Cape Cod's Nature Place

The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History


Nature Screen: NATIVE AMERICA: Nature to Nations


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. Marcus Hendrix, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, is featured in this episode collecting the shells of Coahogs in Cape Cod waters for the making of Wampum beads used to create Wampum belts. The importance of Wampum belts in Native America is to call meetings, elect chiefs, and record laws.

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. Ben Franklin and the Founding Fathers would later integrate key ideas from their government by Canasatego, the Iroquois chief who eloquently introduced American colonists to the federalist ideas that would shape the United States Constitution.

Free with Museum Admission


  • 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM