TRAIL THOUGHTS IN ROUGH COUNTRY: IROQUOIS THINKING AND THE AMERICAN LEFT [HUNTER GRAY  APRIL 15 2003]

Sometimes what's called the American Left looks like a handful of rough
rocks, scattered out widely.

If I'm not up by 1:30 a.m., [Mountain Time], my cats -- led by my  intrepid
one-half Bobcat -- team with each other and get me up pronto. My best
thinking comes in the early morning hours, fortified by a gallon of strong
black coffee.  And then, at a point where even the East Coast folks are
still sacked in, I'm off and out -- up into the very high rough country that
literally starts right here at our home. And there, with my faithful Shelty,
and usually followed by coyotes and often by bobcats and mountain lions, I
trek for several miles in pre-dawn darkness along steep game trails.  And
that's when -- far from other humans and electricity and phones and
computers -- I often do my heaviest thinking.

No climate condition stops me from my daily junket -- not even the rain and
wet snow that are presently sweeping across our mountains and ridges and
valleys.  Solid traction is critical for me and, along with Marlin lever
action rifles and UAW-made vehicles for other situations, I strongly
recommend Lowa hiking boots -- in my case, Lowa Trekker Extras Size 15.
[See the conclusion of this post for one of my rare consumer
endorsement/reviews.]

I've never pretended to be an intellectual -- but I am well read.  When, for
whatever reason, I'm treated with some condescension on, say, a discussion
list and given a slew of unsolicited titles of books to read, I always
remember one of my many  Frank Dobie books, The Ben Lilly Legend, in which
the great Southwestern writer quotes Bigfoot Wallace of New Mexico's
Mogollon Mountain range: "I know," said Bigfoot, "that my education is
limited, but do give me credit for the little I have. People are not such
fools as to think a man cannot be a good hunter or ranger, merely because he
speaks his own language passably well."

Although I've read much in the realm of the great social thinkers, my own
basic view is Iroquoian [Mohawk] -- especially in organizing and
organization -- reflecting the dominant force in our cultural perspective.
That comes from my Native father and others in our family -- including the
always vital ancestral traditions.  And, as I note in the extensive personal
and family background narrative on our website  --
http://www.hunterbear.org/narrative.htm -- I also draw from an important and
complex Iroquois activist:

"When I was a kid, an important role model was Arthur C. Parker
[Gawasowaneh], Bear Clan, (1881 -1955), whose distinguished Seneca
(Iroquois) ancestry traced back to his great-uncle Eli Parker (Seneca,
Brigadier General in the Union Army, and aide to U.S. Grant, and first
Native American Indian Commissioner) and also directly to founders of the
Iroquois Confederacy itself.  Other equally distinguished sides of his
family went back to the earliest British settlers.

Arthur Parker was always very much a Seneca, Iroquois, Native American.  He
was a principal organizer, leader, editor of the first 20th Century
pan-Indian (broadly inter-tribal) Indian rights organization, the Society of
American Indians (1911  into the 1920s) and was a founder [1944] of the
still very much in existence National Congress of American Indians.  He was
state anthropologist for the State of New York and a major writer and
academic figure in Ethnology.

He was also someone who refused to let himself  be stereotyped or cast into
an iron block mold.  "I don't have to play Indian," he said "to be an
Indian."  Parker, in addition to his Native rights activities, took
positions on a wide range of national and international issues (a few of
which I would not be in agreement, despite my admiration for him.)  Like the
eminent Harvard philosopher of the late 1800s into the 1900s, William James,
Arthur Parker also studied and wrote extensively on "psychical research" --
what today is called parapsychology -- and he extensively studied the
mediumistic Fox sisters of upstate New York."

Each Native American tribal nation and culture is unique -- there are more
than 600 in what's now called the United States --  but there are a number
of key and universally held characteristics and basic values:

The commitment to a cohesive family and clan, to one's tribe [essentially
one big family], are strong as are the basic values inherent in tribal
cultures:  strongly religious; a pervasive identification with the whole
Creation; no coincidence or happen-chance in the Universe; an essentially
communalistic view of land use; democracy; egalitarianism; classlessness.

And, very much undergirding and pervading the ethos of all tribal cultures
is the ancient and enduring principle of tribal -- or mutual --
responsibility:  i.e., the tribe has an obligation to the individual and the
individual has an obligation to the tribe; if these two conflict, the tribal
perspective prevails -- but there are always clearly defined areas of
individual and family autonomy into which the tribe cannot intrude.

The Native ideal of "the good leader" is the person who serves his/her
community -- rather than serving oneself.

The traditional Iroquoian form of organization tends to be well-structured,
broadly encompassing a number of views, with a basic unifying consensus
developing the official policy thrust.  This is true with respect to the
individual Iroquois nations -- Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida and
Tuscarora.

And it's also true of one of the greatest contributions any People have
made:  the concept, structure and nature of the enduring Iroquois
Confederacy -- finalized in its present form around 1500 A.D. with
substantive roots as early as 1300 A.D. [And, in due course, all of this was
a major influence in the structural development of the United States of
America.]

Beset by mutual warfare between themselves and oft-economic privation, as
well as attacked by non-Iroquois foes, the five Iroquois nations in the
Northeast, all with common culture and ethnicity -- the People  of the
Longhouse or Hodenosaunee -- came together in the famous League, to be
joined much later by the sixth Iroquois nation, the Tuscaroras, who came up
from North Carolina about 1715.  The League's structure is a well-defined
confederacy within which the member nations maintain their full identity and
autonomy.  Unanimity via persuasion and consensus is absolutely required [no
concepts of quorum or majority rule] in order to most effectively pursue
mutual support and endeavour.  Older women from the dominant clan components
in each individual Iroquois nation each choose a man as a [Life] League
Chief.  In discussion, surrogate orators sometimes speak for the Chiefs --
and, frequently, senior Chiefs may speak last in order to synthesize the
various discussional currents. If the individual Iroquois nations are unable
to agree, they are free to function individually -- as long as they do not
injure the other member nations.

Above all of this towers the broadly embracive Great Tree of Peace.

The five Iroquois nations [ later the six] then consistently prospered in
all respects within the context of the Great Confederacy.  Unity in
integrity, integrity in unity.

There are, in that turbulent land encompassing what's called the American
Left, a number of organizations which share a common commitment to socialist
democracy/democratic socialism.  I, myself, belong to DSA [Democratic
Socialists of America], CCDS [Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and
Socialism], SPUSA [Socialist Party USA]  and Solidarity.  In addition to
those, the Communist Party USA comes to mind -- and several others.

Almost half a century ago, the American ecumenically Left socialist editor
and writer, Bert Cochran [to whom and his several notes of critical comment
and encouragement I am personally much indebted], blazed trail for both his
splendid American Socialist [monthly] magazine which lived effectively from
1954-1959 -- and also the loosely developed concept of the [American]
Socialist Union which sought, unsuccessfully, to achieve unity among the
then small and scattered and frequently acrimonious Left organizations in
the United States.  See the very important  compilation work on all of this
recently effected by Louis Proyect of Marxmail:
http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/amersocialist/index.htm

For my part, I think in terms of the eminently successful League of the
Iroquois -- the great Confederacy which exists to this very moment and
always will.

There is no substitute for "organizing the unorganized."  But the concept of
organizing-via-merger, no matter how initially altruistic that river flows,
usually winds up as a kind of cannibalism, replete with individual
departures, and often the divorce of the remnants.

So, to those in the broadly like-minded sections of the American Left, I
commend as homegrown model, the Iroquois Confederacy: that extraordinary
indigenous  example -- from which to learn much indeed and, hopefully, on
which to act effectively and enduringly.

Fraternally / In Solidarity

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]  Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk
[My promised consumer review of Lowa Trekker hiking boots follows
immediately.]
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunterbear]

      Reviewed by: Hunterbear, 5, from Pocatello, Idaho, USA

      Price Paid: $210 at Summit Hut

      Summary:
      My Lowa Trekkers [extra -- size 15] are splendid in all respects. I do
a great deal of climbing in and out of very rough and rugged mountains and
canyons here in Southeastern Idaho -- often on a daily basis. I require
super-traction -- especially since some of this occurs in pre-dawn darkness.
Within hours after receiving my Trekkers, I was on the trail. Within a six
mile stretch, they dealt in extraordinarily capable fashion with steep
up-hill, steep down-hill, snow, ice, mud, fixed rocks, loose rocks, slippery
sage brush. In the days following, in addition to all of the foregoing
challenges, the Trekkers dealt extremely well with water. They could not be
more comfortable. Virtually no breaking-in period was required. I recommend
them with the highest enthusiasm.

      Customer Service:
      Excellent service. I called Lowa [USA] which rushed the Trekkers to
the retailer -- who then rushed them to me.

      Similar Products Used:
      I have used Vasque Sundowners -- have two pair. They are quite good --
but my Lowa Trekkers have better traction, are better fitting, and seem less
cumbersome.

      -- Hunterbear

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