A recommended addition to an annotated bibliography
Posted June 19, 2017
Per the public invitation for submissions to the 5th edition of An Annotated Bibliography on Racism in the U.S. Food System, I made this official recommendation to the Center for Regional Food Systems, Michigan State University. Whether or not my recommendation gets included in any future edition, I consider this book is of such importance with such urgent information for Americans in 2017 that I am once again mentioning it in my blog. I cannot exaggerate this book’s value to Americans, especially to:
— U.S. women
— food-and-farm practitioners, researchers, and educators
— direct democracy advocates
— public policy strategists
— environmentalists
— civil rights advocates
— peace activists

If I have misinterpreted Dr. Mann’s work or any indigenous history, knowledge, etc., I hope someone will correct me.

Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas
by Barbara Alice Mann
Prof. – Humanities, Univ. of Toledo; Member – Bear Clan, Seneca nation
Foreword by Paula Gunn Allen
“Gantowisas” is variously translated by Dr. Mann as clan mothers, government women, and indispensable women.

Book, 540 pages, extensive notes and bibliography, detailed index
Peter Lang (international academic publishers)
2000 (First printing), 2006 (Third printing)

Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas provides a thorough, organized look at the social, political, economic, and religious roles of women among the Iroquois, explaining their fit with the larger culture. Gantowisas means more than simply woman – gantowisas is woman acting in her official capacity as fire-keeping woman, faith-keeping woman, gift-giving woman; leader, counselor, judge; Mother of the People. This is the light in which the reader will find her in Iroquoian Women. Barbara Alice Mann draws upon worthy sources, be they early or modern, oral or written, to present a Native American point of view that insists upon accuracy, not only in raw reporting, but also in analysis. Iroquoian Women is the first book-length study to regard Iroquoian women as central and indispensable to Iroquoian studies.

With a spotlight focused squarely on the agency of public authority and spiritually based power structures, Dr. Mann’s book is a comprehensive comparison between the Iroquoian food-and-farm system before European contact and the U.S. food-and-farm system (which became official in 1789 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution). Dr. Mann delineates the historical transformation from one food system to the other through racisms imposed by European settlers, merchants, military, missionaries, scholars, and monarchs. The primary racisms were:

1. Systematic removal of indigenous women from their adult authority over the food-and-farm system of their families, clans, and nations
2. Active replacement of indigenous spiritual beliefs underpinning a living, place-based food-and-farm economy with institutionalized religions and abstract philosophies from other geographies and other eras
3. Slavery of non-Europeans (African-Americans, American Indians, especially the sexual enslavement of women)
4. Denial of the authority (freedom) of non-humans
5. Genocide

Of particular interest to U.S. food-and-farm system practitioners is Dr. Mann’s detailed description of the interlocking adult female responsibilities for the food economy. The clan mothers’ authority constituted more than 50% of the Iroquois League’s power structure and is codified in the Iroquois Constitution (AKA the Great Law of Peace, adopted about 1150 AD).

Key aspects of the Iroquois League’s food-and-farm economy were (and perhaps still are):
a. Women’s councils and men’s councils
b. Authority of women’s councils
— setting the agenda for both councils
— veto power over decisions of the men’s councils
— appointing chiefs (male and female)
— “ownership” of and responsibility for the distribution system (food, goods, farmland, etc.)
— maintenance of clan records: Identity and adoption
— farming, soil production
c. Authority of men’s councils
— forestry, hunting, fishing
— international relations, negotiations
d. Statement of principles (which the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution echoes)
e. A 5-year sunset clause (the agreement had to be renewed every 5 years, with or without amendments). My interpretation is that this clause made the Iroquois Constitution a “living” agreement, able to change with the times, in an organic manner.

The special and unique values of this book regarding how structural racisms are embedded in the U.S. food system are multiple:
— Written from an indigenous perspective, using both scholarly sources and oral traditions
— Takes on all the contradictions of current U.S. society — economic, political, spiritual, social, personal, environmental, academic, legal — and explicates them with facts, flair, and fun
— Details differences between the U.S. Constitution and the original model, the Iroquois Constitution: Shows exactly how the cornerstone of the U.S. was out of kilter from the beginning — and by how much and in what directions.
— Identifies key historical differences between the experiences of the Eastern native American Indians (east of the Mississippi) and Western native nations. Shows how the historical record has been skewed to reflect the Western Indian experience, especially the Plains nations, at the expense of making the Eastern nations almost invisible.
— Demonstrates how the food-and-farm system is connected to all other aspects of human life — spiritual, political, etc.
— Distinguishes “grassroots” democracy as a specific type of democratic organization and one that is most likely to manifest long-term equity in the food system

Unfortunately, as this book points out, despite the direct influence of the Iroquois League on the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Constitution is itself a racist, moneyist, abstract document without any grounding in a living food-and-farm system. A 21st century American need only compare our current U.S. food system with the Iroquoian food system to see the same structural racisms still at work. They are still obstructing the ability of all Americans — human and non-human — to feed ourselves, our families, and our communities, especially if we want to feed ourselves without interfering with other lands’ and peoples’ ability to feed themselves.


1. Omissions from the U.S. Constitution: Grassroots economics (AKA the food-and-farm system)
p. 212 -13
It is interesting to me that, in all of the debate furiously raging ever since Bruce Johansen’s Forgotten Founders (1982) rubbed academia’s nose in the fact that the authors of the U.S. Constitution had been strongly influenced by the Iroquoian Great Law, few have noticed the main disparity between Iroquoia and the United States. It was not the political presence or absence of women, or trial by jury, or a standing army, or any of a dozen other, readily spotted political differences that marked the distinction. It was, instead, the failure of the Founding Fathers also to adopt and adapt the Iroquoian system of grass–roots economics that complemented its political base of Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ (popular sovereignty).

The true failure of the resultant hybrid lay in the unthinking assumption by the Founding Fathers that European war-lord economics and Haudenosaunee Ne” gashasde”’sa’ could operate in harness without the plunder economics of Europe throwing the political system of Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ into disarray. By furthermore ignoring the sibling principles of Ne” Sken’no” (Health) and Ne” Gai’ihwiio (Righteousness) as practical tools of economic prosperity (as opposed to mere moralistic pieties), the Founding Fathers sabotaged hopes for real participatory democracy by writing the proprietary economics of Europe into their Constitution. It is this mismatch of popular but unfunded sovereignty bound to the naked exploitation of capitalism that is short-circuiting American Ne” gashasde”’sa’ today, subverting the political will of the people through the undue economic pressures exerted by a financially privileged elite. No such unbalancing access was possible in the prototype, however, for the clan level where Ne” Gashasde”’sa’ was fomented was also the level at which the confederated economy was managed. Power, will, and weal did not trickle down in Iroquoia; they percolated up.

2. Clan Mothers’ Authority
p. 236
Gifting, whether domestic or international, was obviously a crucial expression of Iroquoian economies. Nevertheless, Euro-American scholars are still interpreting the gifts of Gifting — the Keeping, selection, and distribution of the gift-goods and the management of the feasts associated with them–from an adamantly sexist perspective, presenting women’s roles as secondary and supportive, the housewifely duties of cooking and washing up afterwards. The gantowisas were not the scullery maids of the League, however. They were its Federal Reserve Board.

At bottom, Gifting was a means of distributing Mother Earth’s bounty. It was, therefore, under the express control of the gantowisas. The Clan Mothers managed what Judith Brown called a large “public treasury.”…Since it was the gantowisas who cultivated and kept both food and gift items, it was they who made the Gifting system possible, providing both the food and the goods. They called —and called off —the party.

p. 237
After four hundred years of colonization and the imposition of Europeanized concepts of economics, the old economic system of the Iroquois is now in disrepair. Under the successive hammer blows of first the Dutch, who turned wampum into money; then the British and French, who insisted on commercializing Gifting into trade; next of the Quakers, who sought to wedge the women apart from their fields and their economic independence; and finally of the Dawes Act, which did its level best to dismantle what remained of communalism, the principle of equitable distribution of wealth was dealt a series of staggering blows.

Due to the determined operation of wages and capital, ownership and dispossession, selfishness and greed, the spiritual economics of communal sharing once managed so smoothly by the gantowisas has now crumbled into the dust of history.

3. Iroquois League: Slavery as Economic Basis of American Colonialism
p. 44
…the League knew that two main considerations, slavery and colonial land-grabbing, motivated the war against themselves. Although by 1690, League gantowisas and sachems (an Algonkin term for “elecxted civil chief” generally used for all nations) were already deeply aware of the colonial push to enslave all non-European peoples, with Native Americans high on the list, they were galvanized by the horrific stories of plantation cruelty that had come into the League along with the Tuscaroras. Thus, when the Revolution broke out, League gantowisas and sachems understood well enough that one of its grand, if unsung, motives was the colonists’ intention of retaining slavery against Great Britain’s act outlawing the slave trade in 1772. It was not lost on the League that, at this time, the primary class of property in the colonies was the so-called human capital, i.e.,, the slaves.

The League was, therefore, fierce in its resistance to slavery, seeing forced labor, not “mercantilism”, as the economic basis of American colonialism. League counselors, male and female, excoriated slavery as a primary mechanism of oppression; the greatest insult one Haudenosaunee man could offer another was to alleged that he was a “slave of the white man.” The gantowisas were particularly horrified by the practice of concubinage, or sexual slavery. By 1700, the League gantowisas and sachems had developed a firm policy of resistance to slavery.

Organic Checkoff — NO, New U.S. operating system — YES

Organic Checkoff — NO,  New U.S. operating system — YES
Posted April 18, 2017

This blogpost contains two parts:
A. My comments on the USDA Organic Checkoff proposal
B. Additional resources for learning about the U.S. economy’s operating system — money, banking, language, and democratic process.

A. Public comment regarding the Organic Checkoff proposal
(submitted on April 19, 2017 to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service at https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=AMS-SC-16-0112-2265)

1. I oppose the Organic Checkoff, both in concept and content, on the grounds that the operating system of the entire U.S. economy (money + banking policies) encourages extraction, corner-cutting, and over-use of our natural resources. This makes the real growth of organic farming and distribution untenable — no matter how much how much $$ gets funneled into “organic” marketing and research.

2. Any U.S. food-and-farm policy that wants to grow the U.S. organic sector in a way that is fair to all U.S. farmers, eaters, and non-humans (our natural resources) must first address the disfunctional operating system.

3. I would be happy to work with a coalition of U.S. organic farmers and organic eaters who want to address the U.S. operating system through Congressional legislation, such as the NEED Act (HR2990, introduced in 2011 by Cong. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers).

For background and more information, please read on.
“U.S. food system needs a new operating system”
In 2007, when I was working on the Illinois Food, Farms, and Jobs Acts, an Idaho agricultural banker-turned-publisher gave us our first serious media attention. Ben Gisin published a 2-page article (with pictures) in his magazine Touch The Soil.

A year later, we were in the throes of the 2-year Illinois Local and Organic Food and Farm Task Force. We were writing a report (Local Food, Farms, and Jobs: Growing the Illinois Economy) and drafting a second bill to create a State of Illinois food-and-farm council. One of our task force members, Dean Craine (AgriEnergy Resources in Princeton, IL) invited Ben to speak at an AgriEnergy conference. Ben and his wife, Susan Gisin (co-editor and publisher), came to Illinois and I was able to meet them in person.

In subsequent phone conversations, Ben kept talking about the U.S. needing a new “operating system”. I knew he meant something about money and banking. But he didn’t have a specific plan and I didn’t know enough to ask the right questions.

By 2010, I was getting a clear understanding that no matter what U.S. food-and-farm advocates did to address food-and-farm disparities and injustices, the numbers — dollars-and-cents — were never going to add up for most of us. That included farmers, eaters, food businesses of all kinds, and food-and-farm advocates such as myself. I was starting to see what Ben was seeing: The operating system itself was (and is) disfunctional.

Since then, I’ve been gathering details. According to many observers — economists and non-economists, Americans and non-Americans — the operating system of the U.S. economy is currently:
a. Not under public control (e.g., the Federal Reserve Bank is not owned by the U.S. government)
b. Rigged and manipulated by private interests for private profit (e.g., tax laws, campaign contributions, fractional reserve loans)
c. Being rigged and manipulated with increasing technological sophistication and at an ever-increasing pace — including frequent changes to the rules of the game (public policy) at multiple levels (federal, state, local)
d. Rigged, manipulated, and obfuscated by jargon, fake news, legalese, and other linguistic gobbledygook
e. Out of sync with and in many ways contradictory to nature’s operating system

Hence, the need for a NEED Act.

Public Money under Public Control for Public Purposes
The NEED Act – National Emergency Employment Defense
Quotes from Climate Change, Land Use, and Monetary Policy by Geraldine Perry

a. “This Bill…contains all the monetary provisions of the 2009 draft of the American Monetary Act which itself represented a culmination of efforts and contributions from Charles Walters and numerous other seasoned monetary scholars, researchers and reformers, under the auspices of the American Monetary Institute.” p. 202

b. The American Monetary Act “proposes that infrastructure expenditures, including education and health and farming parity be used as mechanisms to get newly created money spent into circulation to promote the general welfare.’” p. 207

c. According to Stephen Zarlenga, director of the American Monetary Institute, “The three essential elements of proper monetary reform” are:

‘First, incorporate the Federal Reserve System into the U.S. Treasury where all new money would be created by government as money, not interest-bearing debt; and be spent into circulation to promote the general welfare. The monetary system would be monitored to be neither inflationary nor deflationary….

‘Second, halt the bank’s privilege to create money by ending the fractional reserve system in a gentle and elegant way….

‘Third, spend new money into circulation…starting with the $2.2 trillion that the Civil Engineers estimate is needed for infrastructure repair; creating good jobs across our nation, re-invigorating local economies and re-funding local government at all levels.’” pp. 207-8
This is the organic bailout for the Earth — and the rest of us.

Debbie Hillman

B. Resources: U.S. economy’s operating system
Money, banking, language, & democratic process

1. NEED Act (National Emergency Employment Defense) HR2990
Major monetary reform for the U.S., sponsored by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich (2011-12).
No current lead sponsor.

a. Bill homepage
Very readable summary.

b. Talking points (1 page)
Probably needs to include specifics about:
— farms and farmers as essential infrastructure
— mothers as essential infrastructure
— student debt relief

2. American Monetary Institute (New York)
More information on the NEED Act and other monetary policy.
Next annual conference in Chicago (Sept. 2017).

3. Climate Change, Land Use, and Monetary Policy (2013)
Geraldine Perry (Illinois)
This is the only book that I know of that connects monetary policy directly to climate change (weather and carbon sequestration) and historical land use — and to healthy (nutrient-dense) food.

4. Michael Hudson – Economics, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City, Univ. of Peking
Dr. Hudson has been working overtime in the last few years trying to explain what many Americans know — that our economic and financial systems are rigged. His latest book (J is for Junk Economics) just came out in February and he is working even harder doing interviews, etc. Much of his recent work (including this book) concentrates on words, definitions, language, etc. Hint: The meaning and history of the term “free market” has been totally co-opted and distorted.

a. J is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception (2017)
Two recent interviews with Michael Hudson about this book:
— Interview with Laura Flanders http://www.lauraflanders.com/watch?video=ZM0_7PVuVVg
— Democracy at Work (audio podcast) April 2, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6y35aO_fpU

b. Michael Hudson website 
Lots of other interviews, articles, speeches, etc.

c. The Lost Tradition (debt cancellation in ancient Near East — Jubilee, clean slate)
Very readable and interesting paper. Reminds people that the content of the Rosetta Stone includes a “clean slate” decree.

5. Debt or Democracy: Public Money for Sustainability and Social Justice (2016)
Mary Mellor (sociology professor emeritus, Northumbria University)
In my opinion, this is the best overall explication of the issues. So far as I know Prof. Mellor is the only scholar who differentiates between public money and private money — a very effective and accurate differentiation for understanding our collective confusion.

6. NORM Economics – National Organization for Raw Materials
It is the mission of the National Organization for Raw Materials to maintain and add to the body of knowledge of raw material economics, then use all possible informational means to educate an ever-growing number of U.S. citizens and leaders. It is NORM’s belief that a citizenry, informed about raw material economics, can return the U.S. economy to widespread and stable prosperity.

NORM is a 40-year old organization whose membership includes many farmers. There are lots of short, readable essays on specific topics (Farm Bill, parity, NAIS, Monsanto, etc.) that help explain the disfunctions of our money and banking systems.

7. Public banking & local currencies
Please note that at the moment I disagree with Stephen Zarlenga and other experts at the American Monetary Institute about “banking not being a function of government”. I think that state banks can provide an extra level of response to on-the-ground needs. I think public banking is a type of local currency — without all the confusion of different kinds of currencies.

a. Public Banking Institute
Actively supporting groups all over the country trying to create public banks at the state, county, and municipal levels.

b. Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies (2011)
Gwendolyn Hallsmith, co-author Bernard Lietaer
Gwen is an urban planner, long-time Vermont resident.

8. The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise (2015)
Martin Prechtel (New Mexico)
Chapter 9: Money Eats the World
Mythology and spirituality of money as “blood money”, money as loss, money as unmetabolized grief.  Incredibly beautiful prose.

9. Touch the Soil blog
Ben and Susan Gisin (Idaho)
Food-and-farm news from all over the world, with an eye for high-leverage events, actions, and policies.