection of private property in Lockean theory; the non-

inclusion of all persons in the deliberative and electoral process; representative

versus direct democracy; majority rule rather than consensus or a focus on

compromise: all of these differences are evident when comparing the two political


Although Lockean philosophy was truly revolutionary for its time in many

aspects, Lakota and Haudenosaunee philosophy, practiced for a time period much

longer than that available for Lockean theory, has many similarities in its attempt

at deliberative democracy. While having some things in common, Lakota and

Haudenosaunee political philosophy and practice, I will argue, are more

democratic and more egalitarian than Lockean proposals for a limited

representative political system.



Our strength shall be in union and our way the way of reason,
righteousness and peace. --Deganawidah, the Great Peacemaker8

The traditional institutions that defined a government based on consent for

Locke, such as majority rule, limits on the constituency and their power, and

elections where the candidates tend to be quite unrepresentative of the population

at large, are conspicuously missing from traditional Lakota and Haudenosaunee

political and social institutions. So too are our contemporary notions of

democracy as a system whereby at least two parties compete in regularly

scheduled elections in a State where suffrage is (near) universal.

For the Lakota and Haudenosaunee Nations, extensive political deliberation

that was inclusive of all points of view was the centerpiece for establishment of

harmonious democracy. All opinions were heard and considered in council.

Council members were elected by the people, and were considered men of great

wisdom and intellect who had proven their generosity and courage. A system of

checks and balances and separation of power was firmly in place, insuring that

leaders were never to be in a position of power, but rather one of responsibility

and duty to the people. Any leader who acted in his own rather than the common

interest was removed from office, if not persuaded to change his ways.

Majority rule was not a tool for indigenous democracy, as majority rule always

leaves a dissatisfied minority. Decisions were made by consensus, and the people

could usually come to agreement on the path that was in the best interest of the

Nation. If any individual disagreed with a decision, he could not be bound by it

nor forced to act upon it. Further, all had the "leisure time necessary", and were

expected to participate in political discourse. Participation was universal, and

women played key roles in the political organization of society. Both Lakota and

Haudenosaunee societies emphasize the personal responsibility of the individual

to the community as a whole, and likewise, the responsibility of the community to

each individual. Because inherently, mitakuye oyasin, we are all related.

If extensive political deliberation and participation are the two most important

indicators of a democratic system, the Haudenosaunee and Lakota had a more

meaningful democracy as well as egalitarian social and economic system in place

than Locke‟s conceptual system. For they possessed a unique and influential

system of pure democracy that made Athens, Greece look like the aristocracy it

essentially was. In Athens, during the "democratic" period, only white male

property-owners were considered citizens, thus limiting "democracy" to a very

few elite. Women, merchants and artisans, craftsmen and skilled workers, and of

course slaves and the impoverished were excluded from the "democratic"

discourse that ancient Athens is so renowned for.

Philosophically, the concepts of protection of property (even in the sense of

life, liberty and estate) versus harmony as the end of political society is indicative

of the Lockean vs. indigenous model debate. Is acquisition and protection of

property the end of human life, or is it harmonious living? With such different

foundations, it is not surprising that John Locke's theory of representative

government is distinctly at odds with that of the Native Americans.

The Confederacy of the Haudenosaunee was one of the few available models
of democracy in the 17th and early 18th centuries, having an important influence
on the "founding fathers" of the United States. Historically, it is known that

Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine all studied the

Confederacy as one of the few existing examples of a working democracy in a

world where monarchies and tyrannies were the order of the day. Benjamin

Franklin is known to have argued, "'It would be a strange thing if (the) Six

Nations should be capable of forming . . . such a union . . . and yet a like union

should be impractical for . . . a dozen English colonies'" (Schaaf, pp. 4).

It is known that the Confederacy's constitution, the Wampam Belt, had a

significant impact on the Articles of Confederation, and on the ideas embodied in

the Constitution of the United States. We, the People, as the governing institution

in society; separation of powers; and checks and balances, were all well instituted

into the Confederacy's governing system long before the "founding fathers" of the

United States walked upon this Earth.

One of the little known secrets of the Founding Fathers is the fact
that they discovered a democratic model not in Great Britain,
France, Italy, nor any of the so-called "cradles of civilization".
Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others found the oldest
participatory democracies on earth among the American Indians. . . .
American Indian Agent George Morgan . . . witnessed societies
where people were endowed with the right to speak freely, the right
to assemble, religious freedom, as well as the separation of
governmental powers into three branches. A system of checks and
balances was firmly in place (Schaaf, pp. 3).

Further, the Iroquois' deliberative participatory democracy and communal

economic system have, like Locke's, had tremendous influences on 20th and 21st

Century political systems. Interestingly enough, just as the Haudenosaunee had

influence on the founding fathers of the U.S. in creating a democratic society, they

too had an important influence for the founding fathers of communism. Just as

Locke‟s labor theory of value was instrumental in the development of communist

thought, Marx and Engles studied the Haudenosaunee‟s pure communal social

system as an important example of economic egalitarianism that actually worked.

The connections are thus widespread and consistent.

The democratic principles of the Confederacy of the Haudenosaunee, and the

democratic principles that governed the Nations within the Confederacy -- a total

of about 20,000 individuals in the 17th and 18th Centuries (Jennings, pp. xiii), are

valuable examples of extensive democracy, where all participated equally and all

had the right to voice their opinions in Council.

Likewise, the governing principles of the Lakota Nations centered on political

equality, in the sense of every person enjoying equal influence in the decision-

making process. All members of the community were expected to participate in

the political debate.

Indian governments were highly decentralized and democratic, based

on rule by the people. . . . To remain in power, they [chiefs] needed
the support and approval of their people. . . . Many tribal
governments contained provisions for initiatives, referendums, and
recall. The right of male and female suffrage was the norm among
many tribes (O'Brien, pp. 16).

Further, both the Haudenosaunee and Lakota believed that everyone had a right

to share equally in Mother Earth's bounty; hence, the very structure of society

insured that economic inequality would never promote political inequality -- a

conception very different from that of Locke's.

It has been argued that Native Americans had no political system, nor a

practicing government. I will spend little time on this debate, as I will argue that

their traditional political systems were more democratic -- in the sense of

extensive participation and deliberation -- than that of John Locke's.

From the time of first contact between Europeans and Indians the
ideology of Europeans has insisted that tribal Indians had no "true"
government because Indians ordered their communities by kin
relationships instead of the impersonal, bureaucratic European state
form. Only Europeans, in this view, had "civil" government, so only
Europeans were civilized. . . . Such assumptions have plagued
scholars to the present day, but the kings' agents in America knew
how to distinguish between theory and practice. They understood
very well that Indians were organized in communities with
functioning governments that exercised real powers of control over
trade, territory, and military activity. These agents called the Indian
governments "nations" and made treaties with them to take
advantage of those nations' controls and powers. The treaty
documents refute the no-true-government myth on their face. These
texts show colonial and imperial statesmen formally recognizing
Indian chiefs as peers -- "brethren" -- with power and responsibility
to act on behalf of their nations and to fulfill contracts. Recognition
of, and purposeful interaction with, Indian political organizations is
fully in evidence (Jennings, pp. xiv-xv).

There is one other academic conflict to be resolved. Morgan argues that the

League began essentially as an oligarchy, where the 50 Sachems of the

Confederacy were installed to preserve the peace. Around them sprang up a class

of warriors who demanded participation in government, and were eventually

given the titles of "Chief". While the Sachems preserved the peace, the Chiefs

became advisors and counselors to the Sachems. Throughout time, participation

increased, and eventually this "oligarchy" developed into "democracy".

Sachemship was hereditary according to Morgan, but only in the sense that a
vacant Sachemship had to be filled by a person from the specific gens (clan) that

the deceased Sachem belonged to, in order to continue the equitable distribution

of the 50 Sachemships in the League. This insured that each clan of a particular

Nation would be equitably represented. At no point could the number of

Sachemships be increased, but was eternally limited to a total of fifty. This

number came about as a result of the original number of chieftanships each

individual Nation held at the time of League inception. Even though there may

have been have a disproportionate number of "Sachems" per tribe in the League‟s

Council, each individual tribe counted as one for the purposes of voting, i.e., each

could only vote as one unanimous voice.

To contradict Morgan, the person to fill the vacant position was elected by the

members of his gens, signifying democratic succession of leadership. Morgan

argues that "The tribes retained the power of designating successors, independent

of the [sachems] . . . " (Morgan, 1975, pp. 115). Engels notes, "The gens (clan)

elects its sachem (head of the gens in peace) and its chief (leader in war). The
sachem had to be chosen from among the members of the gens [hence its

hereditary nature] . . . All voted in the elections, both men and women" (Engels,

pp. 148). Charles Thompson, the secretary for the United State's Continental

Congress, in studying the Iroquois Confederacy "'stresses that the sachems or

political leaders do not acquire their positions by heredity but by election, . . . '"

(Weatherford, pp. 138).

Chieftanships in Haudenosaunee society were bestowed by election of the

people, the position dying with the individual's reputation or death. The office was

"bestowed in reward of public services, thus casting it by necessity upon the men

highest in capacity among them" (Morgan, 1975, pp. 101). Thus Chiefs were

"raised up" (elected) by the people due to merit alone. This, of course, is the very

essence of democracy. Morgan continues,

The extremely liberal character of their oligarchy is manifested by

the modus procedendi of these councils. It is obvious that the
sachems were not set over the people as arbitrary rulers, to legislate
as their own will might dictate, irrespective of the popular voice; on
the contrary, there is reason to believe that a public sentiment sprang
up on questions of general interest, which no council felt at liberty to
disregard. By deferring all action upon such questions until a council
brought together the sachems of the League, attended by a concourse
of inferior chiefs and warriors, an opportunity was given to the
people to judge for themselves, and to take such measures as were
necessary to give expression and force to their opinions. If the band
of warriors became interested in the passing question, they held a
council apart, and having given it a full consideration, appointed an
orator to communicate their views to the sachems, their Patres
Conscripti. In like manner would the chiefs, and even the women
proceed, if they entertained opinions which they wished to urge upon
the consideration of the council. From the publicity with which the
affairs of the League were conducted, and the indirect participation
in their adjustment thus allowed the people, a favorable indication is
afforded of the democratic spirit of the government (ibid, pp. 106).

Although Morgan argues initially that the Haudenosaunee political system was

a "liberalized oligarchy" (due to the nature of selection of Sachems:

democratically but only within the same clan as the previous Sachem had

belonged), by the end of his work he argues that their system was more

democratic than that of ancient Greece. He states, "The former [ancient Greece]

retained many elements of aristocracy, while the latter [the League of the

Haudenosaunee] had become so far liberalized as to be almost entirely free"

(Morgan, 1975, pp. 140), and further, that "It is, perhaps, the only league of

nations ever instituted among men, which can point to three centuries of

uninterrupted domestic unity and peace" (ibid, pp. 141).

Other scholars argue that the League was a shining example of democracy in a

time when monarchies, aristocracies and tyranny ruled most government

institutions. One of those scholars was Fredrick Engels, Karl Marx's patron and

fellow advocator of a communal economic system. He emphasizes that the tribes

elected the sachems themselves, while the Council reserved only the right to

inaugurate the elected person to Sachemship. He states, "They [the 50 Sachems]

were elected by the respective gentes whenever a vacancy occurred and could be

deposed by the gentes at any time; but the right of investing them with their office

belonged to the federal council" (Engels, pp. 157). He further emphasizes the
democratic nature of the political system, where every voice was heard in Council
meetings, and everyone's opinion respected. "The meetings of the council were

held in the presence of the assembled people; every [emphasis added] Iroquois

could speak; the council alone decided." (ibid, pp. 157).

According to the Haudenosaunee, their government, The League of the

Iroquois, came into existence between 1000 A.D. and 1450 A.D. The League,

once formed, was a model of cooperation, democratic participation, equality and

liberty. Lewis Henry Morgan, the anthropologist who extensively studied,

documented, and lived with the Haudenosaunee states, "In legislation, in

eloquence, in fortitude . . . they had no equals. . . . In the establishment of a

League for the double purpose of acquiring strength and securing peace, their

capacity for civil organization, and their wisdom in legislation were favorably

exhibited" (Morgan, 1975, pp. 55).

The Six Nations did not always enjoy peace and democratic government.

Around five hundred years before the arrival of Columbus to the Americas, terror

reigned in the life of the Haudenosaunee. It was a time of killing for vengeance,

and vengeance for killing. "All order and safety had broken down completely and

the rule of the headhunter dominated the culture. . . . [there was] a spiral of

vengeance and reprisal which found assassins stalking the Northeastern

woodlands in a never ending senseless bloodletting" (Wallace, pp. xvi.).

In this environment, a great man, Deganawidah, better known simply as the

Great Peacemaker, moved among the people, advocating the idea that "all human

beings possess the power of rational thought and that in the belief in rational

thought is to be found the power to create peace" (ibid, pp. xvi). Further, "people

simply couldn't think clearly in an environment dominated by revenge and death,

fear and hatred" (ibid, pp. xix). Eventually, the Peacemaker's proposal of bringing
peace to these warring nations inspired the creation of the League.
The League of the Haudenosaunee was based on the idea that all humans

possessed rational thought and therefore the ability to use that inherent

endowment to create institutions that were devoted to the creation and

maintenance of peace: specifically, civil government.

Initially, the League contained only five Haudenosaunee Nations, while the

sixth, the Tuscaroras, joined the League in about 1715. The Council of the League

consisted of 50 Sachems -- leaders, from each of the original five nations of the

Haudenosaunee; the Mohawk, the Seneca, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the
Oneidas. Although the numbers of Sachems per tribe were diverse, each nation

had only one vote on any Confederacy issue, as well as a veto upon the other four

nations. The individual tribes were otherwise self-governing, as the League did

not interfere in internal tribal government.

The Sioux Nation originally resided in the area of what is now called

Minnesota. Pushed westward by ever-growing European expansion, they

eventually were forced across the Missouri and on to the plains of Nebraska,

South and North Dakota. Eventually the one Nation divided into three bands, each

with its own distinctive dialect: the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota.

The Lakota Nation, once on the vast prairies of the Midwest, for unknown

reasons (possibly a lack of unanimous agreement over a political or social

situation), then divided into seven different bands; the Oglala, Brule, Blackfeet,

Hunkpapa, Minneconjou, Sisseton, and Yankton; the Oglala being the largest of

the seven. The word “Oglala” means literally “to scatter one‟s own”, although its

origin and meaning remain unclear.

The confederacy came to be known as “The Seven Council Fires”, a loose-knit

organization which gathered once a year for political and ceremonial purposes.

They [the Lakota] also speak of themselves as Oceti Sakowin, . . .
which means the Seven Council Fires, and indicates that they
considered themselves as one tribe divided into seven gentes
[bands], each gens governed by its own council, and the tribe bound
together by a kind of confederacy. . . . The only binding force of this
confederation was that no one of these clans [bands] should be at
war or enmity with any other, . . . (Walker, 1982, pp. 15).

The governmental organization of the Seven Council Fires and that of the

individual bands within the Nation were similar, each consisting of tribal councils

as the major organ of decision-making. The structure of decision-making centered

on participation among all members of the tribe or tribes and extensive

deliberation of issues and alternative courses for any decision of import.

The government of the Lakota Nation had a structure similar to that

of each of the seven bands. Every summer the bands assembled to
decide matters of national importance, to participate in the Sun
Dance, and to renew acquaintances. The nacas [civil leaders] of each
band formed the national council (O'Brien, pp. 26).

The political arena for both groups essentially was based on one concept.

Just as the indigenous American seeks as the most fundamental goal in life

establishment of harmony with all things, so the end of the political arena reflects

this philosophical precept. Harmony was both the basis and the end of political

society, and of life itself for the indigenous American. Harmony among Mother

Earth, the Creator and his creations were central to Native American societies in

general: these were a everyday part of life so imbedded into society and the

psyche that it was anomalous to think or act in any other way. "The primary goal

of religion and politics was to achieve harmony between all elements -- the land,

plant and animal life, and the human community" (O'Brien, pp. 15).

Everything was integrated in indigenous belief: therefore politics could not be

separated from spirituality, economics, nor the philosophy of being human.

Walker observed, “all formal [political] deliberations took place around a fire, the

coals from which were used to light the pipe whose smoke brought the minds of

men into harmony with one another and with the gods” (Walker, 1982, pp. 12).

What is harmony? If human life is the music, then harmony is that inspiring

melody that arises when each is in tune with one's self and with all others. It is the

peace and fulfillment within us when our own inner void is filled with the

connection to the Creator and the world. It is knowing we are never alone: that all

our relations are with us, and that the Creator is all-present, all-pervasive. Living
in harmony, which necessitates living spiritually, was life for indigenous peoples.

Harmony is about concordious unity. It is about working together, where the

whole is recognized as more than just the sum of its parts. If even one player is

out of tune, there can be no harmony, and then all suffer. Hence, indigenous

peoples emphasized community rather than extreme individuality.

With harmony as the objective in indigenous communities, consensual

decision-making was key. Majority rule surely could not be the way to make

decisions, for how can harmony flourish if 49% of the people are dissatisfied with

the policies of the other 51%? Engles notes, "Among the Iroquois the final

decision had to be unanimous, . . . " (Engels, pp. 154-155). Morgan observes that,

All the sachems of the League, in whom originally was vested the
entire civil power, were required to be of „one mind‟, to give
efficacy to their legislation. Unanimity was a fundamental law. The
idea of majorities and minorities were entirely unknown to our
Indian predecessors (Morgan, 1975, pp. 111).

Likewise, among the Lakota, decisions had to be consensual.

The ideas of majority rule and minority rights, however, were

political concepts not used in their governing systems. Tribes made
decisions based on consensus because their cultures stressed
harmony of the whole. Since unanimity was necessary, dissension
and disharmony were avoided (O‟Brien, pp. 16).

In order to achieve harmony, a decision by the council could not bind a

member of the tribe who adamantly disagreed with said decision. Minority rights,

i.e., the supremacy of individual conscience, was well respected within Lakota

and Haudenosaunee societies. Majority rule is inconsistent with establishment and

preservation of harmony in society, as the minority will always be dissatisfied

with a majority decision. Hence, consensus had to be reached between members

in society, or no decision could be made for the group at all. "The requirement that

tribal and confederacy decisions be unanimous meant that leaders had to consider

and balance all viewpoints. In the Iroquois League, rule by council consensus did

not mean rule by a few or even by a majority, but rule by all" (Morgan, 1975, pp.


For the Haudenosaunee and Lakota, all aspects of social and political life were

discussed in civil councils. Morgan argues that "nearly very transaction, whether

social or political, originated or terminated in a council" (Morgan, 1975, pp. 107),

and that further, "Sachems, chiefs and warriors, women, and even children,

deserted their hunting grounds and woodland seclusion's, and taking the trail,

literally flocked to the place of council" (ibid, pp. 110). Hence, political
deliberation at its most inclusive level was an inherent part of day to day life for

the Haudenosaunee. Involvement in the decision-making process was open to all -

- women and children included, over four and a half centuries before European

women were given the same privilege. All opinions were heard, discussed, and


What issues of import were considered "council business"? Almost every

aspect of social life and any decision-making. Ordinances for governing the camp
and keeping the peace, within and among the Lakota Nations and other indigenous

Nations; arbitration of disputes; "when a camp should move and where it should

move to, and the order of moving; when hunting parties should go and what

territory such parties should hunt in; and advised as to the distribution of proceeds

of a hunt" (Walker, 1982, pp. 30), as well as when to go to war, and who against.

In the Lakota camp, the largest tipi had no living occupants, rather, it was

specifically reserved for council meetings among the people. "A large tipi is

erected in the hocoka [camp circle], . . . which is called the tiyotipi. No one lives
in the tiyotipi. The chiefs and headmen sit in the tiyotipi to council about the

affairs of the camp and the people" (Walker, 1982, pp. 22).

The council tipi was the public lodge of the camp, where all
communal gatherings were held, and all business of common
interest to the camp was transacted. If business of importance was to
be done, a fire was made on the fireplace of the council lodge, and
this was known as the council fire. Business transacted about the
council fire was of the nature of legislation . . (ibid, pp. 23).

Not only were all members of the tribe allowed to participate politically in the

affairs of the tribe, but it would have been unthinkable not to voice concerns in

political councils in traditional indigenous societies. The "council" for the Native

American was similar to Locke‟s conception of a legislature, the major difference

being that all citizens gathered to express their opinion when political decisions

were being deliberated, or at least sent a speaker to discuss the concerns of those

who could not attend. Chiefs, warriors, women, even the young, those under 18,

were able to voice their concerns in tribal decision-making. Further, each of these

concerns were respectfully heard, considered, and deliberated if needed. Extensive

participation in tribal politics, like spirituality, was an inherent part of everyday

life for Lakota and Haudenosaunee people. For indigenous Americans,

involvement in the day to day matters concerning the tribe was considered an

inherent part of being in community.

The Lakota were self-governors, and the rules and regulations that
governed the conduct of people and established their duties as
individuals, families, and bands came from a great tribal
consciousness. Deep within the people, mingling with their
emotions, was an inherent sense of solidarity -- a tie between one
and all others . . . (Standing Bear, pp. 124).

Both indigenous groups instituted a system enabling individual participation,

beyond allowing all views to be heard and considered. A kind of local

"referendum" on issues affecting tribal or League policy thrived.

If any individual desired to bring any proposition before the general

council, he must first gain the assent of his family, then his clan,
next of the four related clans in his gens of the council house, then of
his nation, and thus in due course . . . the business would be brought
up before the representatives of the confederacy [if involving more
than one Nation]. In the reverse order, the measures of the general
council were sent down to the people for their approval. It was a
standing rule that all action should be unanimous. Hence the
discussions were . . . continued until all opposition was reasoned
down, or the proposed measure abandoned (Jennings, pp. 13).

In Lakota society, when any council of import was held, "it was announced to

the village, an old man stopping in front of each tipi calling 'Omniciye kte lo!'

This apprised the men of each tipi that a council was to be held" (ibid, pp. 127-

128). Individuals holding similar (consensual) opinions on a particular issue of

tribal concern formed “Civil societies”, and orators for each society spoke before

the tribal council freely. Women participated through forming the same civil

councils to address their issues. Women's concerns and opinions were always

addressed, as were those of all other groups forming consensual opinions in

society. All who had an opinion were allowed to speak or expected to send an

orator to the council meeting to express concerns and opinions, where they could

be deliberated openly.

For both Nations, ruling was centered on the concept of service. Leadership,

rather than giving a person an advantage over others, i.e., power, consisted of

accepting a large responsibility for the Nation. Leadership consisted

responsibility: of a duty to act in the people's best interest, for the common good,

while one's own interests' lye fallow. Further, it was a leader's duty to see that all

in society were well fed, clothed and sheltered, even if that meant giving of one‟s
own possessions.

In Lakota society, "Chiefs" or "Headmen" were chosen by consensus. Standing

Bear insists, that "only the finest of men became chiefs" (Standing Bear, pp. 132).

He further argues that "most of them [Chiefs] were men who gave their best

abilities, even sacrificed, to be of service to their fellows" (ibid, pp. 132). They

were typically persons with great wisdom, and great oratory skills, as

demonstrated throughout their lifetime. "They could never order, only persuade.

Leaders lacked the power to dictate or to enforce their decisions. Their rule

depended on their performance, their powers of persuasion, and the respect they

were accorded" (O'Brien, pp. 16). In Lakota society,

the crier, always some old and very judicious and respected man,
hurried through the camp with any news or warnings of danger, . . .
or proclaiming the council's decisions. And they were decisions, and
not orders, for no Sioux could tell anyone what to do [emphasis
added]. The only position a Sioux inherited was his membership in
the tribe. He became a leader, a chief because some were willing to
follow him and retained his position only as long as the following
remained (Sandoz, pp. 29).

Walker agrees. A chief‟s only weapon in Lakota and Haudenosaunee societies

was that of persuasion. A leader gained that position by gaining a reputation for

wisdom, courage, bravery, or generosity. The people recognized a leader as such

only while he maintained these qualities, and could choose another at any time.

If the affairs of the band were conducted in accordance with the

desires of the people composing it, it maintained its prestige, but if
the chief lost his authority or the respect of his people, his band was
apt to desert him, and reduce him and his band to a minor place in
the affairs of the tribe, or even extinguish the band altogether
(Walker, 1982, pp. 24).

Those elected were chosen because of personal wisdom, generosity, and clarity

of thought and vision. "A headman achieved his position by possessing family

status and demonstrating bravery, fortitude, generosity, wisdom, and spiritual

powers gained through dreams or visions" (O'Brien, pp. 24). Further, "A chief's

authority depended on his wisdom and ability to carry out his wishes [persuasion,

never force]" (Walker, 1982, pp. 25).

proof of the young man's fitness had to be evident to the whole

council. Sometimes the matter [election of a "chief"] was deferred
from year to year until worth was fully proven, for the place of chief
was one to be gained in no way except by merit. The young chief
must know the hard life of the hunter and the perils of the scout and
warrior; must be slow in speech and decision; must be honest in
council, and have the confidence of the people. . . . All matters, . . .
were done in conference with other chiefs and leaders. And lastly,
the young chief must be a giver and not a receiver -- a man of self-
denial (Standing Bear, pp. 137).

Importantly, no person, including "chiefs", "sachems" or "headmen" could ever

tell another individual what to do, as respect for personal autonomy was

considered intrinsic to harmonious living. Rather, leaders possessed only the use

of persuasion via eloquent oratory in gathering consensus for a particular policy.

“Power”, once again, was never a tool to be used in the political arena. Rather,

power was turned on its head and defined as responsibility. For responsibility

builds community, while power erodes harmony.

No Lakota chief ever dreamed of using the power of a judge in

court, or a policeman on a street corner, for it was not a tenet of his
society that one individual should account to another for his
conduct. No chief could declare warfare and command other braves
to follow him (Standing Bear, pp. 132).

Further, for the Lakota, a decision made by a "chief or headman", or a treaty

signed by a tribal elder, was not binding to all members of Lakota society -- only

those that were signatories or who agreed to agree were bound by treaty. This was

a major source of conflict between Europeans and Native Americans. If a

government treaty was signed saying that two indigenous Nations would live

peacefully with each other, it bound only signatories, not the rest of the tribe. If a

warrior, following his own conscience, felt he had to retaliate for harm done or

whatever the reason, it was his or her right to do so, regardless of paper


Individual liberty, then, was at its height in indigenous society. The right of an

individual to follow his or her heart, i.e., one's own conscience -- was absolute.

The individual was presumed rational, ethical (for one cannot live in harmony

without following a strict ethical code), and capable of an astute sense of justice.

After all, "A society that has no locks can tolerate no thief, without paper or other

easy record of man's word it can tolerate no liar, and no troublemaker if there is no

jail, no prison. Such a society must orient its young very early" (Sandoz, pp. 43).

Individual conscience, and its twin sister individual liberty, in the fullest sense of

that word, were clearly and adamantly respected -- as was individual decision-

making. Standing Bear, an Oglala Sioux, recalls that, "the council made no laws
that were enforceable upon individuals. Were it decided to move camp, the
decision was compulsory upon no one. . . . However, in most matters a decision

that was favorable for one was favorable for all" (Standing Bear, pp. 129-130).

For the Haudenosaunee, the situation was similar.

All the members of an Iroquois gens were personally free, and they
were bound to defend each other's freedom; they were equal in
privileges and in personal rights, the sachem and chiefs claiming no
superiority; and they were a brotherhood bound together by the ties
of kin. Liberty, equality, and fraternity, though never formulated,
were cardinal principles of the gens. These facts are material,
because the gens was the unit of a social and governmental system,
the foundation upon which Indian society was organized.. . . It
serves to explain that sense of independence and personal dignity
universally an attribute of Indian character (Engels, pp. 151).

If tribal members adamantly were against a decision, they could simply refuse

to act on it, or they were allowed to go off to other territories and start a new band

of Haudenosaunee, with the help and comforts of the original band. This was true

with the Lakota also: in fact, it has been argued that a lack of unity is what may

have split the original Nation into the "Seven Council Fires". Hence, individuality

was respected, and no individual could be forced to go against his own

conscience. There was no absolute authority -- in a society based on liberty,

freedom, and harmony, there could never be a concept of absolute power. The

interests of the people were always to come first, and if a leader went against the

people's best interest, refusing to yield to pressure, the women had the right to

divest him of his power and elect a successor.

While only men could be elected to chieftanship or sachem, the women held

the key position of appointing and removing, in order to facilitate checks and

balances on the power of individuals.

When a chief died, the women of his tribe and clan held a meeting at
which a candidate for the vacant place was decided upon. A woman
delegate carried the news to the chiefs of [the deceased] clans . . .
They had the power to veto the selection, in which case another
women's meeting was called and another candidate was selected.
Usually, however, the first choice of the women was confirmed . . .
Thereupon the candidacy was carried to the Confederate Council to
be ratified (Owen, pp. 571)

The participation of the women in the procedure did not end

there. The woman delegate, . . . had to keep close watch over the
ways and actions of the young chief. If he displayed an inclination to
deviate from the accepted code of behaviour, the woman delegate
appeared before him and tried to persuade him to desist from his evil
practices. [This was repeated twice.] If their efforts proved
unsuccessful, the woman delegate called a meeting of the women of
her clan and publicly denounced the chief. The impeachment then
passed through the various bodies referred to before, up to the final
ratification by the Confederate Council. Thereupon the chief was
formally deposed, and his place was declared vacant. The prominent
part played by women in the election and deposition of chiefs marks
their high social status among the Iroquois (Owen, pp. 571-572).

In Lakota societies, if council members acted against the best interest of the

tribe, and pressure brought to bear had no effect upon their decision, they could be

removed at any time. "If the people were not pleased [with a chief or headman]

they might either join another band and leave the new chief with little or no

following, or they might choose another chief, in which case the one first chosen

was considered as deposed" (Walker, 1982, pp. 24).

Those in either society that disagreed with a tribal decision or general law were

always free to leave and begin their own band.

Among the Oglala Sioux Indians, a man in a camp was subject to the
commonly accepted laws and customs, and to the regulations of that
camp. If he desired to be free from these regulations he might set up
his tipi alone, far away from the camp, where he would be chief of
his own family, and govern all within his own tipi. If others
permanently placed their tipis near his, they formed a new camp, and
a new band, of which he was the chief. . . . if a large number joined
the new band, it became important in the affairs of the tribe, and its
chief a person of corresponding importance (Walker, 1982, pp.23-4).

Further, leaders possessed no power to punish transgressors of tribal codes.

There was no official punisher or sentence-body in the band or tribe.
The fate of the wrongdoer lay in the hands of the people of the band,
and chief, nor headman, in himself, had the power to impose
sentence of any sort. There was only the idea which repose in tribal
consciousness that wrong must not be allowed to flourish and right
must prevail. The way of the tribe in dealing with an offender was
simple and dignified. There was no violence such as whipping, . . .
no pompous show of authority. When it became necessary for the
band to protect itself it did so by merely ignoring and ostracizing the
violator (Standing Bear, pp. 136).

However, things changed over time. The akicita societies eventually became

the policing unit of the band or Nation. However, this occurred much later in the

history of the Lakota Nations, and in proportion to growth of population and

territory. Originally “policing” was neither desired nor necessary.

Basically, peer pressure of the entire band, through ridicule or ostracism, was

usually enough to conform an individual's behavior towards action that was in

best interest of tribe, rather than in his or her own best interest. If one's crime were

of an especially heinous nature, total ostracism from the band, physically or

theoretically, was generally the solution. For any person who acted in their own

interest over that of the people's was a danger to the entire Nation. Such a person

was conceived as harmful to the social order, and a bad example for the children.
Hence, in Lakota society, the power to punish transgressors lay not in any kind of

"magistrate", but rather literally in the hands of the people themselves.

How could unanimous or more appropriately, consensual decisions be reached

among so many people? The League of the Iroquois contained over twenty

thousand members. The Lakota people numbered in the thousands. How could

they possibly come to harmonious, consensual decisions? Obviously,

sophisticated organizational capabilities were necessary. Civil procedure was thus

well established within both indigenous Nation‟s democratic systems. For the


Council procedure was fairly established with definite rules as to

who spoke first and who responded, as between petitioner and
respondent. In general, the party that kindles the fire (calls the
meeting) must open and cover it, if only to open the council so as to
hear the message of the petitioners, and later to reply and send them
on their way. Moreover, a council called for one purpose such as
peace, and so stated in the invitation belts, may not be diverted
midstream to another purpose, such as war. The Indians were very
particular about this. . . . Propositions must be stated clearly and they
must be heard without interruption. At the end, listeners may raise
questions in acknowledging the speech, which may be answered
then and there or postponed to another day. . . . It was customary,
and almost a rule, to acknowledge a message, but not to answer the
same day. The proper way was to sleep on it over night, counsel
together the next day until they attained unanimity -- "One Mind" --
and then speak with one voice (Jennings, pp. 24).

The Lakota based their decision-making techniques on the same conceptual

structure. The “nacas”, or civil councils, served as legislative bodies for the

Nation. The chief‟s council, or naca ominicia, was the major leadership body. The

membership consisted of those that had proven themselves as far as wisdom,

patience, bravery, and integrity. Elders were usually especially honored in the

naca ominicia, for their wisdom and knowledge. However, any member of the

Nation could voice their concerns in council and have their issues seriously

addressed. Decisions, as with the Haudenosaunee, had to be unanimous or be set

aside in order to facilitate harmony.

The Naca Ominicia was, in truth, the real council of the tribe. It was
this body which met at the Red Council Lodge at the center of the
circle to hear the reports of scouts, to determine whether a tribal hunt
should be held, whether camp should be moved, whether war was to
be declared or peace was to be made. In this sense, the Naca
Ominicia held a true legislative responsibility. It is said that the
members acted only in unison, that decisions were reached only with
unanimous voice. Here the individual constituted a potent minority
with veto power. The group must convince the opposition, mediate
and reconcile differences, or acquiesce and forego the decision
(Hassrick, pp. 25).

The elder held a special place in Lakota society (Haudenosaunee also), as his/her

wisdom was greatly respected among the people.

The nacas, or civil societies, . . . capitalized on the wisdom of

maturity. Of all the nacas societies, the group called Naca Ominicia
was the most important. Composed of former headmen, hunters,
warriors, and shamans, the Naca Ominicia functioned as the tribal
council. The council could only act by consensus. Its responsibilities
were broad, ranging from determining the time and place of tribal
hunts and relocations to appointing tribal administrators and
executives to declaring war and peace (O'Brien, pp. 25).

The Haudenosaunee system of decision-making has been much more

extensively documented than that of the Lakota, for obvious reasons. Their

contact with Europeans was earlier, before the influence of white settlers had

decimated traditional indigenous cultures. Thus, it was better documented than the

traditions of the Lakota Nations, who at the time were considered a hostile enemy

of the United States until (actually, currently).

When an issue was brought before the council, the Mohawks and
Senecas discussed it first, then informed the Younger Brothers, the
Cayugas and Oneidas, of the conclusions they, as Older Brothers,
had reached. If the Older and Younger Brothers disagreed, the
Onondagas task was to search for paths of compromise and renewed
discussion. The Onondagas would then return the issue to the Older
and Younger Brothers for further consideration. When both
brotherhoods finally reached agreement, the Onondagas were
responsible for confirming the decision or subjecting it to further
discussion. Ideally, final decisions were unanimous. All council
members were to be of 'one heart, one mind, one law' (O'Brien, pp.

Within the various tribes, unanimity was reached similarly. Usually consensus

on what would create a “common good” for the tribe as a whole could be reached,

but if not, any decision had to be set aside to be addressed at another time.

The system was one of democracy from the bottom up. When of issue of

substance came before the Haudenosaunee people, civil councils were formed.

Warriors might form a council, women another, Chiefs another, etc. Unanimity of

opinions were reached or civil councils splintered into unanimous groups. Each

group would appoint an orator to give the group's consensual decision. From
there, a Nation would bring their councils together, along with the Sachems, to

reach a unanimous position for the tribe. Once unanimity was reached within the

tribe, the Council of the League would gather to deliberate, and try to come to

unanimity on an issue so that they might take action.

The Sachems of each of the Five Nations then came together among

themselves, trying to reach a unanimous decision for each of the Five Nations.

Under no circumstances could the Council of the League make a decision or take

action without unanimity of all 50 Sachems: essentially, unanimity of the people.

Just as the people were involved in the first level of the decision-making process,

i.e. by forming councils and sending unanimous decisions to higher councils, they

were fundamentally involved at the end of the decision-making process also. After

decisions were agreed upon by the 50 Sachems of the League, "an appeal was

made to the people, hoping they would agree" (Jennings, pp. 33).

If unanimity could not be reached within the Council of 50 Sachems, the

decision had to be put aside. "When the council could not reach agreement despite

its best efforts, the Onondagas extinguished the confederacy council fire, thereby

giving each member nation the right to pursue an independent policy" (O'Brien,
pp. 19).
If the decision was rather clear-cut, and only a few Sachems were holding out

on unanimity, pressure was brought to bear on the hold-outs; if they could utterly

not be persuaded, the issue had to be put aside. "If any sachem was obdurate or

unreasonable, influences were brought to bear upon him which he could not well

resist; and it was seldom that inconvenience resulted from their inflexible

adherence to the rule" (Morgan, 1975, pp. 113).

Typically, a just decision could be unanimously reached, as the Sachems ruled

for the common good of the tribe or tribes, as opposed to ruling in the interest of
increasing power, prestige, or level of wealth. Morgan explains the system of

"being of" or "coming to" one mind.

The founders of the Confederacy, seeking to obviate as far as

possible altercation in council, and to facilitate their progress to
unanimity, divided the sachems of each nation into classes, usually
of two and three each, . . . . No sachem was permitted to express an
opinion in council, until he had agreed with the other sachem or
sachems of his class, upon the opinion to be expressed, and had
received an appointment to act as speaker for the class. Thus the
eight Seneca sachems, being in four classes, could have but four
opinions; the ten Cayuga sachems but four. In this manner each class
was brought to unanimity within itself. A cross-consultation was
then held between the four sachems who represented the four
classes; and when they had agreed, they appointed one of their
number to express their resulting opinion, which was the answer for
their nation. The ingenious method, to become of "one mind"
separately, it only remained to compare their several opinions, to
arrive at the final sentiment of all the sachems of the League. This
was effected by a conference between the individual representatives
of the several nations; and when they had arrived at unanimity, the
answer of the League was determined (Morgan, 1975, pp. 112).

Intra-tribal governments operated on the same basic terms as inter-tribal relations

were organized. Morgan states, "The central government [of the League] was

organized and administered upon the same principles which regulated that of each

nation, in its separate capacity; the nations sustaining nearly the same relation to

the League, that the American states bear to the Union" (ibid, pp. 62).

Within the various gens of the 6 Haudenosaunee Nations, politics were

similarly conducted. "The clans had their separate councils; but an ad hoc village

council of ranking clan chiefs, elders, and wise men made local policy. In a sense

the same thing happened at national and League levels" (Jennings, pp. 12). Engels

observes, "The gens has a council, the democratic assembly of all male and female

adult gentiles, all with equal votes. This council elected sachems, war chiefs and
also the other "keepers of the Faith" and deposed them. . . . In short, it [the

council] was the sovereign power in the gens" (Engels, pp. 151).

The League itself could only act on issues that involved two or more tribes. If

an issue involved only a single tribe within the League, that tribe was sovereign in

its decision-making capability. As with respect for the conscience and reasoning

capability of the individual, so too were the tribes accorded the respect to act

independently according to the wishes of its people. Rule from below was

generally the guiding principle.

A tribal council would be established, which met publicly to settle important

tribal issues. Leaders were democratically and unanimously agreed upon by the

people of the Nation. All members of the community were welcome to voice their

opinions and discuss their concerns, while the council alone came to a unanimous

decision that would respect all person's views. Engels notes that the political

system within the individual Haudenosaunee Nations consisted of

A tribal council for the common affairs of the tribe. It was composed
of all the sachems and war chiefs of the different gentes, who were
genuinely representative because they could be deposed at any time.

It held its deliberations in public surrounded by the other members
of the tribe, who had the rights to join freely in the discussion and to
make their views heard. The decision rested with the council. As a
rule, everyone was given a hearing who asked for it; the women
could also have their views expressed by a speaker of their own
choice (Engels, pp. 154-5).

Within both indigenous societies, a council of persons “elected”, “raised up”

or consensually agreed upon by tribal members constituted the major decision-

making body. Input from the community, usually in the form of representatives

from various civil societies, had to be considered to facilitate decisions that would

be acceptable to all. As such, the people‟s will underlyed any decision reached by

the council. As with the League, if a decision was not consensual, no action could

be taken. Essentially, then, the people of each tribe were sovereign in their

decision-making capability, unless an issue involved two or more of the League's

or Seven Council Fires‟ tribes.

The Lakota system was similar to that of the Haudenosaunee, but not nearly as

formalized. The Lakota held no numerical limits for their tribal council members.

Sometimes it would take several council meetings before a person would be

chosen for Chief or Headman -- sometimes, if the person chosen was considered

too young for such responsibility, the women would act in his behalf until the time

of maturity came. "The Sioux had no head chief. Instead, there was a council of

headmen selected for regular, specified terms by the people, who retained the right

to throw them one or all from their high place at any time" (Sandoz, pp. 33).

Holding the position of investing and divesting leaders, the women acted as the

judiciary over the tribal council and their members -- were they overstepping their

bounds? Keeping the best interest of the tribe at heart and in their actions?

Working for the common good and not their own individual interest? If not, it was

the women who held the responsibility of insuring that justice prevailed. ". . . the

senior living woman is the matriarch and she presides over the household and

makes ultimate decisions on social and political matters [emphasis mine]"

(Jennings, pp. 10). After all, they were the ultimate judges and jurors over council

members. Schaaf elaborates,

The Iroquoian 'supreme court' was entrusted to the women. Clan

Mother and Women's Councils maintained a balance of power in
their matrilineal society. Women nominated chie[f] statesmen as
political and religious leaders, lending a maternal insight into good
leadership qualities. Their standards were set very high. . . . All
royaneh (Chief Statesmen) of the Five Nations must be honest in all
things. . . . Their hearts shall be full of peace and good will and their
minds filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the
Confederacy . . . . Women also held the power to impeach any leader
who failed -- after three warnings -- to serve the best interests of the
people (Schaaf, pp. 3).

While Sachemships and Chiefs were positions reserved only for male members

of a tribe, it was the women who appointed and removed leaders who dared to act

in their personal, rather than tribal, interest. "If the conduct of any sachem

appeared improper to the populace or if he lost the confidence of his electorate,

the women of his clan impeached him and expelled him by official action,

whereupon the women then choose a new sachem" (Weatherford, pp. 138-139),

and further, "men owed their offices to female succession" (Jennings, pp. 9). For

in Haudenosaunee society, "leaders" were to follow -- follow the people's will, not

their own. Engels observes, "The authority of the sachem within the gens was

paternal and purely moral in character; he had no means of coercion." (Engles, pp.


For the Lakota, as with the Haudenosaunee, if a council member was pushing a

decision that was considered by the women as not in the common interest,

pressure was brought to bear upon him, and three warnings were given: if he had

not "come around" to governing for the common good, the women were prompt

about removing him. Further, "Women, and girls too, . . . held chieftanship when

bands lost all their men of leadership stature, as in the great scourges and in the

later Sioux wars, when so many good men died. Sitting Bull returned from

Canada in 1881 with a couple of women among his chiefs" (Sandoz, pp. 72).
Forty years before women in the United States were awarded the priviledge to

vote, Lakota women were actually governing their bands and their Nations.

The ordered divisions in the decision-making system of the League appear to

be reflected in the United State‟s system of a three-branch government. The

Mohawks and Senecas, the "Younger Brothers", had similar legislative functions

as the U.S. House of Representatives. The Cayugas and Oneidas, as "Older

Brothers", had functions similar to the U.S. Senate. The Onondagas, being the

most centrally located geographically of the Five Nations (hence League council

meetings were held at their "council fire"), were given the task of seeking

compromise if the Younger and Older Brothers could not come to a consensual

decision, including sending back proposed policies for further discussion or

giving final confirmation, much like the power of the executive in U.S.

government today.

The Haudenosaunee's three branches of government: the Younger Brothers, the

Older Brothers, and the "Council Firekeepers" (the Onondaga) were a perfect

example of separation of power and checks and balances. Schaaf explains, "The

Onondaga, . . . paralleled the presidency of the U.S. executive branch. The

Mohawk and Seneca, united as Elder Brothers, formed the upper house of the
traditional Senate. The Oneida and Cayuga, composed the Younger Brothers,

similar to the House of Representatives" (Schaaf, pp. 3). The "judiciary" of the

Haudenosaunee, as discussed above, was entrusted to the women.

The idea of separation of power and checks and balances, so fundamental to

the conception of democratic government, had been firmly in place since at least

1450 C.E. for the Haudenosaunee, and before the time of Locke‟s birth for the

Lakota Nations.

Women‟s responsibility in decision-making for both indigenous societies

provides a clear example of classical checks and balances and separation of

power. Women appointed and removed the actual decision-makers in both

indigenous systems, in order to ensure that Headmen and Sachems would act only

in the common interest, never in their own individual interest. Removal was swift

and final.

Both Nations and Confederacies insistence on unanimity in decision-making

provided a clear check on power: no action could be taken unless all were of "one

heart, one mind". Essentially, each Nation had veto power over the others, and

each group of individuals had veto power over the whole. Chiefs and Sachems

had veto power over each other, for they also had to come to unanimous

agreement among themselves before they could speak on an issue. This was true

for both the Lakota and Haudenosaunee, for if all could not agree, no decision

could be made.

If the chiefs were unable to „roll their words into one bundle,‟ that is,
unable to reach unanimous agreement, the issue could only be set
aside and the council fire „covered with ashes‟. This requirement
meant that any chief had a virtual veto on any proposal before the
council (Sturdevant, pp. 422).

Separation of civil and military power was another important concept for the

Haudenosaunee and the Lakota. In the case of the Haudenosaunee, "Sachems"

were rulers in times of peace and the final decision-makers for the entire Nation or

Nations. "Chiefs", on the other hand, were elected leaders in time of war. One

person could never hold both offices at once, rather, civil and military leaders

were always separate persons, as another check on power.

The Lakota had a similar system in place. While “Nacas” were civil councils,

the “Akicita” societies were warrior and later, “policing” groups. As the Lakota
grew in numbers and territory, the need for warrior societies diminished, while the

need for policing groups increased.

In a sense, the Sioux culture had so thoroughly indoctrinated its

youth that it possessed a standing army without now having to
organize one. Rather, it needed internal police to maintain its way of
life from within. And the Akicita societies were officially directed
toward ensuring this more recent need (Hassrick, pp. 22).

Regardless, civil and military responsibilities were always in separate hands,

constituting a clear check on power.

Further, the many different akicita societies abounding in a particular tribe or

band took turns keeping general order in the camp. Never would the same

"society" serve twice in a row. This insured that one society would not come to

think of itself as the order-keepers or gravitate to believing they held a position of

power over people in the Nation. Most of the repressive governments in the world

today suffer from this kind of lack of separation of power, where civil and military

powers are vested in one body.

The women possessed decision-making capabilities even in military matters.

Although Chiefs (generally men) were leaders in time of war, the women

"maintained a sort of veto power to stop wars" (Schaaf, pp. 3). As a group they

could dissent from decisions to initiate war in council. Further, being the persons

generally in charge of preservation and distribution of food, women could simply

refuse, if necessary, to provide adequate supplies for someone going on the “war-

path” against their wishes. The rights and wishes of the women were always

respected when decisions of war and peace lingered, for war affects the entire


Further checks on power were evident. The governing Council of the

Haudenosaunee could not convene itself -- rather, each of the five tribes had the
sole right of calling the Council together, to discuss important matters of the

Confederacy or Nations. This check on power ensured that the council could not

become autonomous in decision-making. Thereby, the League Council would

always remain subordinate to the people, and its "power" subverted to the

authority of the individual tribes.

Further, the League itself never had authority over matters concerning an

individual band or Nation -- those conflicts were handled internally, within the

Nation itself, on the same democratic basis used by the League. The League could

only act where two or more Nations were involved.

And finally, the genuine and extensive participation of all persons in a

deliberative decision-making setting is the most fundamental check on power that

human history has ever witnessed.

The League of the Haudenosaunee, the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota

Nations, and the independent Nations and families that they consisted of, all had

as a cornerstone of their political system both the concepts and the working reality

of a democracy where extensive participation and deliberation were fundamental;

where each and every voice was heard and respected; where separation of powers
and checks and balances were inherent in the political order, to insure that those
that lead actually followed. For "leaders" were a part of the community, and could

not be separated nor immune from the consequences to it. What befell the people,

befell the "leaders who followed" in indigenous society.

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and

daughters of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in

it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself” (Gifford, pp. 47). Native

American decision-makers knew this, that the consequences of their actions

would come back to them and in fact define their lives and that of the people. The
fate of any individual in indigenous society was tied to that of the community.

This constituted a major motivational source for decision-makers and insured that

their actions were truly dedicated to the common good, rather than individual


The system was one dedicated to achieving harmony in society, hence the

uselessness of majority rule, and the necessity of consensus among leaders and the

people to make decisions in the interest of the common good. Leaders held no

"power" per se, other than that of persuasion. An individual, adamantly

disagreeing with the position of the tribe, was not forced to follow any decision.

Individual conscience was adamantly respected, as an inherent part of the

harmony of the whole.

It was a system where economic inequality never undermined political

equality, as so often happens in western capitalist republics. All had the "leisure

time necessary" to participate in political discourse. And since Mother Earth

belongs to no one and all at the same time, all shared equally in her bounty. All

had the right to the fundamentals of life -- according to Thoreau, that warmth

necessary to sustain human life: food, clothing, and shelter. And possibly more
important, community in the deepest sense of that term. Where each is responsible
for all, and all are responsible for each. All human beings are deserving of this

most fundamental respect; not only those bound by blood.

The history of Lakota and Haudenosaunee political society is democratic and

egalitarian. Unfortunately, the advent of the European would forever change the

cultural and social organization of these very advanced societies.

When in 1777 the Five Nations could not agree on participation in

the American Revolution, the League covered its fire, which had
burned since the founding at Onondaga; for all viable historical
purposes, it suspended functioning as a general government for the
Six Nations (Jennings, pp. 30).

One hundred and thirteen years later, on December 29, 1890, at a place called

Wounded Knee Creek, in what is now the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the

Oglala Lakota, the last armed resistance of Native Americans to forced reservation

living was extinguished as U.S. soldiers ran, in some cases miles, to gun down

unarmed women, children and men. Over 260 Lakota persons were killed that

day. Buried with the bodies in the common grave overlooking the massacre site

was a just political system that had been in practice for hundreds of years. It has

yet to be recovered.



Not all who wander are lost. –J.R.R. Tolkien9

Political man has experienced a rocky journey for the past 6,000 years. From

Pharoahs and Emperors to Monarchs and Priests, the quest for rule from below:

for meaningful democracy, has been long and winding. Accomplishing the

creation of a political system based on rights and freedom rather than absolute
power is in no way an insignificant achievement. The majority of mankind never

did, and in most cases still doesn‟t, have the luxury we in the West take for

granted: the simple freedom to have some choice in charting the course of our

lives. The right to speak out against injustice and tyranny; the right to dissent; the

right to organize that dissent, and the actual possibility that the ensuing message

may be heard by those in a position to make changes. It is truly a brave new world

unfolding almost inperceptibly throughout our day-to-day lives. Like the sands

underlying the water of a raging mountain stream, the political world around us is

constantly metamorphizing, while we are the oblivious power of the water itself.
Mankind has struggled for these rights since the birth of civilization: they have

only been actualized in the last few hundred years. Since the time of John Locke,

a mere 300 years, the course of political society on earth has undergone a dramatic

change. The idea of government based on consent – first proposed by Thomas

Hobbes – was the backbone of these freedoms we experience daily. But Hobbes‟

consent was absolute once made – the sovereign had unconditional power once

chosen and could not be removed from that position.

John Locke improved vastly upon this idea. For if consent creates government,

so too can it dissolve it. The foundation for democracy thus laid, Locke‟s Two

Treatises on Government became the major catalyst for revolution against tyranny

and institution of government based on consent of the governed.

John Locke‟s Two Treatises was the basic instrument for the “founding

fathers” in pledging the course of U.S. “democracy”. The United States‟ form of

representative government owes much to Locke‟s ideas, for our republic is a

model of Locke‟s theory practically implemented.

At the time of the Revolution, Lockean ideals of who should compose the

“people” were well embedded in the “founding fathers” psyches. White, male,

property-owners (and in some colonies Protestants) were the only group deemed

fit to participate in voting. Those that own the country should make the decisions

for it (which in many ways is still true today, although more thoroughly

disquised). A representative legislature was ensured to be well insulated from the

mandate of the general populace, as initially in the United States the only branch

of government directly elected by the people was the House of Representatives.

All others were appointed (in the case of the judiciary), or “indirectly” elected

through electoral colleges or state legislatures. Representatives were endowed

with the power to use their own, rather than popular discretion in decision-

making, furthering insulation from majoritarian trends. By-passing majority

mandate was purposely implemented as fundamental to the system.

Checks on the power of government were also implemented, according to a

Lockean paradigm. Separation of powers, checks and balances, and frequent

elections by majority rule of government officials became staples of the

Constitution. The right of revolution in order to uproot tyranny was of course

itself the major check on power, as well as the basis for The Declaration of

Independence and the American Revolution.

Limit the power of the people, while limiting the power of government. This,

essentially, was the Lockean ideal.

Yet the “founding fathers” were influenced by another group that demonstrated

pure democracy: the Haudenosaunee. The Haudenosaunee‟s democratic system

was all inclusive: all participated in the decision-making process. Consensus

building rather than pure majority mandate created a more harmonious political

and social environment. All decisions were made in open council, and if a

representative went to speak for a group of people, he or she was required to give

an accurate account of the groups concerns and position. All opinions and voices

were heard and discussed in council in order to facilitate the creation of a common

good. Separation of powers and checks and balances were firmly in place.

While instituting many of the limits on power of decision-makers into the

Constitution, it is interesting that the “founding fathers” chose to ignore the rights

of the people so intrinsic to indigenous societies. Rather, they followed Locke‟s

mandate of ensuring that the majority would be so limited in their power that after

original consent was given, participation on the part of the masses would be

minimal: radification of elite decision-making during election years. The decision-

making process, so intrinsic to democracy, would thus be relatively undisturbed

by the “common” man.

Why chose a Lockean paradigm over an indigenous one? Power. The concept

of power as tool to wield in the political arena was unknown to indigenous

peoples of North America. Yet it was a staple of the European world: more

valuable than land or gold, more useful than shelter in a storm, and better

protected than the National Rifle Association.

Power, in the history of patriarchal civilization, has always been weapon of

choice for rulers. Once attained, it is rarely distributed. How then, in a society

based on consent, can power be maintained by those that wield it? How can power

retained by an economic elite be disquised as “the power of the people”?

Quite simply. Initially, limit the voting public to those with similar economic

means, and thus interests. Schedule relatively meaningless elections to allow a

disempowered majority to feel as if they are participating when in fact their power

is limited to original consent. Limit the choice of candidates to those already

acceptable to the elite: which elite is chosen has relatively little consequence on

the over-all order of society. Either will protect the interests of the status-quo, and

neither will jeopardize the priviledges held by the economic elite that is the true

powerhouse behind the United State‟s political system.

The illusion of a “free press” further passifies a disenfranchized majority.

Owned and operated by the same elites, political debates can be narrowly

interpreted to fit into the overall framework of the established system. Generally

the media “frames” the debate by presenting us with only two choices: Republican

or Democrat ideology. While there are always a multitude of options in any

political or social problem, those that do not fit into this overall framework of

order are generally ignored by the mainstream media. Where are the genuine

options in U.S. society? Where are the candidates that are not controlled by elite

mandate? Certainly, they are not to be found within the mainstream media, nor are

their ideas. The genius of heralding a “free and open media”, while ownership of

that media is held by a handful of corporate and financial institutions supporting

the status-quo, is almost inspiring. It is to control ideas and opinions via the

illusion that we have genuine options, when in reality our only option is to radify

decisions made by the elites. Genuine choice and genuine diversity in opinion

rarely emerge in our “free press”. What better way to wield and maintain power

than to convince the citizenry that they are the ones wielding it? Machiavelli

would be proud.

While being stifled, the corporate-owned media convinces us that we are free.

That democracy is strong in “America”. That we have genuine choices, equality of

opportunity, and that it is our own moral failings that lead to poverty, crime,

incapacitation and everything else we detest in the United States. Our slavery is

our freedom: this is the message so imbedded in the “American” mindset that we

do not even realize our predicament.

But what kind of slavery could I possibly be talking about? Slavery to an elite

that disquises it‟s monopoly on political power. Slavery to capitalism, where

making money is superior to happiness, and yet happiness at the same time is

defined as money. Slavery to spending the majority of our lives working for

material possessions while the real profits go to those maintaining power. Slavery

to a world where extreme individualism means that we care for ourselves, “look

out for #1”, with little responsibility or compassion for our fellow man.

So how does one maintain power while convincing the citizenry that they

themselves retain it? Quite easily.

Most “Americans” will argue that we have the best political system in the

world today. But even if most people believe that, why should we stop there? Why

limit ourselves to “the best available” when there are better options in existence?

It is like saying to an Olympic sprinter, “This is your best time yet – don‟t try to

improve it”. The answer? If we do not continue to strive, we stagnate and wither.

What does not grow begins to die. Such is the true “natural law”.

Our political system has stagnated. Generally, 50% of the eligible population

votes in any Presidential election. Many vote for the “lesser of two evils” rather

than for a candidate that they actually agree with ideologically. Anyone voting a

minor party ticket is told that they are throwing their vote away or deliberately

harming one of the two major political parties. Citizens of the United States vote

more often against a particular candidate than for anyone. And after the

Presidential election of 2000, more people than ever have lost faith in the system.

Clearly, the U.S. political system has stagnated to a point where most citizens

feel that their vote does not count (or will not be counted), their voice will not be

heard, and politics is essentially a game of Monopoly where money is the only

genuine player. Park Place is taken, and so are the rest of the properties. Hotels

have been built. Your only salvation is in the roll of the dice. Where will you

land? Hopefully on the lesser of two evils.

Why could we not learn a lesson from the only truly democratic societies that

have ever been in existence? Why can we not expand our concept of democracy to

its original definition of rule by the people? The Haudenosaunee did it, as did the

Lakota. “Pagans”, we called them: no one person to make final decisions; no

concept of private ownership; and harmony, of all things, as the end of political

society. Incredibly inefficient to allow all voices to be heard. Not at all expedient

to methodically deliberate all choices for maintaining the common good. And

imagine the shock of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine

when they witnessed a matrilineal society where women had not only the right to

participate in political debate, but as well held the position of appointing and

removing male leaders!

John Locke was a great man, and a great scholar. We owe much of our

freedom to his work, to his ideas, and his own struggle for freedom. But we must

not stop at Lockean ideals. To do so would be defeat. It would be accepting “good

enough” when quality is within our grasp. And what are discussing is the most

important kind of quality to all mankind – quality of life. The world changes

rapidly. So must political ideas.

I have been arguing that the socio-political model of the Haudenosaunee and

Lakota is more democratic, in any meaningful sense of that term, and more

eqalitarian than the Lockean-type system implemented and as yet undeterred in

the United States of America.

For what is democracy without political equality in the full sense of that term?

Even Locke appears to tacitly agree that holding similar economic means is

intrinsic to participation in a “democratic” society. After all, if only property

owners could be citizens, then only those with similar economic means should be

allowed to participate in a “democratic” system. While Locke interprets this so as

to exclude the poor in the political debate, theorists such as Rousseau and social

systems such as the Lakota and Haudenosaunee‟s have seen the solution to be the

opposite: that all should have the economic means necessary to enable

participation in decision-making.

The indigenous Nations of North America arranged a social system where all

could participate, where decisions were made by consensus, and where those in

“charge” held the greatest responsibility in seeing that all the people were fed and

sheltered. Not the power to see that the people had the basic necessities of life: but

the responsibility. A system where material goods never came before love of

nature and respect for all living creatures – and where people were not isolated

individuals, but conceptual brothers and sisters. Would you help your brother if he

were starving? Give him a coat if he were freezing? Give him shelter on a rainy

night? Transportation if he needed it?

The Lakota‟s concept of social man encompasses these acts of compassion. For

all men are brothers, as are all women. All were related in true community where

the troubles of one became the troubles of all. Even those eventually banished

from society were given the basic necessities to survive: but one man alone can

rarely survive on the plains or in the woods of “America”. Hence the emphasis on

community, rather than individualism.

All should have the basic resources necessary to enable them to participate in a

extensive way in the political debate. In his own way, even Locke seems to

acknowledge the importance of this. Further, this is an intrinsic part of promoting

human dignity and the basic respect that every human being deserves.

Am I advocating a communist society? No. I am advocating genuine

democracy. There needs to be no clean wiping of the slate and even distribution of

resources: just a better use of the ones already in existence.

For example, while pharmacudical companies rank #1 in returns on revenues,

assets and shareholders‟ equity10, the elderly, poor, and the majority of the

middle-class struggle to pay for their prescription medication. At the same time,

the country‟s more conservative party at its National Convention proposed a plan

of how to help the stuggling populace. According to an article in the Denver Post,

“The GOP prescription drug plan „relies on a trickle-down scheme that privides a

subsidy for insurers but not a single dollar for middle-class seniors and people

with disabilities‟”11. Trickle-down economics only widened the gap between the

rich and poor in the 1980‟s – why would anyone assume that giving subsidies to

the most profitable industry in the country would make things cheaper at the cash

register? Generally, it simply makes a profitable industry more profitable.

Secondly, a Lockean-model can only work if genuine equality of opportunity

exists for all of the people. In the U.S., this opportunity is actually quite limited.

How can the United States of America possibly argue that we all have equality of

opportunity when our educational priorities and system funding are relatively

draconian? Property taxes determine how much money a particular school district

has available. Therefore, the more affluent the neighborhood, the more affluent

the school district.

In Colorado, the Governor recently signed a bill that gives “rewards” to

schools whose student‟s average scores on standardized tests are high. The higher

the average test score, the more funding the school receives. At 25%, the school

gets no rewards, and schools under 25% are to be re-chartered. Sound good? Not

for the poor. It‟s the capitalist system applied to the education of our children. In

regard to this specific bill, a newspaper analysis found

The strong relationship between test scores and poverty is an

unspoken part of the equation. A Denver Post analysis of 1999
fourth-grade reading scores found that in schools where more than
80 percent of students qualify for federally subsidized lunches, only
about 25 percent of students on average met the [test score-
proficiency] standard. But in schools with less than 10 percent low-
income students, 76 percent on average met the standard 12.

In other words, the schools with the wealthiest students and thereby the most

funding will receive more funding, while the poorest districts will receive no extra

monies. George W. Bush wants to expand basically this same system throughout

the country.

Education is the root of equal opportunity. Without equal educational

opportunities we cannot claim that the playing field is even. We cannot expect a

college Validictorian out of a person holding a high-school diploma yet proficient

at only a junior-high school level. It is not an even playing-field when basic

education is dependent on wealth. Equality of opportunity, therefore, is more of an

American myth than a reality.

And finally, in the great State of Colorado, the Governor in August signed a

„last-minute reprieve‟ for poor families delinquent on State-subsidized health-

insurance premiums for poor children. Initially, the plan called for sending the

families to collection agencies while at the same time “locking out” their children

from health care coverage for 3 months. A part of the State‟s declared mission,

other than to insure uninsured children, was to teach parents the value of

children‟s health insurance. “To teach parents to value children‟s health insurance,

premiums were set high, fifth highest in the country”13. Now those families whom

the State was so eager to help are a reprieve away from being turned over to

collection agents, who will jeopardize their credit, force them to pay interest on

back-payments, and if this wasn‟t enough, will lose their children‟s health care

coverage for 3 months. Where would the children then go if ill? To a hospital

emergency room paid for by – you guessed it – the state (i.e., taxpayers). This

policy makes no sense in terms of respect for humanity nor does it have any

economic soundness – except to those administering a state program at an

extremely high cost to the state (administrative costs: 27%).

These are just three recent examples of the course that has been steered for our

country. What average “American” would agree to these policies? Give more

money to the richer school districts and none to the poor? Use punitive methods

on the poor to make them “value children‟s health insurance” by setting the

premiums too high for many to pay, and then send them to collection and lock-out

their children from health care coverage for 3 months? Help the average person

pay for prescription medication by giving subsidies to the pharmaceudical

company in hopes that from the goodness of their hearts and not their profit-

motive it will eventually trickle-down to the American consumer via cheaper

prices at the cash register? I don‟t think so.

Who would vote for implementation of such policies? Certainly not the public

at large if they were aware of the circumstances. But elite representatives,

protected by public-relations people and a long-legacy of media manipulation, can

make the most draconian policy sound fair and just.

The proper term for all of this, I believe, is “Robin Hood in reverse”, which has

generally been the policy in the U.S. over the past 2 decades. Take from the poor

and give to the rich. Trickle-down economics was proof enough of this: give tax-

breaks and subsidies to the rich, in hopes that the wealth will “trickle-down” to

the middle and poorer classes. In actuality, most of those corporations then used

the subsidies to move their factories to Third World countries, virtually

eliminating the blue-collar worker in the U.S. As pay in the 3rd World is pennies

on the dollar, corporations can then realize even higher profits, and the rich get

richer . . . while the rest of us fade into “gentile” poverty.

In the U.S.‟s Lockean-type system, where elites are free to make decisions for

the people under a mask of “democracy”, the people must unveil truth for

themselves. Deception is antithetical to democracy. The only way to halt its

progress it is to involve the public in political discourse. If the public is so

removed from decision-making that the above kinds of policies are being

implemented, it is time to exchange power for responsibility in the political arena.

Once elected, decisions should not be made with impunity by representatives.

If we were to conceptualize a society, created by an original social contract,

that was fair to all, what rules would we institute? John Rawls argues that if we

created a society under a “veil of ignorance” – in other words, where no one

would know their position in society, two “principles of justice” would be

instituted for the good of all:

First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic
liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. Secondly, social and
economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably
expected to be to everyone‟s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and
offices open to all (Rawls, pp. 60)

In other words, the more advantaged you are: say in intelligence, athletic

ability, or material goods, the more responsibility to the community you have.

Economic inequalities have to work for the benefit of all: if someone is

economically advantaged, they should use it to help the less fortunate improve

their situation.

Just like the system of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee. Wealth meant

responsibility, not power. And of course the basis of this was that the wealthiest

person was he or she who gave the most, not the one who had the most. Economic

inequality destroys harmony by providing an in-road to hostility, envy, and the

seed of humankind‟s worst enemy: greed. For once greed is instilled in the

appetite, it becomes insatiable.

Providing the basic necessities of life for all people was a cornerstone of

indigenous American societies. Never was a person left without shelter or food, at

least when food was available. For it is not mankind‟s wealth that they shared, it

is the Creator‟s wealth: owned by no one yet possessed by all.

Why couldn‟t we learn a lesson from the only historical communal

democracies in existence? Why stop at a Lockean paradigm when we have a more

sophisticated, equality-based example that has worked in implementation? Why

not re-consider and re-define our traditional notions of democracy and the

political equality that is its foundation? Why not strive for the golden ring?

Locke tried to base his system of private property and representative

government on a model of “man in a state of nature” that was distorted and in

many cases in direct conflict with the truth of indigenous societies. For unlike his

claims in the Two Treatises, the deer taken in the woods was not the property of

the indian who killed it: it was communal property, inherently meant to feed

everyone. To argue that a King of a large, fruitful territory is fed, clad and

sheltered worse than a day-labourer in 17th Century England shows a clear

misunderstanding of the way of life of Native Americans, not to mention a serious

over-estimation of the quality of life of impoverished workers in Great Britian. To

argue that the Indians of America never cultivated the land, thereby relinquishing

all rights in “property” to Europeans was a clever argument, especially

considering that the pilgrims of “America” had only survived their first winters

due to indigenous Americans teaching them to cultivate the soil. Locke must have

known. This was happening during his lifetime: the homeland of the Puritans was

Great Britian.

Finally, to argue that the Indians of America had no civil government was,

quite simply, a blatant misinterpretation of the facts, and Locke must have known

it. He had plenty of evidence by the time he was writing The Two Treatises to the

contrary: from indigenous peoples in Peru (the Incas, one of the most highly

organized ancient civilizations know to man); to indigenous groups in the

Carolinas, where in helping to administer the colony he received regular reports

on the behaviors, customs and social systems of the indigenous peoples living

there; to reports of the Six Iroquois Nations and the “Five Civilized Tribes”; it

would have been impossible for Locke to have never encountered the truth: rather,

he simply ignored it.

Locke, very simply, got it wrong for his own purposes. It‟s difficult creating a

social contract theory when the “men in a state of nature” that you are using as

your primary example act in a completely opposite way than they are theoretically

suppose to.

Imagine a political system. Political equality means equality of influence,

rather than one man one vote. Everyone‟s voice counts equally, reguardless of

“social” position or economic means.

Everyone‟s life, freedom, and individuality count equally in this society. The

community needs a ditch dug, maybe more than it needs the corporate executive.

As the worker fills an important need for the community, the community responds

by filling the needs of the worker. Each has a genuine responsibility to the other.

As we are only borrowing this earth from our grandchildren, all share in the

bounty of the earth. It is not our food or shelter to give: it is the Creators. It

belongs to us all: not just those that claimed land as “theirs” (an impossible

concept!) first; or gained their wealth from the rape of the land, the rape of the

resources, or the rape of the people. Her bounty belongs to the entire community

of life.

Local decisions are made by consensus by all members of the community, only

in the interest of creating a common good. All options are analyzed: not soley

those made by a powerful few. Deliberation goes on in the community for days,

maybe weeks, until some kind of consensus can be realized. Dissenters are

allowed an equal opportunity to make their dissent.

Rule is from below – the people are sovereign. Those higher up in the

decision-making ladder hold a position of responsibility to act for the common

good, never a position of power over another human-being. Rather, each is

responsible for the other. For power better resides in the thunderstorm or the

forest fire than in the hands of men. Power is not the domain of humankind:

rather, it is the providence of God.

Harmony with human beings, the earth, and all living things is the objective of

political society. This would be as opposed to the idea of government basically

instituting order so that while some safely thrive in material largess, others

flounder in ego-crushing poverty.

The head of the political arena has a duty to see that all the citizery is fed and

sheltered. In return, all that can will work for the common good: for work is

meaningful when it is to improve the quality of life of yourself and those around


Imagine a political system. Individuality is encouraged, and adamantly

respected. So is the idea of community over selfishness, giving over greed, wealth

as that which is shared. All participate: all voices are heard. Opinion is genuine,

based on facts and reason, and decisions are not rationalizations, rather, they are

checked through the heart to engender justice and fairness for all. Respect, for the

self, others, and all in creation, are at the heart of the system. Stewardship, not

ownership, is the law of the land. Every man, woman or child is granted their

inherent right as a human being to the basic necessities of life. Each contributes

what they are able, and takes just what is necessary. Each is conceptually the

brother of every other person.

Imagine a world where we take only what we need from the land, and never

without giving something back. A place where the earth takes care of us, as we

take care of the earth. A place where compassion for living things, including

humans, is placed above the individual ego. A place you can leave freely, with the

help of the community, if its time to go.

This is the world of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee. It is a much more

democratic world than the one we live in. It is clearly more eqalitarian. Its

emphasis on harmony and community are more meaningful for the individual than

an insatiable thirst for wealth, fame, or success. For what else can wealth possibly

be, than being at peace with yourself and your world?

The world of the Lakota and Haudenosaunee offers mankind a better vision: of

what a truly democratic and eqalitarian society looks like. How it works. What its

underlying principles are.

It is not a dream that died on a battlefield, nor with the signing of treaties. It is

a vision of what the future could hold for mankind, and a glimpse down the road

of real progress for humanity: equality and fairness. Democracy cannot exist

without either. It too must evolve along the lines of natural selection.

Indigenous democracies were not wiped out because they were not the “fittest”.

They were wiped out because they were a threat to the European concept of

absolute power and the insatiable quest of the white man for ownership of

“private property”.

But if we want to follow the true course of evolution, then only the “fittest”

social system may survive. While Lockean ideals were superior for their time, so

too must they pass, so that the evolution of democracy may continue.


Bowring, John, ed., pp. 143.
Locke, John, 1960, II, #49, pp. 343.
Standing Bear, Luther, pp. 197.
Crazy Horse, Lakota Legend.
Gifford & Cook, pp. 48.
Aristotle, pp. 112.
Locke, John, 1960, II, #229, pp. 466.
Wallace, Paul, pp. 34.
Tolkien, J.R.R., pp. 325.
Fortune 500, 4/17/00, pp. 15.
The Denver Post, 8/1/00, pp. 2A.
Ibid, 2/27/00, pp. 1B.
Ibid, 8/1/00, pp. 1A.


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