Stump The Beaver: November/December 2015

by Jim Dittmann
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 By: The Beaver

Mitzi from Beaver Dam writes:  Dear Stump, a few months back you mentioned the Beaver Wars.  Were those the same as the French and Indian Wars?

Answer:  No, the Beaver Wars (also called the French and Iroquois Wars) began 50 or maybe 100 years before the French and Indian Wars.  There was no declaration of war, so the actual date the Beaver Wars began is hard to pin down.


Mitzi asks a follow-up question:  Why were they called “the Beaver Wars”?

Answer:  As you may know, beavers were almost hunted to extinction in Europe.  So, American beaver pelts were in huge demand.  The Iroquois Confederacy wanted to supply beaver pelts to the French.  However, the enemies of the Iroquois refused to allow them to deal directly with the French.  What’s more, the French were providing firearms to the enemies of the Iroquois, which put the Iroquois at a substantial disadvantage.  So, the fair-minded Dutch (who were already trading pelts with the Iroquois) began providing firearms to the Iroquois.  Well, the Iroquois became a warrior nation, not unlike the Borg of Star Trek fame, and like the Borg, the Iroquois greatly expanded their beaver trapping territory – defeating or assimilating a vast number of Indian nations. 


Inquisitive Mitzi asks a final question:  What kind of culture did the Iroquois have?

Answer:  The Iroquois had a few remarkable characteristics:  (1) They were farmers, cultivating corn, beans and squash, which allowed them to store food and survive the long winters.  (2) Women had powerful roles in Iroquois society – for instance, children were born into the clans of their mothers.  Women held most of the property.  The elder women of each clan were highly respected and could actually control the selection of the chief.  Heck, the women could even impeach a chief who wasn’t performing!  (3) As mentioned above, the Iroquois practiced assimilation.  For instance, family members mourning the deaths of loved ones were entitled to ease their pain by capturing and adopting “replacement humans” from their enemies.  (4) The Iroquois Confederacy was governed by the Great Law of Peace, which embodied federalism concepts that can also be found in the US Constitution.  Concurrent Resolution 331 acknowledges the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations to the development of the US Constitution.  


Monopolizing Mitzi asks one more final question:  Given that beavers gave rise to the huge expansion of the Iroquois and given that the huge Iroquois Confederacy gave rise to our Constitution, is it true that beavers are ultimately responsible for the Constitution of the United States of America?


Answer:  A++                                    Check out the Beaver’s weekly updates at  

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