Iriquois communists in the 17th century America

This quote from The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire by Francis Jennings, 1984 shows the contrast in the economic cultures of the native americans and the invaders.
In European cultures, wealth could be transformed into capital and so breed more wealth. But Indian cultures resisted formation of capital because of their strong sharing ethic. Among Indians, wealth was accumulated only briefly by individuals, and quickly passed on. Indians of the early trading era did not become rich. (80)
As an aside, Jennings illustrates this contrast elsewhere with the picture of tribal chiefs sharing in his people's poverty and going without as much as his people are without unlike any "civilized" king across the Atlantic. Imagine, a servant-king.

The net effect of Indian appetites for European implements, weapons, cloth, and that luxury firewater was to make Indians dependent on trade and therefore on European trading partners. Of late there have been efforts to psychoanalyze those Indians to discover some sort of weird kink in Indian mentality that I can only interpret as a revival of savagery mythology; but Indian dependency was the outcome of rational decisions by rational persons caught up in an objective situation that limited choice. The Indians simply could not foresee the implications of their initiative for the trade in guns. By the time its effects in dependency became clear, the Indians had lost their power of choice. (81)
This is eerily prescient of Americans today dependent on Chinese manufacturing. As Europe became a tar baby to tribes so likewise today China has become to the US. Unfortunately, human nature is consistent across all ages, which is why we need a savior to save us from ourselves.


Janet Rubin said…
Interesting and well said. I'm reading Lois Lenski's book Indian Captive to cass and Chloe. Excellent book. Newberry Honor book. It's based on the true story of Mary Jemison who was taken captive by indians (Native Americans, but the term wasn't around when the book was written) of the Seneca tribe at age 12 and remained with the Seneca people until she died at 92. Fascinating. My kids keep begging for another chapter.
Anonymous said…
Another good post.
Yes the Indians became dependent on european weapons and products. As you say we are in the same boat w/china as well. The tribal and clan structure was the basic means of survival for humans throughout most of human history. REsources have to be shared for survival.
I've been reading up on the Constitution and the writiings of the founding fathers, and I read that Jeffersonhad avision of local communities working together to take care of their own issues and take care of their own needs. It was the Jefferson vision that people in desperate straits be taken care of locally, by the people who knew them best. These communities would basically be self- sufficient. Of course, at that time people grew their own food and knew how to survive on their own. We have lost most of that tradition, except for rural areas and the amish/mennonite communities. But things will have to be much different thanthey are today.
On another note JPU, there is a Chrisitan web site [the age to come]. It is a prophetic Anglican site. I don't trust most of those who pose as prophets in Christiianity, but hese guys are humblea nd honest. And they see a coming storm. They caution us not to be terrified of this [whatever it will be; economic or terroism], but they have, in my mind, valid things to say about this.

Sorry for the overly bloviated post. Dan

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