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The Iroquois Confederacy
Transcript of The Iroquois Confederacy
& Jasleen Mann The Iroquois Confederacy What was the role and status of women within the Iroquois Confederacy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of consensus as a decision-making model for government? How did the six Nations use consensus building process? For the Iroquois, their confederacy could be compared to a huge longhouse that stretched over the whole territory, where they lived. The six nations (Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Tuscarora) lived together under its roof as a family. This longhouse sheltered their bond with each other and protected them from their enemies. Iroquois women had more freedom and responsibility than women in other societies. Women had positions of respect in the Iroquois society. They owned the property and homes. When a women got married, her husband would come to live in her family's longhouse. Their children would belong to the mother's clan. They were in charge of the croplands and the longhouses. A women could become a clan mother. Clan mothers were the leaders of the clan. Consensus decision-making means that decisions are not made unless everyone agrees. Issues are debated and discussed until everyone agrees on a decision. Consensus works well for decisions made in small groups. It requires participants to be open minded and consider the view of the minority. If too many people are included, consensus becomes difficult, if not impossible. Consensus requires a lot of time and discussion to achieve. The advantage of consensus is that everyone agrees and everyone knows why that decision was picked. First, someone would inform the Onondaga chiefs of the issue or proposal. The council would then elect a spokesman for the day. Once the spokesman announced the issue or proposal, the Elder brothers (Mohawk and Seneca) would quietly discuss it among themselves. They would discuss the matter until they agreed. Then, they would tell the Younger brothers (Oneida and Cayuga) of their decision. If the Younger brothers agreed, they would ask the Onondaga to confirm the decision. Then the Mohawk would announce it to the council. If the Younger brothers could not agree with the Elder brothers, they would inform the Onondaga. The Onondaga would then ask the Elder brothers to re-examine the issue.
The Elder brothers would choose to do so. How was the Iroquois Confederacy structured? How did the Wampum belt address collective identity? How did the social structure of the Iroquois Confederacy impact its political structure? To what extent did the decision-making process within the Iroquois Confederacy reflect democratic ideals of equity and fairness? Wampum belts were created to symbolize treaties and tell stories from Iroquois history. Each belt had a specific texture that a skilled Wampum keeper could read by running his hands along it. Wampum beads (Made out of purple and white shells) were strung together or woven into belts. The most sacred Wampum belt is the Hiawatha Wampum. This belt records the Great Law of Peace and the foundation of the Confederacy. The flag of Confederacy is in fact a reproduction of the Hiawatha Wampum. The white tree in the middle represents the tree of Great Peace. It is also the symbol of the Onondaga Nation. The squares are connected by a white line, which shows how the nations are interconnected. Another white line (the Path of Peace) extends to the borders of the Wampum belt. This means that other nations are welcome on the path. In Iroquois society, men and women were considered equal. They had, however, separate and clearly defined roles. Only men could become chiefs, although this has changed in modern times. Only women could become Clan Mothers. The relationship between the chiefs and Clan mothers were very complex and ensures that no gender dominated each other. The only way a man could become a chief was to be chosen by a Clan mother. On the other hand, the only way a Clan mother had a voice in the council was through a chief. A Clan mother who abused her power , could have her authority revoked by the Council. The Confederacy is not democracy. Neither the Clan mothers nor the chiefs were elected by the people. The Confederacy achieved a high level of fairness and equity that was unmatched at the time. Iroquois women participated in politics centuries before women had won the right to vote. At the local level, everyone's voice mattered. Even a child's opinion would be taken into consideration. Foreigners who swore to live by the Great Peace could become apart of the nation. Even people captured in war could be adopted by a clan and become full Iroquois citizens. The Iroquois political structure proved that when people feel included, they are far more likely to want to participate in the process of government. Although the Iroquois are from different nations, they are politically, socially and culturally untied!