The Challenge of Governance in an Interdependent World -

What indigenous governance can teach us

[this is not my 'paper' but my discussion of its tenets, in concert with Ted's discussion]

(Martine's reference is to a joint presentation at the ISSS world congress in Toronto in July, 2000)

Martine Dodds-Taljaard

"I don't believe these [political] theories [eg. Marxism] can be separated from the rest of the European intellectual tradition.. It's really just the same old song. The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, "revolutionized" physics and the socalled natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each of these "thinkers" took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into a code, an abstraction of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one two three. Answer!

Russell Means, Lakota Nation

The reader may wonder why it is that we consider ontological (nature of reality) and epistemological (theory of knowledge) views important when it comes to how we govern or manage societies and organizations (and indeed also nature). When I first encountered Ted's thinking three and a half years ago whilst looking for papers on complexity, management and knowledge on the web, I was immediately struck by his saying in the introduction to his suite of essays, which just blew me away with their breadth of insight and dimensionality, that it was his research into high performance teams that led him back to physics and a rethinking of how we see the world, and how we think about it, and how we live. To me, that makes total sense. I therefore thank him for being such a brave adventurer into the socalled 'hallowed' halls of science and society, for thinking independently about our perceptions and knowledge, their meaning and implications, and for stating his views with an integrity and consistency that I find rarely if at all. It has been a priviledge and huge learning experience for me, and I hope it continues to be so.

As he pointed out above regarding the discretism so rampant in analytical science (and unfortunately also rearing its ugly head in systems sciences) - our tendency to view the world as a 'thing out there', a kind of empty 'backdrop', separated from us, and composed of things against an infinity of 'empty' space - assuming then that 'science is the right reading' - has implications not only for how we understand how the world works, how we perceive nature, others and ourselves, but also for how we see society, and hence for how we organize ourselves as human beings on this planet. How we view the world, and how we decide what is worth knowing and what we know, determine how we manage it and nature - and this, is precisely 'the problem'. We in the West or First World, are inclined to think that at the start of the third millennium we stand at the end of a long linear road of western philosophy and science that constitutes the 'best understanding possible' of the nature of reality and our place within it - something like "nature's last word" and the pinnacle of wisdom. Well, we beg to differ. We have forgotten what we perhaps only intuitively understood before 'science and rationality' took center stage, (hence the return also to Heraclitus,) and are losing life in the bargain. We need to question our most basic assumptions, usually hidden as 'defaults' which then continually reproduce the same non-solutions over and over again.

We who participated on this panel in Toronto (and we are sorry that Art Skenandore of Oneida Nation could not be with us, but he could not be there for personal reasons), also think that 'being' (life - i.e. 'becoming') is a spiritual proposition, and we agree with Chief Shenandoah that 'spirituality is the highest form of politics', albeit not in any traditionally 'religious' or 'new-age' sense of the word. Spiritiaulity, in this sense, is a tuning to the implicate order and harmony of life - it entails humility and respect for that which we did not create and do not adequately understand, judging by the effects of our discretist knowledge and technological and pharmacological 'prowess'.

We on this panel, do not think that the Western model of democracy, as exmplified in the USA and other nations, is the 'best possible system' there is or can be, and we do not therefore propose, along with the IMF and World Bank and the 'leaders' of the Western world, that the whole global village should agree and do likewise. The 'West' seeks to effect this by 'tied' development 'aid' (i.e. 'structural adjustment programmes' - a term almost as innocuous-sounding as 'collateral damage' our 'professional' euphemism for destruction of people and cultures during high-tech war - meaning, "implement/duplicate western representative democracy and financial institutions, and we will loan you the money") - i.e. the 'carrot' for 'saving' the whole world in this manner, not unlike the 'saving' of primitive nations which was embarked upon during the European colonization drive starting in the 1400s, where the imposition of Christianity and the destruction of indigenous cultures everywhere went hand in hand with slavery, abuse and heinous oppression if not downright extermination, but we now try a milder form of this 'medicine', in the form of the 'best possible solution' and supposedly benign 'knowledge sharing'. It is what Taiaiake Alfred and we call, the 'colonizing mindset'. It changes shape and form and domain of application, but it does not change its underlying nature.

In contrast to the 'carrot' of control over money and access, institutional and natural resources, the 'stick' of course, is to be branded a 'rogue nation' or worse - anarchists, trouble-makers, fanatics, terrorists, environmental wacko's, cooks, you name it, the media have a plethora of 'objective' descriptions to select from - and to have sanctions imposed till your national (or individual) will is sufficiently weakened for you to 'come to your senses' and join the 'mainstream consensus'. (We also addressed this exclusionary paradigm in a previous essay, Bottoms up in Atlanta, during that year's ISSS conference).

This same persuasive tendency operates in the halls of academia, where you are not supported or 'allowed' to pursue research outside fields or specialties approved of by the 'mainstream' opinion. But this is nothing new - almost all the great scientists now belatedly lauded and commemorated as poster boys, were so obstructed in their time. Thus confusing the quantitative 'number' of votes (common consensus) for 'quality' of viewpoint, much as we do in 'representative democracy'. There is indeed 'self-similarity across scale' here, and the discretist paradigm of thinking, being and doing, infuses the same levels of dissonance into nature, society, communities and people, as it does into theory by excluding relational interference information and the implicate order. In the era where creativity and openness and freedom (in society and academia) are supposedly at their zenith (watch my eyes roll heavenward), we find instead, an unsettling 'political' and theoretical 'correctness' everywhere. But this is not surprising considering the fact that we now 'know', right? as both Ted and Leonard Cohen pointed out. Let us discount the hubris in those assumption for now, and try to indicate why we disagree with this discretist consensus. It is an abomination, to put it mildly.

The nature of governance

Representative democracy is supposedly a model for participation in governance. In contradistinction to autocratic rule, where a dictator, or monarch or oligarchy, determines how society should be governed, who eats and works, and who do not. This is a mistake, and in fact, a very unfunny 'joke'. People believe somehow, that if they vote for somebody to think and plan on their behalf, they will be participating in the creation of the society and future they want. It could not be further from the reality. Cynicism over the 'platform planks' and policy inanities uttered like programmed robots, are beginning to jar on voters everywhere. It hardly matters who you vote for, they merely perpetuate the system under different official 'terminology'.

I say this bluntly, because the model of organization which is used in representative democracies and business corporations everywhere, is a type of organismic model premised on the analogy to a human body, which has 'one mind' - i.e. a uni-minded system. We know, and this is seemingly forgotten, that a society or community is a multiminded system. Every part of it (person), has a brain, and is capable of choice and its own 'opportunity management' if only it were allowed to do so. The Iroquois model of governance, which greatly influenced the Founding Fathers of the US Constitution, but has now had its principles distorted beyond recognition by 300 years of expert practice, was such a model. The United Nations, and indeed every government, should do the world a favour, and explore its dimensions and implications and its proven potential for harmonious social organization. It is not because it worked 'then' , but its systemic nature, and its consistent principles of natural harmony, that underlie this claim. This was again recently demonstrated in a still ongoing process of national development, involving the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, the fifth iteration of which is discussed in Gharajedaghi's Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity, 1999. In this process, the Interact social systems science model and that of the Iroquois conferedacy's clan based model, were found to be totally congruent.

So I return 'without permission' to this supposedly 'primitive' indigenous model, which is nowhere even discussed or inquired into, except among Indian nations themselves (hopefully) and seemingly buried with the artefacts and cultures which had brought it into being and who lived in such remarkably sustainable harmony with nature, that their environment was considered an unspoiled 'wilderness' - i.e. 'proof' that it needed 'taming' and destruction for 'real human settlement'. (See, Wilson, 1998: The Earth Shall Weep - a History of Native America weep.)

I will tell you moreover, that it is the ONLY model that is in congruence with a curved space view of reality (based on relativity theory) and a 'social systems' understanding of the world, as also exemplified in the mode of organization developed by Jamshid Gharajedaghi. It is a model of governance that recognizes that every part of the system, i.e. a human being, has a mind/ soul of his or her own, and hence has the right and indeed the responsibility, as Ted pointed out in his discussion of the medicine wheel, to determine his/her own ontogeny, in harmony with nature, community, society, nation or community of nations, of which they are a part. It does not remove the responsibility for one's life, whether a culture or person or nation, to a faceless bureaucracy which is accountable to no one, but keeps it where it originated, i.e. within the 'individual'. Far from being a recipe for anarchy, it allows everyone the right to participate autonomously and in reciprocally shared responsibility, with everyone else. Thereby it creates 'membership' and a sense of belonging in all those involved, who are committed to outcomes they themselves designed, and not socalled 'best practice', packaged 'solutions' imposed by experts on unsuspecting 'voters'. There is nothing 'idealistic' or 'unrealistic' about this model - it is feasible and can be operationalized on any scale, community, organizational, cultural, national or transnational. The methodology for doing so, exists. And it has been done. But by default, we continue with 'solutions' to problems that no longer exist in the form into which we abstracted and distilled them.

The current model of organization, is not only the same in governments as in corporations everywhere, it is also the same whether the society is supposedly capitalist or socialist in nature. (there, I thought that might get your attention). It is a control model, (cybernetic system, where parts do not have a choice, the parameters of the system are set centrally by the controller) - it is the type of system that Ackoff calls 'an autocratic hierarchy', even where its 'officers' and officials, are elected. See the Figure below (Orgnismic Organization - a blueprint for structural conflict),

We can only touch on some features of this model, and one of the things it destroys, is any 'phase information' or relational understanding, which might enable its members to function in a more coherent way. Plus, but this should surprise no one, it makes accountability impossible. As such, a very convenient solution for maintaining the status quo and resisting any attempt at real change or transformation, let alone elimination of corruption (see Dodds 1998: Transforming Organizations; Ackoff 1999, Gharajedaghi 1999).

Through separation of authority and responsibility (the 'divide and rule' mechanism that is not only employed in analytical science to break the world into its consitutent parts in order to 'know' and quantify and categorize and label the parts), but also forms the basis for how we organize and govern and 'control' (divide et impera) - and through separate functions, in separate linear hierarchical 'towers', with separate decision criteria, performance and reward measures (where the means (solution) selected for each end (objective) is invariably in conflict with those within a different functional department) - division of the organization/society into management/government (the brain)/ those who have 'authority', VERSUS labour/'the people' (the hands)/those who have responsibility for execution of orders from 'above' - rendering every part of the organization/society in structural conflict with every other, not by 'accident' but by DESIGN. All of this magnificent structure, moreover, based on Aristotle's Law of the Excluded Middle, or Binary Logic (see Bart Kosko), which we projected onto the world (it pertains to proposional logic only but we forgot that).

As we know, this model worked beautifully in the World War II era and just beyond, before people (workers, teenagers, cultures, nations) discovered that they have 'choice', (which 'technically' means that in any given situation, there is not only one way in which to respond, but two at least, or more) - which realization arrived about the same time as Elvis and the Beatles did, but this model, counter-intutively and ironically from today's vantage point, produced such economic growth and proliferation of products and services (by the 'predict and prepare' spurred 'growth strategy of management; by advertising, the dulling of critical capacity by media, and the surrender of our minds to teachers, the clergy, government and the media ) - that it is now incapable of handling its own 'efficient' outcome, i.e. a highly complex and interactive (because critcally interdependent) global system, that can no longer be broken into parts and managed by parts or by controlling the actions of parts - a world in which everything is interconnected to everything else (it always has been, but we forgot that for a full 2500 years), and the welfare of every part is contingent upon that of every other, with change happening at the speed of light and no decision-maker having the capacity, even if he tried, to understand what needs doing, how or why.

And here lies the paradox of management, as many have pointed out, namely that whilst the 'whole' (global system) is increasingly INTERdependent, its parts (people, groups, cultures, nations) are concurrently, increasingly INdependent. (as Gharajedaghi might say, "Operation successful, patient dies". 'Success' ('efficient' action)* of a given model, changes its containing operating environment, or 'opportunity landscape'- as Ted pointed out so well in his discussion. This rquires new responses from us. *[efficiency is about 'doing things right' - effectiveness, is about 'doing the right thing '- this model, as the discretist science upon which it is premised - was oustanding at doing things right, and has been lousy at doing the right thing. THIS is our dilemma today.] So the challenge of governance relates to both the system, and its parts, AND its containing opportunity space, and requires that we manage ourselves in such a way that we do not stifle the variety and diversity which alone can ensure our freedom and survival, but can concurrently create alignment or harmonic co-evolution of the whole (which includes nature). The global society is an open system, by virtue of information technology and mobility. We cannot return to past 'solutions' or models to create order where we see only increasing complexity and dysfunction. The cybernetic model cannot handle the level of complexity and diversity of the global system.

Such a changed systemic environment requires responses which are appropriate to its nature and dynamics - we cannot continue to ignore the evidence that 'things are not working right' and simply 'do more of the same', while we treat symptoms in our youth and culture with psychiatric and neuroleptic drugs to keep them quiet, just because we mistakenly assume that it is 'the best way we have' - this 'best way', applied persistently in the face of its patent failure, only amplifies the dissonance and dysfunction in the system. This challenge, both within science and society, is the same one encapsulated in Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety. (See my other papers and this paper, hopefully appended at some point.)

The cybernetic/organismic model of governance and management, premised on the analogy of a human body, leaves no room for choice, for the purposefulness of its members, who are not there to just 'do or die', but actually consider working in order to live, and not vice versa, as their 'right', and who have mobility and access to information that was never foreseen by this model in its 'glory-days' before Leonard Cohen and rock and roll took the microphone.

If this were a 'natural' way to organize a multiminded system - as the notion of 'organismic' might seem to suggest if we do not inquire into this metaphor's appropriateness or applicability to a SOCIAL system, which differs in critical ways from other natural and technical systems - we might look at it and decide that here nature fumbled the ball, and proceed to set it right - but no, we take a metaphor FROM nature (analogy of a human body), and apply it in a distorted form to a type of system ( a group of people, or multiminded system) - where it does not reflect the multimindedness ('parts have choice' and purposes)- nor the multidimensionality of social systems (see Development Dimensions in Figure 2) and cannot handle (either conceptually or managerially) the 'variety' and resultant complexity of the latter's true nature. As if this were nt enough, we have proceeded to compound the error (path-dependency if ever I saw it) and continue to build a plethora of single-function social institutions and support structures ( that are symptomatic of the level of pathology, not of society's 'compassion', as is mistakenly assumed) - that are supposed to 'fix' the resulting mess, with exactly the same degree of efficiency and effectiveness as 'germs' might provide in treating a 'wound'. ASIDS - as Ted pointed out.

And Behold! THIS, is the 'best possible solution' and the one we seek to sell to the world like Kentucky Fried Blueprint for Organization. We have every business school, management consultancy, expert and then some, selling some version of this model, dressed in different language, of course, and encrustation upon discrete encrustation of separate little solutions for every problem and pathology which this model produces with such staggering regularity and efficiency, that the services industries surrounding it will no doubt flourish into perpetuity or until our demise, whichever comes first. I believe it is correct to say that Indigenous societies had no asylums, neuroclinics or jails, but we see that evidence of systemic failure as the proud legacy of our 'advanced civilization'. They did not need them because their mode of social organiation did not drive people and cultures into habitual and endemic crime, pathology and despair.

In Figure 2 below, you can see the societal development dimensions identified by Gharajedaghi, and their SUPPOSED yield (participation, memerbership, security, plenty, etc.) and then, the ACTUAL yield, in terms of social pathology. And we could continue the list on the level of the individual as wel as the transnational levele, where niche-war conflict has become apparently endemic. (as Ted often says, every war is a civil war). This situation is created by the obstructions to development incumbent upon our mode of governance, or model of organization, at organizational, societal and international level, and those in turn based on our discretist, analytical thinking. I rest my case.

Indigenous ways - (from 'being' , or state control, to 'becoming' - who you can be)

In contrast, and in case we have forgotten what 'governance' is about, let me refer you to Taiaiake Alfred's book, Peace Power and Righteousness - An Indigenous Manifesto, in which he says the following:

"The most fundamental right of a people is the one that empowers them to determine their own identity (1999:71) The indigenous conception of justice builds a framework of respectful coexistence on the fundamental acknowledgement of the integrity and autonomy of the various elements that make up the relationship. It goes far beyond even the most liberal Western ideas of justice in advancing the cause of peace, because it explicitly allows for difference while promoting the construction of sound relationships among autonomous elements.

Taiaiake Alfred, 1999: Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto

To those teaching governance or management to others, I would urge you to rid yourself of the other interesting but misleading western historical curiosities that posed as 'manifesto's in the past, not to mention the barns full of inappropriate management texts 'dressing the 800-pound gorilla', and read one that a human being can resonate with and that FAR surpasses the insight and understanding of anything I have read on this topic in the Western Enlightenment' literature. In our research into the nature of indigenous thinking, I came to the conclusion that here are thinkers of a caliber that would shame most of our self-styled gurus and professors into silence. I urge you to go read their work. That holds for so many, I cannot name even all the ones I encountered. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for what they have preserved of their thinking and culture - so does the world, except you would not know it to look at it.

Whilst the above synoptic quote from Taiaiake Alfred may to some reflect 'only' the unacceptable relationships that pertain between indigenous peoples and 'Western-style' governments, I would go further, and maintain that this same challenge of re-thinking and 'de-thinking', is today faced by all humanity in our relationships with nature, between one society or civilization and another, as well as in how we create order in human society, no matter what 'nation' we are speaking of. For we have not only colonized others, we have also colonized nature and ourselves, through the adoption and imposition globally, of a thinking pattern and concomitant praxis that not only exhausts nature, but has left us now with a fast-globalizing life-'solution' that is ecologically unsustainable, inter-civilizationally untenable, unjust to large parts of humanity, conflict-generating instead of conflict-dissolving, and reduces all our current and future options to a predictable unidimensionality. This paradigmatic 'solution' represents a profound impoverishment of our collective natural, human and cultural heritage, even as material riches multiply. It has left us with a world awash in means, but life devoid of integrity or meaning.

At the core of this process, now popularly and loosely referred to as 'globalization', is a 'second wave' of colonization, using different means -- one which represents the imposition of only one paradigm or style of thinking, being, and doing, on the entire global commons. The 'excuse' proffered in support of Global Governance, is the level of complexity and lack of harmonic integration we see about us, but if such governance is not to exacerbate the current situation, it would have to shift to particpative democracy to have any meaning or legitimacy in the glbal commons at all.

The rethinking to which Taiaiake Alfred refers, if it is to have any impact and move beyond the domain of philosophical speculation, would have to include not only a changed model of governance but an entire reformulation of how any and all of the parts of the global system (including our relation to nature) relate to one another. This rethinking therefore crosses the conceptually 'convenient' and traditional 'lines' and artificial 'boundaries between levels of the global system (biosphere, earth, nations, cultures, groups), including the basis for their interaction (i.e. either harmoniously or in conflict) . It would also have to transcend the conceptually imposed 'lateral borders' between the societal dimensions of politics, economics, education, aesthetics and ethics. Such a process of course implies a concurrent shift in world view, in our philosophical premises and assumptions, in our 'logic', attitudes, and values. Perhaps one could call this requirement an 'evolutionary revolution' - because it would involve every aspect of life. Whilst the systems sciences themselves have sought such a shift since their inception, I believe that they have not gone far enough. It is not enough to change how one thinks about the world, abstractly, and within science as one artificially isolated domain of human endeavor, and this only in an expansion of a discretist epistemological base. Unless translated into a changed praxis (mode of organization/governance), such a shift can remain at best, an interesting 'difference that makes no difference.'

Changing Course

In introducing his own methodology and discussing the potential for transforming our societies, Gharajedaghi (1999:46-49) notes the following principle operative in systems, which I would attribute to the 'curved space' transformation geometry that Ted was referring to earlier:

"Counter-intuitiveness means that the actions intended to produce a desired outcome may, in fact, generate opposite results. It has been said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions needs to understand the practical consequences of the following assertions:

Cause and effect may be separated in time and space. An event happening at a given time and place may have a delayed effect, producing an impact at a different time and a different place.

Cause and effect can replace one another, displaying circular relations.

An event may have multiple effects. The order of importance may shift in time.

A set of variables that initially played a key role in producing an effect may be replaced by a different set of variables at a different time. Removing the initial cause [therefore] will not necessarily remove the effect."

Paula Underwood (1994), a well-known native American thinker, refers to this same principle, which is what creates the 'complexity' that so baffles the 'rational' world - as her 'Rule of Six' - (it is what Ackoff calls 'messes', or interrelated systems or sets of 'problems' or conditions - probably the most fundamental principle within the systems sciences as a field of inquiry) -- i.e. there is no 1 to 1 relation between 'cause' and 'effect' or intent and outcome, or means and ends, or plan and execution/outcome. And every apparent phenomenon, has a multitude of plausible explanations, but 'at least six' is a useful reminder to us of this reality. (Hawk and Eagle, Both are Singing. )

This should also be a reminder to us of the patent shortcomings in our reliance on socalled 'expertise' (from a systemic viewpoint, more appropriately 'unpertise'). An 'expert' is someone who thinks in terms of isolated domains or 'parts' of reality, usually without consideration for the counter-intuitiveness of complex systemic behavior. Thus we daily see instances of how complex (interconnected) problems (eg. air pollution) are 'solved' by the introduction of 'expert solutions' (e.g. introduction of the chemical agent MTBE in gasoline, 'solving' the problem of vehicle emission reduction, whilst poisoning the whole underground water system of the continental USA. Again: "Operation successful, patient dies"). Moreover, the problem of the automobile itself, and its impact on society and nature, as Ackoff has long pointed out, are not dealt with, only some of its 'effects' and that is not done systemically either.

We think that 'reengineering government' or business, is a structural 'downsizing problem'. That is a quantitative solution to a qualitative problem! The means selected in this type of 'transformation' effort, which has nothing to do with 'transformation' and everything to do with 'selective benefit', is 'downsizing' - thereby, the stockholders' share-value and corporate (short term) bottom line are improved, or some cost cut out of the system, but at the expense of labor, and hence 'distribution of wealth' within the larger system, i.e. society, and very often also at the expense of the corporation's own long-term embodied, 'latent' capital, or knowledge. For institutions like the World Bank and IMF to declare that this type of 'efficiency' is what is needed globally, is a one-sided 'solution', and transnational corporations announcing and celebrating its latest triumphant 'merger' (shedding on average between 8 000 and 40 000 employees in the act of 'increasing shareholder value'), should consider the collective and long-term effects of such a practice. If this were done because there is no other way, one might understand, but there ARE other ways of increasing shareholder value AND the benefit of wealth distribution via employment. It is through participative and interactive 'redesign' of the system, and creating a flexible and modular system that incorporates not only the three levels of purpose of employees/citizens, management/leadership and larger society (including nature), but also that of long-term social learning and development. It is an approach that places 'efficiency' (doing it right) in a subordinate (special case) position within the larger context of 'effectiveness' (doing the right thing). BOTH are achievable concurrently, but not simply by downsizing or restructuring or focussing on discretist solutions to means-problems.

The indigenous view of the world as interconnected 'web of life', or of close interdependency of the whole (nature and the global commons) - even amid high levels of autonomy and independence of the parts (individuals, cultures, nations), is closely congruent with a few (less visible) currents within the systems science domain, of which Ted also noticed some during this conference - though expressed very differently and within an oral tradition of story-telling - where the complex interconnectedness of dimensions, systems and phenomena are woven 'geometrically' into the story.

The indigenous way or American Indian way of living and doing and being, also in its form of social organization or governance, incorporates in an integrated, harmonious and holistic way, all the systemic dimensions and principles - and centrally those of concurrent differentiation amid integration, of freedom amid responsibility, of the benefit, health and harmony of the whole AND its parts - as does social systems methodology - the latter ironically being 'cutting edge' management philosophy and organizational design methodology, and the former an ancient way of life that has much to teach us about how to relate to our social and natural environment and to understand and respect the world we live in.

"No part is separate from any other part. The health of the whole enables the health of any part thereof. Sickness of the smallest part affects the whole."

Paula Underwood 1996. Creation and Organization: A Native American looks at Economics. ( )

This thought of Paula Underwood, which is indicative of the entire philosophy and form of life of American Indian societies, in systems terms, also reflects Boulding's 'name of the devil is suboptimization', as well as the philosophical basis on which Interact methodology is founded. It is (was?) also the most basic underlying assumption of the whole endeavor called 'systems sciences' - though one might be forgiven for thinking otherwise in the light of recent efforts to emulate the 'success criteria' of the analytical disciplines, just as philosophy sold herself down the river trying to duplicate the criteria of positivist science. Hence our chosen theme for this team-presentation.

The Iroqois Model of Governance

"Social learning is not the sum of the isolated learning of each member. It is the members' shared learning as manifested in a notion of a shared image and culturesocio-cultural systems to continuously increase their capacity for higher levels of organization. This is what social development is all about. It is this collective and shared learning that enables societies to redesign themselves by successively creating new modes of organization at higher levels of order and complexity. However, creating a new mode of organization involves a cultural transformation. More specifically, it requires changing the default values of the organizing principles.

Jamshid Gharajedaghi. 1999. Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity. p.87.

Chief Oren Lyon, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation:

"The true purpose of human political organization, The Peacemaker argued, must be to oppose violence. This, he said, can be accomplished when men of healthy minds and bodies unite to create a just world in which human abuse is abolished forever, and in which war is abandoned as a way of settling disputes. Force, he asserted, is justified only when it is necessary to halt aggression and to create the conditions we might call a truce that could be used to create a road to peace. In addition, The Peacemaker proposed that a council be formed to provide a forum in which violence would henceforth be replaced with thinking, and disputes would be settled with words

exhausted conquered were to enjoy rights. There would be no collection of spoils from those who were conquered. There would be no requirement that a conquered people adopt the religion of their conquerors. The aggressors would be required to disarm, but otherwise they would be left in control of their country, and the dispute would be taken to the Great Council, where it would be resolved

Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Onondaga - were to find strength in unity, and The Peacemaker symbolized this unity with arrows. First he held forth a single arrow and demonstrated how easily it was broken. Then he held forth five arrows bound tightly together. These, he demonstrated, could not be broken. This is the origin in Haudenosaunee political history of the symbol of the bundle of arrows. The Peacemaker also described a symbolic eagle that was to circle high above the Great Tree. This eagle was to use its keen eyesight to spot trouble from afar and to warn the Confederacy of any developing conflict

The Peacemaker unified the nations of the Confederacy onto one nation under an ideology that was complex but whose symbols were easy to grasp. The Longhouse the symbol of a nation: the sky was compared to its roof; the earth was like its floor; and the fires burning inside were like the nations stretching east to west. The people of a nation hold fast to the idea of a unified nation, and The Peacemaker introduced ideas to promote that sense of unity, admonishing the people of the clans across the nations that they are all brothers and sisters, and creating a folk law that the people of a certain clan of the Mohawks could not marry the people of the same clan of the Onondagas or any of the nations, because brothers and sisters do not marry. These were powerful ideas which created customs that survive to this day.

Onondaga, where the Great Tree was planted and the fifty chiefs (sachems, or Hoyane - He who does good') met in council. There the Peacemaker taught that peace is not simply the absence of violence but can only exist through the vigorous efforts of clear-thinking people to eradicate injustice in the world Peacemaker facilitated what can be described as a revolution. He caused the power of the warrior leaders to be subordinated to the workings of a council of elders whose purpose was to promote peace within the framework of a true confederacy. At the same time, the member nations were encouraged to continue practicing their local laws and customs as beforeHaudenosaunee controlled its internal affairs independently of the Confederacy Council, while the Confederacy Council was restricted to controlling affairs of a national or international character

Gaswentah or Two-Row Wampum. Of special significance for an understanding of the Haudenosaunee principles of friendship and peace in connection with early white colonists is the oral tradition of the earliest treaties. In essence, these treaties, which the Haudenosaunee associate with the principle of the Silver Covenant Chain, extended to the Europeans the Haudenosaunee principle of respect for the laws and customs of different cultures. The Silver Covenant Chain is a promise that the Haudenosaunee will not interfere in the internal affairs of the European people, and reciprocally that the Europeans will not interfere in the Haudenosaunee internal affairs. The modern American idea of states' rights is a correlative to this principle links on the chain will represent certain things. The first link will mean friendship. The second link will mean peace. The third link will mean that it will always be the same between us

Haudenosaunee have been central to our relations with other nations and states, whether Indian, European, or American. In these traditions, there is a recognition that peoples are distinct from each other. However, since the beginning of our memory this distinctiveness has been seen as foundation for mutual respect; and we have therefore always honored the fundamental right of peoples and their societies to be different. This is a profoundly important principle, and one which, even in the twentietth century, humans continue to struggle to realize." Chief Oren Lyon 1992: Exiled in the Land of the Free. Chapter 1.

A feature of this form of political organization, is that it is not purely 'political' - the people lived in an integrated way, where social functions, spiritual beliefs, the values and respect for nature's patterns, cycles and conditions, formed a closely interwoven tapestry of mutually reinforcing ideas and life norms that informed individual, clan and national life, and determined also their relations to other nations. Would that this 'simple' (yet complex) geometry were the foundation of today's societies and global commons. This simplicity, interconnectedness, coherence and consistency of its symbols and core principles, every one of which has a very specific meaning, also in relation to others, and where no theoretical 'excess' clouds their meaning, as Chief Lyons indicates, contain a very complex set of systemic ideas about social organization, and indeed a philosophy of life, of how the world is ordered, and what our role and place within that world should be. For such a way of life you do not need 'experts' to interpret the 'law' - their 'geometry' is contained in learning stories that all can relate to in a meaningful way. It is this context of 'order' that creates for the individual a 'meaningful life circumstance' in which to 'become who they are and can be' (Pindar).

And should anyone assume that that simplicity and coherence of a 'total' (whole) life and belief system is not realizable in today's world, these principles are systemically translatable even to a more modern context - people have not ceased to have human needs and the desire to belong to a meaningful community. . The world can (and indeed does) do worse than explore the potential of this model of social organization in the creation of a truly democratic global commons. It is also a model upon which the United Nations could become an effective institution.

That the US Constitution took many of its central tenets from the Iroquois Confederacy and its Great Law of Peace, is not in doubt. It is not a European product based purely on Christian principles' as some would now like to believe. Indian ideas and philosophy traveled in the other direction, rather, influencing thinkers like De Tocqueville, Rousseau and many others. According to Paula Underwood, as is also pointed out by other writers and historians: "Many, perhaps most of our Founding Fathers were intimately familiar with Indian governance structures. This was especially true of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, the Adamses (Samuel, John and Abigail), and John Rutledge. Specifically, Franklin, who was Indian Agent for the Colony of New York, carefully studied Iroquois/Haudenosaunee organization under the Great Law of Peace and clearly used it as the basis for his Albany Plan of Union published in 1754, under which he hoped to unite the Colonies. The Albany Plan was used as the basis for the constitution of the Colony (later the State) of New York and later became the basis for the Articles of Confederation, which provided in turn the basis for the US Constitution

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League) themselves say the Great Law is about 1,000 years old. From the beginning it included and still includes concepts such as democratic representation, the right to impeach officials, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, prohibition against illegal search and seizure. It also included equal rights for women and for all men, the rights of children, and responsibility for the environment." Paula Underwood, 1996. (

However, in the process of its incorporation into 'modern' society, and under the influence of 'enlightenment rationality' - the intent of such a form of governance has been turned upside down.

The color symbolism indicated in connection with the Medicine Wheel or Circle in Figure 3 - is significant regarding the Indian nations' subsequent loss of their own territory to the white colonists, since white was a color symbolizing purity and spirituality, leading them to trust white people, only to find that every treaty with them was broken, ultimately rendering them 'exiles in the land of the free', as Chief Lyons' book title indicates. "As James Mooney put it: 'While the English colonists recognized the native proprietorship so far as to make treaties with the Indians, it was chiefly for the purpose of fixing limits beyond which the Indian should never come after he had once parted with his titleBuren in 1837, 'as long as Indians are permitted to remain.' (Wilson, 1998:162,163).

One is tempted to ask, what type of 'civilization' treats others in this way, so that the distinction between what and who constitutes 'the savage' becomes questionable. By defining 'civilization' according to European ways of life in the 1600s, linking it to a specific belief system such as Christianity, as well as what it means to 'inhabit' a country (as distinct from just 'roaming around in it') (!), and by defining ideas such as 'sovereignty', 'rights' etc., in the 'Western way', the American Indian's physical and spiritual genocide, theft of land, enslavement and destruction of culture, were 'rationalized' and 'justified' and continues to be so rationalized. It is an outrage.

To an American Indian (meaning in dios - 'living in God'), nobody 'owned' the earth. The earth was not created by man, and his role therefore, is that of stewardship, not ownership. These beliefs were cynically exploited to rob them of their habitat, culture, traditions and livelihood. Thus Taiaiake Alfred (1999:62) states that "The only position on development compatible with a traditional frame of mind is a balanced one, committed at once to using the land in ways that respect the spiritual and cultural connections indigenous peoples have with it and to managing the process so as to ensure a primary benefit for its natural indigenous stewards. The primary goals of an indigenous economy are to sustain the earth and to ensure the health and well-being of the people. Any derogation of that principle - whether in qualitative terms of with reference to the intensity of activity on the land - should be seen as upsetting the balanced ideal that lies at the heart of Native societies. "

'Sovereignty', moreover, in this view, means the right to be who you are, and is not seen as legally (abstract, statist) derived 'power' based on 'ownership' of a territory to do with as one sees fit no matter the consequences, but just as 'nationhood', is about 'being' "Being is who you are, and a sense of who you are is arrived at through your relationships with other people - your people. So who we are is tied with what we are: a nation [the Western concept of it] - the authority to exercise power over life, affairs, territory - this is not inherited. It's not part of being a thing that can be given and thus can be taken away. It is clearly a foreign concept, because it occurs through an exercise of power - power over another." (Ibid:65,66) As already pointed out, the Indian concept of power differs markedly from the Western view of it as 'power overGharajedaghi, 1999:57) where he discusses both his and Ackoff's distinction between power over (which is coercive domination through abstract authority); and power to, which is equated in social systems terms, with competence, strength of character, responsibility and personal integrity.


The Western concept of power as 'authority over others', by whatever means, is not consistent with current 'global citizens' views on human rights concerning one's right to be who you are, or the American Indian view. (Again, we have come full circle - the only people who do not recognize this, are the 'leadership' of the world.) Thus the redundancy of the cybernetic model of governance also in this regard. If democracy is only taken to mean 'right to vote for those who then acquire power over you' - it will not have a long future. Small wonder elections are not even respected in a lot of African countries, for e.g., who also have a history of natural chieftainship and shared authority in kinship groups. The 'right to vote' does NOT constitute, in any practically equatable terms, the 'right to self-determination' or autonomy. It is the 'right' , instead, to abrogate those rights, and second them to 'politicians' who act and decide on your behalf, in terms of criteria that you had no hand in formulating - which makes a mockery of the notion of 'democracy' as 'freedom of the individual'.


Participative democracy, on the other hand, is a system in which those affected by decisions have a hand in formulating them or rejecting those that work against their interest. This occurs through thought sharing within the circle, as Ted showed in the beautiful picture by his friend Jacques, through a process of consensus building around shared decision-criteria ('rules of the game' - rules of how we conduct ourselves in this world). Moreover, the power given to 'government' should be only those that individuals and smaller entities cannot themselves effectively pursue, such as national defence. As Gharajedaghi points out (1999:72): sharing of decision criteria, not abdication of power, that results in empowerment and makes centralization and decentralization [individual autonomy and group alignment] happen at the same time." Policy making, is the interactive and participative process of establishing shared decision-criteria ("coming of one mind" as indigenous people call it) (a 'design process) - it is not 'decision-making by vote'. Decision criteria are about the 'rules of the game' not their implementation or living in accordance with them. In a participative democracy, members of the system participate in the formulation of the rules whereby they choose to live, as well as how they live - and that is what the Russell Means (Lakota) (1995) is referring to when he speaks of 'freedom being the right to be responsible'. "Freedom. You are free to be responsible. If you are a responsible person, then you need no laws. This (USA) is a nation of laws and lawless peopleare, are made for lawless people is a fear-based society( )

Russell Means, of whom it is said that "he awakens the spirits of the Great Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse(N.Scott Momaday and Oliver Stone, Ibid.) also notes that, "You can't talk about the environment, you can't talk about political correctness, affirmative action and all the other innumerable things that freedom is about, unless you have a free society based upon the integrity of the individual. If you have a responsible society, these other issues will not come up in a responsible society, and that is what freedom is all about. We are the very people, the American Indians, who taught the world about freedom of the individual through representative government. That was largely taken from the Northeastern Indian peoples of North America, and we are all true to that form throughout this hemisphere; but the Iroquois Confederacy was the shining example of freedom for the individual through representative government." This form of 'representation' is however vastly different from the current form we find in the Western world. It is based on an interactive, consensual, and clan-based model, working according to different principles of decision-making, than that of the 'voting' kind.

We can clearly see from these discussions what the foundation for a participative democracy has to be. It is a self-governing system engaging in a process of consensual, interactive, participative, and iterative DESIGN. (See Gharajedaghi, 1999: Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity, where he describes how this design process was implemented as national development process with the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, as Art Skenandore was going to address in his presentation). As such, it is also a learning system. A multiminded-system, i.e. like a human society, or within an organization, or in a clan or family, is one where every 'part' (individual) has a mind to think with and to govern themselves with. "Mind' (the 'control' system of a living being) is not a property of a committee or only some members of the system. If this responsibility to govern oneself is abdicated to others, who rule by an abstractly defined (non-living) 'authority', conceptually defined and bestowed on them by vote or other means, the individual is no longer really responsible for his own behavior and development. Nor is he living as a free and autonomous being. The externalization of that responsibility into an abstract legal system which then has to be 'enforced' also by abstract statist authority and 'objective coercion' ('Blind' justice indeed), is a state of being where individuals are not truly free to be who they are, since they can only 'choose' among the default selections 'allowed' by the powers that be. The same principle holds for the next level, namely the cultural.

How then, is 'order' maintained, if everyone is free to be responsible? We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of Western notions of what governance means (top-down control and coercion via the law, and via bestowed, generalized and abstract 'authority'), that we are quite content to abdicate that responsibility and our only life-given right, to others. That way, the individual does not have to take responsibility for himself and his actions, or for the 'order' in society. But within a system governed as multi-minded one (instead of a 'uni-minded' one as the cybernetic model implies - where 'management' is the [only] 'brain of the firm') - one where the individual co-defines the rules that shall count for himself and everyone, and in the process of doing so, commits himself to their maintenance. It is then a question of 'honor' to uphold what he himself participated in formulating. That is what integrity means. It is based on respect for oneself, and how one conducts oneself honorably, and on according that same respect to the other who does likewise.

This type of 'sovereignty' is inherited from life itself and considered to be 'inherent' (constituted by one's human nature within the larger order of nature). (See also 'Inherent Sovereignty' as defined by the Oneida Nation - ). It is sovereignty seated within the individual FIRST, and not primarily within an abtract 'state' or institution, just as it is in the clan, and the nation. Therefore, the direction of that 'progression' across systemic levels, starts from the individual, NOT from the 'government' (a 'reversal' of the Western 'order') - in other words, the first place 'where the buck stops' - is with the individual - it is HIS responsibility, to govern himself. From there, this autonomy and sovereignty moves to the level of the clan - where individuals CO-determine the rules whereby they live in their context and environment and in terms of their clan's social responsibility within the larger whole of which they are a part - and from there, to the nation and then federation of nations.

Viewed from this perspective (an 'inversion' of the Western way) - it is easy to see how 'The People of the Longhouse' (Haudenosaunee) did not need jails, police and coercion to secure a harmonious society living also in harmonic balance with nature. It was everyone's responsibility. And in that lay the freedom of the individual, as autonomous being, as well as that of the clan and the nation and confederacy. A different notion of sovereignty indeed. Russell Means, in an interview with Linda Brookover ( ) notes that "The only way you can be free is to know that you are worthwhile as a distinct human being. Otherwise you become what the colonizers have designed, and that is a lemming. Get in line, punch all the right keys, and die." Perhaps this is also the intuition that underlies the 'Seattle', 'Washington', 'Davos', 'London' and other protests against a 'New World Order' based on a control model.

Within this Iroquois participatory democracy, every individual has the right to voice opinions and disagree or agree on actions and decisions. Local chiefs promote internal peace and local traditions and laws - guided according to the shared wisdom of the nation, whilst the Confederacy is organized to meet external threats or national concerns. The 'Chief', therefore, 'manages outwardly', - which is the essence of true leadership - not through downward control - he is the link to the larger system of which the clan is a part. (Again, the very same philosophy contained in 'Interactive Management'). Thus, as a system of governance, it is not aimed at internal control ('administration'), and had no organs of repression, police, or jails, since 'just' and 'honorable' behavior is everyone's responsibility. Those values indicated in Figure 3, namely Peace, Power, Righteousness - all founded upon a life lived in respect - are personal values, not abstract ideas.

"The Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee shall be mentors of the people for all time" (i.e. this form of governance was premised on leadership, not control). The Tadodaho, is the Firekeeper or Principle Chief of the Iroquois Nations, a spiritual elder, his role first created by Deganawida, "The Peacemaker", who was the son of a young Huron virgin who dreamt that her child "will be a messenger of the Creator and will bring peace and harmony to the people of the earth") - as described by Chief Lyons in the opening quote of this section. Deganawida went (with Haiawatha) and convinced the Mohawk nation of his injunction from the Creator, to bring peace, power and righteousness, who then became the founders of the League of formerly Five, now Six Nations Confederacy. The symbol of their unity is the bundle of arrows, which singly, can break, but together, are strong. Before conversion to Deganawida's mission, Tadodaho was a 'malevolent' Onondaga shaman - his name now represents the role of the Principle Chief of the League, or Firekeeper. (See Wilson 1998, Chapter 5).

Concluding thoughts

We came to Toronto and did this presentation for a reason. We see in the American Indian tradition, a way of life and governance of society which even today has not been improved upon, or surpassed. The world needs to take notice and learn from their example. Moreover, it is one where despite division of responsibility, division of social dimensions did not fragment that society. Generation and distribution of power, wealth, truth, beauty and the good, for the Haudenosaunee - represented ONE integrated way of being, and one integrated way of doing. Thus the concept of 'power' was not representative of a struggle for authority over others, but contained in the notion of the 'freedom to be responsible' - power over oneself - self-governance. Similarly, the 'ethics' of this society, its concept of the good, was to live in spiritual and natural unity and harmony with all of creation, and to treat all living things with dignity and respect. The 'aesthetic' (creative and recreative) dimension of life, was lived through a thankful celebration of all aspects of their life, and an appreciation for what each element or part thereof contributed toward the beauty of the whole. It is a celebration, an embracing and an enjoyment of what is natural and 'given' to mankind by nature and the Creator. As for 'wealth', that which people have in order to live, not in order to 'possess', is freely shared, so that the measure of a 'civilization', is how it treats its poorest members.

There was no exploitation of the environment, for when the earth is seen as nurturing 'mother' - she is honored and treated with the same respect given mothers of the clans. This was also not 'a roaming way of life' - the reason why the 'wilderness' was still in its 'pristine state' upon the arrival of the colonists, is that it was lived in sustainably and harmoniously, but this was seen as 'proof that they needed civilizing'. Each season provided a different type of opportunity for survival - the warmer seasons for settled agriculture and the others for hunting. As for 'knowledge, truth and wisdom' - the tradition based on an oral practice of story-telling, is a life based on the 'learning way' - as it is is in some of the Eastern traditions like Taosim - it is also an ongoing journey, a process, and not a destination. It is one that accords the path (the linear left-brain, 'explicit' knowledge way) as much value as the forest (the right-brain intuitive, 'tacit knowledge' capacity of mankind) and indeed saw the former within the context of the latter, just as the systems sciences first sought its task in providing the larger understanding which the specialized disciplines on their singular 'paths' could not. These five 'social functions' were pursued in a mutually reinforcing way, not as separate activities, pursued by separate 'specialities' within separated institutions. Thus their culture, and their people, could remain healthy, balanced, and 'whole.' As Paula Underwood says, "Logic only functions to the extent the database is relevant."

We see here a concept of 'development' the rest of the world should relearn and rediscover. It is about learning to BE, and 'meaning', instead of just 'having', or pursing 'means'. As Gharajedaghi (1999:173) puts it, in describing this concept of development which places everything we do in its rightful context of embedding meaning, it is about "learning to be". "Learning to be is essentially a character building activity. It is about values, worldviews, and identities. It involves desires as opposed to abilities, the capacity rather than the content; the direction rather than the speed; the why's rather than the how's; the feeling rather than the thinking; the meaning rather than the action; the process of becoming rather than the state of having. It is about doing the right thing, rather than doing it right."

Such a 'learning to be' is what we in the West have forgotten in our single-minded pursuit of the means, the how's, the thinking, the thoughtless action, the having, the power over

Mitaku Oyasin - we are all related.

"When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully, because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground.We never forget them."

Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation 

"We are instructed to carry love for one another, And to show great respect for all beings of the earth. We must stand together, the four sacred colors of man, as the one family that we are, in the interest of peace

Chief Leon Shenandoah (Onondaga), Tadodaho of the Six Nations Confederacy.

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