From 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, By Charles C. Mann

Striking to the contemporary eye, the 117 codicils of the Great Law were concerned as much with establishing the limits on the great council’s power as on granting them.Its jurisdiction was strictly limited to relations among the nations and outside groups; internal affairs were the province of individual nations…
In creating such checks on authority, the league was just the most formal expression of a region-wide tradition. The sachems of Indian groups on the eastern seaboard were absolute monarchs in theory. In practice, wrote colonial leader Roger Williams, “they will not conclude of ought…unto which their people are averse.”
The league was predicated, in short, on the consent of the governed…Compared to the despotic societies that were the norm in Europe and Asia, Haudenosaunee was a libertarian dream.
In the same sense, it was also a feminist dream…The equality granted to women was not the kind envisioned by contemporary Western feminists–men and women were not treated as equivalent. Rather, the sexes were assigned two separate social domains neither subordinate to the other. No woman could be a war chief; no man could lead a clan…
According to Haudenosaunee tradition, the alliance was founded centuries before Europeans arrived. Non-Indian researchers long treated this claim to antiquity with skepticism…But both traditional lore and contemporary astonomical calculations suggest that Haudenosaunee dates back to between 1090 and 1150 A.D…Before 1600, the last total solar eclipse observable in upstate New York occurred on August 31, 1142. If Mann and Fields are correct, this was the date on which Tododaho accepted the alliance.
The Haudenosaunee thus would have the second oldest continuously existing representative parliaments on earth. Only Iceland’s Althing, founded in 930 A.D., is older.
Scholars debate these estimates, but nobody disputes that the Haudenosaunee exemplified the formidable tradition of limited government and personal autonomy shared by many cultures north of the Rio Grande…Important historically, these were the free people encountered by France and Britain–personifications of democratic self-government so vivid that some historians and activists have argued that the Great Law of Peace directly inspired the U.S. Constitution.
Taken literally, this assertion seems implausible…But in a larger sense, the claim is correct. The framers of the Constitution, like most colonists in what would become the United States, were pervaded by Indian ideals and images of liberty.
In the first two centuries of colonization, the border between natives and newcomers was porous, almost nonexistent. The two societies mingled in a way that is difficult to imagine now…
The aging John Adams recalled the Massachusetts of his youth as a multi-racial society. “Aaron Ponham the Priest and Moses Ponham the King of the Punkapaug and Neponsit Tribes were frequent visitors at my Father’s House,” he wrote nostalgically.
“There was a numerous Family in this Town, whose Wigwam was within a Mile of this House…and I in my boyish Rambles used to call at their Wigwam, where I never failed to be treated with Whortle Berries, Blackberries, Strawberries or Apples, Plumbs, Peaches, etc.”
Benjamin Franklin was equally familiar with Native American life; as a diplomat, he negotiated with the Haudenosaunee in 1753…As Franklin and many others noted, Indian life–not only among the Haudenosaunee, but throughout the Northeast–was characterized by a level of personal autonomy unknown in Europe…
“The Savage does not know what it is to obey,” complained the French explorer Nicolas Perrot in the 1670s. Indians “think every one ought to be left to his own Opinion, without being thwarted,” the Jesuit Louis Hennepin wrote twenty years later. The Indians, he grumbled, “believe what they please and no more”–a practice dangerous, in Hennepin’s view to a well-ordered society.
“There is nothing so difficult to control as the tribes of America,” another Jesuit unhappily observed. “All these barbarians have the law of wild asses–they are born, live, and die in a liberty without restraint; they do not know what is meant by bridle and bit.”…
“When an Indian Child has been brought up among us [Franklin lamented in 1753], taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return. [But] when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life…and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, when there is no reclaiming them.”…
Colonial societies could not become too oppressive, because their members–surrounded by examples of free life–always had the option to vote with their feet…
Historians have been puzzlingly reluctant to acknowledge this contribution to the end of tyranny worldwide.