THE GREAT LAW OF THE IROQUOIS
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE IROQUOIS NATIONS
THE GREAT BINDING LAW, GAYANASHAGOWA
19. If at any time it shall be manifest that a Confederate
Lord has not in mind the welfare of the people or disobeys
the rules of this Great Law, the men or women of the Confederacy,
or both jointly, shall come to the Council and upbraid the
erring Lord through his War Chief. If the complaint of the
people through the War Chief is not heeded the first time
it shall be uttered again and then if no attention is given
a third complaint and warning shall be given. If the Lord
is contumacious the matter shall go to the council of War
Chiefs. The War Chiefs shall then divest the erring Lord of
his title by order of the women in whom the titleship is vested.
When the Lord is deposed the women shall notify the Confederate
Lords through their War Chief, and the Confederate Lords shall
sanction the act. The women will then select another of their
sons as a candidate and the Lords shall elect him. Then shall
the chosen one be installed by the Installation Ceremony.
When a Lord is to be deposed, his War Chief shall address
him as follows:
"So you, __________, disregard and set at naught the
warnings of your women relatives. So you fling the warnings
over your shoulder to cast them behind you.
"Behold the brightness of the Sun and in the brightness
of the Sun's light I depose you of your title and remove the
sacred emblem of your Lordship title. I remove from your brow
the deer's antlers, which was the emblem of your position
and token of your nobility. I now depose you and return the
antlers to the women whose heritage they are."
The War Chief shall now address the women of the deposed
Lord and say: "Mothers, as I have now deposed your Lord,
I now return to you the emblem and the title of Lordship,
therefore repossess them."
Again addressing himself to the deposed Lord he shall say:
"As I have now deposed and discharged you so you are
now no longer Lord. You shall now go your way alone, the rest
of the people of the Confederacy will not go with you, for
we know not the kind of mind that possesses you. As the Creator
has nothing to do with wrong so he will not come to rescue
you from the precipice of destruction in which you have cast
yourself. You shall never be restored to the position which
you once occupied."
Then shall the War Chief address himself to the Lords of
the Nation to which the deposed Lord belongs and say:
"Know you, my Lords, that I have taken the deer's antlers
from the brow of ___________, the emblem of his position and
token of his greatness."
The Lords of the Confederacy shall then have no other alternative
than to sanction the discharge of the offending Lord.
20. If a Lord of the Confederacy of the Five Nations should
commit murder the other Lords of the Nation shall assemble
at the place where the corpse lies and prepare to depose the
criminal Lord. If it is impossible to meet at the scene of
the crime the Lords shall discuss the matter at the next Council
of their Nation and request their War Chief to depose the
Lord guilty of crime, to "bury" his women relatives
and to transfer the Lordship title to a sister family.
The War Chief shall address the Lord guilty of murder and
"So you, __________ (giving his name) did kill __________
(naming the slain man), with your own hands! You have comitted
a grave sin in the eyes of the Creator.
Behold the bright light of the Sun, and in the brightness
of the Sun's light I depose you of your title and remove the
horns, the sacred emblems of your Lordship title. I remove
from your brow the deer's antlers, which was the emblem of
your position and token of your nobility. I now depose you
and expel you and you shall depart at once from the territory
of the Five Nations Confederacy and nevermore return again.
We, the Five Nations Confederacy, moreover, bury your women
relatives because the ancient Lordship title was never intended
to have any union with bloodshed. Henceforth it shall not
be their heritage. By the evil deed that you have done they
have forfeited it forever.."
The War Chief shall then hand the title to a sister family
and he shall address it and say:
"Our mothers, ____________, listen attentively while
I address you on a solemn and important subject. I hereby
transfer to you an ancient Lordship title for a great calamity
has befallen it in the hands of the family of a former Lord.
We trust that you, our mothers, will always guard it, and
that you will warn your Lord always to be dutiful and to advise
his people to ever live in love, poeace and harmony that a
great calamity may never happen again."
21. Certain physical defects in a Confederate Lord make
him ineligible to sit in the Confederate Council. Such defects
are infancy, idiocy, blindness, deafness, dumbness and impotency.
When a Confederate Lord is restricted by any of these condition,
a deputy shall be appointed by his sponsors to act for him,
but in case of extreme necessity the restricted Lord may exercise
22. If a Confederate Lord desires to resign his title he
shall notify the Lords of the Nation of which he is a member
of his intention. If his coactive Lords refuse to accept his
resignation he may not resign his title.
A Lord in proposing to resign may recommend any proper
candidate which recommendation shall be received by the Lords,
but unless confirmed and nominated by the women who hold the
title the candidate so named shall not be considered.
23. Any Lord of the Five Nations Confederacy may construct
shell strings (or wampum belts) of any size or length as pledges
or records of matters of national or international importance.
When it is necessary to dispatch a shell string by a War
Chief or other messenger as the token of a summons, the messenger
shall recite the contents of the string to the party to whom
it is sent. That party shall repeat the message and return
the shell string and if there has been a sumons he shall make
ready for the journey.
Any of the people of the Five Nations may use shells (or
wampum) as the record of a pledge, contract or an agreement
entered into and the same shall be binding as soon as shell
strings shall have been exchanged by both parties.
24. The Lords of the Confederacy of the Five Nations shall
be mentors of the people for all time. The thickness of their
skin shall be seven spans -- which is to say that they shall
be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism. Their
hearts shall be full of peace and good will and their minds
filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the
Confederacy. With endless patience they shall carry out their
duty and their firmness shall be tempered with a tenderness
for their people Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement
in their minds and all their words and actions shall be marked
by calm deliberation.
25. If a Lord of the Confederacy should seek to establish
any authority independent of the jurisdiction of the Confederacy
of the Great Peace, which is the Five Nations, he shall be
warned three times in open council, first by the women relatives,
second by the men relatives and finally by the Lords of the
Confederacy of the Nation to which he belongs.
If the offending Lord is still obdurate he shall be dismissed
by the War Chief of his nation for refusing to conform to
the laws of the Great Peace. His nation shall then install
the candidate nominated by the female name holders of his
26. It shall be the duty of all of the Five Nations Confederate
Lords, from time to time as occasion demands, to act as mentors
and spiritual guides of their people and remind them of their
Creator's will and words.
They shall say:
"Hearken, that peace may continue
unto future days! "Always listen
to the words of the Great Creator, for he has spoken.
"United people, let not evil find
lodging in your minds.
"For the Great Creator has spoken
and the cause of Peace shall not become old.
"The cause of peace shall not die
if you remember the Great Creator."
Every Confederate Lord shall speak words such as these to
27. All Lords of the Five Nations Confederacy must be honest
in all things. They must not idle or gossip, but be men possessing
those honorable qualities that make true royaneh. It shall
be a serious wrong for anyone to lead a Lord into trivial
affairs, for the people must ever hold their Lords high in
estimation out of respect to their honorable positions.
28. When a candidate Lord is to be installed he shall furnish
four strings of shells (or wampum) one span in length bound
together at one end. Such will constitute the evidence of
his pledge to the Confederate Lords that he will live according
to the constitution of the Great Peace and exercise justice
in all affairs.
When the pledge is furnished the Speaker of the Council
must hold the shell strings in his hand and address the opposite
side of the Council Fire and he shall commence his address
saying: "Now behold him. He has now become a Confederate
Lord. See how splendid he looks." An address may then
follow. At the end of it he shall send the bunch of shell
strings to the opposite side and they shall be received as
evidence of the pledge.
Then shall the opposite side say:
"We now do crown you with the sacred emblem of the
deer's antlers, the emblem of your Lordship. You shall now
become a mentor of the people of the Five Nations. The thickness
of your skin shall be seven spans -- which is to say that
you shall be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism.
Your heart shall be filled with peace and good will and your
mind filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people
of the Confederacy. With endless patience you shall carry
out your duty and your firmness shall be tempered with tenderness
for your people. Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement
in your mind and all your words and actions shall be marked
with calm deliberation. In all of your deliberations in the
Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all
your official acts, self interest shall be cast into oblivion.
Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the
nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or
wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which
is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the
whole people and have always in view not only the present
but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are
yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the
29. When a Lordship title is to be conferred, the candidate
Lord shall furnish the cooked venison, the corn bread
and the corn soup, together with other necessary things
and the labor for the Conferring of Titles Festival.