THE GREAT LAW OF THE IROQUOIS
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE IROQUOIS NATIONS
THE GREAT BINDING LAW, GAYANASHAGOWA
50. The Royaneh women of the Confederacy heirs of the Lordship
titles shall elect two women of their family as cooks for
the Lord when the people shall assemble at his house for business
or other purposes.
It is not good nor honorable for a Confederate Lord to allow
his people whom he has called to go hungry.
51. When a Lord holds a conference in his home, his wife,
if she wishes, may prepare the food for the Union Lords who
assemble with him. This is an honorable right which she may
exercise and an expression of her esteem.
52. The Royaneh women, heirs of the Lordship titles, shall,
should it be necessary, correct and admonish the holders of
their titles. Those only who attend the Council may do this
and those who do not shall not object to what has been said
nor strive to undo the action.
53. When the Royaneh women, holders of a Lordship title,
select one of their sons as a candidate, they shall select
one who is trustworthy, of good character, of honest disposition,
one who manages his own affairs, supports his own family,
if any, and who has proven a faithful man to his Nation.
54. When a Lordship title becomes vacant through death
or other cause, the Royaneh women of the clan in which
the title is hereditary shall hold a council and shall
choose one from among their sons to fill the office
made vacant. Such a candidate shall not be the father
of any Confederate Lord. If the choice is unanimous
the name is referred to the men relatives of the clan.
If they should disapprove it shall be their duty to
select a candidate from among their own number. If then
the men and women are unable to decide which of the
two candidates shall be named, then the matter shall
be referred to the Confederate Lords in the Clan. They
shall decide which candidate shall be named. If the
men and the women agree to a candidate his name shall
be referred to the sister clans for confirmation. If
the sister clans confirm the choice, they shall refer
their action to their Confederate Lords who shall ratify
the choice and present it to their cousin Lords, and
if the cousin Lords confirm the name then the candidate
shall be installed by the proper ceremony for the conferring
of Lordship titles.
55. A large bunch of shell strings, in the making of which
the Five Nations Confederate Lords have equally contributed,
shall symbolize the completeness of the union and certify
the pledge of the nations represented by the Confederate Lords
of the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga and the
Senecca, that all are united and formed into one body or union
called the Union of the Great Law, which they have established.
A bunch of shell strings is to be the symbol of the council
fire of the Five Nations Confederacy. And the Lord whom the
council of Fire Keepers shall appoint to speak for them in
opening the council shall hold the strands of shells in his
hands when speaking. When he finishes speaking he shall deposit
the strings on an elevated place (or pole) so that all the
assembled Lords and the people may see it and know that the
council is open and in progress.
When the council adjourns the Lord who has been appointed
by his comrade Lords to close it shall take the strands of
shells in his hands and address the assembled Lords. Thus
will the council adjourn until such time and place as appointed
by the council. Then shall the shell strings be placed in
a place for safekeeping.
Every five years the Five Nations Confederate Lords and
the people shall assemble together and shall ask one another
if their minds are still in the same spirit of unity for the
Great Binding Law and if any of the Five Nations shall not
pledge continuance and steadfastness to the pledge of unity
then the Great Binding Law shall dissolve.
56. Five strings of shell tied together as one shall represent
the Five Nations. Each string shall represent one territory
and the whole a completely united territory known as the Five
Nations Confederate territory.
57. Five arrows shall be bound together very strong and
each arrow shall represent one nation. As the five arrows
are strongly bound this shall symbolize the complete union
of the nations. Thus are the Five Nations united completely
and enfolded together, united into one head, one body and
one mind. Therefore they shall labor, legislate and council
together for the interest of future generations.
The Lords of the Confederacy shall eat together from one
bowl the feast of cooked beaver's tail. While they are eating
they are to use no sharp utensils for if they should they
might accidentally cut one another and bloodshed would follow.
All measures must be taken to prevent the spilling of blood
in any way.
58. There are now the Five Nations Confederate Lords standing
with joined hands in a circle. This signifies and provides
that should any one of the Confederate Lords leave the council
and this Confederacy his crown of deer's horns, the emblem
of his Lordship title, together with his birthright, shall
lodge on the arms of the Union Lords whose hands are so joined.
He forfeits his title and the crown falls from his brow but
it shall remain in the Confederacy.
A further meaning of this is that if any time any one of
the Confederate Lords choose to submit to the law of a foreign
people he is no longer in but out of the Confederacy, and
persons of this class shall be called "They have alienated
themselves." Likewise such persons who submit to laws
of foreign nations shall forfeit all birthrights and claims
on the Five Nations Confederacy and territory.
You, the Five Nations Confederate Lords, be firm so that
if a tree falls on your joined arms it shall not separate
or weaken your hold. So shall the strength of the union be
59. A bunch of wampum shells on strings, three spans of
the hand in length, the upper half of the bunch being white
and the lower half black, and formed from equal contributions
of the men of the Five Nations, shall be a token that the
men have combined themselves into one head, one body and one
thought, and it shall also symbolize their ratification of
the peace pact of the Confederacy, whereby the Lords of the
Five Nations have established the Great Peace.
The white portion of the shell strings represent the women
and the black portion the men. The black portion, furthermore,
is a token of power and authority vested in the men of the
This string of wampum vests the people with the right to
correct their erring Lords. In case a part or all the Lords
pursue a course not vouched for by the people and heed not
the third warning of their women relatives, then the matter
shall be taken to the General Council of the women of the
Five Nations. If the Lords notified and warned three times
fail to heed, then the case falls into the hands of the men
of the Five Nations. The War Chiefs shall then, by right of
such power and authority, enter the open concil to warn the
Lord or Lords to return from the wrong course. If the Lords
heed the warning they shall say, "we will reply tomorrow."
If then an answer is returned in favor of justice and in accord
with this Great Law, then the Lords shall individualy pledge
themselves again by again furnishing the necessary shells
for the pledge. Then shall the War Chief or Chiefs exhort
the Lords urging them to be just and true.
Should it happen that the Lords refuse to heed the third
warning, then two courses are open: either the men may decide
in their council to depose the Lord or Lords or to club them
to death with war clubs. Should they in their council decide
to take the first course the War Chief shall address the Lord
or Lords, saying: "Since you the Lords of the Five Nations
have refused to return to the procedure of the Constitution,
we now declare your seats vacant, we take off your horns,
the token of your Lordship, and others shall be chosen and
installed in your seats, therefore vacate your seats."
Should the men in their council adopt the second course,
the War Chief shall order his men to enter the council, to
take positions beside the Lords, sitting bewteen them wherever
possible. When this is accomplished the War Chief holding
in his outstretched hand a bunch of black wampum strings shall
say to the erring Lords: "So now, Lords of the Five United
Nations, harken to these last words from your men. You have
not heeded the warnings of the women relatives, you have not
heeded the warnings of the General Council of women and you
have not heeded the warnings of the men of the nations, all
urging you to return to the right course of action. Since
you are determined to resist and to withhold justice from
your people there is only one course for us to adopt."
At this point the War Chief shall let drop the bunch of black
wampum and the men shall spring to their feet and club the
erring Lords to death. Any erring Lord may submit before the
War Chief lets fall the black wampum. Then his execution is
The black wampum here used symbolizes that the power to
execute is buried but that it may be raised up again
by the men. It is buried but when occasion arises they
may pull it up and derive their power and authority
to act as here described.