Democracy existed in the Americas long before the Europeans invaded - Mi'kmaq Elder
This rare interview may give you a glimpse into a once proud and great nations, which are now gone.
Hello! This is John Robles, I’m speaking with Dr. Daniel N. Paul. He is a Mi'kmaq elder and an Indian historian.
Robles: Hello Sir! How are you this evening?
Paul: I’m very good, thank you.
Robles: Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. My first question – what was it like for the Indians when the Europeans first landed in North America?
Paul: When the Europeans first invaded the Americas, well, you have to go back when Columbus got lost and landed in what’s today called the Caribbean and attacked the Taino people there. That began the onslaught that was unstoppable from that point on. At that time the Mi'kmaq, for instance, probably had one of the highest standards of living in the world. Our people were well-fed, they had access to an ocean that was abundant, an area, their land base, was teeming with wildlife.
And our civilization was very advanced in humanities. We had such things as divorces and marriages and all the rest, child care, elderly care and so forth and so on. And the system was based on honor and the leadership of the Mi'kmaq nation, and most of the North American nations were democratically elected by the people. And in comparison the Europeans, at that point in time, the vast majority lived under kings and queens and other aristocratic despots. They had very little freedom and they were ruled with iron hands. So, there was a big difference.
Robles: So, would you say democracy began with the Indian nations?
Paul: Democracy was well-practiced in the Americas before the Europeans even knew what democracy was. For instance the United States Government, in 1988 I believe it was, passed a resolution recognizing the fact that their Bill of Rights and the Constitution was copied in a large part from the indigenous people of the Americas and the practices they had, in particular the Iroquois.
Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Paul: Well, the Iroquois had what is called the Great Law of the People and it spelled out how the people rule. It is quite a document, but essentially it spelled out the democratic principles that a nation should operate under, given: power to the people.
Robles: The true history of the Indian people has been hidden, not only by governments in North America but by governments all over the world. Can you tell us some of the facts that have been hidden?
Paul: Well, there are lots of facts. The biggest fact that’s hidden in this day and age, is that: when the Europeans first invaded they created a lot of propaganda about the people that were living here and depicted them to be bloodthirsty savages and uncivilized people and so forth and so on. And their story telling was so great that they believed it. In fact it was completely wrong. If the people of the Americas had been such terrifying warriors and what have you: How come the Europeans were able to dispossess the people of two continents?
The fact was that Europeans came here as, what I would call, barbarians, in the sense that they came well-armed and they were well-equipped to fight people who really had no weaponry comparable to what the Europeans had. And the reason why the Europeans developed such lethal weaponry was simply because they were fighting among themselves for centuries and had invented better ways to kill one another. And when they brought that over to this side of the ocean, it was… our people didn’t stand a chance. You’ll never hear that taught in school. It is well-hidden and the people here were peaceful people, and if the Europeans had come and interacted friendly with the people here, there would never have been any bloodshed spilled.
Robles: Can you give us an example how Indian tribes would resolve conflicts for example for territory? I remember hearing some stories about that and I thought it was very interesting.
Paul: There were some wars, there is no question about it. But the best I can tell you is; most of the civilizations on this side of the water were based on personal honor. People were taught to honor the elders from the time they were born and to respect one another, and the Great Spirit was of course the keystone among the people, believing in a higher power. Disputes were solved simply: one of the best things I ever read was simple that two men were having an argument between them, they were mad at one at another, so the Chief went to one of them and said: “Do you intend to hate him for the rest of your days?” and he said; “No!” and then he went to the other and asked him the same question. He said: “No”, and then he said: “Why don’t you get together now and get it over with and forgive one another, and that’s it?” And they did. And life went on as normal.
One thing you have to keep in mind when you are talking about North American civilizations, “Civilizations of the Americas,” greed was unknown, personal accumulation of wealth was unheard of. People didn’t know what that kind of thinking was about. And when you are looking at collecting gold and silver and what have you, that was something that was never a big factor in the civilizations on this side of water.
Robles: Can you tell us some of the things about Indian society and Indian culture that might be interesting to listeners?
Paul: Well, one of the things, I think perhaps not too many people would know about is simply the fact that these civilizations that existed in 1492, when Columbus got lost, were civilizations that were well-advanced in their own right. They were people who had developed a way of living. The Mi'kmaq society for instance, it was what I would call a Use Society. And from the time you were born and as you grew as a child you were taught to respect all your friends and neighbors and entire community and to put your community first before your own personal needs.
So, people worked together for the joint welfare of everybody, for the bountiful welfare of everybody and everybody prospered together. So there was no fighting among themselves to gain power or gain wealth, or anything like that, that was something that was unheard of. And the worship in the creator was something that they lived on. It was religion based on nature, they believed that the Great Spirit was in their people, in the trees and in the earth and in everything else. So, it was a civilization that worked quite well.
And I don’t think that at this point in time you could reinvent that kind of thinking among the people, or re-instill it because we are so corrupted by the European God that was imported into the Americas and that is greed. Greed is something that is very destructive and our people were doomed because they had no concept of what greed was, they couldn’t understand it. When you are looking at, Chief Sitting Bull him making a statement that if North America had been twice as large as it is, it still wouldn’t have been large enough for the Europeans, they still would have wanted it all.
Robles: You were listening to an interview with Dr. Daniel N. Paul. He is an elder with Mi'kmaq. Thanks for listening.
Stay tuned to the Voice of Russia for part 2 of this interview.
You can learn more about the Mi'kmaq and American Indians by visiting Dr. Paul's website at: