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“Who’s your Clan Mother?” Impeachment as Women’s Public Authority

UPDATED on March 28, 2019
Official webpage of House Resolution 257
Inquiring whether the House of Representatives should impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America


UPDATED on March 26, 2019 to reflect Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (MN) request for co-sponsors on her “Resolution to Begin the Investigation of Impeachable Actions by President Trump Post- Inauguration.”

NEW ACTIONS as of March 26, 2019
–See her “Dear Colleague” letter requesting co-sponsors by March 27, 2019.
–Call or send an email to your Representative asking her/him to co-sponsor the resolution. ByThePeople


POSTED on March 25, 2019
This statement is being sent to residents and political organizations active in the 9th Illinois Congressional District in an effort to encourage our long-time Congresswoman, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, to prioritize an inquiry into impeachment proceedings.  The logic and content apply to every other Congressional district in the U.S.–all 435 of them.


“Who’s your Clan Mother?” Impeachment as Women’s Public Authority

I agree with the many Americans who are urging impeachment of Donald Trump. Personally, I do not think we can wait any longer to take action. Part of the “action” process is to force Americans to choose a lifestyle — real democracy or unthinking consumerism. Some people call that being “divisive”; I call that clear thinking.

At the end of this blogpost are links to some of the best analysis that I’ve seen about reasons to impeach. Now that the Mueller report is complete and is proving to be the bust that people predicted (in terms of dealing with the president’s corruption), more calls for impeachment will be coming from other analysts.

To use former Cong. Elizabeth Holtzman’s framework, the first step is to “start doing targeted and strategic investigations into the grounds on which Richard Nixon was impeached” (and over which Nixon ultimately resigned). These grounds are very similar to some of the grounds cited by The Impeachment Project about Donald Trump. Obviously, the House also needs to investigate any additional grounds that apply to the sitting president in 2019. The Impeachment Project currently cites eleven such offenses.

In my opinion, such an inquiry process, framed in terms of possible impeachment, will:
–UNITE & FOCUS the country’s attention
–EXPOSE much information in real time for all to see & hear
–DISTRACT the administration from other things
–RELIEVE the national stress of waiting for the 2020 elections without acting

In February, I Tweeted these reasons to my Congresswoman (Jan Schakowsky, IL-9, a 10-term member of Congress). On March 18, 2019, I updated my statement and sent an email to her through the By the People campaign. All are posted on my recent blog Time for Impeachment Hearings — ASAP .

I would also add, thanks to Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa (Gaslit Nation), that impeachment hearings will send a clear message to the world that Americans are not asleep at the wheel and that members of the Trump administration (including the president) are operating under a giant cloud of doubt.

Unfortunately, more than a few advocates of impeachment have framed the call to action in terms of testosterone, suggesting that Democrats need to “man up” and feel their “daddy” power. I would suggest that they’re looking to the wrong gender and that the problem with the Democrats being slow to act is not a hormonal one. It’s the millenia-long patriarchy that’s been undermining women’s adult authority, to the detriment of all life on earth through “bully-boy” corruption (as phrased by Prof. Barbara Alice Mann).

The good news is that, thanks to the 2017 women’s marches and the 2018 mid-term elections, American women are waking up to their public authority as never before. We are reflecting women’s true position at the center of the species, from the birth and death of all humans and shaping everything in-between, especially the norms of human behavior, and especially the behavior of public officials.


Indigenous Clan Mothers

The purpose of this blogpost is to encourage more American women to step more fully into their natural public authority—including members of Congress (MOCs)—by highlighting the role of indigenous clan mothers in the Americas to stop bad or destructive behavior.

In this blog, I will note:
—some general responsibilities of clan mothers within the Great Law of Peace and the traditions of the Haudenosaunee nations
—the specific role of clan mothers as it relates to naming and denaming (impeaching) officers of the Iroquois League.
—the specific role of clan mothers in the Shuar nation (Amazonia) to “impeach” (hinder, stop, impede) any destructive actions by the men

For the record, I am not American Indian nor am I certified in any way as an expert on indigenous peoples or the Great Law of Peace. I am, however, a political elder and I have studied women’s public authority since 1951 (when I was born).

1. General role of Haudenosaunee clan mothers
To start with, here is a general description of a Haudenosaunee clan mother’s role:

“An Iroquoian equivalent of “woman” is gantowisas, yet the term conveys more than woman. She is political woman, faith keeping woman, mediating woman; leader, counselor, judge. Gantowisas indicates mother, grandmother, and even the Mother of Nations, as well as the Corn Mother, Herself, whose shining new face lies beneath the ground to rise again, each year. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the revered Cayuga Chief Deskaheh (1873-1925) of the Canadian Six Nations Council at Grand River, Canada, defined gantowisas as a mature woman acting in her official capacity. Her official capacity was public in every way. Her duties were frankly political, economic, judicial, and shamanic. Gantowisas, then means Indispensable Woman.” (p. 16, Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas)

2. Specific responsibility to set the political agenda (Haudenosaunee)
Clan mothers and women’s councils had the specific responsibility to frame any issue that was to be discussed by men’s councils, especially issues of identity and land, which were considered women’s issues. Here is a living Seneca woman’s description of the reasons for this gendered responsibility of framing issues and agendas:

“…I look at the fine fix Native America is in and realize that this is exactly why the old Clan Mothers refused to let the men discuss anything that the women had not first canvassed thoroughly. In fact, the women even gave the men the preferred possible outcomes of debate, restricting them to discussions of that preset agenda. Looking about today, I attribute the nightmarish morass of federal laws and “tribal” policies to the fact that they are male constructs of female issues.”

“When men attempt to manage Earth matters, like land and identity, they confuse themselves by applying Sky principles of height and distance. The outcome is as predictable as it is disastrous: Flighty rules result from their eagle’s-eye view, obviating ground matters, which look too small to make out from the vantage point of Sky. Unable to feel the rumblings of ne gashedenza (the sacred will of the people), which traditionally originates at the roots of the grass, they grab for the wind and blow hot air.”

From “Slow Runners” by Barbara Alice Mann, pp. 96-97
One of four essays in Make a Beautiful Way: The Wisdom of Native American Women
Barbara Alice Mann, ed. (Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2008)

In other words, clan mothers know when and how official behavior is out of whack.

3. Impeachment in the Iroquois League’s Great Law
Here are the references to impeachment of officers in the two most comprehensive modern books on the Great Law of Peace that I have found.

a. Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas
Peter Lang pub., 2000
by Barbara Alice Mann (Bear clan, Seneca; Prof. of Humanities – University of Toledo)

p. 170
“On the negative end of naming power were instances of what might be called “denaming.” Denaming of the living was the impeachment of a sitting official, male or female….

“The practice of naming and its gendering into a female power is quite ancient.” [reference to Iroquois creation story of Sky Woman and daughter, Lynx]

p. 172 power over names & titles encoded in wampum belts
“…it was women, and women alone, who nominated men and women to office, effectively meaning they alone elected officers, as the men did little more than rubber-stamp their choices. The only curb upon their power in this regard was the reasonable prohibition against a mother nominating her own son, unless every other eligible man was quite literally dead.”

178ff denaming
“The most obvious form of denamng was their power to impeach civic wrongdoers. Any sachem [chief] or Clan Mother found guilty of crimes in office, dereliction of duty, or incompetence (senility) could be removed. The gantowisas were not empowered to impeach anyone until after they had given the offender three public warnings to amend his (or her) behavior…If the final warning was ignored, the women might act.”

b. Kayanerenko:wa: The Great Law of Peace
University of Manitoba Press, 2018
by Kayanesenh Paul Williams (Onondaga Nation at Six Nations Territory, Canada)
lawyer, historian, teacher

p. 368 Removing a Chief
“The primary authority to remove a chief has been said to rest with his clan, through his clan mother, if the chief is straying from his duties. That is, the people whom he represents and who selected him first ought to be the people with the first right to remove him. The process involves three formal warnings, each more stiff than its predecessor. The first comes from the clan mother’s assistant or faithkeeper. The second comes from the clan mother herself. The third comes from the “Great Warrior”, the young man without a title who assists the clan mother, or the chief’s sub-chief, and it includes the removal of the chief—by removing his “horns”.”

p. 371
“In certain circumstances, a chief can be removed immediately by the other chiefs—for murder, rape, or theft.”

p. 373
“Immediate removal of an offender prevents his continued presence from causing hard feelings or disunity. While the three warnings from a family may take days or weeks, a removal by the council—which would require a degree of unanimity—is, in effect, the removal of a kind of “crawling thing”.

“A removed chief is said to have been “dehorned”. His wampum “horns” are taken away from him, to be placed with his successor [chosen by the clan mother]. Generally, a dehorned chief leaves the community, in some disgrace. His ability to hold any office is finished. His reputation is shattered: “it shall be that when a lord is deposed and the deer’s horns…are taken from hi, he shall no longer be allowed to sit in council or even hold an office against.”

p. 374
“In modern times, chiefs have been dehorned for various infractions. These have generally involved doing things without the knowledge or sanction of the council, failure to perform obligations or attend council, submission to foreign governments, failure to account financially, disruption of council, and the commission of criminal offences.”

4. Impeachment in the Shuar nation (South America)
Etymologically, the word “impeach” means to hinder, prevent, impede, fetter. Of interest is the women’s tradition in the Shuar nation of telling men when to “stop” some destructive behavior. Examples cited by John Perkins and Alice Walker are cutting down trees, hunting, warfare, but such responsibility to hinder could just as easily be applied to on-going actions by our sitting president. Here is how Alice Walker described this responsibility in 2002:

“…I listened to a CD called Shamanic Navigation by John Perkins. In it he talks about the Swa (sic) people of the Amazon. These are indigenous people who’ve lived in the Amazon rain forest for thousands of years. They tell us that in their society men and women are considered equal but very different. Man, they say, has a destructive nature: it is his job therefore to cut down trees when firewood or canoes are needed. His job also to hunt down and kill animals when there is need for more protein. His job to make war, when that becomes a necessity. The woman’s nature is thought to be nurturing and conserving. Therefore her role is to care for the home and garden, the domesticated animals and the children. She inspires the men. But perhaps her most important duty is to tell the men when to stop.

“It is the woman who says: Stop. We have enough firewood and canoes, don’t cut down any more trees. Stop. We have enough meat; don’t kill any more animals. Stop. This war is stupid and using up too many of our resources. Stop. Perkins says that when the Swa (sic) are brought to this culture they observe that it is almost completely masculine. That the men have cut down so many trees and built so many excessively tall buildings that the forest itself is dying; they have built roads without end and killed animals without number. When, ask the Swa (sic), are the women going to say Stop?”

We are the Ones We have been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness — Meditations
by Alice Walker (New Press, 2006)
pp. 59-60, in essay “All Praises to the Pause; The Universal Moment of Reflection”
Commencement address – California Institute of integral Studies (San Francisco, CA, May 19, 2002)


Are you my Clan Mother?

I would suggest that, at this critical moment in U.S. and world history, Americans would do well to ask this question:

Who are the clan mothers who will initiate impeachment proceedings against a sitting president who is using the office for his own enrichment and is endangering Americans and others (including non-humans) in multiple ways on a daily basis?

According to the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach. So the question becomes:

Who in the U.S. House of Representatives has the bravery and wisdom of a clan mother to initiate impeachment proceedings against this president and this administration and to reset the norms of official behavior in this country?

The most obvious candidates for “clan mothers” are women in leadership and other senior women in the House (dates denote MOC’s longevity in Congress).

a. Women MOCs in Democratic leadership (House):
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) 1987
Democratic Caucus vice chair: Katherine M. Clarke (MA) 2013
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair: Cheri Bustos (IL) 2013
Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chairs: Debbie Dingell (MI) 2015
Freshmen caucus representative: Katie Hill (CA) 2019
Barbara Lee (CA) co-chair of the Democratic Steering & Policy Committee 1998
Rosa DeLauro (CT) co-chair of Demoratic Steering & Policy Committee 1991

b. Other senior women Democrats in the House (5+ terms):
Kathy Castor (FL) 2007
Yvette Clark (NY) 2007
Susan Davis (CA) 2001
Diana DeGette (CO) 1997
Anna Eshoo (CA) 1993
Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) 1991
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX) 1993
Marcy Kaptur (OH) 1983
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) 1995
Zoe Lofgren (CA) 1995
Nita Lowey (NY) 1989
Carolyn Malone (NY) 1993
Doris Matsui (CA) 2005
Betty McCollum (MN) 2001
Gwen Moore (WI) 2005
Grace Napolitano (CA) 1999
Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA) 1993
Linda Sanchez (CA) 2003
Jan Schakowsky (IL) 1999
Jackie Speier (CA) 2008
Nydia Velazquez (NY) 1993
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) 2005
Maxine Waters (CA) 1991

c. Republican women MOCs (House)
Of the 13 Republican women in the House, one is in leadership and three have served more than five terms:
Liz Cheney (WY) 2017 – Republican Conference Chair
Virginia Foxx (NC) 2005
Kay Granger (TX) 1997
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) 2005

House MOCs’ Current Position on impeachment
(as of March 24, 2019)

So far as I can tell, no one is keeping a scorecard in terms of a public statement on impeachment by members of the U.S. House. Here is information that I have gathered from various media reports:

Four MOCs (including three women) have already come out as supporters of beginning the impeachment process:
— Rep. Maxine Waters
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA) 2017
— Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI) 2019
— Rep. Al Green (TX) 2005

Two other women MOCs (including my own Congresswoman) have stonewalled the process:
— Speaker Nancy Pelosi
— Rep. Jan Schakowsky

The question for the U.S. in 2019 remains:

Who and where are our clan mothers?
Who will draw the line on unacceptable presidential behavior?
Who will draw the clear line by which Americans decide “which side” they want to be on?

Can we encourage our long-time Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, to act as a clan mother facing a dangerous president and to help craft a preliminary inquiry into impeachment proceedings?

Personally, I do not think we can wait any longer to take action. Part of the “action” process is to force Americans to choose a lifestyle — real democracy or unthinking consumerism. Some people call that being divisive. I call that clear thinking, clan mother style.


1. Join the Organizing
By the People
Petition + other organizing

The Impeachment Project
A project of Free Speech for People
Take Action

2. Recent Analysis

—The Impeachment Project
A project of Free Speech for People
Legal Grounds for an Impeachment Investigation of President Donald Trump

–Fernand Amandi and Sarah Kendzior
Strange Days podcast (March 2019)

–Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa
Gaslit Nation podcast (March 2019)
Impeachment discussion starts at 42:00 minutes

–Greg Sargent, Washington Post
If Trump is a national emergency, it’s time for Democrats to act like it (March 21, 2019)

—The Case for Impeaching Trump
Video Fordham University Law School, Feb. 27, 2019
Cong. Elizabeth Holtzman, Ron Fein, Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman

—The Case for Impeaching Trump
John Bonifaz (Free Speech for People, co-founder and president)
March 14, 2019
Democracy Now! Video

3. The 800-1000 year old Great Law of Peace

For a general description of the Great Law (with current Native American resources), see my Sept. 2018 blog, In Case of Constitutional Crisis…Start Here: The Great Law of Peace