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Hau de no sau nee
11 years ago

The Six Nations:

Oldest Living Participatory Democracy on Earth

Figure 3

  Peacemaker presents his vision.  By John Kahionhes Fadden.

What is presented here is nothing less audacious than a cosmogony of the Industrialized World presented by the most politically powerful and independent non-Western political body surviving in North America. It is, in a way, the modern world through Pleistocene eyes.
          Scholars and casual readers alike should question the significance, in the age of the Neutron bomb, Watergate, and nuclear energy plant proliferation, of a statement by a North American Indian people. But there is probably some argument to be made for the appropriateness of such a statement at this time. Most of the world's professed traditions are fairly recent in origin. Mohammedanism is perhaps 1500 years old, Christianity claims a 2000-year history, Judaism is perhaps 2000 years older than Christianity.
          But the Native people can probably lay claim to a tradition which reaches back to at least the end of the Pleistocene, and which, in all probability, goes back much further than that.
          There is some evidence that humanoid creatures have been present on the earth for at least two million years, and that humans who looked very much like us were in evidence in the Northern Hemisphere at least as long as the second interglacial period. People who are familiar with the Hau de no sau nee beliefs will recognize that modern scientific evidence shows that the Native customs of today are not markedly different from those practiced by ancient peoples at least 70000 years ago. Indeed, if an Iroquois traditionalist were to seek a career in the study of Pleistocene Man, he may find that he already knows more about the most ancient belief systems than do the modern scholars.
          Be that as it may, the Hau de no see nee position is derived from a philosophy which sees The People with historical roots which extend back tens of thousands of years. It is a geological kind of perspective, which sees modern man as an infant, occupying a very short space of time in an incredibly long spectrum. It is the perspective of the oldest elder looking into the affairs of a young child and seeing that he is committing incredibly destructive folly. It is, in short, the statement of a people who are ageless but who trace their history as a people to the very beginning of time. And they are speaking, in this instance, to a world which dates its existence from a little over 500 years ago, and perhaps, in many cases, much more recently than that.
          And it is, to our knowledge, the very first statement to be issued by a Native nation. What follows are not the research products of psychologists, historians, or anthropologists. The papers which follow are the first authentic analyses of the modern world ever committed to writing by an official body of Native people.

The people of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy, call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House. Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original United States representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations. In our present day, we can benefit immensely, in our quest to establish anew a government truly dedicated to all life's liberty and happiness much as has been practiced by the Six Nations for over 800 hundred years.
Figure 31

Hau de no sau nee/Iroquois
11 years ago

Just wanted to post this here also...A story told by Chief Cornplanter of the Seneca/Iroquois.

Exerpt from    The Legends of the Iroquois

Told by          The Cornplanter

Written by      William W. Canfield   in 1902

                              The Great Mosquito

An immense bird preyed upon the redmen in all parts of the country. Their homes were at no time safe from its ravages. Often it would carry away children playing beside the wigwams or, like a bolt of lightening, dart from the sky and strike a woman or man bleeding and dying to the earth. Whole fields of corn had been destroyed in a single night by its ravages, and its coming was so swift and terrible that the Indians hardly dared stir from the shelter of their houses. A strong party of Cayuga and Onondagas finally determined upon its death no matter at what cost to themselves. A young warrior offered himself for the sacifice. He was provided with a quantity of raw-hide thongs, and directed to one of the open spaces, where it was believed the dreaded monster would discover and descend upon him. The young brave was to bind one of the thongs upon the bird's feet or upon some portion of its body, if possible, before he was killed, and then his companions, rushing from their place of concealment, would try to slay the enemy that had been snared with such difficulty. The preparations were elaborately made, and the young brave went forth on his dangerous mission.

Three days he sat, chanting his death song and awaiting the coming of his terrible fate. On the morning of the fourth day the sky was suddenly darkened and the watchers saw that the great bird was slowly circling above the heroic young Cayuga. He ceased his chanting, and, standing upright, shouted defiance to the almost certain death that awaited him.

With a scream that turned the hearts of the waiting Indians cold with terror, the bird dropped upon its victim like a panther on his prey. A short and terrible struggle took place and then the concealed warriors rushed forth to finish the work of their brave young companion, who had succeeded in throwing one of the thongs over the great mosquito's neck. They brought willing and ready hands to the battle, and the arrows poured upon the struggling mass like a storm of hail.   After a long encounter the bird was killed, and the young Cayuga smiled in triumph as his last glance rested upon the dead body of the monster. Runners were at once dispatched to the villages to inform the Indians of the victory, and soon vast numbers of them came to look upon their long dreaded enemy that had been slain at such cost. Its body was larger than that of the largest bear they had ever seen, and the breadth of its outstretched wings was as great as the height of three men. Its talons were as long as arrows, and its monstrous beak was lined with sharp teeth. There was much rejoicing over the great mosquito's death, and for several days there was feasting and dancing held in honor of the bravery of those who had rid the country of such a terrible scourge. Soon, however, swarms of the poisonous little flies that have been the pests of all nations since that time infested the woods, and the Indians discovered that they came from the body of the dead bird. Too late they realized that the body of the great bird should have been burned when it was first slain, for fire is ever the destroyer of evil spirits.

It sure sounds to me as though they killed the last of the pterodactyls. ( an extinct flying reptile (pterosaur) of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods with membranous wings and a rudimentary tail and beak) Could that be the Thunderbird???

 I wonder if that's really from where mosquitos came.

How fire came to the Six Nations
11 years ago

Often, around the fire in the long house of the Iroquois, during the Moon of the Long Nights, this tale is told.

Three Arrows was a boy of the Mohawk tribe. Although he had not yet seen fourteen winters he was already known among the Iroquois for his skill and daring. His arrows sped true to their mark. His name was given him when with three bone-tipped arrows he brought down three flying wild geese from the same flock. He could travel in the forest as softly as the south wind and he was a skilful hunter, but he never killed a bird or animal unless his clan needed food. He was well-versed in woodcraft, fleet of foot, and a clever wrestler. His people said, 'Soon he will be a chief like his father.' The sun shone strong in the heart of Three Arrows, because soon he would have to meet the test of strength and endurance through which the boys of his clan attained manhood. He had no fear of the outcome of the dream fast which was so soon to take. His father was a great chief and a good man, and the boy's life had been patterned after that of his father.

When the grass was knee-high, Three Arrows left his village with his father. They climbed to a sacred place in the mountains. They found a narrow cave at the back of a little plateau. Here Three Arrows decided to live for his few days of prayer and vigil. He was not permitted to eat anything during the days and nights of his dream fast. He had no weapons, and his only clothing was a breechclout and moccasins. His father left the boy with the promise that he would visit him each day that the ceremony lasted, at dawn.

Three Arrows prayed to the Great Spirit. He begged that soon his clan spirit would appear in a dream and tell him what his guardian animal or bird was to be. When he knew this, he would adopt tat bird or animal as his special guardian for the rest of his life. When the dream came he would be free to return to his people, his dream fast successfully achieve.

For five suns Three Arrows spent his days and nights on the rocky plateau, only climbing down to the little spring for water after each sunset. His heart was filled with a dark cloud because that morning his father had sadly warned him that the next day, the sixth sun, he must return to his village even if no dream had come to him in the night. This meant returning to his people in disgrace without the chance of taking another dream fast.

That night Tree Arrows, weak from hunger and weary from ceaseless watch, cried out to the Great Mystery. 'O Great Spirit, have pity on him who stands humbly before Thee. Let his clan spirit or a sign from beyond the thunderbird come to him before tomorrow's sunrise, if it be Thy will.' As he prayed, the wind suddenly veered from east too north. This cheered Three Arrows because the wind was now the wind of the great bear, and the bear was the totem of his clan. When he entered the cavern he smelled for the first time the unmistakable odour of a bear: this was strong medicine. He crouched at the opening of the cave, too excited to lie down although his tire body craved rest. As he gazed out into the night he heard the rumble of thunder, saw the lightning flash, and felt the fierce breath of the wind from the north. Suddenly a vision came to him, and a gigantic bear stood beside him in the cave. Then Three Arrows heard it say, 'Listen well, Mohawk. Your clan spirit has heard your prayer. Tonight you will learn a great mystery which will bring help and gladness to all your people.' A terrible clash of thunder brought the dazed boy to his feet as the bear disappeared. He looked from the cave just as a streak of lightning flashed across the sky in the form of a blazing arrow. Was this the sign from the thunderbird ?

Suddenly the air was filled with a fearful sound. A shrill shrieking came from the ledge just above the cave. It sounded as though mountain lions fought in the storm; yet Three Arrows felt no fear as he climbed toward the ledge. As his keen eyes grew accustomed to the dim light he saw that the force of the wind was causing two young balsam trees to rub violently against each other. The strange noise was caused by friction, and as he listened and watched fear filled his heart, for, from where the two trees rubbed together a flash of lightning show smoke. Fascinated, he watched until flickers of flames followed the smoke. He had never seen fire of any kind at close range nor had any of his people. He scrambled down to the cave and covered his eyes in dread of this strange magic. Then he smelt bear again and he thought of his vision, his clan spirit, the bear, and its message. This was the mystery which he was to reveal to his people. The blazing arrow in the sky was to be his totem, and his new name - Blazing Arrow.

At daybreak, Blazing Arrow climbed onto the ledge and broke two dried sticks from what remained of one of the balsams. He rubbed them violently together, but nothing happened. 'The magic is too powerful for me,' he thought. Then a picture of his clan and village formed in his mind, and he patiently rubbed the hot sticks together again. His will power took the place of his tired muscles. Soon a little wisp of smoke greeted his renewed efforts, then came a bright spark on one of the stick. Blazing Arrow waved it as he had seen the fiery arrow wave in the night sky. A resinous blister on the stick glowed, then flamed - fire had come to the Six Nations!


11 years ago

The Iroquois believe that "After their death, they are changed into pure spirits of strength and goodness."

North America was called TURTLE ISLAND before the European's renamed it.


 The relative ease at which the Iroquois Nation was able to provide for the needs of it's people allowed for the development of a systematic belief system that was more developed than most other systems found among Native American civilizations. According to Lewis H. Morgan, their religion is characterized by a monotheistic belief in an all-powerful creator known as the "Great Spirit", or "Ha-wen-ne-yu." "The Iroquois believed in the constant superintending care of the Great Spirit. He ruled and administered the world, and the affairs of the red race." (1954,146). The Iroquois failed to see the need in developing a detailed conception of their creator. This knowledge was thought to be above and beyond their capabilities to understand. His power was administered to the material world through "a class of inferior spiritual existences, by whom he was surrounded." (1954,147). While divine attributes concerning the Great Spirit remained undeveloped, the Iroquois gave detailed descriptions of this lower class of spirits that interacted with the material world. The were known as "Invisible Agents" or "Ho-no-che-no-keh." (Morgan 1954). The power possessed by these spirits was given to them by the Great Spirit and were the manifestations of his unlimited power. Some of these spirits were given names, however, they were often identified with the object or force that they presided over. For example, He-no, one of the more important spirits, was given the thunderbolt and controlled the weather. According to Morgan, he had the form of man and wore the costume of a warrior (1954,147).

While the Iroquois belief system centered around the idea of a benevolent Great Spirit, it did not ignore the existence of evil in the world. Evil is represented by the brother of the Great Spirit, "Ha-ne-go-ate-geh", or "the Evil-minded" (1954,147). This evil spirit exists independently and controls it's own inferior spiritual beings. These agents of evil also exist in the material world and are place there in an attempt to bring about evil. According to Morgan, the Great Spirit does not have any type of positive authority over the Evil-minded, except for the power to overcome him when necessary (1954,148). The red race is left to choose either obedience to the Great Spirit or submission to the Evil-minded. It is important to note that the Iroquois developed the idea of an immortal soul. This soul was judged by the Great Spirit upon the death of the body. The threat of punishment in the afterlife increased morality concerns, which aided in the success of the Iroquois Nation.

Iroquois Creation Story



Cross post from Dian
11 years ago

Gwa!   Gwa!   Gwa!
    Now the time has come!
          Hear us, Lord of the Sky!
    We are here to speak the truth,
          for you do not hear lies,
    We are your children, Lord of the Sky.

    Now begins the Gayant' gogwus
          This sacred fire and sacred tobacco
    And through this smoke
          We offer our prayers
    We are your children, Lord of the Sky.

    Now in the beginning of all things
          You provided that we inherit your creation
    You said: I shall make the earth
          on which people shall live
    And they shall look to the earth as their mother
    And they shall say, "It is she who supports us."
    You said that we should always be thankful
    For our earth and for each other
    So it is that we are gathered here
    We are your children, Lord of the Sky.

              Now again the smoke rises
              And again we offer prayers
              You said that food should be placed beside us
              And it should be ours in exchange for our labor.
              You thought that ours should be a world
              where green grass of many kinds should grow
              You said that some should be medicines
              And that one should be Ona'o
              the sacred food, our sister corn
              You gave to her two clinging sisters
              beautiful Oa'geta, our sister beans
              and bountiful Nyo'sowane, our sister squash
              The three sacred sisters; they who sustain us.

              This is what you thought, Lord of the Sky.
              Thus did you think to provide for us
              And you ordered that when the  warm  
season comes,
              That we should see the return of life
              And remember you, and be thankful,
              and gather here by the sacred fire.
              So now again the smoke arises
              We the people offer our prayers
              We speak to you through the rising smoke
              We are thankful, Lord of the Sky.

              (Liberally translated)
              Chuck Larsen, Seneca

11 years ago

The Ceremonial Cycle of the Haudenosaunee

Mid-winter is a seven day ceremony celebrating the beginning of the New Year.

The ceremony that follows is Giving Thanks to the Maple. The Maple tree is the leader of all the trees in the world. The running of the Maple sap marks the beginning of the reawakening of Mother Earth after her long winter sleep.

The Thunder Ceremony is held when we hear the first thunder in Spring. We welcome back Our Grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, so that they may resume their task of replenishing the waters of Mother Earth. All living things depend on that precious gift of water.

The Seed Ceremony is next, to thank the seeds whose power provides food for the people of the world.

The Strawberry Ceremony occurs in the middle of June when the wild strawberries are ripe.  The strawberry is recognized and acknowledged as the leader of all the medicine plants.

The String Bean Ceremony and the Green Corn Ceremonies come next. Beans, corn and squash are the staples of our traditional diet and are known as The Three Sisters.

The Harvest Ceremony marks the end of the ceremonial cycle. At that time, we thank our Mother the Earth for providing us with all that we need to survive.

All of our ceremonies revolve about giving thanks for the gifts that we have been given. 

Who Are the Haudenosaunee?
11 years ago
Haudenosaunee is the general term we use to refer to ourselves, instead of "Iroquois." The word "Iroquois" is not a Haudenosaunee word. It is derived from a French version of a Huron Indian named that was applied to our ancestors and it was considered derogatory, meaning "Black Snakes." Haudenosaunee means "People building an extended house" or more commonly referred to as "People of the Long House." The longhouse was a metaphor introduced by the Peace Maker at the time of the formation of the Confederacy meaning that the people are meant to live together as families in the same house. Today, this means that those who support the traditions, beliefs, values and authority of the Confederacy are to be known as Haudenosaunee.

The founding constitution of the Confederacy that brought the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations under one law. Together they were called the Five Nations by the English, and Iroquois by the French. The Tuscarora joined around 1720, and collectively they are now called the Six Nations.

We also refer to ourselves as "Ongwehonweh," meaning that we are the "Original People" or "First People" of this land. The Haudenosaunee is actually six separate nations of people who have agreed to live under the traditional law of governance that we call the Great Law of Peace. Each of these nations have their own identity. In one sense, this is our "nationalities." Many of the names that we have come to know the tribes by are not even Indian words, such as Tuscarora or Iroquois. The original member nations are:

Seneca, "Onondowahgah," meaning The People of the Great Hill, also referred to as the Large Dark Door.

Cayuga, "Guyohkohnyoh," meaning The People of the Great Swamp.

Onondaga, "Onundagaono," meaning The People of the Hills.

Oneida, "Onayotekaono," meaning The People of the Upright Stone.

Mohawk, "Kanienkahagen," meaning The People of the Flint.

Tuscarora, known as "Ska-Ruh-Reh" meaning the Shirt Wearing People.

Ten Important Points
11 years ago
We exist as distinct peoples in the 20th century. The Haudenosaunee are unique in that we maintain one of the very few traditional governments in North America, free from the oppression of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and free from the lunacy of tribal elections. Our leaders are selected according to the oldest constitutional democratic systems.

We live a contemporary lifestyle and are not frozen in the past. While we still maintain practices that are rooted in the past, we apply those practices to define our place in the modern world. Our traditional culture is forward thinking, to assure our long-term survival. Our culture allows us to deal with the realities of the modern world, not by embracing any new fad, but continuing to absorb new traditions on our own terms.

We, like other peoples, continue to maintain our culture. Culture is not just the relics of the past, but patterns of thought and cycles of behavior that form the basic building blocks of our lives.

We, like other peoples, have our own world view. To say we are Haudenosaunee means that we have deep seated beliefs in our traditions and are committed to their survival. We are connected to a living earth and a spiritual universe. We have sacred duties to fulfill.

We continue to live on portions of our original territories. Our lands were never conquered by outsiders. We never consented to American or Canadian authority over our territories. Our lands were never placed in trust with the United States, as are most other Indian reservations. Our current territories were defined by four federal treaties.

We maintain our distinct laws and customs. Within our territories, where the Council of Chiefs are the sole governing authority, our own laws are in place, not the laws of the United States or Canada. We operate the Grand Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations under the Great Law of Peace which promotes peace, power and righteousness.

We have made many contributions to world culture. The Haudenosaunee have been instrumental in colonial history. After two hundred years of contact, the emerging American settlers adopted many Iroquoian ideas and practices in order to survive in our land.

We have a unique relationship to the United States and other nations. The federal treaties we have are very distinctive and provide the Haudenosaunee with a special status in Indian law. We maintain a government to government relations. We are not wards of the United States. We are independent nations, sovereign and free in our own territories.

The portrayal of Indians in the media perpetuates stereotypes that effect our relationships to non-Indians. Most people are seriously uniformed about the Haudenosaunee because of distorted textbooks, misguided movies and biased history books. Seldom have people been able to hear directly from the recognized traditional people of the Haudenosaunee to counteract the negative racial and cultural stereotypes perpetuated by American popular culture.

We are committed to maintaining our survival as distinct peoples. We believe that the lessons from Creation; the guidance of the Original Instructions; the unity of the Great Law of Peace, and the moral imperatives of the Gaiwiio provide the roadmap to our future.

What is the Role of the Chiefs?
11 years ago

The common name of the male leaders of the clans that serve as representatives of the clan in council is referred to as "chief" in english, but this term does not say enough. The Haudenosaunee call the male leaders "Hoyaneh," meaning "Caretakers of the Peace." Each nation has a different number of Chiefs, but all of the Hoyaneh have the same power and authority. The chief is the "voice" of the family clan. Some clans have more than one chief. There is no "head" chief. They were also called "sachems" in some documents. There are other traditional leaders, appointed because of their special skills and are referred to as "Pine Tree Chiefs." Each chief would also have a sub-chief to help him with his duties. The chief's title's rest within the clan and the Clan Mother can remove a delinquent Chief from his position as a fail safe mechanism, but generally a Chief is installed for life.

In looking for man to become the chief of the clan, a Clan Mother would look for some one who could be trusted to look after the welfare of the people. It is said that the Chief holds the law, the people and the religion in the palm of their hand. It is a sacred trust and duty to assure the safety of all of that for the generations to come. The following qualities would be make a man a good candidate to become a chief:

Pleasant personality
Not committed any crimes
Must have ability to reason, not acting foolishly
Knowledge of what the Confederacy laws represent
Knowledge of the ceremonies
Must have never left his family
Must be able to uphold the Great Law
Must be able to represent the people fairly
Must be kind hearted
Must be able to withstand criticism

What is the Role of the Clan Mother?

The Peace Maker selected Chiefs and Clan Mothers to represent the clans. The oldest woman of the clan is called the Clan Mother. The clan mother, whose position is hereditary, is responsible for the welfare of the clan. She names all the people of the clan; she holds a position in nominating, installing and removing the male chief, called Hoyaneh, meaning Caretakers of the Peace. She also monitors his actions and counsels the people of her clan. Her job in the past was to arrange marriages, counsel members, select the male candidate for chief, monitor his actions and remove him from office if necessary. The Clan Mother's title rests within the clan and it is usually passed on to her female relatives, looking first at her eldest sisters, other sisters, then her eldest daughter and other daughters to find the one deemed most appropriate to become the next Clan Mother.

The rights of the women within a clan include the following:

Descent of blood that determines citizenship.

Possession of official titles for clan mothers, chiefs, faithkeepers, pine tree chiefs and war chiefs.

Own the home and all of the furnishings.

Children belong to her family.

Use of clan lands.

Food distribution .

Right to nominate, confirm, and depose male chiefs.

Right to adopt foreigners or prisoners.

Power to forbid brothers and sons from going to war.

Power to grant life or death of prisoners.

Power to maintain the national resources.

Right to burial grounds for sons, brothers, daughters and sons.

What are the Clans?
11 years ago
The clan is the basic unit of social organization among the Iroquois, with the women holding primary responsibility for the function of the clans. . This system is still in place at Tonawanda, Tuscarora, Onondaga as the primary form of governance, and at Akwesasne and Oneida there are both a traditional council of chiefs which operate independently from the elected tribal council. At Cattaraugus and Allegheny, and the clans still exist, but the chiefs function in a religious way only, not as a form of government. At those to communities the form of government is called the Seneca Nation of Indians.

A clan is a group of families that share a common female ancestry. Members of one clan are considered relatives and intermarriage in the same clan is forbidden. Clans are named after animals that have special assistance to the people - water (turtle, eel, beaver); land (bear, deer, wolf), sky (snipe, heron, hawk). Clanship identity is very important to the Haudenosaunee.

Children inherit the clan of their mother. If a Mohawk woman of the Wolf Clan marries a Tuscarora man of the Beaver Clan, their children will be Mohawks of the Wolf Clan. If a Tuscarora woman marries a Tuscarora of he beaver clan, their children will be Tuscaroras of the Beaver clan. If a Indian man marries a non-Indian, their children will not have a Haudenosaunee nationality nor a clan. Identity can be seen as a series of concentric circles. In the center is the fireside family (your mother an father and sisters and brothers); next is the extended family (your clan); next is you nationality (the nation); then is union of nations (Haudenosaunee).

Each nation has a different number of clans, with all having the turtle, bear and wolf clans. Each clan may have more than one Hoyaneh. As an example, among the Mohawk, there are three turtle Hoyaneh, three wolf Hoyaneh, and three bear Hoyaneh, making nine chiefs altogether that make up their national council of chiefs, who serve as the Mohawk delegates to the Grand Council of Chiefs. The Onondaga have 14 hoyaneh; the Seneca have 8; the Cayuga have 10; the Oneida have 9; and the Tuscarora have 6.

The rights and privileges of the clan were described by J.N.B. Hewitt, a Tuscarora scholar in 1918:

1) The right to a distinctive name of the clan, named after guardian animal spirits.

2) Representation by one of more chiefs in tribal council.

3) An equitable share in community property of the tribe.

4) The right and obligation to have its nominations for chief and subchief of the clan confirmed and installed by officers of the tribal council, and by officers of the Grand Council.

5) The right of the protection of the tribe of which it is a constitute member.

6) The right of the titles of the chieftainships and sub-chieftainships hereditary in its ohwachira (extended family).

7) The right to certain songs, chants, dances, and religious observances.

8) The right of its men and women, or both together, to meet in council.

9) The right to use certain names of persons, which are given to its members.

10) The right to adopt aliens through the action of a constituent ohwachira (extended family)

11) The right of its members to a common burial ground.

12) The right of the mothers of constituent ohwachira (s), in which the official titles are inherent, to nominate candidates for chief and subchief; some clans have more than one of each class of chiefs.

13) The right of these same mothers to take the prescribed steps for impeaching and deposing their chiefs and subchiefs.

14) The right to share in the religious rites, ceremonies, and public festivals of the tribe.

Hewitt also defined the duties associated with clan membership:

1) The obligation not to marry within a clan, previously not even within the sisterhood of clans to which one belonged.

2) The joint obligation to purchase the life of a member of the clan which has been forfeited by homicide or the murder of a member of the tribe or an allied tribe.

3) The duty and obligation to aid and to defend its members in supplying their wants, redressing wrongs and injuries through diplomacy or by force of arms, and in avenging death.

4) The joint obligation to replace with prisoners or other persons other members who have been lost or killed, belonging to any ohwachira of a clan to which they may be related as father's brothers or father's clansmen, the matron of such ohwachira having the right to ask that this obligation be fulfilled.

What is the Grand Council?
11 years ago

It is the assembly of the fifty chiefs of the Confederacy that represent all of the clans of all of the member nations. In the past, the Grand Council met yearly to resolve disputes between member nations and plan mutual strategies to protect the member nations and the welfare of the people. Today, the Grand Council still meets regularly at Onondaga, which is considered the capitol of the Confederacy. There is another Grand Council on the Canadian side at the Grand River Reserve that has been in operation from about 1784, when nearly half of the Haudenosaunee left their homelands to live in Canada after the Revolutionary War. Both councils agree that the central fire and the position of Tododaho rests within the Onondaga Nation, located near Syracuse, NY.

What is the Seventh Generation?

We must also recognize that the life in our communities has changed dramatically over the generations. Change is inevitable, but culture is a mechanism to make sure that the changes are not detrimental to the social, ceremonial, economic, educational and political life of the community. Each generation of Haudenosaunee must apply all of the principles, beliefs and values described above to assess the world in which they find themselves, and they formulate a response to their world that allows them to survive on their own terms.

We have even been given a way to accomplish this. It is called the Seventh Generation philosophy. The Chiefs are instructed to that when they deliberate on the serious matters of the Council, they are to consider the impact of their decisions on seventh generation into the future. This way, they are to proceed cautiously, thinking of what effect their decisions will have on the welfare of their descendants. It requires a special attention to the future. But it also produces a sense of stability.

Some things will always need remain the same because we still live on the same earth, we still live in same areas, we still have many of the traditions that allowed our ancestors to survive. These very same traditions will be essential for the future generations. Keeping the traditions alive and viable is the responsibility of this generation. Our gift to the future is all of the things that have been described above. But these traditions are not simply words on paper that can be studied when needed. The traditions must be practiced each and every day. The Haudenosaunee way of life requires a commitment to make it happen, sometimes, in spite the current trends and desires of the people to change those traditions.

What is the Haudenosaunee World View?
What are the important events in Haudenosaunee History?

History began before the arrival of Columbus. The Haudenosaunee version of history is based upon the documented references left through the wampum belts as well as oral history and family stories that have been passed on from generation to generation. There are six great epochs of Haudenosaunee history:

  • The Time of Creation - This era defined the relationship of humans to the universe, the celestial bodies and to the Mother Earth.

  • The Original Instructions - This era defined the relationship of the people to the Creator and gave them ways to express their thankfulness for the gifts of Creation.

  • The Great Law of Peace - This era defined the relationships between humans at assure good mindedness will bring about peace, power and righteousness.

  • The Guswhenta - This era defined the relationship of the Haudenosaunee to the Euro-Americans beginning with the Two Row Wampum and the birth of the Covenant Chain of Peace.

  • The Great Whirlwind - This era defined the relationship of the Haudenosaunee to the United States and Canada through international treaties of peace and friendship.

  • The Gaiwiio - This era defined our social and cultural relationship with Western culture as prophesied by Handsome Lake.

  • What are the Underlying Values of Haudenosaunee Culture?
    11 years ago
    Our culture is a way of thinking, a way of feeling, but also an intuitive way of problem solving and a unique way to express ourself in the world. The Haudenosaunee call all of this "Ongwehonweka" meaning all the things that pertain to the way of life of the Original People. Ongwehonweka includes all of the values, mores, ethics, philosophy and beliefs that we have inherited from our ancestors.

    There are shared values held by each generation that contribute to the concept of the self. Values are shared principles that are considered important in life, that include:

    Thinking collectively, considering the future generations.

    Consensus in decision making, considering all points of view.

    Sharing of the labor and benefits of that labor.

    Duty to family, clan, nation, Confederacy and Creation.

    Strong sense of self-worth without being egotistic.

    People must learn to be very observant of the surroundings.

    Everyone is equal and is a full partner in the society, no matter what their age.

    The ability to listen is as important as the ability to speak.

    Everyone has a special gift or talent that can be used to benefit the larger community.

    There are mores that are the customs that are considered essential to maintaining the characteristics of the community:

    Clanship relations and names are important. Clan identity impacts on nearly all aspects of the social, political and spiritual organization of the community.

    Council Chiefs protect the welfare of the people.

    Clan Mothers maintain social harmony.

    Faithkeepers keep the ritual order moving.

    Annual cycles of thanksgiving help establish order and rhythm.

    The arts connect the generations in spirit.

    The native languages are the keys to the expression of the soul.

    There are ethics that are the moral philosophy and principles that determine what is right and what is wrong in the mind of the traditional Haudenosaunee:

    To be generous
    To share
    To show respect
    To honor others
    To love your family
    To live in peace
    To be honest
    To feed others
    To be thankful
    To be hospitable
    To be kind
    To be cooperative
    To live in harmony with nature
    To ignore evil or idle talk

    The philosophy of the Haudenosaunee is the search for understanding of the basic truths of the native universe. It is how the Haudenosaunee have come to understand their role in the world and the important lessons that understanding teach:

    There is a Creator who produced the things that give bounty to this life.

    The universe is full of living beings - sun, moon, stars, earth, winds, and rain.

    There is a living spirit in all things - animals, plants, minerals, water, and winds.

    People have power, called orenda, that accumulates through life experiences.

    People should live in peace with each other.

    People should live in harmony with nature.

    People should be thankful everyday.

    People should be kind, sharing what they have.

    Life is a journey, as people are born from the earth, exist on the earth and are returned to the earth to continue that journey after death.

    11 years ago

    Belief is simply the feeling that something is real and true. The Haudenosaunee trust and have confidence in their beliefs about the universe, about the spiritual powers of that universe and about how humans are to conduct themselves on their journey through life. To believe is a conscious act that effect the way we see the world. Art, in broad terms of language, music, dance, and making things, is the act by which we manifest belief, express the unseen parts of the world, and express our own personalities of people living in the world. The Haudenosaunee beliefs include the following:

    I) The Universe is large a large sphere that is divided in the Skyworld above and the Underwater World below. In the middle plane of that sphere rests the earth, which is like an island floating on the back of a giant turtle.

    II) The celestial bodies and forces of that universe are living entities with a inner spirit that can be beneficial to humans if proper respect is paid to them. All people have a spiritual obligation to perform the rituals of thanksgiving in order to assure the harmony of the universe can be maintained.

    III) The Great Creator has sent three main spiritual messages to the Haudenosaunee after the Creation. These were the Four Sacred Dances, the Great Law of Peace and the Gaiwiio, or Code of Handsome Lake.

    IV) The children of the Haudenosaunee are born within a Circle of Tradition, but that birthright also requires duty to maintain that circle. Those that join another religion, become citizens of foreign countries or work against the general welfare of the people are considered to have removed themselves from within this circle. Those that do, leave all of the rights of the Haudenosaunee behind.

    V) Talent is a gift from the Creator that is meant to be used for the sake of the entire community and not self-engrandizment.

    What is the Haudenosaunee World View?
    What are the important event in Haudenosaunee History?

    History began before the arrival of Columbus. The Haudenosaunee version of history is based upon the documented references left through the wampum belts as well as oral history and family stories that have been passed on from generation to generation. There are six great epochs of Haudenosaunee history:

  • The Time of Creation - This era defined the relationship of humans to the universe, the celestial bodies and to the Mother Earth.
  • The Original Instructions - This era defined the relationship of the people to the Creator and gave them ways to express their thankfulness for the gifts of Creation.
  • The Great Law of Peace - This era defined the relationships between humans at assure good mindedness will bring about peace, power and righteousness.
  • The Guswhenta - This era defined the relationship of the Haudenosaunee to the Euro-Americans beginning with the Two Row Wampum and the birth of the Covenant Chain of Peace.
  • The Great Whirlwind - This era defined the relationship of the Haudenosaunee to the United States and Canada through international treaties of peace and friendship.
  • The Gaiwiio - This era defined our social and cultural relationship with Western culture as prophesied by Handsome Lake.
  • What is the Haudenosaunee Concept of Creation?
    11 years ago
    History begins with Creation. There are several versions of the Creation story. This is one of them:

    Our world began with the creation of the earth, which is seen as the horizontal plane that separates the world above from the world below. In the Sky-World lived a fellow named "The Sky Holder." Next to his lodge was the Great Tree of Light, for which he was the caretaker. The flowers of this tree gave off bright light. His wife, named "Mature Flowers," fell through a hole created when he uprooted that tree at her urging. She fell into the dark world below, a world of endless water. The water animals decided to save her because she had the power to create life. The birds flew up and caught her in their inter-locked wings. They decided to place her on the back of a giant snapping turtle. The muskrat was the only animal that could dive deep enough to retrieve some mud from the bottom of the sea. The mud was placed on the back of the turtle and it began to grow. As she walked about in an ever-expanding circle, the mud grew into an island. Each day she walked counterclockwise and the island expanded. The Iroquois still dance in that direction to honor the Creation. Seeds fell from her clothing and began to sprout in the fresh earth.

    She then gave birth to a daughter who later had many suitors from the male beings who could transform themselves into human form. She selected the being who wore scalloped leggings and a large robe, said to be a turtle-being. He placed two arrows over her body at night, and she became pregnant. She had twins, but died giving birth to the second son, as he was born through her armpit. The Sky Woman buried her daughter and from her body grew the Three Sisters - Corn, Beans and Squash. From her heart grew the tobacco plant which we still use as a way to carry our thought to the Sky World. The deceased daughter became known as Earth-Mother.

    The good-minded twin was named "He Grasps the Sky With Both Hands," and his evil-minded brother was named "Flint - The Mischievous One." The good-minded brother set about to create plants, animals and birds. In the sky he placed our Grandmother the Moon, our Elder Brother the Sun (Day Bringer), the Morning Star, and the Milky Way as the path to the Sky World. He created the cycles of day and night, of the changing seasons.

    His evil-minded brother, in trying to imitate his brother's work, created thistles, thorns, bats, monsters, and serpents, as well as rapids in the rivers, winter in the seasons, and other things that would make life on the new earth difficult for the people that were about to be created. The evil-minded brother fought his good-minded brother for dominance in the newly created world. They played lacrosse to a draw. This is why lacrosse is still played today, as it is a way to manifest the classic struggle of good over evil. They held a wrestling match but were of equal strength. However, the evil-minded one was finally defeated by being struck by a deer antler and banished from the earth. The Universe was divided into two spheres of power. The evil-minded one was sent underground, where he would rule over the serpents and powers of the deep. He would also have dominion over the night. The good-minded brother would be responsible for life on earth and have dominion over the day. Forever, the two brothers would be opposing powers of our universe and the idea od duality is introduced.

    The grandmother had favored Flint and tried to have him return to the earth, but she lost her authority to the good-minded twin after losing a dice game. That game is still played in the ceremonies today, again as a way to relive the events from the time of creation and teach us to take both success and failure in stride.

    The good-minded one then went about creating many things in the new world. First he took yellowish bark from a tree and created the Asian people. He then took the foam from the great salt sea and created the Caucasian people. He created African people from the rich, black soil. The good- minded one created a man that he named "Sapling" and a woman he named "Growing Flower," from the reddish clay. He breathed life into them. But all the races began to fight over a shinny object and had to be sent to four different quarters of the world, each in their own land. The basic element of four is introduced into our world view.

    The good-minded brother taught the people the use of the plants and animals, ceremonies of thanksgiving and to live in harmony and peace. We have come to refer to him as Sonkwaiatison, "the Creator." Before departing from the earth, he struck a deal with the people. We are to protect his gifts of Creation and be respectful of all living things, and were to simply be thankful for all that he has provided, as he has given us all that we need to live a happy life. In return for showing thanks, he would strive to keep the cycles of life continuing for the benefit of the people.

    What is the annual Cycle of Thanksgiving?
    11 years ago
    After Sonkwaiatison left the earth and returned to the Sky World, the people began to express their thankfulness for the Creation. With the annual cycle established by the changing seasons, the growing of crops and the ritual order brought forth by the 12th boy, the Ongwehonweh began to celebrate the gifts of the creation through a series of rituals.

    The Haudenosaunee follow a calendar of ceremonial festivals that are celebrated in the Longhouse. It is through these festivals that an annual rhythm is established and the cycle of life has a natural flow to it. These festivals follow the changes in the seasons and the ripening of the crops. While the actual sequence may vary from longhouse to longhouse, the annual cycle would typically include the following:

  • Midwinter (Jan-Feb) - Ganaha'owi - "Stirring the Ashes" to renew all of the rituals and medicine societies at the time of the winter solstice.
  • All Night Dance (March)- Ohkiweh to honor the deceased.
  • Maple Dance (March) - Hadichisto'ndas - "Putting In Syrup" to give thanks to the sweet water as it begins to flow, signalling the return of the lifegiving season.
  • Thunder Dance (April) - To acknowledge the arrival of the Thunderers, Our Grandfathers, from their annual trip west and the bringing of rain.
  • Seed Blessing or Planting Dance (May)- Ganeha'ongwededwa'ye - "Our Seeds Be Bet" to give thanks to the sustainers of life - the Three Sisters - Corn (22 types), Beans (10 types) and Squash (5 types).
  • Moon Dance (May) - To give thanks to Grandmother Moon and the female forces of life as spring approaches.
  • Sun Dance (May) - To give thanks to the sun for warming the earth so the plants will grow.
  • Strawberry Dance (June) - Wainodayo - To celebrate the ripening of the strawberry, which is a medicine to renew the spirit.
  • Green Bean Dance (July) - Wainodetgowaso - To give thanks for the first of the Three Sisters to share her gift of life with the people.
  • Green Corn Dance (Aug-Sept) - Honondekwes - To give thanks for the ripening of the corn and squash.
  • Harvest Dance (Oct) - Doyonunneoquana deohoka - "We put our substance away" to celebrate the successful harvest and acknowledge the end of the growing season.

  •                    Iroquois Warrior
  • 11 years ago

    Dear Melissa,

    I enjoy reading about your traditions and background.  Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

    Hugs and peace,

    Giuliana aka Princess Little Rock

    I was lucky enough
    11 years ago
    To get to see the play the "Peacemaker" by Lotus Productions out of NYC. in Akwesasnee ( the US side) this early fall it was really well done Camella did an excellent job..if you get a chance try to see it> I think it is only playing on the reserves tho.
    11 years ago

    Thanks,'s actually my children's heritage, their Great Grandmother was of the Onondowahgah (Seneca) Nation of the Haudenosaunee. I have to do some research about this but, my ex-mother-in-law said Lottie is a descendant of Cornplanter's family. I have found that he had a sister (as well as the half brother Handsome Lake) who had many children and I have a list of names of authentic heirs, now it's a task of contacting people. I still have to talk with my ex's Aunt who will probably know the story and give me more names. If the names match up then at least I will know that it's true.

    Since some Native Americans had more than one mate and changed names, and only kept verbal records before Euro really isn't an easy task to find out this kind of information. They were always adopting and sharing...they're just one big family!

    Lyn, I would LOVE to see that play! I wish that they had video film or DVD of it! Thanks, for letting me know about it.

    A really great link!


    "The Iroquois believe that our souls have other desires, which are, as it were, inborn and concealed. These, they say, come from the depths of the soul, not through any knowledge.... They have no divinity but the dream. They submit themselves to it and follow its order with the utmost exactness. Whatever they see themselves doing in dreams they believe they are absolutely obliged to execute at the earliest possible moment. Iroquois would think themselves guilty of a great crime if they failed to obey a single dream."

    Here's the website
    11 years ago

    Lotus Music & Dance 109 W 27th St 8th Fl

    NY, NY 10001

    (212) 627-1076

    I know Kamala Cesar from Kanatsiohareke, I spent the summer there working with the Mohawk Language program.  I know her sister was taping it along with others, so you may have a shot at getting a copy. The play was called "The message of Peace: Excerpts from The Peacemaker's Journey"

    If you would like their website it is

    The directors name is Marie Jones, she happens to be one of my friends.

    Dear Melissa,
    11 years ago

    I would do that research about your ancestors!  It would be challenging and fun!  Tony, my beloved, deceased husband, got involved in geneology and loved every minute of it!  He went back all the way to the 18th Century!  It was fascinating, that's why I'm encouraging you to do the same!  Sometimes, it's also disappointing and frustrating, but it always pays off!


    Giuliana aka Princess Little Rock

    11 years ago

    I do not have the time to read all this info right now, Ill do that later.

    I just wanted to say that my ancestors on my mom's mom's side is Iroquois, in fact my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandmother was a princess, the sad thing is we dont know her name. I dont know what tribe of the Iroquois I am.

    A cousin of mine did some research, we were able to find a relative born in 1250. That cousin made a book with information on as much of our ancestors she could find, and you should see it, it is so thick.

    11 years ago

    shekon! My mothers great great great great grandfather was chief joseph white feather, he was a mohawk indian chief who took the bible and translated it into the mohawk language. He was born in oka,Canada and died in caugnawaga,canada. I found out all this from my mom and my aunt who gave me some leads to follow. I then went to and looked it all up on there indian site. I also wrote to oka, canada and found out alot of info on my great great great great grandfather.We are from the turtle clan.

    Thanks, Everyone...
    11 years ago

    I'm glad that you enjoyed this thread and please feel free to add anything that applies to the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois. I love learning about them!

    ~Love~Light~Laughter~'ve inspired me to add more about Deganawida the Peacemaker.     Goin' on a search...

    11 years ago

    The Iroquoian family consists of a group of languages all descended from a common ancestor known as Proto-Iroquoian. The modern daughter languages include Cherokee, now spoken primarily in North Carolina and Oklahoma; Tuscarora, near Niagara Falls, New York; Seneca, in western New York; Cayuga, at Six Nations in Ontario; Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse; Oneida, near London, Ontario, and Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Mohawk, in Quebec, Ontario, and New York. The languages are not generally mutually intelligible, although their grammatical structures are similar.

    Records exist of several more Iroquoian languages that are no longer spoken: Huron, Wyandot, Petun, Neutral, Erie, Susquehannock, Meherrin, and Nottoway. One of the first recorded North American languages was spoken by Iroquoian people who encountered Jacques Cartier in 1534 near the mouth of the St. Lawrence. Their language gave us a well-known place name: kaná:ta', "settlement," now Canada.

    Languages of the Iroquoian family differ in some fundamental ways from those of Europe. Their vocabularies and grammatical categories often encode slightly different concepts or features, and they offer their speakers different kinds of stylistic options. One obvious difference is the typical length of words. Consider the Mohawk entsakwanenhstarón:ko', "we'll take the corn (back) off the cob." Such words are intricately constructed of many meaningful parts. This one begins with the prefix en-, specifying future tense, followed by the repetitive prefix ts-, "back," and the pronominal prefix akwa-, "we." The pronoun does not have the same range of application as English we. Mohawk speakers distinguish inclusive from exclusive we: inclusive forms include the listener ("you and I"); exclusive forms exclude the listener ("they and I"). The pronoun akwa- is exclusive; the speaker who used this word was describing family memories to people not in her family. If instead she had been proposing activities to her children, she would have used the inclusive tewa-, "you all and I." The Mohawk pronoun akwa- specifies another distinction not systematically expressed in English. It refers to three or more individuals: "they and I." If just two individuals had been involved, a dual pronoun would have been used: akeni-, "he and I" or "she and I."

    Following the pronoun in this word is the noun stem -nenhst-, "corn," built on the root -nenh-, "seed." Next is the verb root -ron-, "put on," then the reversive suffix -ko. The verb root and reversive combine to mean "un-put on" or "take off." The final glottal stop indicates that the speaker is referring to one complete event ("we'll take the corn off the cob") rather than to a series or an ongoing activity ("we'll be taking the corn off the cob").

    This word, entsakwanenhstarón:ko', is a verb in Mohawk: it describes an action. Iroquoian nouns—like Mohawk o'tá:ra', "clay, pottery, chimney"; okónhsa', "face"; raksà:'a, "boy"; e-ksà:'a, "girl"—show different internal structure. They generally begin with just a prefix indicating gender and, for humans, number. The prefix o- on "clay" and "face" is neuter, the prefix ra- on "boy" is masculine singular ("he-child"), and the prefix e- on "girl" is feminine singular. Possession can be indicated by a prefix: Mohawk ak-i'tà:ra', "my-crock"; ako-'tà:ra, "her-crock." In English, several different kinds of possession are categorized grammatically in the same way, all with the same possessive pronouns: "my crock," "my face," "my grandfather." In Iroquoian languages, the three kinds are distinguished: Mohawk ak-i'tà:ra', "my-crock"; k-konhsà:ke, "my-face"; and rak-hsótha, "my-grandfather." One set of possessive pronouns is used with alienable possessions—that is, objects that may be acquired, given away, or lost, like a crock. Another set is used with inalienable possessions like body parts. Kinsmen are not categorized as possessions at all. The term rak-hsótha specifies a relationship: "he is grandfather to me" (rak-, "he to me"). The senior kinsman, here the grandfather, is the primary member. A different prefix appears in "my grandson": ri-aterè:'a, literally "I have him as a grandchild" (ri-, "I to him").

    ~Languages continued~
    11 years ago

    Although both Iroquoian languages and English distinguish verbs and nouns, usage of these two categories in speech does not match. Speakers of Iroquoian languages use a much higher proportion of verbs than do speakers of English. In Iroquoian languages, as in English, verbs are used to describe actions or states: ratákhe', "he's running"; iostáthen, "it is dry"; sahonwatihné:kanonte', "she gave them another drink." Because all verbs contain pronominal prefixes (ra-, "he"; io-, "it"; honwati-, "she/them"), they may stand alone as full sentences in their own right. Since they may contain so many meaningful parts, verbs can express complex ideas: sahonwatihnè:kanonte' is literally s-a-honwa-ti-hnek-nont-e'; that is, "again-[past tense marker]-she/him-[plural marker]-liquid-feed-completely." Iroquoian verbs are also often used to designate objects, serving the roles of nouns in other languages: iontkonhsekowáhtha', "towel"; literally i-ont-konh-sekow-aht-ha', "one-self-face-wipe-with-habitually"; teiohnekahiò:tsis, "vinegar"; literally te-io-hnek-ahiò:tsis "change of state-it-liquid-sour/bitter is"; iotékha', "fire"; literally, io-ték-ha', "it-burn-s." With the descriptive power of Iroquoian verb structure, speakers have not needed to borrow many European words for introduced objects and concepts.

    An interesting feature of Iroquoian languages is noun incorporation, the presence of noun roots inside of verbs, like -hnek-, "liquid," in "she gave them a drink" and "vinegar". Incorporation can be used to background information that is not particularly newsworthy. It can also serve to classify events or states. The noun root -'nikonhr-, "mind," for example, appears in many Mohawk verbs referring to mental phenomena: wake-'nikonhr-atshá:nih, "I am brave" ("my mind is strong"); wake-'nikonhr-áksen's, "I feel sad, disappointed" ("my mind is bad"); wake-'nikónhr-hens, "I forget" ("my mind has fallen"). The noun root -ia't-, "body," appears in many verbs describing physical phenomena: wat-ia't-á:ken, "I am conspicuous" ("I am bodily visible"); wat-ia't-áhton, "I'm lost" ("I am bodily lost"); ronwa-ia't-enhá:wi', "she's carrying him" ("she's body-carrying him"). The noun root -rihw-, "word, idea, matter," appears in many verbs describing verbal or abstract phenomena: wa'ke-rihw-ísa', "I promised" ("I word-finished"); wa'ke-rih-ón:ni', "I caused it" ("I matter-made").

    Iroquoian languages offer their speakers many expressive options unknown in European languages, and their speakers in turn exploit them to their fullest. These speakers have long been respected for their stylistic skill and verbal wit in all settings, from formal oratory to animated conversation.

    See also Languages

    Marianne Mithun, Handbook of North American Indians "General Characteristics of North American Indian Languages," ed. William C. Sturtevant, vol. 17, Languages, ed. Ives Goddard (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1995); Marianne Mithun, The Languages of Native America "Iroquoian," ed. Lyle Campbell and Marianne Mithun
    ~Deganawida the Peacemaker~
    11 years ago

    The story of the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy is one of the most fascinating and wonderful that history has to offer us. It is the story of Deganawida and his disciple Hiawatha who single handed brought about the unity of five warring tribes in America, many hundreds of years before Europeans settled the country.

    The story has so many variations, it is hard to choose just one, but all accounts agree that amongst the five tribes that lived to the east of the great lakes, a terrible war raged, for many generations.

    The five tribes were the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Senecas, and the Onondagas. Tribe fought with tribe, and in the tribes, villages fought with villages, and in the villages, families fought with families, and even in the families there was fighting. Fear and hatred reigned in the land and nobody was safe.

    On the opposite shores of the great lakes, amongst the Huron nation, there lived a woman and her daughter. One night, as the woman slept, she dreamt that her daughter had a son called Deganawida, who would bring a message of peace and power from the Chief of the Great Sky Spirits to all the warring nations across the water. And sure enough the dream came about. A son was born to her daughter and they called him Deganawida. When he had grown to be a man, he told them of his desire to sail across the water and bring his message of peace and power to the five fighting tribes. His mother and grandmother consented, and Deganawida stepped into a canoe of white stone and rowed across the lake.
    When the people saw him floating in a boat made of stone they were filled with wonder, and when they heard what he had to say they became willing to abandon their weapons and adopt his peaceful ways.
    Deganawida didn’t stay in any place for long; he travelled from one village to the next, always moving eastwards, telling the people his message of hope.
    One day he reached the Mohawk tribe, whose chief was Hiawatha. Hiawatha was a fierce cannibal, renowned for being the best warrior in the land. But recently he had felt unable to fight and could not sleep at nights.
      He was not surprised to see Deganawida and quickly called together his people to hear him speak.
    "I come with good tidings from the Chief of the Sky Spirits," Deganawida said. "Fighting must cease in the land. The good Spirit never intended that blood should flow between human beings."
    "But if we do not fight," one man objected, "we will be killed by the neighbouring tribes."
    "The neighbouring tribes have already accepted my message of peace," said Deganawida, and Hiawatha’s tribe then accepted his message as well.
      When the time came for Deganawida to leave, he gave Hiawatha a parting piece of advice. "There is one I wish to warn you of," he said. "He is the Chief of the Onondagas who lives above the lake. He will not listen to my words, and has great powers to use against those who do." So saying, he left for the east.
    Hiawatha had three daughters, and in the months ensuing Deganawida’s departure they all died mysteriously.
    Suspecting the evil man he had been warned of, and filled with grief, Hiawatha abandoned his tribe and home, and left to find Deganawida.
    After a long and difficult journey he found him, and Deganawida’s wise and kind words of consolation, succeeded in dispelling his grief. They spent many days together, at the end of which Hiawatha pledged to help Deganawida bring the tidings of peace to the five tribes.

    11 years ago

    They parted ways, and did not meet again until there was only one man left who had not accepted the message of peace and power: the evil Onondaga chief. They journeyed to his mountain together and found him in a cave above the lake. Hiawatha was shocked to see that he was more of a monster than a man, with a hideous face and serpents entwined in his hair!
    They talked to him for a long time, and after many hours of discussion and persuasion, he began to smile. "I will accept your plan of peace," he said. His face lost all traces of ugliness and Hiawatha helped to comb the serpents out of his hair.
      They returned down the mountain where all the tribes were gathered and began a great meeting. Deganawida proposed that they would form one nation and he told them the laws they should abide by, which became their constitution. They would be the Haudenosaunee nation (later known as the Iroquois Confederacy), and when the meeting was over, they buried all their weapons. Deganawida planted a tree above, and the tree became known as the Tree of Peace. Deganawida then left, leaving Hiawatha in his place.

    The new nation prospered and was still strong when the Europeans came. Their constitution and democratic system of government was admired by the newcomers, particularly Benjamin Franklin, and this, along with its similarity, has given rise to the belief that the American constitution is based upon the constitution given to the Iroquois Confederacy by Deganawida and Hiawatha.

    ~Two River Currents Flowing Together~
    11 years ago


    An Iroquois spiritual figure, Deganawida (the name means "Two River Currents Flowing Together"), according to Iroquois tradition, joined Hiawatha to form a political and social confederation of five Iroquois tribes.

    The traditional historical narratives of Deganawida's life do not always agree. Some claim that he was born into the Huron tribe to a virgin mother who attempted to drown him. Others chronicle Deganawida's Huron origins but mention nothing of this calamity, and still others say he was born into the Onondaga Nation and was later adopted by the Mohawks. All accounts agree that Deganawida felt predestined to unite the Iroquois tribes living south of the Hurons. The Iroquois also credit Deganawida's considerable diplomatic skills with establishing the confederacy of the Senecas, Cayugas, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Mohawks and with laying down the confederacy's laws, regulations, and principles. Interestingly, it is also claimed that Deganawida was a poor public speaker; Hiawatha is credited with giving life to Deganawida's visionary plans through his oratorical skills.

    11 years ago

    Deganawida (“He the Thinker”) was a wise prophet of the Iroquois. He lived at the same time as the great chief Hiawatha, circa 1500. At that time the Iroquois nations were at war among themselves. Deganawida was given a vision of a gigantic spruce tree which reached up to the sky to the Elder Brothers, symbolizing the Family of Humanity. Deganawida began to preach a religion of love and harmony, thereby bringing unity to the Iroquois nations, a great confederacy that lasted more than 300 years. In another vision, Deganawida foresaw the destiny of the native Americans. That vision was transmitted orally until Edmund Wilson published it in his Apologies to the Iroquois:

    “When Deganawida was leaving the Indians in the Bay of Quinte in Ontario, he told them that they would face a time of great suffering. They would distrust their leaders and the principles of peace of the League, and a great white serpent (Caucasians) was to come upon the Iroquois. For a time, it would intermingle with the Indian people and be accepted by the Indians, who would treat the serpent as a friend. This serpent would in time become so powerful that it would attempt to destroy the Indians; the serpent was described as choking the life’s blood out of the Indian people. Deganawida told the Indians that they would seem to be lost, but when things looked their darkest a red serpent (China) would come from the north and approach the white serpent, which would be terrified; upon seeing the red serpent, he would release the Indian, who would fall to the ground like a helpless child, and the white serpent would turn all its attention to the red serpent. This bewilderment would cause the white serpent to accept the red serpent momentarily. The white serpent would be stunned and take part of the red serpent and accept him. Then there is be a heated argument and a fight. Then the Indian revives and crawls toward the land of the hilly country where he would assemble his people together and they would renew their faith and the principles of peace that Deganawida had established. There would at the same time exist among the Indians a great love and forgiveness for his brother, and in this gathering would come streams from all over – not only the Iroquois, but from all over – and they would gather in the hilly country, and they would renew their friendship. Deganawida said they would remain neutral in this fight between the white serpent and the red serpent.

    “At the time they were watching the two serpents locked in this battle, a great message would come to them and make them ever so humble, and when they had become that humble, they will be waiting for a young leader, an Indian boy, possibly in his teens, who would become a choice seer. Nobody knows who he is or where he comes from, but he will be given great power and would be heard by thousands, and he would give them the guidance and the hope to refrain from going back to their land and he would become the accepted leader. Deganawida said that they will gather in the land of the hilly country between the branches of an elm tree, and they should burn tobacco and call upon Deganawida by name when they are facing their darkest hours, and he will return. Deganawida said that as the choice seer speaks to the Indians, they will notice to the south a black serpent (Africans) coming from the sea. He is described as dripping with salt water. And as he stands there, he rests for a spell to get his breath, all the time watching to the north to the land where the white serpent and the red serpent are fighting.

    “Deganawida said that the battle between the white and the red serpents would open slowly, then become so violent that the mountains would crack and the rivers would boil and the fish would turn up their bellies. He said that there would be no leaves on the trees in that area. There would be no grass, and strange bugs and beetles would crawl from the ground and attack both serpents. He said that a great heat would cause the stench of death to sicken both serpents. And then, as the boy seer is watching this fight, the red serpent reaches around the back of the white serpent and pulls from him a hair. The hair suddenly turns into a woman, a white woman who tells him strange things that he knows to be true, but he wants to hear them again. When this white woman finished telling these things, he takes her and gently places her on a rock with great love and respect, and then he becomes infuriated at what he has heard, so he makes a beeline for the north, and he enters the battle between the red and white serpents with such speed and anger that he defeats the two serpents who have already become battle-weary.

    11 years ago

    “When he finishes, he stands on the chest of the white serpent, and he boasts and puts his chest out like he’s the conqueror, and he looks for another serpent to conquer. He looks to the land of the hilly country and then he sees the Indian standing there with his arms folded and looking so noble that he knows that this Indian is not the one that he should fight. The next direction he will face will be eastward, and at that time he will be momentarily blinded by a light that is many times brighter than the sun. The light will be coming from the east to the west over the water, and when the black serpent regains his sight, he becomes terrified and makes a run for the sea. He dips into the sea and swims away in a southerly direction, and shall never again be seen by the Indians.

    “The white serpent revives, and he, too, sees this light, and he makes a feeble attempt to gather himself and to go toward that light. A portion of the white serpent refuses to leave, but instead makes its way toward the land of the hilly people. The red serpent would revive and he would shiver with a great fear when he sees that light. He would crawl toward the north and leave a bloody trail, and he would never be seen again by the Indians. Deganawida said that as this light approaches he would be that light, and he would return to his Indian people who would be a greater nation than they ever were before.”

    How interesting!
    11 years ago
    I felt like I lived all this as I was reading it! It's so inspiring...
    Thank you, dear Sister for all this knowledge... As always, Rz
    11 years ago


           The Covert War Against Native Americans
                                    by Ward Churchill

    But, in America, when we speak of liberation, what can it mean? We must ask ourselves, in America, who are the people of the land? And the answer is-and can only be-the first Americans, the Native Americans, the American Indian. In the United States of America, when you speak of liberation, or when you speak of freeing the land, you are automatically speaking of the American Indians, whether you realize it or not. Of this, there can be no doubt.

    Those in power in the United States understand these principles very well. They know that even under their own laws aboriginal title precedes and preempts other claims, unless transfer of title to the land was is or agreed to by the original inhabitants. They know that the only such agreements to which they can make even a pretense are those deriving from some 371 treaties entered into by the U.S. with various Indian nations indigenous to North America.

    Those in power in America know very well that, in consolidating its own national landbase, the United States has not only violated every single one of those treaties, but that it remains in a state of perpetual violation to this day. Thus, they know they have no legal title-whether legality be taken to imply U.S. law, international law, Indian law, natural law, or all of these combined-to much of what they now wish to view as the territoriality of the United States proper.

    Finally, they are aware that to acquire even a semblance of legal title, title which stands a chance of passing the informed scrutiny of both the international community and much of its own citizenry, the U.S. must honor its internal treaty commitments, at the very least. Herein lies the dilemma: In order to do this, the U.S. would have to return much of its present geography to the various indigenous nations holding treaty-defined and reserved title to it (and sovereignty over it). The only alternative is to continue the violation of the most fundamental rights of Native Americans while pretending the issues do not exist. Of course, this is the option selected-both historically and currently-by U.S. policy-makers.

    The Native American Movement

    It is precisely from the dynamics of this situation that overt liberation organizations such as the American Indian Movement (AIM), the International Indian Treaty Council, and Women of All Red Nations were born. Insofar as their struggles are based in the reaffirmation of the treaty rights of North America's indigenous nations, theirs is a struggle for the land. In essence, their positions imply nothing less than the literal dismantlement of the modern American empire from the inside out.

    The stakes involved are tremendous. The "Great Sioux" of Lakota Nation alone holds clear treaty rights over some 5% of the area within the present 48 contiguous states. The Anishinabe (Chippewa) are entitled to at least another 4%. The Dine' (Navajo) already hold between 3% and 4%. Most of California has been demonstrated to have been taken illegally from nations such as the Pomo and Luisano. Peoples such as the Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Pasamadoquoddi-long believed to have been exterminated-have suddenly rematerialized to press treaty-based and aboriginal claims to much of New England. The list is well over 300 names long. It affects every quarter of the contemporary United States.

    Vast Natural Resources At Stake

    Today, more than 60% of all known U.S. uranium reserves are under reservation lands, and another 10-15% lies under contested treaty areas. Similarly, approximately one-third of all minable low-sulphur coal lies under reservations, while the figure easily exceeds 50% when treaty areas are lumped in. With natural gas, the data are about 15% under reservations, 15% under contested lands. The same holds true for oil. Almost all American deposits of minable zeolites are under reservation land. Very significant strategic reserves of bauxite, copper, iron, and other crucial minerals are also at issue.

    Giving all this up-or even losing a modicum of control over it-is an obviously unacceptable proposition to U.S. policy makers and corporate leaders. In order to remain a superpower (in both the military and economic senses of the term), the U.S. must tighten rather than relax its grip upon its "assets." Hence, given its priorities, America has had little choice but to conduct what amounts to a clandestine war against American Indians, especially of the AIM variety.

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