Vote for Your Principles!

Voting has ended. The Patronage Dividend measure failed to pass. The Collegetown Crossing store measure passed.

 
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It would be a very strange thing if Six Nations ... should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union and be able to execute it in such a manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble, and yet a like Union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies.

— Benjamin Franklin, 1751

By Joe Romano, 

Marketing Manager

This month, GreenStar members are being asked to vote on important issues: whether or not we expand our mission to a Collegetown location, and whether or not to adopt a Patronage Dividend system as the method through which we financially participate in our co-op.

At the same time, there are national and local elections, the most obvious being the race for the presidency, but also local elections to choose representatives and officials and to decide on local referendums and propositions.

This is a great privilege and a great responsibility, because as active participants in these decisions, we hold in our hands our fate, the fate of our co-op, and even the fate of our nation. This has not been the case in most places and at most times in history. It isn't true in many nations today. And it isn't true at any other stores you shop at, except of course for other co-ops. But how did everything get so participatory? Where did Americans come up with the idea of democracy? The answer is beneath your feet. The first participatory democracy in America sprung up in the very place we inhabit today.

12-12 Voting_Results_PD_WebThe First People of this area, who call themselves the Haudenosaunee, share a creation story that teaches that spirits of the Sky World created our Earth, named Turtle Island, on the back of a Great Spirit Turtle. Another Haudenosaunee origin story relates that the people emerged from this Earth at what is now called South Hill near Canandaigua Lake. (Today's Seneca people answer to the name Onondowaga, literally the People of the Great Hill.) A prophet known as the Peacemaker arrived in that place one day, speaking of peace among an ordered confederacy of the nations of peoples living in the area. This was an area that roughly comprises what we today call New York State. His idea was that thought and discussion could take the place of violence and warfare as a means of settling disputes. The Peacemaker established the Gayanashagowa, or Great Law of Peace, as the Constitution of the Haudenosaunee.

Voting has ended. The Patronage Dividend measure failed to pass. The Collegetown Crossing store measure passed.

 

The name Haudenosaunee itself translates to "People Who Build an Extended House." Only such an extended house would be able to house the original Five Nations: the Seneca, Keepers of the Western Door; the Cayuga, People of the Muckland; the Onondaga, Keepers of the Central Fire; the Oneida, People of the Standing Stone; and the Mohawk, Keepers of the Eastern Door.

In fact, there was still room for a sixth nation, the Tuscarora, to join this Haudenosaunee confederacy by the time Europeans, already colonizing the eastern shores of Turtle Island, would begin to dream of their own confederacy.

While the colonization was not advantageous to his people, the great Haudenosaunee chief Canassatego officially met, in 1744, with an assembly of the then-disparate colonies in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to advise the assembled colonial governors on Iroquois concepts of unity.

Perhaps it was his words that influenced the European colonies to form a union:

Our wise forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and by your observing the same methods our wise forefathers have taken, you will acquire such Strength and power. Therefore, whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another.

In the spring of 1775, John Hancock wrote a response from the Continental Congress to be sent to the native peoples. The speech quoted Canassatego's advice at the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744 and replied that, "... the advice was good, it was kind. (We) said to one another, the Six Nations are a wise people, let us hearken to their Council and teach our children to follow it." The treaty commissioners invited the Iroquois to their "Grand Council" in Philadelphia and included these references to their laws, language, and cosmology:

We live upon the same ground with you — the same island is our common birthplace. We desire to sit down under the same Tree of Peace with you; let us water its roots and cherish its growth, till the large leaves and flourishing branches shall extend to the setting sun and reach the skies. This island began to shake and tremble along the Eastern Shore, and the Sun darkened by a Black cloud which arose from beyond the great water, we kindled up a Great Council Fire at Philadelphia ... so ... that we are now twelve colonies united as one man ... And ... As God has put it Into our hearts to love the Six Nations ... we now make the chain of friendship so that nothing but an evil spirit can or will attempt to break it.

Today, while we have learned enough that our seven nations live together, work together, and coexist peaceably, we have only established an imperfect union, that through further thought and discussion might achieve the First People's ideal in which no person oppresses another.

Voting has ended. The Patronage Dividend measure failed to pass. The Collegetown Crossing store measure passed.

 

Our co-op similarly has benefitted from our First People's tenets. Like the Haudenosaunee, GreenStar's governing body is called a council. GreenStar has a "vision" statement in which:

We envision a world that reveres the earth and the web of life it supports, where our choices are guided by stewardship, sustainability, and social justice.

We envision a world community of people living in mutual respect and peace, celebrated in our individuality and affirmed in our connectedness.

We envision cooperatives flourishing everywhere, empowering individuals and communities to create and run their own democratic institutions, with GreenStar as a leader.

It seems to echo the words of Tadadaho, Chief Leon Shenandoah:

We are instructed to carry a love for one another and to show a great respect for all the beings of this earth. We were shown that our life exists with the tree life, that our well-being depends on the well-being of the vegetable life, that we are close relations of the four-legged beings. In our ways spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics ... We must stand together, the four sacred colors of humankind, as the one family that we are in the interest of peace ... Our energy is the combined will of all people with the spirit of the natural world, to be of one body, one heart and one mind for peace.

When we consider our elections, both at the Co-op and in the voting booth, perhaps we should consider the great opportunity we have to further these principles of democracy in our co-op, our community, and our nation and world.

During this holiday season, GreenStar will honor the culture and foods of the Haudenosaunee people in our stores. Look for posters, recipes, deli specials, and other information celebrating the culture of our modern-day neighbors the Haudenosaunee. For more information, visit www.peace4turtleisland.org.

Voting has ended. The Patronage Dividend measure failed to pass. The Collegetown Crossing store measure passed.

 

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