Rotinonhsyonni – Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy
The original Five Nation Confederacy was made up of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations. When the Tuscaroras were adopted into the Iroquois Confederacy around 1722, the Iroquois became known as the Six Nations Confederacy.
Mohawk Nation (Kanyenke’haka)
Mohawks are the “People of the Flint” within the Rotinonhsyonni / Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Mohawks are considered the easternmost Nation within the Iroquois/Six Nation Confederacy and as such are referred to as the Keepers of Eastern Door. Members of the Mohawk Nation include Kahnawake, Kanesatake, Akwesasne, Tyendinaga, Ganienkeh, Kanatsiohareke, the Kahniakehaka of Ohsweken and Wahta.
Tyendinaga has a strong Mohawk language revitalization. Many efforts are underway on the Territory to ensure that the language remains strong for future generations. Some of these efforts include the Adult Mohawk Language classes, Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna (Language Circle) and its Language Nest daycare immersion program and Mohawk language instruction at Quinte Mohawk School. Mohawk language classes are also available to secondary students at Eastside Secondary School in Belleville.
Birthplace of the Peacemaker
The Bay of Quinte (Tyendinaga) is also the birthplace of Tekanawita, the Peacemaker who brought the original Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy under a constitution of peace in the 12th Century (Great Law of Peace). Eagle Hill, located in Tyendinaga, is said to be where the Peacemaker was born.
Tree of Peace
To symbolize the Great Peace and the unity of the confederacy, the Peacemaker chose a white pine tree, one that was tall, with long branches that would cover the nations of the Confederacy, and with long roots that would reach out to other nations that would hear the laws of the Great Peace and want to follow them as well.
Under the tree all the weapons of war would be buried, never again to be used by the nations of the confederacy to do battle against each other. On top of the tree sat an eagle, which would act as a guardian to the Great Peace, watching for anything that might be a threat.
Great Law of Peace
The Great Law of Peace brought together the five nations – Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca – to end their years of warring and form the Iroquois Confederacy. The Great Law of Peace provides the guidelines for a political, social and spiritual order for the Rotinonhsyonni / Haudenosaunee Confederacy and its peoples.
When the countries of Canada and the United States were being formed and their governments created, the founding fathers found inspiration in the Great Peace, drawing from the Iroquois system the concepts of representational government and of the division of governing bodies.
Two Row Wampum
The Wampum Belt is the basis of agreements between Rotinonhsyonni (Haudenosaunee) nations and other nations of people. It is regarded as an important covenant that sets the framework for future agreements. The Wampum belt represents relationships between two nations based on the principles of peace, friendship and mutual respect.
The Two Row Wampum Belt was made with two parallel rows of Purple Wampum on a bed of white beads:
- Between the two rows of purple beads, are three rows of white beads. The white beads are meant to symbolize the purity of the agreement and some say that is represents the “River of Life”. These were made to stand for the Friendship, Peace and Respect between the two nations. As much as the three rows keep the two nations separate, it also binds them together. Some say the two rows of purple beads represent two separate vessels (or peoples) traveling parallel to each other down the `River of Life’, side by side, incorporated in the agreement. Neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other, or interfere or impede the travel of the other. Some say it also represents the spirits of Rotinonhsyonni (Haudenosaunee) and non-Rotinonhsyonni (Haudenosaunee) people, past, present and future.
(Compliments of Akwesasne Official Homepage)
The Haudenosaunee are the “People of the Longhouse.” The Longhouse is the political and spiritual institution of the Iroquois Confederacy. In the times before European contact and up until the 1800s, longhouses originally served as the living quarters of Iroquoian people.
The Peacemaker used the concept of the Longhouse as the symbol of the political and spiritual union of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Today, the Longhouse serves as a gathering place in communities for Haudenosaunee peoples who wish to participate in political, social and spiritual traditional functions.
Mohawk Clan System
The Peacemaker created a new clan system with nine clans – Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Heron, Hawk, Snipe, Beaver, Deer and Eel – that would be found across the confederacy. In this way, the Peacemaker reasoned, members of the same clan would develop familial ties, regardless of which nation they were from.
Clans within the Mohawk nation are Bear, Turtle and Wolf.
The modern game of lacrosse originated with Haudenosaunee. The original game was full of ritual and symbolism. Lacrosse was used to resolve conflicts and prepare men for war. Legend has it that sometimes more than 100 players were involved in a game, on fields many miles in length and width, and could last for days. Today, lacrosse remains a favourite sport for the Mohawks.
Interested in tracing your lineage? The Tyendinaga Kanhiote Tyendinaga Territory Public Library can help! Contact them to see how to get started!
Additional websites exploring Mohawk and Iroquoian culture:
Haudenosaunee – Kahnawake Branch of the Mohawk Nation
Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center
Ohwejagehka – to help preserve and nurture the Iroquoian languages and songs