by Carlton Herzog
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE JOINT WAR COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICAN TRIBES, AUGUST 28, 1813
Chief Rolling Thunder of the Cherokee Nation: We of the Indian Nations are gathered here today to decide an appropriate response to England’s repeated attempts to conquer and colonize the North American continent. Time again the English have established and held colonies by force of arms along our east coast. These attempts to take our land have increased with disturbing frequency over the years. Some here favor a diplomatic solution. They recommend allowing a limited number of settlements and mutual trade. Others among us see these settlements as beachheads for an inevitable invasion. They demand we deny these invaders any purchase on our land and go so far as to advocate an attack on England itself.
Red Eagle, Chief of the Algonquin Nation: The first and fundamental law of nature is to seek peace and follow it. I submit that war should belong in our tragic past and find no place on our agenda for the future. At best, war is barbarism. Its glory is an illusion. It is only those who have never fought nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, desolation, and vengeance. We can and must find a reasonable accommodation with these English.
Blue Feather, Chief of the Huron Nation: Peace is a dream and not a beautiful one. We know that Pizarro laid waste to our Inca brethren before he was finally driven off the Southern Continent. When the Spaniards first came to the Incas, they had the Bible, and the Incas had the land. The Spaniard said, ‘Let us pray.’ The Incas closed their eyes and prayed. When they opened them, they had the Bible, and the Spaniards had their land. Like it or not, the tree of liberty must be watered with blood.
Our Aztec kin did not go so quietly. They sent a rat born plague to Western Europe. Millions died. While the plague swept across Europe, the conquering Aztec war fleets overran the Gold Coast and established the African Aztec Empire. No European nation has dared colonize the Dark Continent since.
Consider that we are the remnants of the Siberian Ket, an ancient nomadic people of Central Asia. More precisely, the ancestors of Attila the Hun whose armies ravaged Europe. They left Asia and traveled eastwards across the Bering strait land bridge. It is therefore fitting that we carry on that noble marauding tradition in defense of our way of life.
Our strategy should be to not only confront the English Imperialists, but also lay siege to their capital. To deprive it of air. To shame it. To mock it. We will break them with our sheer relentlessness and superior cunning. Let our plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when we move, we will fall like thunderbolts.
Red Eagle: My brother, you are a great chief and warrior. But consider that the first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground and said this is mine laid the foundation for every war ever fought. How many horrors and misfortunes might have been prevented, by pulling up the stakes, and announcing to his fellows that ‘The fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.’ What sort of creature sacrifices its children’s lives to settle its differences? You would cast our young braves, who know little of life, into the abyss of sorrow. Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die. What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, what you call the mad destruction of war? Your war will not determine who is right — only who is left. Your war will show us to be something other than thinking animals.
Chief Black Eyes of the Iroquois Nation: We must have war. We must defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all. These English will infect us with their perverse ways. Here they can let their pants down while wallowing and rutting with our women. They can indulge themselves in all manner of deviance and sensuality with no harm done to their precious London. There will be nothing to soil their cathedrals, their white marble statues, or their noble sentiments. There is enough distance between our land and theirs to absorb all manner of barbaric behavior, no matter how dirty and animal it gets.
I concede that war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. Who among us is so blind as to condemn a war to protect our peoples against tyrannical injustice?
Chief Tecumseh of the Mohawk Tribe: Our battleplan is foolproof. We will use their ships that we have captured. In the dead of night, we will sail them into London harbor. On the first night, our braves will set fire to all their ships. On the second night, they will burn their city. On the third night, they will kill all the English leaders they can find. Then under color of the French and Spanish flags, and in captured uniforms, they will sail away in daylight. The English, the French and the Spanish will be too busy killing one another to bother us any time soon.
Chief Red Eagle: No one here doubts our tactical superiority when it comes to the art of war. But consider the Greeks. At Marathon, their hoplite phalanxes of heavy armor and longer spears made them superior in hand-to-hand combat against the Persians. Yet, the Greeks were slaughtered time and again because the Persians outnumbered them twenty to one.
The same is true of the naval battle at Salamis. Equipped with cast-bronze rams at their bows, the Greek triremes were adept at ramming and boarding Persian vessels. But there too, the Persian ships came in such great numbers as to overwhelm the Greek navy. I submit therefore that while we may win the Battle of London that is a far cry from winning a war. Sooner or later, the Europeans will know that it was we who set London ablaze and them at each other’s throats. I say we let sleeping dogs lie until we can come up with a better solution.
Chief Black Eyes: That is pure foolishness. The English breed like rabbits. Indeed, the galloping increase in their numbers guarantees that their hungry population will have an unslakable appetite for our rich farmland. There can be no reasonable accommodation with such creatures, who appear as men but are beasts in their hearts. The English will come and spread throughout this continent like disease through a living body. They will multiply without thought, pushing us aside so that they may breed and flourish. They will not come alone. They will bring their French and Spanish cohorts in such vast numbers as to make small a plague of locusts. They do not come to bring harmony with the numbers of our population. I submit that your anti-war agitation and argument are inherently irresponsible and unpatriotic. I denounce them.
Chief Red Eagle: I have learned that the point of life’s walk is not where or how far I move my feet but how I am moved in my heart. If I walk far but am angry toward others as I journey, I walk nowhere. If I conquer mountains but hold grudges against others as I climb, I conquer nothing. If I see much but regard others as enemies, I see no one. Peace is not the way of weakness. It is the way of strength. War is nothing but the first resort of limited minds.
Chief Great Bear of the Mohicans Tribe: My tribe is gone. The English gave us blankets infected with smallpox. I’m the last, the very last. I’ll dance a Ghost Dance. I’ll bring them back. Can you hear the drums? I can hear them, and it’s my grandfather and grandmother singing. Can you hear them? I dance one step and my sister rises from the ash. I dance another and lightning shoots down from the sky onto the palefaces. With every step, an Indian rises. With every other step, lightning falls. We dance in circles growing larger and larger until we are standing on the shore, watching all the ships returning to Europe. We dance until the ships fall off the edge of the world into a yawning throat of fire.
I say that If I’m going to die, I want to fight. I will not be pummeled and played with and threatened into submission. Nor will I let that happen to our land. We do not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the white man is nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him is the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it home. It is beautiful and we are surrounded with the blessings of its Great Mystery.
Chief Rolling Thunder: You have all had your say. I will have mine. The hearts within us burn because of deep wounds to our soul. It is an agony that will not quit. We are here deliberating whether to unlock a dangerous door from which faint hearts would do wisely to keep away. I must counsel that we practice a willed suspension of conventional beliefs and in that poised awareness listen. Listen for the smothered voice of the Great Spirit from whom even now we are alienated. That great body of radiance knows neither birth nor death. Only it can free us from the endless repetition of mistakes we have chosen to sanctify. Before you cast your ballot for or against war, quiet the mechanisms of your mind. In that uncluttered silence, ask the Great Spirit for guidance in this matter. Then and only then can you be confident that your decision is just. The red clam shell is for war. The blue is for peace. When you have made up your mind, select one and place it in the ceremonial pouch. Then we will count.
Carlton Herzog is a USAF veteran with B.A. magna cum laude and J.D. from Rutgers. He served as Articles Editor of the Rutgers Law Review. His work can be found on amazon.com/author/carltonherzog and Google Scholar.
Do human cognitive abilities differ from those of other animals in kind, or merely in degree? Are we in a class by ourselves or just the smartest ones in our class? Does the answer lie in the human capacity to ask, “what if”? After all, no other primate mind can picture things beyond what it can sense, nor promiscuously combine ideas and mingle different domains of knowledge to create new worlds. What a thing it is to be lost in rapturous contemplation of such unrealized possibilities. It is nothing short of throwing open the picture gallery of our own souls. The multidimensionality of our psyches is what separates man from beast. Thus, in the insubstantial country of his own mind, man reigns exclusively alone. Yet the human addiction to violence and war stems from the self-centered fear we will lose something we have or not get something we want. Because our cognitive architecture is grossly impoverished, we don’t learn from our mistakes, and even more egregiously don’t learn that we don’t learn.