Shaped By Savages

March 25, 2021

The Light Of Ancient Wisdom


I bought the book on the recommendation of a friend. But the title, Original Politics, didn’t compel me to read it when it arrived and so it languished in the stack of books next to my reading chair. From the last four years and horrific events around the last election I was saturated. However the subtitle, Making America Sacred Again, called me to pick it up last week. I’m glad I did.

Author Glenn Aparicio Parry writes of the influence Indigenous Americans had on the creation of our immigrant nation. It’s a far deeper influence than I was aware of, certainly well beyond what I was ever taught in school. Which is no surprise. But there were surprises. 

In so much that it were made a question, whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greater evil, one who has see both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last.    Thomas Jefferson

The Indians were constrained by no laws, having no Courts, or Ministers of Justice, no Suits. The Persuasion of Men distinguished by Reputation of Wisdom is the only means by which others are governed or rather led…and the State of the Indians was probably the first State of All Nations.    Benjamin Franklin

Of course there were laws. There were just no law books. As was the case for Ireland’s Brehon Laws, there were clear codes and guidelines of how to be in right relationship in community. And, as in Ireland, there was no need of courts or police or jails to enforce those codes. For both the Irish and Indigenous Americans, the codes were a reflection of their world view of themselves as part of the balance and harmony of the natural world. These were the laws of nature and the natural world.

At some deep level, the wisdom of this way of being in community and the natural world resonated for the founding fathers of this democratic experiment just as the Brehon Laws had inspired and informed English and even Roman law. But in both cases the inspiration was short lived. In the developing colonies this idealism was soon crushed under the boot of a lust for land and power. At one time revered, Indigenous Americans would be ravaged. 

And I have to ask. Who was the savage?

Judith –