What was the Iroquois Confederacy ?

Contributed by:
This booklet tells about the social structure of the Iroquois society, the ideas behind the government of the Iroquois Confederacy, also the opportunities and people's participation in decision making.
1. What was the
4 Iroquois
h a p te r Fo c u s Qu e s tions
structure of Iroquois
• What was the social
d people have to
• What opportunities di
participate in decision
t w er e the id ea s be hind the government
• Wha
of the Iroquois Confede
The last chapter explored the government of ancient
Athens. This chapter explores another government with
deep roots in history: the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Iroquois Confederacy formed hundreds of years ago in
North America — long before Europeans first arrived here.
The structure and principles of its government influenced
the government that the United States eventually
The Confederacy united five, and later six, separate
nations. It had clear rules and procedures for making
decisions through representatives and consensus. It
reflected respect for diversity and a belief in the equality
of people.
The image on the side of this page represents the Iroquois
Confederacy and its five original member nations. It is a symbol as
old as the Confederacy itself. Why do you think this symbol is still
honoured in Iroquois society?
2. What are we learning in v e r sus
qu s
oi saunee
this chapter? I r o eno
This chapter explores the social structure of Iroquois There are two names for
society, which showed particular respect for women and the Iroquois people today:
for people of other cultures. Iroquois (ear-o-kwa)
and Haudenosaunee
It also explores the structure and processes of Iroquois (how-den-o-show-nee).
government. Think back to Chapter 3, where you saw how Iroquois is a name that
the social structure of ancient Athens determined the way dates from the fur trade
during the 1600s. The
people participated in its government. In this chapter, you
French learned this name
will learn about the roles and responsibilities of people in from the Ouendat
the Iroquois Confederacy. (wen-dat), an enemy
nation of the Iroquois.
Why are we learning this? Haudenosaunee is what
the people call themselves
When you look around your community, what traces of in their own language. It
means “people of the
the past can you see? For example, what is the oldest longhouse” and comes from
building in your community? What road first connected the name for the people’s
your community to other parts of your traditional dwelling.
region? You need to know both
names when you do
Just like buildings and roads, ideas have research online or in
roots in the past. The ideas that shape the library.
Canada’s government today reflect How do the names Iroquois
and Haudenosaunee reflect
ideas from other, older societies, such the different perspectives
as the Iroquois Confederacy. By of peoples? How do they
exploring the Confederacy, we are reflect the history of
North America?
exploring ideas that affect us today
— ideas such as equality,
consensus and respect for
diversity. We can learn more about
them and discover how they
influenced democracy.
Chapter 4 83
3. Chapter 4 Inquiry Task
Creating a multi-media presentation
about the Iroquois Confederacy
The Past to Present Exhibition is on the move! Directors of the exhibition
have just unveiled their plans for a new multi-media presentation which
will travel to Grade 6 classrooms. The purpose of the presentation is to
share information about the society and government of the Iroquois
The Task
The Past to Present Exhibition has asked you to research and create a
presentation entitled: “Democracy in Action: the Iroquois Confederacy.”
To provide background information for Grade 6 students, you will need
to explain historical context. Historical context means when and where
something existed or happened. Provide information on the following
• The structure of the Iroquois Confederacy
• The role of women in the Iroquois Confederacy
• The use of consensus in the Iroquois Confederacy
• The importance of wampum belts to Iroquois identity
Your presentation must conclude by giving evidence to answer the
following question:
• How did the Iroquois Confederacy establish the democratic ideas of
fairness and equity?
Since this presentation will be for Grade 6 students, you must think of an
innovative and intriguing way of sharing this information. Remember to
create a reference list so that people who attend the exhibition will know
where you found your information and where they can find more
information themselves.
4. Things to think about before starting the task
As you work through the chapter, you will be gathering SKILLaSt Work
information that will help you with the task. When you are
Plan a system for
researching you should cite, or record your references.
recording your
This means acknowledging the contribution of other references as you
people’s ideas. Use the following guidelines to reference go. You could use a
your resources. database or a chart.
What system will
Books work best for you?
Author (publication date). Title. Publication Location:
• include references
Publisher. in an organized
Example: manner as part of
Cairo, Mary & Soncin, L (2003). Faces of Government.
Edmonton: Duval House Publishing Inc. LS
Title. (publication date). Publication Location: Publisher Research
Encyclopedia Britannica. (2002). Chicago: Encyclopedia
On-Line Resources
Great Lakes Information Network. (2007) Native Peoples of
the Region: Settlements and Warfare: Flag of the Five
Nations. Retrieved September 20, 2007 from the Great
Lakes information network website.
Chapter 4 85
5. Getting Started
How did the Iroquois
Before you begin
this section, list Confederacy begin?
some questions you
have about Iroquois What’s important?
society and Understand that the Iroquois Confederacy is made up of
government. separate nations, bound by the Great Law of Peace, and
Consider whether
that it is many centuries old. It still exists today.
the information in
this section answers
Founding the Iroquois Confederacy
your questions.
Jot down new Five different nations founded the Iroquois Confederacy:
questions you have, the Seneca (Sen-e-kuh), Cayuga (Ky-you-guh),
based on what you Onondaga (On-on-da-guh), Oneida (O-nee-duh),
learn from this Mohawk (Mo-hawk). Each nation kept its own territory,
section. language and culture.
• formulate new
Before the founding of the Confederacy, the nations fought
questions as
research wars against each other. The history of the Iroquois records
progresses that a leader came to the nations with a message of peace
• determine the and unity. This leader was named Dekanawidah (da-ga-na-
reliability of wee-duh), the Peacemaker. With the help of Hiawatha, he
information persuaded each nation to accept the Great Law of Peace.
filtering for point The Great Law of Peace established a government — the
of view and bias Iroquois Confederacy — that allowed the nations to work
CEN together and respect each other.
6 Pause
The Great Law of Peace established an alliance among
the member nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. An
alliance is an agreement among a group of nations to
support each other. The alliance that established the
Iroquois Confederacy ended war among its member
nations. What other advantages might an alliance have?
6. Where was the Iroquois
The Lands of the Iroquois Confederacy
before 1500
Iroquois AREA OF
Confederacy W
The white lines on this
map show borders that
e R. exist today between
Canada and the United
States, and between
Canadian provinces. We
. have included them to
help you interpret the
location of the map.
O Mo
On neida awk
o n
Sen Cayug daga
eca a
0 250 km
This map shows the location of the original five nations of
the Iroquois Confederacy.
Within the Confederacy, each nation had a role. For Pause
example, the Mohawk were the Keepers of the Eastern
The map of Iroquois
Door. They defended the Confederacy from the east. Based lands on this page
on the map, who were the Keepers of the Western Door? dates from before
The nations on guard to the east and west were also called contact with
the “older brothers” of the Confederacy. Europeans.
Compare the map
One nation of the Confederacy was charged with keeping with a current map
the centre of the Confederacy firm — keeping its principles of the same region.
always alive. They were called the Keepers of the Council What changes do
Fire. Check the map: which nation was this? you see? What
reasons can you
The nations between the guards and the centre were called
give for the
the “younger brothers” of the Confederacy. Which nations changes?
were these?
Chapter 4 87
7. 1702 Tuscarora join Iroquois Confederacy.
When was the Iroquois
1776 United States founded.
exploring North America.
1490s Europeans begin
1867 Canada founded:
Con uois
fou fede
500 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500
Before the
Common Common Era (CE)
Era (BCE)
The Iroquois Confederacy probably dates from around 1100, and
continues to exist today. How many years has the Confederacy
SKILLaSt Work existed compared to the United States and to Canada? How can you
use the timeline to establish this?
How does the The timeline shows that the Confederacy existed before Europeans
began to explore North America. What do you already know about
timeline establish First Nations societies before contact with Europeans?
that the
A sixth nation, the Tuscarora (Tuh-skuh-roar-uh) left their southern
Confederacy could homelands, in what later became North Carolina, due to European
have influenced the settlement. They joined the Iroquois Confederacy in 1702. The
founding of the Confederacy then became known as the League of Six Nations. What
United States and happened when First Nations and Europeans began to encounter
each other? Use your knowledge of history to help you understand
Canada, but not
the time when the Iroquois Confederacy began.
the other way
• use examples of
events in the past
to describe cause I remember how the French
and effect and and British competed for trading
change over time partners during the fur trade. What alliances
and conflicts happened because of the fur
CEN trade? I wonder how this might have
2 affected the Iroquois Confederacy?
8. Investigating Time
The timeline on page 88 dates the founding of the Iroquois Pause
Confederacy at around 1100. This reflects one theory of
Oral history
how old the Confederacy is. provides a record
Oral history records that the Seneca were the last of the of the past. So
original five nations to join the Confederacy, and that this does data from
happened just after a total eclipse of the sun. astronomy. What
are some other
Using astronomical data, researchers examined when solar ways to record
eclipses occurred in the past. They consulted the oral history? In what
record for a list of the Confederacy’s leaders, and estimated ways are they the
the span of time the list represented. Then they matched same? In what
ways are they
data about angles of the earth and sun with descriptions
from the oral record about the historic eclipse. When they
put all the pieces of evidence together, they suggested that
the first five nations of the Confederacy completed their
alliance shortly after a solar eclipse on August 31, 1142.
h a t is tory?
W l his
Different peoples
have different
ways of recording
their past. The
recounted their
past in spoken, or
oral, records. They
had memory
keepers who
carefully learned
and maintained
these records from
generation to
This photo shows a solar eclipse. What do you
know about solar eclipses? Why can researchers
pinpoint when they will happen in the future
and when they have happened in the past?
Chapter 4 89
9. How did the Iroquois live?
What’s important?
Understand the role of clans in the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Peacemaker established clans within the nations of the
Iroquois Confederacy. The clan system united the nations
and ensured peace among them. They are still an
important part of the identity of Iroquois people today.
Clans were named for one of nine air, water or land
animals. With one exception, each clan formed part of at
least two nations, and three clans formed part of every
The Peacemaker set up Iroquois society as matrilineal. This
meant clan members traced their family history and
ancestors through their mothers. Each clan was made up of
a group of families that had a common female ancestor.
When people married, the husband moved into his wife’s
longhouse. When a child was born, he or she became part
of the mother’s clan.
Members of the same clan were considered family
members. So, they always extended hospitality to each
other, even if they came from different nations. Also,
people of the same clan did not marry each other.
Within each nation, members of the same clan lived
together in a longhouse. You can read more about
longhouses on page 92.
Legend About the clan graphic
The graphic on the next page comes from
information posted by the Iroquois Museum in
Howes Cave, New York. Use this legend to help
you interpret it.
How does this graphic help you understand the
way clans wove the nations of the Iroquois
Confederacy together?
10. Seneca Cayuga Onondaga Oneida Mohawk
Older Younger Keepers of the Younger Older
Brothers Brothers Council Fire Brothers Brothers
Keepers of the Keepers of the
Western Door Eastern Door
Chapter 4 91
11. What’s important?
Understand the role of the longhouse in the Iroquois
The Longhouse
Within each member nation, the Iroquois lived in
settlements made up of several longhouses. Longhouses
This photograph were large, open dwellings where many families of the
shows the interior of a same clan lived together: grandparents, parents, aunts,
longhouse at the
Ganondagon historic
uncles, sons, daughters and cousins.
site in New York. The The longhouse was an important place in the government
site is a reconstruction
of a Seneca of the Iroquois. It was where men and women met in
settlement. separate groups to discuss issues and events, and to advise
In the longhouse, their leaders. People were expected to attend these
people lived their
daily lives and met in discussions, because the consensus — or agreement — of
groups to talk. What the group was crucial. By discussing issues, people came
do you think children
did when important
to understand how different choices would affect the
discussions took group, and came to one mind about the best way forward.
place? What might
they have learned You can read more about what consensus means on
from these page 111.
12. Dutch geographer Herman
Moll drew this scene of an
Iroquois settlement in
1720. If 30 to 40 people
lived in each longhouse,
about how many people
lived in this settlement?
Moll, Herman (1736). A New Map of the North Parts of North America
Claimed by France. London, England: T. Bowles.
SKILLS at Work
Study the illustration carefully. What seems out of place? LS
Think about the European point of view of the artist and how this
might have influenced what he included in this scene. To what extent
does this illustration represent a reliable source of information about Research
the Iroquois?
• determine the reliability of information filtering for point of view and bias
Longhouses were made
with a wooden-pole
framework covered in
bark. If a clan grew, how
do you think the
longhouse grew? What
conclusions can you draw
from this picture?
Chapter 4 93
13. What was the social structure of
Iroquois society?
What’s important?
Discover the roles of women and men in Iroquois society.
In the story, Kanatiiosh and her brother stumble into a special meeting that was not
part of daily life — a meeting of the Grand Council. The Grand Council always
met in the Onondaga territory in a special longhouse. You can read more about
the Grand Council on page 101.
ecision for the Ir oquois Grand
u t this Council
Abory Part 1: An Escape
“Come back here!” other
This representation -a -te e- os h) w at ch ed in horror as her little br
Kanatiiosh (kan house, an
of historical events
ai gh t in to th e do or way of the council long
was written with bolted str lage.
tu re th at sat alon g the north side of her vil
the advice and imposing struc
upted the
on ly to retri ev e he r brother before he disr
Thinking the
of educator Brenda
os h fo llo w ed after hi m. The dim interior of
Davis, Cayuga First meeting, Kanatii nificent
Nation, Six Nations e m om en ta rily blin de d her, but as the mag
longhous her.
of the Grand River r m at er ialized , sh e forgot all about her brot
Territory, Ontario. scene before he
Who’s Who in the Iroquois Confederacy:
Children were often around and listening when adults held discussions.
Discussions were part of daily life in a longhouse. Children
grew up hearing about issues and learning how decisions
were made. Both women and men had important positions
in the Iroquois Confederacy, so girls and boys knew they
too would have important roles when they grew up.
This berry basket was made by Susan Bearskin of the Oneida
Nation. Day-to-day routines — such as making baskets, preserving
food, cooking, eating and sleeping — took place in the longhouse.
Discussions of events and issues also took place there. Daily life in
the longhouse played an important role in the way the Iroquois
governed themselves.
14. She remembered her grandmothe
r — who was a Clan Mother — tell
her the reason for this important ing
meeting. The Hoyaneh (hoe-ya-n
deciding whether to enter into a eh) were
treaty with the British who had bu
fort some distance away. ilt a
Now she could actually see the Ho
yaneh her grandmother spoke of,
right before her. She could see all sitting
the distinctive headdresses that
identified their nations. These we
re the men chosen by the Clan Mo
to represent each clan in the five thers
member nations of the Iroquois
Confederacy. And right beside the
m were the wise Clan Mothers
themselves, sitting with straight
spines, observing their Hoyaneh
listening intently to make sure the and
y represented the needs and intere
the people in everything they sai sts of
Kanatiiosh listened to the words
of a tall man who addressed the
From the look of his headdress, she Hoyaneh.
could tell he was Onondaga, the
nation responsible for opening the
meetings and lighting the sacred
that burned to purify the thoughts fire
of everyone present.
“I ask you to remember our contin
uing conflict with the French,” the
said, his voice ringing out over the man
crowd. “Remember the sorrow on
faces of our people when French the
guns killed three of our kinsmen
twelve others were taken captive and
. We need to think carefully about
defend ourselves.” how to
Kanatiiosh heard murmurs of ack
nowledgment ripple through the
She, too, nodded her head in agr crowd.
eement, crouching there in her dar
corner, remembering the tears her k
mother had shed when the new
that her uncle was dead. s came
Suddenly, Kanatiiosh felt a small
hand slip into hers. “There you are
exclaimed to her brother, a little !” she
too loudly, for she noticed heads
her way. “It’s time to leave,” she turning
whispered in his ear, and slipped
In the story, the Iroquois Confederacy is
considering a treaty with the British. The story
takes place during the fur trade in the 1600s,
when the Iroquois came into conflict with the
French. The French had become allies with
enemies of the Iroquois, including the Ouendat.
This illustration shows the Ouendat and the
French attacking an Onondaga village in 1615
and was drawn from the French point of view.
How accurate do you think the drawing is? Why?
Chapter 4 95
15. Women
in the Iroquois Confederacy
Clan Mothers Women
• chose and advised • participated in Women’s
the Hoyaneh Councils which advised
• had a strong indirect the Clan Mothers
influence on decisions • used consensus
Who’s Who in the Iroquois
Confederacy: Women
Women had two ways to make their voices heard: as Clan
Mothers and through Women’s Councils.
Clan Mothers were usually the oldest and most respected
women in their clans. The title was hereditary and passed
on to the woman relative that was thought to be best
suited for the position. Clan Mothers were responsible for
Clan Mothers continue
to play an important their clan’s welfare and for maintaining harmony and
role in Iroquois society balance within the clans and nations. They selected the
today. This photo shows Hoyaneh, the male leaders of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Audrey Shenandoah, a
Clan Mother of the Eel The Great Law of Peace said the Hoyaneh had to put the
Clan of the Onondaga needs of their people first. The Clan Mothers could replace
Nation. She participated
in a Summit of the
Hoyaneh who failed to do this.
Elders at the United Within each clan, Women’s Councils and Men’s Councils
Nations in 1995, where
she provided an Iroquois advised the Clan Mothers. The Clan Mothers in turn
perspective on advised their Hoyaneh of the people’s position on issues.
environmental issues. How did this process ensure that both men and women
had a voice in their government?
Women’s Councils developed positions on important
issues. Women who were not Clan Mothers took part in
councils. Through consensus, they advised the Clan
16. Men
in the Iroquois Confederacy
Hoyaneh Men
• made decisions for their • participated in Men’s
nation Councils which advised the
• represented their nations and Clan Mothers
clans in the decision making • participated in decision
of the Grand Council making for their nation
• used consensus • used consensus
• Hoyaneh were chosen from
among the men
Who’s Who in the Iroquois
Confederacy: Men
Men had two ways to make their voices heard: as
Hoyaneh and through Men’s Councils.
Hoyaneh were the male leaders of each nation of the
Iroquois Confederacy. Hoyaneh means “Caretakers of the
Peace.” Today we call them chiefs.
The Hoyaneh were chosen and advised by their Clan
Mothers. Each nation had several Hoyaneh. Most of the
time, they met to make decisions for their nation —
decisions about whether to expand or move a village, for
example. They used consensus to arrive at the best way
The Hoyaneh also represented their nation at meetings of
the Grand Council. You can read more about the Grand
Council on page 101.
Men’s Councils included all the men in a clan. They met
and came to consensus on issues. They, like the women of
clans, advised the Clan Mothers.
Chapter 4 97
17. ture Leader
Part 2: Preparing a Fu
be d on to he r sleep ing platform in her fam
h clim
That night, as Kanatiios
other came to her.
longhouse, her grandm ked.
in k of th e m ee ting? ” her grandmother as
“What did you th t to say.
lt he r fa ce go ho t, an d she didn’t know wha
Kanatiiosh fe ere you doing there?”
long ho us e. W ha t w
the council
“I saw you slip inside
her grandmother pres h
an d I w as just ge tting him out,” Kanatiios
“My little brother ran
swered . “I di dn ’t th ink anyone saw me.”
an t you to
t m y gran dd au gh ter, I saw you. And I wan
“Hardly anyone did. Bu
I se e a lot of thin gs you don’t think I see.”
“Like what?” ake
are w he n yo u sh ow the children how to m
“Like how patient yo u
u are to sh ar e th e be rries you pick in the
baskets. And how quick sid e of things, you’ll mak
e a great
sta y on th e go od
summertime. If you
Clan Mother some da eepishly.
m e be ca us e of to da y?” Kanatiiosh asked sh
“Are you angry with e
ie d. “I actu al ly th in k you should know mor
r repl
“No,” her grandmothe th e great leader I think yo
u can be.”
u’re to be co m e
about these things if yo
At the Grand Council, the Hoyaneh wore
distinct headdresses that identified them
with their nation. In the Iroquois
Confederacy, each nation
was represented by its
own Hoyaneh. How did
this show respect for
the diversity of
the Confederacy’s
member nations?
Cayuga Oneida
18. Kanatiiosh lowered he
r eyes in respect.
“Oh, Grandmother, to
day I actually saw the
told me about,” Kana sacred fire you’ve alw
tiiosh said, her words ays
saw how closely the Ho com ing in a rush. “And I
yaneh listened to the
spoke. Everything seem O no ndaga leader who
ed so important. And
“It is,” agreed Skawen
nati. “Treaty-making is
the Iroquois.” not taken lightly amon
“Are they any closer to
making a decision?”
“Yes. Just today the G
rand Council agreed to
the Hoyaneh must wor negotiate a treaty. Now
k out the terms and ev
them.” eryone must agree to
“Grandmother, can yo
u tell me everything th
an important decision at happens when such
is being made?”
“I can, Kanatiiosh, bu
t not tonight. You have
fires early to help feed to be at the cooking
the visiting Hoyaneh,
tomorrow after the ev so I’ll tell you all abou
ening meal, all right?” t it
“All right,” Kanatiiosh
echoed, barely stifling
grandmother tucked he a yawn as her
r in.
Mohawk Seneca Onondaga
Chapter 4 99
19. What opportunities did people have
to participate in decision making?
What’s important?
Understand the rights and responsibilities of men and women in the government
of the Iroquois Confederacy.
e Iroquois
th e ne xt ev en in g Sk awennati described th
True to her word,
decision-making proces ue
oh aw k an d th e Se ne ca, must discuss the iss
rs, the M
“First the elder brothe de cis ion, they pass their co
he n th ey re ac h a
among themselves. W ot he rs , the O neida and Cayuga. Th
to the youn ge r br
across the sacred fire br ot he rs discuss the matter an
hile th e yo un ge r
elder brothers listen w e older brothers and yo
cons en su s. W he n th
arrive at their own ke ep er s of the Council Fire —
no nd ag a — th e
brothers agree, the O
asked to give their judg ly.
ya ne h di sa gr ee ?” Ka natiiosh asked curious
a Ho
“What if the Onondag r and
go es ba ck th ro ug h the process to the elde
“Then their decision .”
rs, w ho w ou ld ha ve to reconsider the issue
younger brothe ”
re e on an issue be fo re a decision is made?
“So everyone has to ag ten
ta ug ht us to go vern ourselves. We must lis
“Yes. It is how the Peac gs to the discussion is impo
ch Ho ya ne h br in
to each other. What ea
How did the Grand Council make decisions?
First Step Second Step
The Older Brothers The Younger Brothers
Seneca Cayuga
& &
Mohawk Oneida
reach reach
consensus consensus
until consensus is reached
if Onandaga do not confirm the decision
20. The Grand Council
The Grand Council met to discuss issues that affected the
whole Iroquois Confederacy, such as peace treaties, trade
agreements, and decisions to go to war. The order and procedure
for a meeting of the
The Grand Council was made up of the Hoyaneh from Grand Council was given
by the Peacemaker in the
each nation — 50 in all. Although they rarely spoke at
Great Law of Peace.
Grand Council meetings, all Iroquois people — men and
women — had ways to make their voices heard in the The Tuscarora, who
joined the Confederacy
decision making of the Grand Council. Through the in 1702, are considered
Women’s Councils and Men’s Councils of their clans, they part of the younger
advised the Clan Mothers of their positions on issues. The brothers and speak
through the Oneidas in
Clan Mothers, in turn, chose and advised the Hoyaneh. If a council.
Hoyaneh didn’t carefully consider the advice of his Clan
Mother, the Clan Mother warned him. After the third
warning, she removed him and chose someone else.
To make a decision, the Grand Council discussed issues in
a set order. Council decisions had to be unanimous, so the
Grand Council always worked towards consensus. This is
the way decisions about traditional and cultural matters
are made by the Iroquois today.
The Grand Council used consensus to make decisions.
Decisions depended on building an agreement that
included all nations, and discussion continued until the
Grand Council had reached agreement.
Third Step
The Keepers of • What advantages did this process have as a way to
the Council Fire make decisions?
• What disadvantages might it have?
give a if all nations agree decision
Chapter 4 101
21. The Iroquois Confederacy: f
Structure of Government r
Within each clan and nation, councils of men and women discussed
issues and advised the Clan Mothers. The Clan Mothers chose the e
Hoyaneh to represent their people. This graphic shows the Mohawk
Nation as an example of the process every nation used.
Within each nation, the Hoyaneh formed a council for that nation. This council
made decisions that helped its nation function well, such as sharing resources and
locating settlements.
Mohawk Council
3 Hoyaneh 3 Hoyaneh
3 Clan Mothers 3 Clan Mothers
Women’s Men’s Women’s Men’s
Council Council Council Council
3 Hoyaneh
Wolf Clan Turtle Clan
3 Clan Mothers
Women’s Men’s
Council Council
Bear Clan
decisions made choose and advise represent advise
by consensus
22. The Hoyaneh from each nation represented their people on the Grand Council.
The number of Hoyaneh for each nation was established by the Peacemaker.
The Grand Council met when a member nation called for a meeting. The role of
the Hoyaneh at Grand Council meetings was to represent the people of their clan
and nation. The Clan Mothers advised the Hoyaneh and attended Grand Council
meetings to make sure their Hoyaneh fulfilled their role as representatives.
The nations had different numbers of
Hoyaneh representing them on the Grand
Council, but each nation was equal in the
decision-making process. How did the use
Onondaga of consensus ensure this? Flip back to the
14 Hoyaneh graphic of the process on pages 100 and 101.
Mohawk Cayuga
9 Hoyaneh 10 Hoyaneh
Grand Council
50 Hoyaneh e
Seneca Oneida
8 Hoyaneh 9 Hoyaneh
Think About the Task
Part of your task in this chapter is to describe the role of consensus in the Iroquois
Confederacy. Examine the diagrams on these two pages. How did the consensus
of the Women’s Councils and Men’s Councils contribute to the consensus of the
Grand Council? Try to summarize the connection between them.
Chapter 4 103
23. What’s important?
Understand the meaning and importance of wampum.
Part 3: A Treaty Reve
rls her
la te r, as Ka na tiios h worked beside other gi
Many days d,
fires be ne at h th e ke ttles of corn soup stoke
age to keep the oak
ot he r ca lled he r in to the shade of a huge
her grandm
tree. show
ht er , I ha ve br ou gh t something special to
“Granddaug ner she held
” he r gr an dm ot he r said, opening a contai
you, rms
m . “A fte r th e Ho ya ne h decided upon the te
under her ar of it.”
e tre aty, th is w as m ade as a lasting record
of th laid a
ey es gr ew la rg e as her grandmother gently
Kanatiiosh’s ith two
ficen t w am pu m be lt on the grass, woven w
w am pu m be ad s ag ainst a background of
rows of purp le
white wampum beads.
m ea n? ” Ka na tiios h as ked, sucking in her
“What does it
breath. -
dm ot he r sa id , “is the Guswentah (gus-wen
“This,” her gran the
e Tw o Ro w W am pu m Treaty. It describes
ta) — th sh.
ee n th e Iro qu oi s Co nfederacy and the Briti
agreement betw d respect
te strip es on it de no te peace, friendship an
The whi of
o pa rti es of th e ag reement. The two lines
between the tw s of our
ad s sig nify th e di ffe rent customs and way
purple be
e pu rp le lin es ar e pa rallel, never touching.
two peoples. Th ill make
Ro w W am pu m Tr ea ty says ‘neither of us w
The Two her.’”
s no r inte rfe re w ith the business of the ot
la w
h said
ly w ay w e ca n al l liv e in peace,” Kanatiios
“It’s the on by
pi ng th e Br iti sh w ou ld understand and live
thoughtfully, ho
pum belt represented.
the agreement the wam
This is a photograph of the Two Row Wampum
Treaty. On page 105, read about the Treaty.
What is the meaning of the stripes?
24. The Guswentah, the Two Row Wampum Treaty
When the Iroquois first encountered Europeans, they
discovered people with very different ways and values
from their own. The Iroquois proposed a peace treaty —
the Two Row Wampum Treaty — based on three values:
friendship, peace and mutual respect. Each of the white
lines in the Two Row Wampum Treaty represents one of
these values. The Two Row Wampum Treaty defines the
relationship between the sovereign nations who agree to
the treaty.
The Iroquois concluded the Two Row Wampum Treaty
with the British in 1674. They also made this treaty with
other people of European descent, including the Dutch,
French and the Americans.
This is a modern replica of the
Two Row Wampum Treaty. Why
might the Iroquois today create
replicas of this historic treaty?
Where does the
The following interpretation of the Two Row Wampum information on this
comes from an Iroquois website: computer screen
The two rows symbolize two vessels, travelling down the come from? What
same river together. makes this a good
One, a birch bark canoe, will be for the Iroquois People, their source of
laws, their customs and their ways. information? How
The other, a ship, will be for the European people and their does documenting
laws, their customs and their ways. your sources of
We shall travel the river together, side by side. information help
Neither of us will interfere with the affairs of the other. support your
Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel. conclusions?
–Adapted from Degiya’göh Resources. (2007) Guswenta • include references
(Kaswentha):Two Row Wampum. Retrieved October 18, 2007 from in an organized
Degiya’göh Resources website. manner as part of
Chapter 4 105
25. Wampum
Among the Iroquois, wampum beads made from shells are
woven into patterned strings or belts that record important
events, ideas, contracts, pledges or treaties among nations.
When Europeans began to arrive in North America, the
Iroquois negotiated and concluded agreements with the
newcomers and presented them with records of the
agreements in wampum. Wampum strings and belts
were used at councils and in ceremonies of the Iroquois,
and still are.
The wampum belts in this
photograph were held by
the Museum of the
American Indian in the
United States for years. In
1989, the museum
returned them to the
Iroquois. Jacob E. Thomas
of the Cayuga Nation, on
the right, is reading the
belts for the museum’s
The belts are historical
records. Why are
historical records
important to the
collective identity of a
people – their sense of
themselves as a group?
Why might the Iroquois
have wanted these
wampum belts returned?
26. The Hiawatha Wampum Belt
This wampum belt records the structure and principles of SKILLaSt Work
the Iroquois Confederacy. Each of the figures on the belt
What information
represents one of the original five nations of the
about the
Confederacy, in their geographic order. The Tuscarora are foundation, structure
not represented by a symbol on the Hiawatha Wampum and processes of the
belt because they joined the Iroquois Confederacy many Iroquois Confederacy
years after it was founded. do wampum belts
provide? Why are
primary sources such
as wampum belts
• use primary
sources to interpret
historical events
and issues
Seneca Mohawk
Cayuga Oneida
This figure represents the Tree of Peace and it stands at the centre of the
Confederacy. You can read more about the Tree of Peace on page 108.
The white line that joins the nations symbolizes the path
of peace. It extends out from both sides of the belt. This
invites other nations to follow the path of peace, accept
the Great Law of Peace, and take shelter under the Tree
of Peace.
Chapter 4 107
27. What are the ideas behind the
Iroquois Confederacy?
The Tree of Peace
The Iroquois Confederacy united
five, and eventually six, separate
nations in peace. The Peacemaker
used the Tree of Peace, a white
The eagle has a place
pine, to symbolize the peace at the top of the tree.
established by the Confederacy. The eagle can see far
and warn the people
of the Confederacy of
The branches represent the
any danger.
protection of the nations
under the Great Law of Peace.
The Tree of Peace is a
symbol of the Iroquois
Confederacy. Symbols
represent ideas. What
important ideas about
the Iroquois Confederacy
does the Tree of Peace
The weapon buried beneath the
tree shows that the Iroquois will
not fight against each other. They
have thrown the weapons of war
into the depths of the earth.
28. The Great Law of Peace
The Peacemaker established the structure and procedures
of the Confederacy, which is the Great Law of Peace. representation
Below, you can read an excerpt from the Great Law of
Peace that talks about the responsibilities of the Hoyaneh. equity
n s sh a ll b e advisors of th
of the five n their skin sh
all be
The Hoyaneh ic k n ess o f
time. The th they will dis
people for all to sa y th a t them.
– which is done against
seven spans n d w ro n g s eir
rd s sa id a gainst them
p ea c e a n d goodwill. Th
w o wit h
shall be filled eir people. T
Their hearts w e lf are o f th
ce, and
earn for the ndless patien
minds will y u tie s w it h e and
shall carry o
ut their d
u t w ith k in dness. Anger g
rm n ess w il l be handed o e ir m in d s, and everythin
fi th
t find place in lm deliberation.
fury shall no c a
ey say an d do will show
th of
o n 2 4 o f th e Great Law
ti n
B ase d o n v ersions of sec s: S ix N ati o n s Reclamatio
– te
e following si erature.
Peace from th In dig e n o u s People’s Lit
1. What characteristics does the Great Law of Peace say that the Hoyaneh need?
2. Think about the structure of Iroquois government and the role that the
Hoyaneh played in it. Why do you think the Great Law of Peace specified
these characteristics for the Hoyaneh?
The roots represent peace and strength. They
spread out in the four directions: north,
south, east and west. The roots lead anyone
or any nation willing to follow the Great
Law of Peace to the shelter under the tree.
Chapter 4 109
29. What’s important?
The Great Law of Peace defines the roles of men and
women in the traditional government of the Iroquois
Confederacy. How did these different roles support
Iroquois society and government?
s Rights and Re
R ig h ts a n d Responsibilit
As Clan Moth th e G re at L a w of Peace
and keeping
• Knowing n
g th e w e lf are of their cla
• Promoti n
e W om e n ’s Council and
e advice of th
• Seeking th uncil of their clan
the Men’s Co h
a n d a d v is in g the Hoyane
• Choosing
In Women’s C
d in g a c o n se nsus on issues
• Bu il
e Clan Mothe
• Advising th
R ig h ts a n d Responsibilit
As Hoyaneh: re at Law of Peac
o w in g a n d k eep in g th e G
on ie s an d the Grand Coun
• Kn th eir role in cere
an d fu lf il li n g
• Knowing of the Clan M
to th e a d v ic e d in the future
• L is te n in g eople no w a n
g o f w h a t’s best for their p
• Think in
g a c o n se n su s on issues
• Buildin earted
B e in g h on est and kindh

b le to w it h st and criticism
• Being a
In Men’s Cou
a c o nsensus on issu
es Pause
• B u il d in
d v is in g th e C lan Mothers What qualities do effective
• A leaders have today?
30. What’s important?
Societies have different ways of putting the democratic
ideals of equity and fairness into action. What do the
statements below show about fairness and equity in the
Iroquois Confederacy ? What similarities and differences
do you see between the Iroquois Confederacy and
ancient Athens?
True consensus is built through talking,
listening and considering different ideas
until a new understanding takes place, and
the decision makers come to “one mind”
about what to do.
Everyone must have a voice. Everyone has
their own stories, their own perspectives —
gifts they bring to the process that create
balance. No one is left out.
— From an interview with Norma General,
Elder of the Wolf Clan,
Cayuga Nation, May 2007.
Norma General lives in Ohsweken, Ontario. She is a member of the Cayuga Nation and an Elder,
Wolf Clan. Her traditional name, Gaihohwakohn, means “holding the canoe.” She is a cultural
educator across Canada and the United States, an instructor at McMaster University in Hamilton,
Ontario, and an instructor at the First Nations Technical Institute in Tyandenaga, Ontario.
Consider Elder Norma General’s explanation of consensus.
How might what she says apply to you? Think about the
personal guideline for participating in groups that you
created in Chapter 1. What could you add to your guideline,
based on the ideas of consensus? What advantages does
consensus have as a way to make choices in groups?
Chapter 4 111
31. The Society and Government of the
Iroquois Confederacy
What is the structure of • There were originally five, and later six, separate
the society? Iroquois Nations. Each has its own language and
its own council.
• Each nation has specific clans which are extended
families of the same clan of other nations.
• Families are connected through the women’s lines.
• Extended families used to live in longhouses.
What rights and • All members of society are expected to follow the
responsibilities do Great Law of Peace.
members of the society • Clan mothers listen to their clan members, give
have? advice and choose their Hoyaneh.
• The Hoyaneh listen to their Clan Mothers and are
responsible for representing their own clan and
nation. They are also responsible for helping make
Grand Council decisions.
• Each member nation of the Confederacy is equally
important on the council.
This photo shows
Haudenosaunee people in
a circle dance. In what
ways does a circle
represent something
important about
traditional Iroquois
society and government?
32. What is the procedure • The Grand Council is composed of 50
for making government Hoyaneh representing their clans
decisions? and nations.
• The Grand Council makes decisions
affecting the entire Confederacy.
• The member nations hold discussions
in a set order.
• The Hoyaneh from each nation must
reach consensus.
• Decisions are agreed on only after
consensus from the entire Council.
• Decisions were traditionally recorded
with wampum belts.
How do members of • Clan Mothers choose the Hoyaneh
society influence and ensure they adequately represent
government decisions? their people.
• Both men’s and and women’s voices
are heard through the Men’s Councils
and Women’s Councils that advise the
Clan Mothers. The Clan Mothers
advise the Hoyaneh.
The Iroquois planted corn, beans and squash together, calling these “the Three
Sisters.” The cornstalks provided support for the growing beans, which provided
nitrogen to fertilize the soil. Low lying squash leaves sheltered the plants roots
and retained soil moisture. How can the Three Sisters provide a model for the
way Iroquois society functioned?
Chapter 4 113
33. This sign marks land along the Grand River in Ontario, where some members of the
Iroquois Confederacy live today. The Iroquois moved to the Grand River because of
the American War of Independence, from 1776 to 1783, in which the United States
fought Britain. After the war, members of the Iroquois who had supported Britain
during the war left the United States.
SKILLS at Work
On a map of Canada, locate Brantford, Ontario. Brantford is named after Joseph
Brant, the Iroquois leader who established the Six Nations of the Grand River
Territory in Canada. The territory lies southwest of Brantford along the Grand River.
How does this location compare with the original location of the Iroquois
Confederacy, where many Iroquois continue to live today? Consult the map on page
87 to formulate your conclusion.
• construct and interpret maps to broaden understanding of topics LS
being studied
• use cardinal and intermediate directions to locate places on maps Geographic
and globes Thinking
34. Review! Review! freedoms
1. What was the traditional social structure of the representation
Construct a mind map or diagram to show the structure
of the Iroquois society. justice
2. What opportunities did the people have to participate
in decision making?
What was the role that different members of Iroquois
people had when decisions needed to be made? Use
your knowledge to complete the comparison chart. An
example is given.
A young Iroquois woman She could discuss her ideas with the
women’s council or with the Clan Mother.
The Clan Mother’s advice and wisdom was
sought by the Hoyandeh.
A Clan Mother
One of the Hoyaneh
A young Iroquois man
3. How did the decision making
process within the Iroquois
Confederacy show equity and
Answer this question orally,
backing up your ideas with
evidence. Hint: How would
Kanatiiosh, the Clan Mother’s
granddaughter, have answered
this question?
Chapter 4 115