Wednesday, November 13, 7 pm, in Peacock Hall

Native American Nations’ History

Natives of both North and South America know things about the earth that modern man has ignored. For centuries they have lived in ways that maintain the earth’s bounty and protect it. This connection to the earth affected the way their governments evolved. And it shapes their struggles today.

This 1-hour PBS film “Nature to Nations” explores the rise of great American nations, from dynastic monarchies to participatory democracies. Archaeologists who’ve studied ancient hieroglyphs in the Peruvian Andes and the stories told by totem poles in the Pacific Northwest, reveal the history of Native Americans’ science grown from their connection to the earth, its animals, and the sky.


Immediately following the film, Denise Varner, RN – a descendent of the Muscogee Creek tribe – will draw on her experience as a consultant to bridge Indian communities and surrounding local and state health boards and advisory committees. Now semi-retired, she served many years in Indian Healthcare Programs in CA, OK, MN and ND in primary care, urgent care, trauma and public health nursing roles. She currently facilitates wellness and prevention for Native American urban youth, particularly regarding preserving the identities of urban Indian young women as a means of preventing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

America’s First Democracy

Centering on the democracy of New York’s Haudenosaunee Peoples — also known as the Iroquois Confederacy — “Nature to Nations” reveals how elements of the natural world drive


governance in Native America. The story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, as told by native elders, demonstrates how shell helped end war among five tribes and bring about America’s first democracy 500 years before the United States. Ben Franklin and the Founding Fathers would later integrate key ideas from their government into the United States Constitution.

Native American Governmental Systems

Building on these revelations, the episode traces evidence that nations across Native America use beliefs from the natural world to support governmental systems, from dynastic kingdoms to shamanistic rulers. Science and oral tradition reveal how corn, cedar, shell, and the jaguar each inspire new nations and plant the seeds of great empires. All are part of an incredible 3000-year narrative of nature, nations and cultural sophistication in Native America.

Segments from the film:

Lessons from farming (2-minute video):

The history of corn (3-minute video):

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