(man chanting, drumming) NARRATOR: Native America is alive.
♪ ♪ Its roots stretch back more than 13,000 years... (conch horn trumpets) ...to America's original explorers.
(flute music playing) New people who create a new world.
(flute music continues, birds chirping) From North to South America, distant peoples share one common belief-- a deep connection to Earth, sky, water, and all living things.
TERESA RYAN: We are a part of this forest as much as the forest is a part of us.
(hammering) BEAU DICK: All of our ceremonies illustrate that one notion of connectedness, not only with our fellow beings, the animals and other creatures, but with all of creation.
NARRATOR: From this deep respect for nature, people create great nations.
ALAN HUNT: There is a certain pressure in knowing that you're going to become chief.
(fires crackling) NARRATOR: They grapple with war and peace... (creature howling) KEN MARACLE: We were covered in darkness, so the Peacemaker was sent by the Creator to stop this.
(birds chirping) NARRATOR: ...and develop governments from dictatorships to a democracy that will inspire the United States Constitution.
This is the birthplace of democracy.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: How do Native Americans go from ancient explorers to the founders of America's first democracy?
♪ ♪ (birds chirping) (flute playing) At the intersection of modern scholarship and Native knowledge is a new vision of America and the people who built it.
This is "Native America."
(birds chirping) NARRATOR: This is the birthplace of American democracy.
(man speaking Native language) Not Boston, Philadelphia, or Washington, DC, but here, at Onondaga Lake in Syracuse, New York.
(man continues speaking) ♪ ♪ On these shores, Native Americans build villages of longhouses.
♪ ♪ In one great longhouse, five tribes come together to put an end to war.
♪ ♪ Around the year 1150, 600 years before the Declaration of Independence, they form America's first democracy.
Their government will inspire the revolutionaries who create the United States.
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin had no idea of what democracy is till they came here.
NARRATOR: In the 1740s, Benjamin Franklin prints speeches from one of their leaders, Canassatego, who encourages democracy for the colonists.
Their chiefs advise the founding fathers at one of their first meetings.
And the newly independent United States adopts a 13-arrow bundle into its official seal, echoing the Native Americans' five arrows that symbolize strength through unity.
(men chanting) Their descendants still live in upstate New York as a sovereign nation, with their own passports and government.
♪ ♪ They are the world's oldest continuous democracy.
SID HILL: So we try to educate people who we are.
NARRATOR: Sid Hill is their chief of chiefs.
His people are commonly known as the Iroquois, but that's a French name.
HILL: The name that we call ourselves is the Haudenosaunee, people of the longhouse.
NARRATOR: The Haudenosaunee story of creating the first American democracy is encoded in this, a tapestry of sacred shell beads called a wampum belt.
HILL: If you look at the structure of it, it's very basic, it's very plain.
It represents our way of keeping records.
It's our history book.
NARRATOR: This one is known as the Hiawatha Belt.
Since 1900, it has been in the hands of the State of New York.
The tribe fought to get it back, and today, for the first time in over a hundred years, it returns to Onondaga Lake.
♪ ♪ PORTER: If you hold it like this, you see how heavy.
♪ ♪ Whenever you touch this belt, you're greeting your ancestors.
NARRATOR: Tom Porter is a Mohawk spiritual leader.
Our great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother made this belt, and they made it so that we won't never forget what they did, the law they made.
(woman singing in Native language) NARRATOR: The Hiawatha Belt tells the story of a prophet of peace who arrives in a white stone canoe: a grieving warrior named Hiawatha, who has to choose between bloody vengeance or a message of peace... (woman singing in Native language) And a powerful clan mother who must overcome an evil warlord.
(fire crackling) Together, they establish America's first democracy.
♪ ♪ Haudenosaunee democracy grows out of a long history of people living on this land.
♪ ♪ More than 13,000 years ago, small groups of hunter-gatherers spread out quickly across the virgin continent.
(wind whipping) They develop both a scientific understanding of the cycles of the Earth, sun, and stars and a spiritual connection to nature-- Earth, sky, water, and all living things.
(birds chirping) ♪ ♪ By the time Europeans arrive in 1492, Native Americans number a hundred million people.
They live in diverse societies... (chanting) ...from nomadic tribes to monumental kingdoms, from dictatorships to democracies.
♪ ♪ How do Native Americans draw inspiration from the natural world to create great nations?
♪ ♪ A continent away from Onondaga Lake, in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru, thousands of people take part in a revolutionary social experiment.
♪ ♪ This is Chavin de Huantar, one of Native America's very first nations.
JOHN RICK: The temple constructions of Chavin is what I would call the building of a whole new world.
NARRATOR: Chavin has one of America's first monumental structures built of stone, dating back to 1300 BCE.
Chavin is only about the size of two football fields, but projects influence over an area the size of California.
NARRATOR: Archaeologist John Rick sees this community as a tipping point in America's history.
RICK: They're using new technologies.
Cut stone is particularly prominent at Chavin.
People are working granite in ways that people haven't before this time period.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: At the center of Chavin is a flat-topped pyramid temple.
The rituals performed here would draw in tens of thousands of people from across the Andes.
How can this temple lay the foundation of one of America's first nations?
La vista es magnifico.
NARRATOR: Part of the answer lies beneath the temple in a mysterious maze of tunnels.
♪ ♪ Down here, priests would conduct rituals evoking the supernatural.
RICK: Chavin has this emphasis on underground space.
The tunnels have multiple-level staircases leading between them and channels that lead from the interior space to the outside world.
NARRATOR: Along the walls are channels leading to the surface.
They bring air in, but they also carry something out.
(flute begins playing) Music.
(flute continues) Tito La Rossa is an indigenous Andean musician and master of ancient instruments.
He's working with John to test the acoustics in the tunnels.
Tito has brought instruments similar to those excavated at Chavin-- flutes carved from bone.
(plays notes) Whistles carved from stone.
(plays notes) And a conch shell trumpet.
(trumpets loudly) (conversing in Spanish) (trumpeting) LA ROSSA: NARRATOR: The sound of the conch shell is central to one of Chavin's most important rituals.
At the heart of the underground maze stands a carved statue called the Lanzon.
It is a representation of Chavin's supreme deity, part human, part jaguar.
(trumpet plays loudly) The sound of the conch shell mimics its call.
RICK: The Lanzon figure is a transformed human being or a deity.
It's human with power animals.
They're saying, "We're built of this.
"We're descended from it.
"We're intrinsically related to it, and we're going to remind you of it all the time."
NARRATOR: Only a few privileged people can fit in the underground Lanzon chamber to see the deity.
But above ground, thousands of worshippers may have been able to hear it in a large circular plaza.
RICK: Okay, so we probably want to come up to this step.
Yeah, then get it aimed right... RICK: The Lanzon is directly in line with the circular plaza.
That's not arbitrary.
NARRATOR: John wants to see if the channels can carry the sound of the conch shell from deep below, in the Lanzon chamber, to the temple's exterior plaza.
Okay, Tito, let it blast.
(trumpets loudly) RICK: Wow.
That's coming through, coming through.
Yeah, it's really... it's real clear.
(trumpet continues) WOMAN: The way it spreads all around the plaza is incredible.
It's very strong.
NARRATOR: The conch shell can be heard clearly in the courtyard.
(trumpeting begins again) And it comes through twice as loud as any other sounds.
RICK: We don't hear any of the voices.
All we hear is the sound of the trumpet.
NARRATOR: This temple is a 3,000-year-old noise-cancelling, surround-sound amplifier.
It allows masses of people to share in Chavin's rituals.
RICK: It wasn't all or nothing-- you either got into the Lanzon chamber or you didn't-- but rather there are these different levels of distance that people might have been at from the Lanzon.
NARRATOR: Distance from the Lanzon creates a hierarchy of power.
The elite priests are in the chamber.
Everyone else is outside.
♪ ♪ But through sound, they all participate in shared rituals.
RICK: Chavin is part of something that's going on throughout many areas of the New World, this development of sociocultural complexity, of leadership and authority.
People saying, "We are not all created equal."
They are establishing common ideas about what differentiates humans beings and why some are more in a position to command than others.
NARRATOR: The priests of Chavin create a shared experience centered on powerful sounds and symbols from the natural world.
♪ ♪ It transforms priests into leaders and people into citizens.
Chavin isn't just the architecture of a temple, it's the foundation of a government.
♪ ♪ (grunting) (chanting) (exhales sharply) Across the Americas, rituals based on symbols from the natural world bind communities and have the power to unite people into nations.
(drumming and chanting) For the Haudenosaunee in northeast America, that symbol is the shell of the wampum belt.
MARACLE: What you're going to do is add three, put on the other purple.
NARRATOR: Ken Maracle, a Haudenosaunee wampum belt maker, is passing on the tradition.
Here you go.
(clears throat) MARACLE: We all have gifts.
We're not put here for nothing.
Some day you'll find that.
When you start growing, you'll find things.
It's like the light turns on.
NARRATOR: Ken and his protégés are making a replica of an ancient belt.
MARACLE: Just keep on pulling it right through.
Yeah, like that.
Wampum beads are very delicate.
They'll break easy.
And you may get frustrated.
♪ ♪ But when you put them together, they're strong.
They all support one and other.
Just like when we put all our people and all our nations together, they're strong.
NARRATOR: They're using glass beads, but the original is made from shells.
The word "wampum" means "white shell beads."
They weave together rows of the strung beads on a loom.
The patterns create meaning.
MARACLE: Wampum is a way of portraying words that we put into the wampum.
There is a story behind that.
It's part of our history is right in there.
NARRATOR: The Hiawatha Belt tells the story of the Haudenosaunee's legendary founding and wampum's power to heal.
♪ ♪ Before the Haudenosaunee create their democracy, they were five warring tribes living in an area of what is now upstate New York-- the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk.
MARACLE: We were in turmoil.
We were covered in darkness, so the Peacemaker was sent by the Creator to stop this.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The color of the wampum beads in the Hiawatha Belt represents this period of war.
G. PETER JEMISON: The purple represents the time period of loss and of grief when this warfare was taking place constantly within our confederacy.
NARRATOR: The story recorded in this belt begins in the midst of these wars.
(woman singing in Native language) It tells of a warrior named Hiawatha who meets a prophet known as the Peacemaker.
(wind blows, woman singing) MAN (speaking Native language): (fires crackling) (distant echoing) (waves crashing, birds calling) ♪ ♪ JEMISON: The story goes that he came up with a way of helping a person who is in grief by using this wampum to clear their eyes, open their ears, clear their throat so they could speak clearly.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Using the purity of shells to bring a person to a clear state of mind is called the condolence ceremony.
♪ ♪ It was invented by Hiawatha, and the Haudenosaunee still practice it today.
HILL: Those wampum beads are very sacred, very spiritual.
They're alive, and you treat them as such.
And that's what gives them that power of importance to our people.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: That power also comes from the origin of the beads, how they are collected and shaped by human hands.
♪ ♪ Marcus Hendricks makes wampum beads.
He is a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag.
♪ ♪ The Haudenosaunee acquired wampum beads from his people and other Atlantic coastal communities.
Wampanoag means "people of the first light" or "people of the dawn."
They witness the first horizon of the sun coming up.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The first step to making wampum is gathering shellfish in his ancestral waters off Cape Cod.
HENDRICKS: When I come out onto the water, there's a connection to my ancestors... A relationship that goes through my blood and my veins.
NARRATOR: The shells of quahog are the raw material for wampum.
♪ ♪ HENDRICKS: You want to look for a good thickness in a quahog.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The fire is both the first step in a gratitude offering and prepares the quahog to be opened.
HENDRICKS: I was taught really young to take the time to give thanks and say a few prayers to the Creator.
We do that any time we're harvesting anything from Mother Earth.
NARRATOR: Marcus uses traditional methods to transform the shell into wampum beads, refining raw shell until it can be strung together into a wampum belt.
(tapping) HENDRICKS: Each bead took a lot of hours and a lot of manpower.
Each strand probably would have taken a year to make.
NARRATOR: When strung into a belt, wampum empowers the person holding it as a representative of their people.
(woman singing in Native language) HENDRICKS: They were made for ceremonies to depict stories and treaties between tribes.
(woman singing in Native language) So if I was to go visit another nation, I would bring the belt to show that there's a close bond between... between the nations.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The wampum belt acts as a treaty.
The Wampanoag, Haudenosaunee, and other Native peoples of the Northeast use wampum to hold memories and create bonds between nations.
♪ ♪ In the Pacific Northwest, memories and ties that bind are embodied in one of Native America's most iconic structures: totem poles.
(distant humming) Like wampum belts, totem poles record the history of war, kinship, and leaders.
(man singing in Native language) But totem poles are often misunderstood.
ALAN HUNT: You know, the saying "low man on the totem pole" doesn't really equate at all.
They're just about all as equally as important as the next guy, and, you know, the guy on the bottom is supporting everything else above him, so it actually seems a little backwards.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The power of the pole comes from the cedar tree.
Cedar is central to the lives of the Native peoples of the Northwest.
It is used to make clothing, storage chests, and ceremonial masks.
♪ ♪ For Kwakwaka'wakw carvers Alan Hunt and Beau Dick, cedar is a portal to the past.
DICK: There is a certain relationship that our people have with the cedar tree.
(hammering) It reconnects us with our ancestors, with our story, with our identity, and it's just really sacred to us.
(scraping wood) Each grain is a year, and you become sensitized to it the more you work it.
You feel it cutting through each year in time.
My grandfather did that.
My great-grandfather did that.
My great-great-great-grandfather did that.
They all did it.
I'm following their footsteps.
And that's really personal.
And we share that.
We're following what was provided by our ancestors and the relationship that they had with the Creator.
(sanding) NARRATOR: Alan and Beau are carving a moon mask.
It's one of the many important figures in the Kwakwaka'wakw origin story.
DICK: Our history goes back to the beginning of time when Raven first brought light to the world.
(scraping wood) NARRATOR: Cedar also immortalizes the legacy of leaders.
And, one day, artists may carve images that represent Alan Hunt, for he is about to become a chief.
(drumming) Final preparations are being made in the Fort Rupert Big House on Vancouver Island.
Kwakwaka'wakw chiefs are named through either the mother or the father's line.
Alan will replace his grandfather as chief in a ceremony called a potlatch.
(men singing in Native language) ALAN HUNT: All of my mentor chiefs kept telling me, you know, "Take a deep breath, we've all been through it.
It's going to come together."
And now here it is, it's coming together, and it's going to be all right and I'm breathing deeply here.
(drumming, singing) NARRATOR: Terena Hunt is Alan's mother.
It's just a wonderful moment for us as a family to witness.
(drumming, singing) NARRATOR: For centuries, potlatches have honored births, deaths, weddings, and new chiefs.
♪ ♪ ALAN HUNT: This is the way that we kept history, you know, is the passing of names and dances and all the stories from the beginning of time.
NARRATOR: The potlatch ceremony is like a living totem pole, illustrating the nation's heritage.
(drumming, singing) It starts with a series of sacred dances depicting ancestral stories.
(drumming, singing) (drumming, singing) ♪ ♪ Everyone in the room receives a cedar crown.
(people talking quietly) RYAN: The reason that we wear them at the feast is to protect us as guests and also the host from evil spirits so that everything goes well.
(people talking quietly) (fire crackling) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ (man speaking Native language) NARRATOR: Alan's uncle places a cedar headpiece on him, anointing Alan a new chief.
(man speaking Native language) ALAN HUNT: There's a certain pressure in knowing that you're going to become chief.
I am taking on the responsibility of holding up my tribe and to provide for them, and make sure that our culture doesn't die.
♪ ♪ TERENA HUNT: I'm honored-- (crying): sorry-- to be his mom.
And I'm proud.
(man speaking in Native language) (drumming and chanting) ♪ ♪ DICK: There's something really magical that comes into play when the host is humble and not pinned to this idea of chieftainship as being prestige.
And it's not an easy thing.
It's a heavy load.
(drumming and chanting) ALAN HUNT: From the moment that they put the cedar ring on me, it was an electric moment, to feel so connected with such an old history.
You know, the baton's been passed to me and now it's my job to carry it well and pass it on to my children.
(drumming and chanting) ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Cedar-- in ceremonies and carvings-- documents the past, celebrates leadership, and provides a path to the future by passing on ancient traditions to a new generation.
♪ ♪ DICK: Without the ability to create masks, to perform in our ceremonies...
Without that, our people can't survive.
So much of our survival came from this tree and our connection to the forest.
(birds calling) Through that one tree.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Kwakwaka'wakw history is rooted in the majestic cedar.
(corn stalks rustling) For the Haudenosaunee, ideals of government are embodied in a tiny plant: corn.
(husk cracking) Today, the Haudenosaunee are beginning their harvest.
The crew is led by Angie Ferguson.
She's on a mission to keep the food of her ancestors alive and the health of her nation strong.
FERGUSON: Through colonization, we grew away from eating what our bodies were accustomed to, and not only are those foods part of our health and nutrition, but those are part of our spiritual entities that keep us who we are.
NARRATOR: Angie is returning to traditional seeds and farming methods developed over thousands of years.
FERGUSON: In a lot of our teachings, food is at the basis of the entire Haudenosaunee community.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: For the Haudenosaunee, corn is more than a crop.
It's a teacher.
Roger Cook was taught one of its most important lessons by his grandfather: When making decisions, always look to the seventh generation.
COOK: All the things that we do in the garden, we're always thinking about that seventh generation.
It's a lot of hard work to put into the corn so that our children that we don't even know yet, our grandchildren, will have this.
That's how far ahead we have to look.
NARRATOR: Haudenosaunee ancestors didn't simply focus on feeding themselves and their children.
They planned centuries ahead.
♪ ♪ It's a strategy that changed the world.
10,000 years ago, there was no corn-- only a tiny weed called teosinte.
Over hundreds of generations of careful observation and seed selection, it was developed into corn.
And that's only the beginning.
Native Americans feed a population of 100 million people by developing new foods from wild plants.
(digging) The potato, the tomato, peanuts, chocolate, and dozens of varieties of beans and squash.
Today, these crops provide 60 percent of the world's grown food.
But for Native America, corn is king.
♪ ♪ It's the power behind one of the ancient world's most advanced societies: the Maya.
From 250 to 900, Maya city-states thrive across what is now Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
♪ ♪ The Maya invent their own system of writing, which records the emergence of a new kind of leader: a divine king.
One Maya king ranks among the longest-reigning monarchs in the world: King Pakal, who ruled for 68 years.
♪ ♪ Art historian Mary Miller has come to his capital city in search of the key to his success.
This is Palenque, in what is now Chiapas, Mexico.
MILLER: Architects and artists came here and made things of extraordinary wonder and imagination, and we wonder at them today, as well.
(crickets chirping) It was a kind of magical place.
NARRATOR: Palenque is surrounded by some of the best soil in the region.
The corn, or maize, that grows here brings prosperity to the city.
But to King Pakal, maize brings much more: immortality.
Pakal uses his riches to construct the Temple of the Inscriptions, a monumental tomb.
MILLER: Pakal created the most remarkable funerary monument to himself that any Maya king ever built.
♪ ♪ When he died, he was placed into a sarcophagus and royally dressed in jades.
NARRATOR: Steps within the temple lead down to Pakal's final resting place.
Perfectly intact for over a thousand years, inside is the largest Maya sarcophagus ever found.
The lid is carved with images connecting King Pakal to the Maize God.
MILLER: We see the great king depicted as the Maize God being reborn.
In his death, maize will eternally return to Palenque.
NARRATOR: Pakal associates his own birth and death to corn's cycles of planting and harvesting.
He assures his people that as the Maize God, he will return in a never-ending cycle of birth, death, and resurrection, and with each cycle, provide sustenance for his nation.
Pakal takes a simple crop and elevates it to a religion.
MILLER: At the heart of Maya religion, the most fundamental notion is that man is maize, and as the maize plant flourishes each year, so too does humanity.
(insects and birds chirping) NARRATOR: Corn has the power to build a kingdom for the Maya.
For the Haudenosaunee, corn will build a democracy.
♪ ♪ The inspiration is an ancient farming method called Dioheka, or the Three Sisters.
FERGUSON: Our Three Sisters, the corn, beans, and the squash, are all meant to grow together to help each other out.
NARRATOR: Planted together, the Three Sisters are a farming miracle.
Corn strips soil of nitrogen, but bean roots balance this by replenishing nitrogen.
And the broad prickly leaves of the squash plant reduce weeds and deter pests.
When consumed together, corn, beans, and squash provide all the essential nutrients for a healthy diet.
♪ ♪ The Three Sisters is a model for community organizing.
(corn rustling) FERGUSON: In our communities, you need people that can stand tall like the corn, and they need people to assist and hold them up, like the beans.
And you have your squash that's laying down to protect everything.
♪ ♪ It's something that's opening our eyes to see what our ancestor was trying to show us.
NARRATOR: The Haudenosaunee adopt the Three Sisters' cooperative approach in nature to a cooperative approach in governance.
(birds calling) This principle is expressed in the structure that defines their very identity: the longhouse.
Pete Jemison is an elder from the Seneca People.
JEMISON: The Haudenosaunee, what that translates to is that our people built an extended house, and when we're talking about this house that they built, it's not just the longhouse that we actually live in.
It is the idea that each of the nations take up the issues that are confronting the community, and they try to come up with solutions.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Leaders from the warring tribes come together in a longhouse and form the Grand Council of Chiefs.
♪ ♪ It is America's first democratic legislature.
Inspired by Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, the Council votes to end war among their nations.
MAN (speaking Native language): (waterfall churning) (men fighting and yelling) ♪ ♪ (fire crackling) (moaning and roaring) ♪ ♪ PORTER: He was a sorcerer.
He had supernatural powers.
He could communicate with the birds and rattlesnakes and wolves and the animal world, and they would help him.
He was a mean, mean man.
His name was Tadodaho.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: To convince Tadodaho to join the new confederacy, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker seek a powerful ally.
A woman named Jigonhsasee.
VIRGINIA ABRAMS: Jigonhsasee was the first clan mother.
She helped bring peace to the Iroquois, to the Haudenosaunee.
NARRATOR: Virginia Abrams is a clan mother, a title first established by Jigonhsasee.
(corn rustling) Like Palenque's King Pakal, Jigonhsasee's influence comes from corn.
ABRAMS: When the nations were warring against each other, she would take them in and feed them.
And she kind of kept the war going on, so the Peacemaker came to her and asked her to refrain from keeping this warring going on between our people.
NARRATOR: Jigonhsasee's stockpile of corn perpetuates the bloodshed by feeding the warriors.
The Peacemaker strikes a deal with her.
(roaring) If she can stop the war, she can choose the chiefs.
(fire crackling) MAN (speaking Native language): ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Jigonhsasee transforms Tadodaho's mind and he abandons war.
Because of Jigonhsasee, clan mothers hold the power to appoint or dismiss chiefs.
JEMISON: She earned for our women the rights, the responsibilities, and the privileges that they have until this day.
(fire crackling) NARRATOR: And Tadodaho, in exchange for accepting peace, is appointed the keeper of the central fire and chief of chiefs, the most powerful leader.
♪ ♪ His name becomes a title that is handed down to this day.
When our longhouses come together, these are the fires he's talking about.
NARRATOR: Sid Hill is now Tadodaho.
He sees an important lesson in memorializing the name of this once-vicious warlord.
HILL: People can change with help if they're going down the wrong path.
There's always hope through people helping them and showing them there's better things you can do with your life than being destructive and evil and negative.
NARRATOR: With the final obstacle overcome, the Peacemaker assembles representatives of each nation.
MAN (speaking Native language): (fire crackling) NARRATOR: From the time of the Peacemaker to today, the tradition of making wampum belts lives on.
A new generation is being entrusted with the story of democracy encoded in the Hiawatha Belt.
MARACLE: Your thoughts and energy, that's the strength of that belt.
PORTER: One day, you're going to get old and then you're the one that's going to have to transmit all of this knowledge, what it means, to your grandkids.
MARACLE: At the beginning of the confederacy, the Peacemaker made the symbol.
It's our connection to each other.
When I hold this Hiawatha belt, what it means to me is that we're a united nation.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Under a total eclipse of the sun, the Peacemaker holds the newly woven Hiawatha belt, and with the nations gathered beneath the Tree of Peace, he speaks the Law of Peace for the first time.
MAN (speaking native language): (roots pulling loose) ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The reading of the Great Law and the weaving of the Hiawatha Belt establish the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
It's a form of government that doesn't rule people, but rather serves people.
It's this principle that inspires Benjamin Franklin and other framers of the Constitution to create their own government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
In 1988, the U.S. Senate passed a special resolution recognizing the influence of the Haudenosaunee democracy on the U.S. Constitution.
The Council of Chiefs meeting in the longhouse is similar to Congress.
Tadodaho parallels the presidency.
And the clan mothers are like justices on the Supreme Court.
They, too, serve for life, but have an additional power.
Clan mothers can choose and impeach the chiefs.
It is a three-branch system of government that looks strikingly familiar.
600 years before the United States, the Haudenosaunee independently establish the first democracy in America.
♪ ♪ WOMAN: Hi!
Good to see you.
(people talking indistinctly) NARRATOR: Today, the Haudenosaunee gather on the shore of Lake Onondaga, the place where their journey from war to peace began.
All the leaders would work together to come up with a solution.
NARRATOR: They build their confederacy based on profound lessons and symbols from nature.
Mother Earth never lacked nothing.
They had a perfect world.
NARRATOR: But like a treaty between nations, they believe they owe nature something in return, to take care of all living things.
PORTER: Water and air and all the natural things that make the world that we live in is held sacred by all indigenous people, and every human being comes from an indigenous people.
(man speaking Native language) NARRATOR: This ceremony is an appeal to honor that responsibility to nature.
For Onondaga Lake, the birthplace of democracy in America, is among the world's most polluted.
HILL: Everybody's concerned these days about the condition of the waters, the condition of Mother Earth.
It's a concern throughout the world.
That was put there for everybody to use and nobody has the right to take that away from anybody.
PORTER: It's not just the water.
It's not just made out of chemical elements.
It's our lifeblood.
NARRATOR: Over 200 years ago, the framers of the U.S. Constitution learn lessons of governance from the Haudenosaunee.
But the founding fathers leave out a core principle: people have a responsibility to take care of the Earth.
(quacking) Native America's profound respect for nature is relevant now as much as ever.
PORTER: Creator, we who are your children says thank you for this miraculous gathering and this beautiful day that you gave us today.
Creator, with love, we say thank you.
And our mind is agreed.
♪ ♪ NARRATOR: The First Nations of the Americas have their foundation in sacred natural symbols.
(conch horn trumpets) In Chavin, priests use the jaguar to gather people into a nation.
♪ ♪ In Central America, corn builds vast kingdoms.
♪ ♪ In the Atlantic Northeast, shell wampum unites nations.
And in the Pacific Northwest, cedar establishes and maintains a national identity.
(drums and chanting) Building on lessons from nature, Native Americans create some of the greatest nations on Earth.