Activity For Lesson Four

Interpreting History


Directions: Now it is time to synthesize what you have learned in this unit and draw your own conclusions. Use the chart below to compare the structure and content of The Great Law of Peace and the US Constitution. The Note-Taking guide may be used to help you organize your thoughts. Then, write an essay that conveys your position about the influence of the Iroquois Confederacy on the Founding Fathers.

Note: Please remember, the Iroquois had an oral tradition. When you compare the Great Law of Peace sections in the chart with full text versions of the document there may be discrepancies. These occur because the Great Law of Peace has been transcribed at different times and preserved in different versions. Though some of the words may be different, the meaning remains the same.


The Birth of Frontier Democracy from an Eagle's Eye View:

The Great Law of Peace and
The Constitution of the United States of America.

Schaaf, Gregory. (1987). The following chart is an excerpt from a Hearing statement given before the Select Committee on Indian Affairs United States Senate in Washington, DC. 2 December 1987.


Great Law of Peace

Kaiamerekowa of the Haudenasuaunee, Iroquois Confederacy

Founded by the Great Peacemaker,
Time Immemorial

Opening Oration

(Wampums 1,2,3)

I am, [the Peacemaker]...with the statesmen of the League of Five Nations, plant the Tree of Peace. Roots have spread out... their nature is Peace and Strength. We place at the top of the Tree of Peace an eagle... If he sees in the distance any danger threatening, he will at once warn the people of the League. If any man or any nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace. They may trace back the roots to the Tree [and] be welcomed to take shelter. The smoke of the Council Fire of the league shall ever ascend and pierce the sky so that other nations who may be allies may see the Council Fire of the Great Peace [the eternal flame of liberty at the center of the United Nations].

U.S. Constitution

Constitution of the United States

(In Convention, September 17,1787)


We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.



Wampum 9. Grand Council


  Powers are Vested in the Elder Brothers
  and Younger Brothers

  1. All the business of the Five Nations Confederate Council shall be conducted by the combined bodies of the Confederate [Chief Statesmen]. First the question shall be passed upon by the Mohawk and Seneca [Chief Statesmen - the Elder Brothers], then it shall be discussed and passed by the Oneida and Cayuga [Chief Statesmen, who later added the Tuscarora, thus the Confederacy became the Six Nations].


Article I. Legislative Department

Section I. Congress

   Powers are Vested in Senate and House

  1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.


Wampum 17. Grand Council

  Selection of Chief Statesmen

  1. The right of bestowing the title [of Chief Statesman] shall be hereditary in the family.1 The females of the family have the proprietary right to the [Chief Statesmanship] title for all time to come. Thus the women nominate the chiefs who hold office as long as the women judge him to be fulfilling his responsibility.


Section 2. House of Representatives

  Election of Representatives

  1. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the Legislature.



Qualifications of Chief Statesmen

Wampum 27. All [Chief Statesmen] of the Five Nations Confederacy must be honest in all possessing those honorable qualities that make true Royaneh [chief statesmen, literally “noble leaders who walk in greatness”]. [There are no age limits, but statesmen with a family and are citizens of one of the Five, now Six Nations, with exception to the Pine Tree Chief. The clan mothers and women evaluate who is qualified to be a chief statesman.]

Wampum 53. When the Royaneh women, holders of a [chief statesman] title, select one of their sons as a candidate, they shall select one who is trustworthy, or 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.

Qualifications of Representatives

  1. No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state which he shall be chosen.


Wampum 19. When the [Chief Statesman] is deposed [or vacates position] the women shall notify the [Grand Council] through their [runner of their clan], and the [Grand Council] shall sanction the act. The women will then select another of their sons as a candidate and the [Chief Statesmen]

  1. When vacancies happen in the representation from any state, the executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.


Wampum 14. When the Council of the Five [Six] Nations [Chief Statesmen] convene, they shall appoint a speaker for the day. He shall be a [Chief Statesman] of either the Mohawk, Onondaga or Seneca Nation. The next day the Council shall appoint another speaker, but the first speaker may be reappointed if there is no objection, but a speaker’s term shall not be regarded more than for the day.

  1. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other officers;


Wampum 19. If at any time it shall be manifest that a [Chief Statesman] has not in mind the welfare of the people or disobeys the rules of this Great Law, the men or the women of the Confederacy, or both jointly, shall come to the Council and upbraid [unseat] the erring [Chief Statesman] through [a man who has no pity].

Officers of the House -- Impeachment shall have the sole power of impeachment.


The Council of the Mohawk shall be divided into three parties [each has 3 chiefs totaling 9 chiefs] [The Council of the Seneca shall be divided into 4 parties [each has 2 chiefs totaling 8 chiefs].

[Together, the Mohawk and Seneca parallel the Senate. The chiefs are chosen by the women and hold the position as long as they serve faithfully. Each has an equal voice, but decisions are formed by consensus.]

Number of Senators

  1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.

(Superseded by Amendment XVII) Proposed May /3, 1912; ratified April 8, /9/3; certified May 3/, 1913.

Classification of Senators

  1. Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three classes. The seats of the Senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the expiration of the fourth year, and of the third class at the expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second; and if vacancies happen by resignation, or otherwise during the recess of the Legislature of any State, the executive thereof may make temporary appointments until the next meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such vacancies.


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