2010 Native American $1 Coin: Great Law of Peace
The theme for the 2010 Native American $1 Coin is “government.” One example of Native American government that helped form our nation is a certain peace treaty that early colonists found interesting enough to write home about.
Before Columbus first sailed to America, five Native American nations formed the Haudenosaunee Confederation, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. According to legend, the five tribes, which had similar languages, had often been at war with one another. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca lived in what is today upstate New York.
The confederation was founded by two men. One was called “Peacemaker” and the other was an Onondaga named Hiawatha. They got the tribes to literally “bury the hatchet” under a pine tree. The Great Law of Peace is symbolized in the Great Tree of Peace.
The Great Law of Peace is recorded on an ancient beaded belt known as the Hiawatha Belt. The Great White Pine, in the center of the chain, represents the Onondaga nation and the treaty itself. The four rectangles represent the other four tribes. The bundle of five arrows symbolizes strength in unity.
Colonists saw in the Haudenosaunee a successful way to rule nations without kings or queens, like the confederacies that ancient Greek writers had written about.
Some early explorers and missionaries in the New World wrote about equality and democratic self-government among some Native Americans. These writings reached Europe and sparked ideas for European thinkers like Sir Thomas More, Montaigne, and John Locke.
So the way some Native American tribes governed themselves was an example of democratic government for our new nation. The White Pine tree with an eagle sitting on it, a Native American symbol of the Great Law of Peace, was adopted by colonists during the American Revolution for their own cause of democracy.