The History of the U.S. Constitution We Weren’t Taught in School

U.S. ConstitutionIf you’re like me, I was taught in grade school that the U.S. Constitution was based on ancient Greek democracy.  This is quite a stretch, since ancient Greece government was not democratic.

My research into what children are taught today about the origin of our government is also disappointing.

Apparently the founding fathers simply created it out of thin air, or were influenced by European governments.  This depute the fact there was no democracy anywhere in Europe at that time.

The True History of the U.S Constitution

The truth is that the U.S. Constitution is modeled in both principle and form on the Great Law of Peace of the Native American nation known as the Iroquois.

This is absolutely, unequivocally historical fact.

In 1987, the United States Senate acknowledged that the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Nations served as a model for the Constitution of the United States.  (U.S. S. Con. Res. 76, 2 Dec. 1987).

And since the U.S. Constitution was a model for the charter of the United Nations, the Iroquois Great Law of Peace is also a basis of international law.

When the Founding Fathers looked for examples of effective government and human liberty upon which to model a Constitution to unite the thirteen colonies, they found it in the government of the Iroquois Nation.

In the 18th Century, the Iroquois League was the oldest, most highly evolved participatory democracy on Earth.

I find it sad that the true story is still not taught in all our schools.  But here it is:

The Peacemaker and the Great Law of Peace

U.S. Constitution

The Peacemaker

In the 12th Century, five nations in what is now the northeastern U.S. were constantly at war:  the Mohawks, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga and Cayugas. The wars were vicious and, according to tribal history, included cannibalism.

One day, a canoe made of white stone carried a man, born of a virgin, across Onondaga Lake to announce The Good News of Peace had come and the killing and violence would end.

He traveled from village to village over the course of years, preaching peace because peace was the desire of the Creator.  Oral history says it may have taken him 40 years to reach everyone and get agreement from all five nations.

This man became known as The Peacemaker.

Eventually, the five nations agreed to the Great Law of Peace and became known collectively as the Haudenosaunee, which means People of the Long House.  Outsiders refer to them as Iroquois.

[In 1722, the Tuscarora joined the Confederacy so today it’s known as the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy].

The Great Law of Peace was a vehicle for creating harmony, unity and respect among human beings.

Its recognition of individual liberty and justice surpasses that of many democracies.

The Great Law of Peace includes:

  •  freedom of speech,
  •  freedom of religion,
  •  the right of women to participate in government,
  • separation of powers,
  • checks and balances within government.
  • a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,”
  •  three branches of government: two houses and a grand counsel,
  • a Women’s Council, which is the Iroquois equivalent of our Supreme Court –settling disputes and judging legal violations.

The central idea underlying Iroquois political philosophy is that peace is the will of the Creator, and the ultimate spiritual goal and natural order among humans.

The Founding Fathers’ Consultation with the Iroquois

Great Law of PeaceFor decades, the Iroquois had urged the English colonists to unite together as one independent and free people.

George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson met frequently with the Iroquois and made themselves very familiar with the Great Law of Peace.

Washington expressed “great excitement” over the two houses and Grand Counsel.

Several delegates from the Iroquois Confederacy attended the Continental Congress in 1776 as it wrote the Declaration of Independence and drafted the Constitution of the United States, modeling it on the Iroquois Constitution.

Three weeks later, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the United States of America was born.

What got left out of the U.S. Constitution

In fact, just about the only parts of the Great Law of Peace that our founding fathers didn’t incorporate were these:

  • The Seventh Generation principle:  The Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy states that chiefs consider the impact of their decisions on the seventh generation to come.
  • The role of women: Clan mothers choose candidates [who are male] as sachems [political leaders].  The women maintain ownership of land and homes, and exercise veto power over any council action that may result in war.  The women can also impeach and expel any leader who conducts himself improperly or loses the confidence of the electorate; then the women choose a new leader.

Imagine how different our world would be today if our government had included these principles from the start

The symbols

The Peacemaker designated The Tree of Peace as a symbol of the Great Law of Peace — a great white pine tree whose branches spread out to shelter all nations who commit themselves to Peace.

  • Beneath the tree the Five Nations buried their weapons of war.
  • Atop the tree is the Eagle-that-sees-far.
  • There is a bundle of five arrows tied together to represent strength of five tribes bound together in peace.
  • Four long roots stretch out in the four sacred directions—the “white roots of peace.”

Thomas Jefferson adopted the symbols of the Peacemaker legend.

  • U.S. ConstitutionThe Tree of Peace became the Liberty Tree displayed on colonial flags.
  • Eagle-that-sees-far became the American Eagle, still a symbol of American government.
  • On the U.S. Great Seal, the American Eagle clutches a bundle of thirteen arrows, representing the original colonies.
  • Our eagle also holds an olive branch symbolizing that the United States of America has “a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war.”

Separate leaders for war and peace

There’s no separation of church and state in Iroquois society; spirituality lies at the root of government and law.  

 However, the Iroquois Confederacy, as with most Native American Nations, had separate leaders for war and peace.  As a lawmaker, the sachem could never go to war in his official capacity as sachem.  If disposed to take the warpath, he laid aside his civil office for the time being, and became a common warrior.

 The colonists followed this model too.  The inability to separate the civil government and military has doomed many imitators of American democracy, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

The three principles of the Great Law of Peace

  1. Righteousness, meaning people must treat each other fairly. “Each individual must have a strong sense of justice, must treat people as equals and must enjoy equal protection under the Great Law.”
  2. Health:  “Health means that the soundness of mind, body and spirit will create a strong individual. Health is also the peacefulness that results when a strong mind uses its rational power to promote well-being between peoples, between nations.”
  3. Power:  “The laws of the Great Law provide authority, tradition and stability if properly respected in thought and action. Power comes from the united actions of the people operating under one law, with one mind, one heart, and one body. Such power can assure that justice and healthfulness continue. People and nations need to exercise just enough power to maintain the peace and well-being of the members of the Confederacy.”

It’s the omission of these three principles, the seven generations rule and the role of women that cause Native Americans today to say that, the U.S. copied the Great Law of Peace but didn’t really understand it.

So our forefathers copied the Great Law of a people whose country we stole and against whom our government committed genocide, and then kept it a secret.

It just makes me want to cry.

Please teach your children the truth of the history of our great country.


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Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.” She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes and blog at

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  1. FireSign

    Excellent post! I’ve heard for  many years that the US government was modeled after the Native Americans, but I didn’t know the details. I have learned something new today.

  2. Diamonds Bluewater

    Quite enlightening,thanks for sharing we’re all the better for it.. 

  3. History Teacher

    Just so you are aware, this is taught in elementary school. It is in the core standards of at least 2 states that I am aware of. The U.S. Constitution was modeled after a variety of ideas from many historical documents and governments. It is true that the Iroquois Confederacy greatly influenced the Founding Fathers, but it was not the only influence.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you. It’s good to know that this is currently taught in elementary school; it definitely was not when I was a school girl. A reading of the 1987 hearing of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs, [U.S. S. Con. Res. 76, 2 Dec. 1987] confirms the Great Law of Peace was a significant influence on the U.S. Constitution, but, as we know, it was not followed to the letter, and some influence may well have come from elsewhere. Frankly, I think the Great Law of Peace is a better document and would eliminate much of the strife and corruption in government we see today.

      • ryan

        if it was not tought to you in school how did you learn it

        • Molly Larkin

          Good question, Ryan. I have studied with Native American elders for over 30 years and learned the oral history. And I read a lot. It is in a number of books, and Native American tribal websites online.

    • Government Teacher

      Yes – we now teach this in government classes as part of tribal sovereignty education in the state of Washington. I’m glad it was finally recognized by those in power to make such teachings a requirement!

      • Molly Larkin

        Wonderful. Thank you for commenting.

  4. Igwash

    Hi, great post! I really didn’t know this wasn’t taught in the USA, because even here in Canada, we have to understand the comparison, and we often learn about America and the Aboriginal peoples in USA. Thank you for sharing this 😀

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you. I hear that these days it is taught in U.S. elementary schools, but it wasn’t when I was young. So there’s been improvement. Good for the Canadians!

  5. tara martin

    This is part of common core for 4th graders in New York State (as of 2012 officially). Your post is excellent. Thank you for sharing it!!

    • Molly Larkin

      So happy to hear it. Thank you.

  6. kawaowene

    skeno(greeting) i would like to point out the five nations you speak of were in the north east of turtle-island!! as i read you made USA even before it was founded?? other small duties you left out was the right to bear arms and when as it is in our law of the six nation. as it says if the eagle shall cry a warning of trouble coming to harm the hotineshonni then the people shall it depends on what the trouble is as to what protocol to follow as in if the people shall go forth and seek council to have the issue resolved is one protocol another is if it shall be that grave danger is coming after the cry of the eagle then the people shall gather and pick up their arms and go and stop the chopping of the great white roots of peace it is also reminded that if the arms are to be used then we remind ourselfs the agreement we shall not use our arms on each other of the five nations now six nations.. the Americans changed this and think they have a right to bear arms all the time and is why the world is messed up as it is….there is much more to our law…like so called owning of the land for in the law it says you will not own the land but be part of the land the “ownership of the land is that of the coming faces(unborn children) the women have the duty of title holders of the land(is oone of the reasons why women carry child when pregnant) anyways there is so much yet not mentioned and some of believe it took 100 years to unite the five nation!! niawah(tnx) kawaowene (bigwind)of the cayuga nation turtle clan.onenkiyahe danatuh…

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you very much for your comments, Kawaowene. You are right, and I will correct the post to say the five nations were in “what is now known as the northeastern United States.” I appreciate the additional information you have provided. Thank you again.

    • chowbella

      Kawaowene, (Boozho) I am half Potawa (keepers of the fire) and half white ( though I can’t prove I’m half white). Were the council of three fires a part of the Confederacy? My grandmother said they were at one time but I can’t find anything to support that. There is limited information and even then the truthfulness of that information is questionable, about the joining of the council of three fires and the Iroquis confederacy.

      I feel it worth noting that the founders of AIM believed and respected one and only one English law and that is the U.S constitution for simple fact that it is and will always be Indian law.

      • Molly Larkin

        I apologize that I don’t know about the council of three fires; but I understand that many Native American nations had similar laws. Very interesting about AIM. Thank you so much for your comments.

  7. Brenda Ramirez

    Omg O: thanks you for posting this!I just learned something new.

    • Molly Larkin

      🙂 You are most welcome!

  8. Vicki

    Thanks a lot for this post! This is exactly what I wanted to teach in homeschooling my 8th grader.

    • Molly Larkin

      So happy to hear it. And congratulations on homeschooling your child!

  9. Josh Smith

    Chapter 8 in Indian Givers by Jack Weatherford has some good information on this topic. I believe the American Indians had the first true Democracy of Humans. Although I believe they got the idea from observing nature, the animals and mother earth.

  10. Charlene

    What are your sources?
    Where is your bibliography?
    I like this info, but the lack of citations makes your credibility questionable.

    • Molly Larkin

      I learned this information orally from my first Native American teachers. It can also be found on websites of the Iroquois Nation. I believe the followoing citation gives it substantial credibility: “In 1987, the United States Senate acknowledged that the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois Nations served as a model for the Constitution of the United States. (U.S. S. Con. Res. 76, 2 Dec. 1987).”

  11. Barbara

    thank you for your article. I was wondering why the “7th” generation as opposed to the 6th or the 8th?

    thank you

    • Molly Larkin

      That’s a very good question, to which I don’t have an answer. It was decreed from the Iroquois many generations ago. I will research and let you know when I find out.

      • Stephanie Nestlerode

        did your research add new light to the significance of the 7?

        • Molly Larkin

          Somewhat: 7 is a mystical number that appeared frequently in the Bible and many other religious texts. There are also seven main chakras in the human energy system. So it’s been considered significant for a very long time.

    • Molly Larkin

      In answer to your question, why the 7th Generation and not the 6th or 8th, this is the answer I received: 7 is a turning point number. 7 is associated with self-knowledge. It is about the unseen forces behind change. The 7th generation embodies and embeds that magical power.

      I hope this is helpful. 🙂

  12. […] The Great Law of Peace includes: […]

  13. mohan das menon

    Dear Molly, I just was seeking the relevance of “peace” in the US Constitution and now I am communicating with you, what a privilege and indeed a revelation, actually a double delight for me. I write on global affairs whereby I thought it fit to enter the realm of peace between countries amidst an overarching desire to procure arms even by the poorest of countries which should ideally be looking for options to get rid of the ‘the third-degree poverty’ in their realms rather than weaponry that only makes politicians stronger and the people poorer and veritably enslaved in their own psyche of deprivation. Actually, that only reinforces agony of the common people presided over by political stakeholders who remain distanced from their aspirational constituents! Does the “eagle” really see that? Warm regards, Mohan Das Menon.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Mohan, for your excellent observations. I believe the Eagle sees that, but it is up to us humans to get our priorities straight! 🙂

  14. Barbara Renick

    The Iroquois Confederacy recognized the importance of women’s views with their Clan Mothers, who still function to some extent. White women received the vote in 1920; US citizenship for Indians in 1924.

    I am a grandmother now, but I remember distinctly my 4th Grade Teacher saying to the class in a discussion about American Indians: “The ______ tribe were the “dirtiest Indians.” She named my tribe, but I didn’t hate her for it, instead turned it on myself and developed a cleaning obsession, my adaptation. Discuss ways that Indian children adapt to destructive teachings at some future time please.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Barbara. Your teacher’s comment was cruel and a tragedy. And I know many, many other Native children heard similar disparagements. Hopefully we are all on the path to healing. Blessings, Molly

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you for sharing this, Barbara. I’m so sorry you were subjected to such cruelty, as I know probably most Native children were. Hopefully we are all growing on the path to healing these wounds and prejudices.

  15. […] Principal, which was so important to Native American cultures that it was codified in the Iroquois Great Law of Peace, you have the power to stop this and affect change 7 generations back and 7 generations forward. […]

  16. Chris Walsh

    Great article! I am a missionary to native americans, and currently studying grad theology at Oral Roberts University. Presently, I am working on a research paper entitled ‘Is Native American Sprituality – Biblical’, no small task. Here an article I wrote you might like:

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Chris. Keep up the great work!

  17. Adam Turner

    “Please teach your children the truth of our great country.”

    If we taught our children the truth, they’d be disgusted. The victor holds the pen that writes history.

    When I began to learn of the travesties of westward expansion, the treatment of the indigenous, and the utter lack of respect for anything this great LAND had to offer, I don’t think we are or were all that great as a country. Greedy, oppressive opportunists. This notion that we were at once great is a fallacy. Everything we’ve done to advance the interests of this country has been to the detriment of others, or even the planet as a whole.

    This little experiment is a failure, especially when you look at the two people fighting for the keys right now.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you for commenting, Adam. While I agree with much of what you say, it is always my policy to go to the light and focus on what works.

      And that is why I’m a big fan of Facebook, because it’s where the underground movements working for positive change have a voice and can reach the rest of the 98%. Right now the Native American water protectors at Standing Rock, N.D. get virtually no mainstream press coverage, but millions on Facebook around the world are supporting them. This is an historic battle that will hopefully bring about a positive change in government policies.

      So our experiment is not a failure yet, not when so many people are fighting for the good. One of my favorite film quotes is from the movie “Starman” where the Jeff Bridges character says, “What I admire most about your people is that, when things are at there worst, you are at your best.”

      As Bear Heart loved to say, “Keep the faith.”

  18. Annie olson

    I’ve been aware of this for thirty years now. This need to read what others were saying on what we rejected has been on my mind these past few days because of the election. I needed to read like voices speaking Truth in respectful ways. So, like you, I have cried for years of what we lost for ther Human Family. But grief is productive. Black Elk’s Vision of all the Nations like Hoops together to make one Circle around The Tree of Life has helped me to see Hope. I wrote a poem in 1993 titled “Seven Generations”. The gist of the poem is this. What was done 7 generations in the past reveals their love for us now. And what we do now reveals our love for the 7th generation in the future. The poem ends with this statement. …what is revealed? Your love for our children 7 generations from now is clear. Thank you so much for what you’re doing and your love for them.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you so much, Annie. Your words are very wise. Thank you for what you are doing to keep the flame of hope alive.

    • Stephanie Nestlerode

      Annie, I would love to read your poem!

      Stephanie Nestlerode

  19. Stephanie Nestlerode


    This is possibly the best explication I’ve seen on this topic … a topic near and dear to me. Are you familiar with Paula Underwood? she was the keeper of a 10,000 year old oral history that included this story.

    Would love to connect with you!

    Stephanie Nestlerode

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you, Stephanie! I will look Paula up; I had not heard of her.

  20. Mary Boone

    I just finished a Native American theme that I teach to third graders each year when I stumbled across this. Cultural areas of Native Americans helped student understand the concept of basic needs as resources and why they look differently in each area. This is the only thing I missed, and I will surely corrected it when I teach the theme on the United Constitution. Thanks!

    • Molly Larkin

      You’re most welcome. Thank you for sharing it.

  21. Georges

    How different will the people of America will be if the major articles of the American Indians would have been incorporated as is in the constituons

  22. Robert Smith

    As a creek I resent the fact that the Creek nation was warred against by the U S gov. When the Creek had a peace treaty. Of course not honored.
    Well what else is new. And we were called. Savages.

    • Molly Larkin

      You are right; the treatment by the U.S. Government was [and still is] shameful!

  23. Dave Ki

    I was looking at the differences in the U.S. Constitution and English Bill of Rights and came across this. I never knew,and I’m 62. Not taught in school, obviously since I never knew. I was checking the EBoR to see if it had anything like the Second Amendment and what I understand is that the Iroquois Confederacy has but besides the point I liked the Women’s Counsel idea and veto powers.
    I shall look into the Confederacy of Iroquois more. THANK YOU.

    • Molly Larkin

      You’re most welcome. Glad you found this. Best, Molly

  24. […] descendants seven generations into the future.  I hadn’t realized that was codified into the Great Law of Peace. “The central idea underlying Iroquois political philosophy is that peace is the will of the […]

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