The Great Law of Peace


RMSC 36.359

Picture from Rochester Museum, NY 

The Peace Maker & Hiawatha  

At one time the Haudenoshaunee people were in mixed emotions with one another.  During this time a lot of the people started to feud with each other violently.  It was getting so bad that the Creator started to notice and he felt that he needed to send the people a message of what their duties are when they are on Mother Earth.  He sent his message through a man named Two Rows of Teeth, otherwise known as the Peacemaker.  The Peacemaker received the Creators message in a dream.  The Creator told him to spread this word of peace to the Haudenosaunee people.
The Peacemaker decided to start in the East and head west.  He met another man named Hiawatha.  Hiawatha was a Seneca man who was married into the Mohawk people.  When the Peacemaker met with Hiawatha, Hiawatha was mourning the loss of his family.  In the matter of three years he lost his wife and three daughters. He was very heart sick and sad.The Peacemaker told him the message he received from the Creator.  Hiawatha accepted this message and offered to help the Peacemaker spread the message to the Haudenosaunee people.  They went on their way and took the message to the people in the Mohawk village.  The Mohawks were hesitant in taking the message but they agreed.  The Peacemaker and Hiawatha then  went to the Oneida village and they too accepted the message.  The they went to the Onondaga people who challenged the Peacemaker and Hiawatha by saying that if they could convince the wicked man, Tadadaho, who was a sorcerer, then they would believe.  The two men tried and tried but could not succeed.  They left the Onondagas and moved on to the Cayuga village. The Cayuga people accepted the message. Then the Peacemaker and Hiawatha went to the Seneca village, and they too accepted the message.The two men then went back to convince the Onondaga people of the message. They said only if they could convince Tadadaho.  The two took on the challenge again and they tried to get him to listen to the message.  Every time they would get close, something evil would happen.  When they asked people to try and help them, Tadadaho would use his evil powers to hurt or even kill the men who tried to help.  As the Peacemaker and Hiawatha tried their hardest they finally got to him, but by this point Tadadaho’s powers were so strong that they were all around the two men. They gave him the message and Tadadaho challenged it with his evil magic, but to no avail.  The two men then helped Tadadaho by clearing his mind and helping him see straight. After they helped Tadadaho, the rest of the Onondaga people accepted the Great Law of Peace.

Government of the 5 Nations & Iroquois Confederacy

Our government consists of 50 chiefs from the entire Iroquois confederacy.  The Clan Mothers, Chiefs, and Faithkeepers run the Iroquois confederacy.  Each person has a specific responsibility for the people. The Iroquois confederacy had an influence on how our country is run today.  In 1754, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson has gone to visit the chiefs.  At the time they were creating the Articles of Confederation for the 13 colonies because they were not states yet.  An excerpt from a longer piece written by Benjamin Franklin about 1784. Franklin clearly does not regard Native Americans as "savages": he is using the term for ironic effect. The "savages" are, in fact, as civilized or more civilized than the Whites: it is the Whites who must rely upon force, punishment, and prisons to enforce good behavior".   Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were amazed at how disciplined and organized our government was. They observed very closely and then created what today is the United States Constitution.

Tuscarora join and we become the 6 Nations  

In 1716, the Tuscarora people were and the end of a bloody and tragic civil war with the Cherokee and Choctaw people. The Tuscarora people fled north to Iroquois territory and asked for help. They were then taken in under the wing of the Oneida people. The Tuscarora were later adopted in 1722 and made up the sixth nation to the Iroquois Confederacy.  

The Original Story of Wampum and the Wampum Belts

Wampum comes from Quahog clamshells found at the bottom of lakes and rivers. Many people think that the Haudenosaunee used wampum as money.  That was not true.  Wampum was used as a history tool containing a binding story of either a treaty, or a significant agreement or a law for the people.  It was also used as a marker for dates and held the Haudenosaunee history. The wampum is made into beads and then strung together to create a belt. Each belt tells a story of the Haudenoshaunee people.
Hiawatha brought wampum to the Haudenosaunee.  He needed something that the people knew was pure and held truth within itself. The Hiawatha received the wampum from the Creator when he came to a lake and had no way of crossing it.  The lake was covered with ducks.  When he came to the lake he asked the Creator to show him how to get across the lake.  As soon as he asked all the ducks started to flap their wings and it cleared a pathway.  The pathway was made up of the Quahog clamshells. Hiawatha had seen all different shades of purple and the whitest white he had ever seen.  So he took some of the clamshells and made them into beads.  The ducks cleared a path and also gave Hiawatha the gift of wampum.  Today the stories that are associated with the wampum belts are still being told as a reminder that these belts are still a law, treaty, or a space in Haudensaunee history.

Downloadable Files: 

The Great Law of Peace Part 1 

The Great Law of Peace Part 2