IROQUOIS CONFEDERACY
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Hiawatha Belt, 2006 by Ken Maracle, Cayuga The Hiawatha Wampum Belt symbolizes the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy. Each square represents an Iroquois Nation. On the far right is the Mohawk Nation - The Keepers of the Eastern Door. On the far left is the Seneca Nation - The Keepers of the Western Door.  The two younger brothers, the Oneida and Cayuga are in between. The central fire, represented by a tree is the Onondaga Nation. The  Tuscarora Nation joined the Iroquois Confederacy in the early 1700's so they are not represented in the earlier Hiawatha belt.

Click on each of the squares and the tree in the wampum belt to the left to learn more about each of the original five nations. Click on the Gustoweh to the right to learn more about the Tuscarora Nation.

Going from east to west in what is today New York State, the original five nations were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca.  The Tuscarora Nation applied for and gained entrance to the League in the early 1700s.  Now there are six Iroquois Nations.

Some Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) continue to live on their original territory.  After the American Revolution many moved to communities outside their original territory, but maintain sovereign lands in these new areas.

Although the Haudenosaunee live in 17 communities, some great distances from each other, and while these 17 communities have their own political structure and governing bodies, most  Haudenosaunee still consider themselves part of the Iroquois Confederacy.  Forty-nine chiefs from each of the five original nations make up the governing body. The Peacekeeper is the fiftieth chief, and his chief’s title remains vacant. The Tuscarora are represented in councils by the Oneida.  Sub-Chiefs, Pine Tree Chiefs, Clan Mothers, and Faithkeepers are all part of the political structure of the Confederacy.  The Confederacy structure is even more complex today because duplicate chiefs exist in communities in the US and Canada. The  Haudenosaunee, however, are trying to resolve this situation in order to maintain a united Confederacy.

This body of chiefs, however, is not officially recognized by the United States or Canadian governments. There are some  Haudenosaunee who do not recognize their authority either, but the symbol of the Confederacy as established by the Peacemaker, remains a vital aspect of  Haudenosaunee identity.


"Tadodaho, Past & Present", 1977 by Rick Hill, Tuscarora

Tadodaho symbolized all those negative forces working against the establishment of the Iroquois Confederacy. It was said that his body was crooked in seven places and snakes writhed about his head. He was transformed into a man of peace when the Peacemaker and Hiawatha convinced him that power also resided in peace. Tadodaho is now a chief's title held by the Onondaga Nation. The man who occupies the position calls the confederacy meetings and presides over those councils.

 

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