Indigenous Americans ruled democratically long before the U.S. did

On sunny summer days, powerboats pulling water-skiers zip across Georgia’s Lake Oconee, a reservoir located about an hour-and-a-half drive east of Atlanta. For those without a need for speed, fishing beckons.

Little do the lake’s visitors suspect that here lie the remains of a democratic institution that dates to around 500 A.D., more than 1,200 years before the founding of the U.S. Congress.

Reservoir waters, which flooded the Oconee Valley in 1979 after the construction of a nearby dam, partly cover remnants of a 1,500-year-old plaza once bordered by flat-topped earthen mounds and at least three large, circular buildings. Such structures, which have been linked to collective decision making,

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