The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations
Laws of Emigration.
71. When any person or family belonging to the Five Nations desires to abandon their
birth nation and the territory of the Five Nations, they shall inform the Lords of their
nation and the Confederate Council of the Five Nations shall take cognizance of it.
72. When any person or any of the people of the Five Nations emigrate and reside in a
region distant from the territory of the Five Nations Confederacy, the Lords of the Five
Nations at will may send a messenger carrying a broad belt of black shells and when the
messenger arrives he shall call the people together or address them personally displaying
the belt of shells and they shall know that this is an order for them to return to their
original homes and to their council fires.
Rights of Foreign Nations.
73. The soil of the earth from one end of the land to the other is the property of the
people who inhabit it. By birthright the Ongwehonweh (Original beings) are the owners of
the soil which they own and occupy and none other may hold it. The same law has been held
from the oldest times. The Great Creator has made us of the one blood and of the same soil
he made us and as only different tongues constitute different nations he established
different hunting grounds and territories and made boundary lines between them.
74. When any alien nation or individual is admitted into the Five Nations the admission
shall be understood only to be a temporary one. Should the person or nation create loss,
do wrong or cause suffering of any kind to endanger the peace of the Confederacy, the
Confederate Lords shall order one of their war chiefs to reprimand him or them and if a
similar offence is again committed the offending party or parties shall be expelled from
the territory of the Five United Nations.
75. When a member of an alien nation comes to the territory of the Five Nations and
seeks refuge and permanent residence, the Lords of the Nation to which he comes shall
extend hospitality and make him a member of the nation. Then shall he be accorded equal
rights and privileges in all matters except as after mentioned.
76. No body of alien people who have been adopted temporarily shall have a vote in the
council of the Lords of the Confederacy, for only they who have been invested with
Lordship titles may vote in the Council. Aliens have nothing by blood to make claim to a
vote and should they have it, not knowing all the traditions of the Confederacy, might go
against its Great Peace. In this manner the Great Peace would be endangered and perhaps be
77. When the Lords of the Confederacy decide to admit a foreign nation and an adoption
is made, the Lords shall inform the adopted nation that its admission is only temporary.
They shall also say to the nation that it must never try to control, to interfere with or
to injure the Five Nations nor disregard the Great Peace or any of its rules or customs.
That in no way should they cause disturbance or injury. Then should the adopted nation
disregard these injunctions, their adoption shall be annuled and they shall be expelled.
The expulsion shall be in the following manner: The council shall appoint one of their
War Chiefs to convey the message of annulment and he shall say, "You (naming the
nation) listen to me while I speak. I am here to inform you again of the will of the Five
Nations' Council. It was clearly made known to you at a former time. Now the Lords of the
Five Nations have decided to expel you and cast you out. We disown you now and annul your
adoption. Therefore you must look for a path in which to go and lead away all your people.
It was you, not we, who committed wrong and caused this sentence of annulment. So then go
your way and depart from the territory of the Five Nations and from the Confederacy."
78. Whenever a foreign nation enters the Confederacy or accepts the Great Peace, the
Five Nations and the foreign nation shall enter into an agreement and compact by which the
foreign nation shall endeavor to pursuade other nations to accept the Great Peace.
Rights and Powers of War.
79. Skanawatih shall be vested with a double office, duty and with double authority.
One-half of his being shall hold the Lordship title and the other half shall hold the
title of War Chief. In the event of war he shall notify the five War Chiefs of the
Confederacy and command them to prepare for war and have their men ready at the appointed
time and place for engagement with the enemy of the Great Peace.
80. When the Confederate Council of the Five Nations has for its object the
establishment of the Great Peace among the people of an outside nation and that nation
refuses to accept the Great Peace, then by such refusal they bring a declaration of war
upon themselves from the Five Nations. Then shall the Five Nations seek to establish the
Great Peace by a conquest of the rebellious nation.
81. When the men of the Five Nations, now called forth to become warriors, are ready
for battle with an obstinate opposing nation that has refused to accept the Great Peace,
then one of the five War Chiefs shall be chosen by the warriors of the Five Nations to
lead the army into battle. It shall be the duty of the War Chief so chosen to come before
his warriors and address them. His aim shall be to impress upon them the necessity of good
behavior and strict obedience to all the commands of the War Chiefs. He shall deliver an
oration exhorting them with great zeal to be brave and courageous and never to be guilty
of cowardice. At the conclusion of his oration he shall march forward and commence the War
Song and he shall sing.
Now I am greatly surprised
And, therefore I shall use it --
The powerr of my War Song.
I am of the Five Nations
And I shall make supplication
To the Almighty Creator.
He has furnished this army.
My warriors shall be mighty
In the strength of the Creator.
Between him and my song they are
For it was he who gave the song
This war song that I sing.
82. When the warriors of the Five Nations are on an expedition against an enemy, the
War Chief shall sing the War Song as he approaches the country of the enemy and not cease
until his scouts have reported that the army is near the enemies' lines when the War Chief
shall approach with great caution and prepare for the attack.
83. When peace shall have been established by the termination of the war against a
foreign nation, then the War Chief shall cause all the weapons of war to be taken from the
nation. Then shall the Great Peace be established and that nation shall observe all the
rules of the Great Peace for all time to come.
84. Whenever a foreign nation is conquered or has by their own will accepted the Great
Peace their own system of internal government may continue, but they must cease all
warfare against other nations.
85. Whenever a war against a foreign nation is pushed until that nation is about
exterminated because of its refusal to accept the Great Peace and if that nation shall by
its obstinacy become exterminated, all their rights, property and territory shall become
the property of the Five Nations.
86. Whenever a foreign nation is conquered and the survivors are brought into the
territory of the Five Nations' Confederacy and placed under the Great Peace the two shall
be known as the Conqueror and the Conquered. A symbolic relationship shall be devised and
be placed in some symbolic position. The conquered nation shall have no voice in the
councils of the Confederacy in the body of the Lords.
87. When the War of the Five Nations on a foreign rebellious nation is ended, peace
shall be restored to that nation by a withdrawal of all their weapons of war by the War
Chief of the Five Nations. When all the terms of peace shall have been agreed upon a state
of friendship shall be established.
88. When the proposition to establish the Great Peace is made to a foreign nation it
shall be done in mutual council. The foreign nation is to be persuaded by reason and urged
to come into the Great Peace. If the Five Nations fail to obtain the consent of the nation
at the first council a second council shall be held and upon a second failure a third
council shall be held and this third council shall end the peaceful methods of persuasion.
At the third council the War Chief of the Five nations shall address the Chief of the
foreign nation and request him three times to accept the Great Peace. If refusal
steadfastly follows the War Chief shall let the bunch of white lake shells drop from his
outstretched hand to the ground and shall bound quickly forward and club the offending
chief to death. War shall thereby be declared and the War Chief shall have his warriors at
his back to meet any emergency. War must continue until the contest is won by the Five
89. When the Lords of the Five Nations propose to meet in conference with a foreign
nation with proposals for an acceptance of the Great Peace, a large band of warriors shall
conceal themselves in a secure place safe from the espionage of the foreign nation but as
near at hand as possible. Two warriors shall accompany the Union Lord who carries the
proposals and these warriors shall be especially cunning. Should the Lord be attacked,
these warriors shall hasten back to the army of warriors with the news of the calamity
which fell through the treachery of the foreign nation.
90. When the Five Nations' Council declares war any Lord of the Confederacy may enlist
with the warriors by temporarily renouncing his sacred Lordship title which he holds
through the election of his women relatives. The title then reverts to them and they may
bestow it upon another temporarily until the war is over when the Lord, if living, may
resume his title and seat in the Council.
91. A certain wampum belt of black beads shall be the emblem of the authority of the
Five War Chiefs to take up the weapons of war and with their men to resist invasion. This
shall be called a war in defense of the territory.
Treason or Secession of a Nation.
92. If a nation, part of a nation, or more than one nation within the Five Nations
should in any way endeavor to destroy the Great Peace by neglect or violating its laws and
resolve to dissolve the Confederacy, such a nation or such nations shall be deemed guilty
of treason and called enemies of the Confederacy and the Great Peace.
It shall then be the duty of the Lords of the Confederacy who remain faithful to
resolve to warn the offending people. They shall be warned once and if a second warning is
necessary they shall be driven from the territory of the Confederacy by the War Chiefs and
Rights of the People of the Five Nations.
93. Whenever a specially important matter or a great emergency is presented before the
Confederate Council and the nature of the matter affects the entire body of the Five
Nations, threatening their utter ruin, then the Lords of the Confederacy must submit the
matter to the decision of their people and the decision of the people shall affect the
decision of the Confederate Council. This decision shall be a confirmation of the voice of
94. The men of every clan of the Five Nations shall have a Council Fire ever burning in
readiness for a council of the clan. When it seems necessary for a council to be held to
discuss the welfare of the clans, then the men may gather about the fire. This council
shall have the same rights as the council of the women.
95. The women of every clan of the Five Nations shall have a Council Fire ever burning
in readiness for a council of the clan. When in their opinion it seems necessary for the
interest of the people they shall hold a council and their decisions and recommendations
shall be introduced before the Council of the Lords by the War Chief for its
96. All the Clan council fires of a nation or of the Five Nations may unite into one
general council fire, or delegates from all the council fires may be appointeed to unite
in a general council for discussing the interests of the people. The people shall have the
right to make appointments and to delegate their power to others of their number. When
their council shall have come to a conclusion on any matter, their decision shall be
reported to the Council of the Nation or to the Confederate Council (as the case may
require) by the War Chief or the War Chiefs.
97. Before the real people united their nations, each nation had its council fires.
Before the Great Peace their councils were held. The five Council Fires shall continue to
burn as before and they are not quenched. The Lords of each nation in future shall settle
their nation's affairs at this council fire governed always by the laws and rules of the
council of the Confederacy and by the Great Peace.
98. If either a nephew or a niece see an irregularity in the performance of the
functions of the Great Peace and its laws, in the Confederate Council or in the conferring
of Lordship titles in an improper way, through their War Chief they may demand that such
actions become subject to correction and that the matter conform to the ways prescribed by
the laws of the Great Peace.
Religious Ceremonies Protected.
99. The rites and festivals of each nation shall remain undisturbed and shall continue
as before because they were given by the people of old times as useful and necessary for
the good of men.
100. It shall be the duty of the Lords of each brotherhood to confer at the approach of
the time of the Midwinter Thanksgiving and to notify their people of the approaching
festival. They shall hold a council over the matter and arrange its details and begin the
Thanksgiving five days after the moon of Dis-ko-nah is new. The people shall assemble at
the appointed place and the nephews shall notify the people of the time and place. From
the beginning to the end the Lords shall preside over the Thanksgiving and address the
people from time to time.
101. It shall be the duty of the appointed managers of the Thanksgiving festivals to do
all that is needed for carrying out the duties of the occasions.
The recognized festivals of Thanksgiving shall be the Midwinter Thanksgiving, the Maple
or Sugar-making Thanksgiving, the Raspberry Thanksgiving, the Strawberry Thanksgiving, the
Cornplanting Thanksgiving, the Corn Hoeing Thanksgiving, the Little Festival of Green
Corn, the Great Festival of Ripe Corn and the complete Thanksgiving for the Harvest.
Each nation's festivals shall be held in their Long Houses.
102. When the Thansgiving for the Green Corn comes the special managers, both the men
and women, shall give it careful attention and do their duties properly.
103. When the Ripe Corn Thanksgiving is celebrated the Lords of the Nation must give it
the same attention as they give to the Midwinter Thanksgiving.
104. Whenever any man proves himself by his good life and his knowledge of good things,
naturally fitted as a teacher of good things, he shall be recognized by the Lords as a
teacher of peace and religion and the people shall hear him.
The Installation Song.
105. The song used in installing the new Lord of the Confederacy shall be sung by
Adodarhoh and it shall be.
"Haii, haii Agwah wi-yoh
" " A-kon-he-watha
" " Ska-we-ye-se-go-wah
" " Yon-gwa-wih
" " Ya-kon-he-wa-th.
Haii, haii It is good indeed
" " (That) a broom, --
" " A great wing,
" " It is given me
" " For a sweeping instrument.".
106. Whenever a person properly entitled desires to learn the Pacification Song he is
privileged to do so but he must prepare a feast at which his teachers may sit with him and
sing. The feast is provided that no misfortune may befall them for singing the song on an
occasion when no chief is installed.
Protection of the Hous.
107. A certain sign shall be known to all the people of the Five Nations which shall
denote that the owner or occupant of a house is absent. A stick or pole in a slanting or
leaning position shall indicate this and be the sign. Every person not entitled to enter
the house by right of living within it upon seeing such a sign shall not approach the
house either by day or by night but shall keep as far away as his business will permit.
108. At the funeral of a Lord of the Confederacy, say: Now we become reconciled as you
start away. You were once a Lord of the Five Nations' Confederacy and the United People
trusted you. Now we release you for it is true that it is no longer possible for us to
walk about together on the earth. Now, therefore, we lay it (the body) here. Here we lay
it away. Now then we say to you, 'Persevere onward to the place where the Creator dwells
in peace. Let not the things of the earth hinder you. Let nothing that transpired while
yet you lived hinder you. In hunting you once took delight; in the game of Lacrosse you
once took delight and in the feasts and pleasant occasions your mind was amused, but now
do not allow thoughts of these things to give you trouble. Let not your relatives hinder
you and also let not your friends and associates trouble your mind. Regard none of these
"Now then, in turn, you here present who were related to this man and you who were
his friends and associates, behold the path that is yours also! Soon we ourselves will be
left in that place. For this reason hold yourselves in restraint as you go from place to
place. In your actions and in your conversation do no idle thing. Speak not idle talk
neither gossip. Be careful of this and speak not and do not give way to evil behavior. One
year is the time that you must abstain from unseemly levity but if you can not do this for
ceremony, ten days is the time to regard these things for respect.".
109. At the funeral of a War Chief, say: "Now we become reconciled as you start
away. You were once a War Chief of the Five Nations' Confederacy and the United People
trusted you as their guard from the enemy." (The remainder is the same as the address
at the funeral of a Lord).
110. At the funeral of a Warrior, say.
"Now we become reconciled as you start away. Once you were a devoted provider and
protector of your family and you were ever ready to take part in battles for the Five
Nations' Confederacy. The United People trusted you." (The remainder is the same as
the address at the funeral of a Lord).
111. At the funeral of a young man, say.
"Now we become reconciled as you start away. In the beginning of your career you
are taken away and the flower of your life is withered away." (The remainder is the
same as the address at the funeral of a Lord).
112. At the funeral of a chief woman, say.
"Now we become reconciled as you start away. You were once a chief woman in the
Five Nations' Confederacy. You once were a mother of the nations. Now we release you for
it is true that it is no longer possible for us to walk about together on the earth. Now,
therefore, we lay it (the body) here. Here we lay it away. Now then we say to you,
'Persevere onward to the place where the Creator dwells in peace. Let not the things of
the earth hinder you. Let nothing that transpired while you lived hinder you. Looking
after your family was a sacred duty and you were faithful. You were one of the many joint
heirs of the Lordship titles. Feastings were yours and you had pleasant occasions. .
." (The remainder is the same as the address at the funeral of a Lord).
113. At the funeral of a woman of the people, say.
"Now we become reconciled as you start away. You were once a woman in the flower
of life and the bloom is now withered away. You once held a sacred position as a mother of
the nation. (Etc.) Looking after your family was a sacred duty and you were faithful.
Feastings . . . (etc.)" (The remainder is the same as the address at the funeral of a
114. At the funeral of an infant or young woman, say.
"Now we become reconciled as you start away. You were a tender bud and gladdened
our hearts for only a few days. Now the bloom has withered away . . . (etc.) Let none of
the things that transpired on earth hinder you. Let nothing that happened while you lived
hinder you." (The remainder is the same as the address at the funeral of a Lord).
[ Editors note: the above ellipses and 'etc.' remarks are transcribed directly from the
text I copied. .
115. When an infant dies within three days, mourning shall continue only five days.
Then shall you gather the little boys and girls at the house of mourning and at the
funeral feast a speaker shall address the children and bid them be happy once more, though
by a death, gloom has been cast over them. Then shall the black clouds roll away and the
sky shall show blue once more. Then shall the children be again in sunshine.
116. When a dead person is brought to the burial place, the speaker on the opposite
side of the Council Fire shall bid the bereaved family cheer their minds once again and
rekindle their hearth fires in peace, to put their house in order and once again be in
brightness for darkness has covered them. He shall say that the black clouds shall roll
away and that the bright blue sky is visible once more. Therefore shall they be in peace
in the sunshine again.
117. Three strings of shell one span in length shall be employed in addressing the
assemblage at the burial of the dead. The speaker shall say.
"Hearken you who are here, this body is to be covered. Assemble in this place
again ten days hence for it is the decree of the Creator that mourning shall cease when
ten days have expired. Then shall a feast be made.".
Then at the expiration of ten days the speaker shall say: "Continue to listen you
who are here. The ten days of mourning have expired and your minds must now be freed of
sorrow as before the loss of a relative. The relatives have decided to make a little
compensation to those who have assisted at the funeral. It is a mere expression of thanks.
This is to the one who did the cooking while the body was lying in the house. Let her come
forward and receive this gift and be dismissed from the task." In substance this
shall be repeated for every one who assisted in any way until all have been remembered.
Prepared by Gerald Murphy (The Cleveland Free-Net - aa300) Distributed by the
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Permission is hereby granted to download, reprint, and/or otherwise redistribute this
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