Summary of the Iroquois Constitution

"At the time of the founding of the Iroquois League of Nations, no written language existed; we have only the early stories which were passed down from generation to generation, until such time as there was a written language, and interpreters available, to record that early history."

• The Iroquois Constitution was created around 1390-1525.

  • The Iroquois Constitution was designed to promote peace within five native American nations.

"Some sources place the origin of the Five Nation Confederacy as early as 1390 AD, but others insist it was prepared about 1450-1500 AD; in any case, it was well before any possible contamination by European invaders."
"The founder of the Confederacy of the Five Nations is generally acknowledged to be Dekanawida, born near the Bay of Quinte, in southeastern Ontario, Canada."
  • Dekanawida created the idea of the Confederacy of the Five Nations.

  • Nature was a huge part of the constitution, the native americans included nature because they felt like it was so important for their their way of life.
"Whenever the Confederate Lords shall assemble for the purpose of holding a council, the Onondaga Lords shall open it by expressing their gratitude to their cousin Lords and greeting them, and they shall make an address and offer thanks to the earth where men dwell, to the streams of water, the pools, the springs and the lakes, to the maize and the fruits, to the medicinal herbs and trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, to the animals that serve as food and give their pelts for clothing, to the great winds and the lesser winds, to the Thunderers, to the Sun, the mighty warrior, to the moon, to the messengers of the Creator who reveal his wishes and to the Great Creator who dwells in the heavens above, who gives all the things useful to men, and who is the source and the ruler of health and life. Then shall the Onondaga Lords declare the council open. The council shall not sit after darkness has set in."

  • The Tree of Great Peace was a symbol that the Iroquois Constitution used.

• It was called “The Great Binding Law” and was passed down by oral history from one generation to another.

• The five different tribes that were bound by the Iroquois constitution were the Senecas, Mohawks, Cayugas, Oneidas, and Onondagas. The Tuscarora joined later, after European contact, and became the sixth nation.
Mohawk: People Possessors of the Flint
Onondaga: People on the Hills
Seneca: Great Hill People
Oneida: Granite People
Cayuga: People at the Mucky Land
Tuscarora: Shirt Wearing People became the Sixth Nation.

• Each tribe had a different role within the League, but all shared the decision making-all tribes were equal, none had power greater than another.

"The Council of the Mohawk shall be divided into three parties as follows: Tekarihoken, Ayonhwhathah and Shadekariwade are the first party; Sharenhowaneh, Deyoenhegwenh and Oghrenghrehgowah are the second party, and Dehennakrineh, Aghstawenserenthah and Shoskoharowaneh are the third party. The third party is to listen only to the discussion of the first and second parties and if an error is made or the proceeding is irregular they are to call attention to it, and when the case is right and properly decided by the two parties they shall confirm the decision of the two parties and refer the case to the Seneca Lords for their decision. When the Seneca Lords have decided in accord with the Mohawk Lords, the case or question shall be referred to the Cayuga and Oneida Lords on the opposite side of the house."

  • The Mohawk Tribe was the central leader within the Five nations, the Mohawk Tribe was largest among the other tribes.

  • The decisions that were made by the Five Nations had to go through a process.
"All the business of the Five Nations Confederate Council shall be conducted by the two combined bodies of Confederate Lords. First the question shall be passed upon by the Mohawk and Seneca Lords, then it shall be discussed and passed by the Oneida and Cayuga Lords. Their decisions shall then be referred to the Onondaga Lords, (Fire Keepers) for final judgement. The same process shall obtain when a question is brought before the council by an individual or a War Chief."

  • Murder was touched upon in the constitution and states that if a Lord of the Confederacy of the Five Nation committed the murder must face the body and if they can't do that them they must meet with the Council of their Nation.

"If a Lord of the Confederacy of the Five Nations should commit murder the other Lords of the Nation shall assemble at the place where the corpse lies and prepare to depose the criminal Lord. If it is impossible to meet at the scene of the crime the Lords shall discuss the matter at the next Council of their Nation and request their War Chief to depose the Lord guilty of crime, to "bury" his women relatives and to transfer the Lordship title to a sister family."

  • The Council must be honest at all times.

  • Member must not marry each other.
" People of the Five Nations members of a certain clan shall recognize every other member of that clan, irrespective of the Nation, as relatives. Men and women, therefore, members of the same clan are forbidden to marry."

• Representation from the five tribes formed the council of fifty. The council was used for discussion and decision making for the Iroquois.

• Representation is not equal among the tribes, however each tribe had equal importance-the council worked in consensus; not majority.

• The Iroquois Constitution had a series of checks and balances, de-centralization of power, and each tribe had a government of their own.

Where do you think the Iroquois Constitution got there ideas?