History of the Iroquois Confederacy
As a fairness disclosure to the native peoples that inhabited these lands before us, we did not take the name of “Iroquois” with a particular historical or cultural viewpoint. The name of our company was instead singularly derived from the name of the county where we started business. However, we have learned to carry this name with pride and respect for the sustainable values and practices that are embodied in Iroquoian culture. It is with sincere admiration that we provide this information on the history of the Iroquois, perhaps the longest standing example of sustainable culture in North America.
Pronounced “eer-uh-kwoy,” the Iroquois Confederacy is made up of six tribes:
Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Tuscarora.
The Iroquois Confederacy, also known as the Iroquois League, was governed by the Iroquois Great Council. Each Iroquois nation sent between eight and fourteen leaders to the Great Council, where they agreed on political decisions through discussion and voting. Although these politicians were called “chiefs,” they were actually elected officials, chosen by the clan mothers (or matriarchs) of each tribe. Each individual nation also had its own tribal council to make local decisions. This is similar to how American states each have their own government, but all are subject to the greater US government. In fact, the Iroquois Confederacy was one of the examples of representative democracy used as a model by America’s founding fathers.
Information provided by: Native Languages of the America’s, Authors Orrin Lewis and Laura Reddish
The Legend of the Three Sisters
According to Iroquois legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations. The roots of this tradition can be seen today in the diverse crop rotations used by our organic tenant farmers.
Information provided by: Renees’ Garden Seeds, Author Alice Formiga
Hiawatha’s Belt and the Flag of the Iroquois
Hiawatha is a legendary Native American leader and founder of the Iroquois confederacy. Depending on the version of the narrative, Hiawatha lived in the 16th century and was a leader of the Onondaga or the Mohawk.
Hiawatha was a follower of The Great Peacemaker, a prophet and spiritual leader, who proposed the unification of the Iroquois peoples, who shared similar languages. Hiawatha, a skilled and charismatic orator, was instrumental in persuading native tribes to accept the Great Peacemaker’s vision and band together to become the Five Nations of the Iroquois confederacy. Later, the Tuscarora nation joined the Confederacy to become the Sixth Nation.
The belt symbolizes these Five Nations from west to east in their respective territories across New York state: Seneca (keepers of the western door), Cayuga (People of the Swamp), Onondaga (Keepers of the Fire), Oneida (People of the Standing Stone) and Mohawk (keeper of the eastern door)—by open ‘squares’ of white beads with the central figure signifying a tree or heart.
The tree figure signifies the Onondaga Nation, capital of the League and home to the central council fire. It was on the shores of Onondaga Lake where the message of peace was “planted” and the hatchets were buried. From this tree, four white roots sprouted, carrying the message of unity and peace to the four directions.
The Hiawatha Belt forms the basis of the flag of the Iroquois Confederacy, created in the 1980s. Historical information supplied by Wikipedia.
The Constitution of the Iroquois Nation
The Great Binding Law
The Iroquois nation was bound by a written law and process. They established a governance structure that was designed to impact future generations. Because they were able to unify under this Constitution, they conquered foes greater than themselves. This is the philosophical basis for our Board of Managers, we are merely following the vision of the Iroquois:
1. I am Dekanawidah and with the Five Nations’ Confederate Lords I plant the Tree of Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Adodarhoh, and the Onondaga Nation, in the territory of you who are Firekeepers.
I name the tree the Tree of the Great Long Leaves. Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feathery down of the globe thistle as seats for you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords.
We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the globe thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Peace. There shall you sit and watch the Council Fire of the Confederacy of the Five Nations, and all the affairs of the Five Nations shall be transacted at this place before you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords, by the Confederate Lords of the Five Nations.
Click here for the full constitution.