The Iroquois are an American Indian confederacy of New York originally consisting of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora tribes. They originally settled along the St. Lawrence River which is located in what is now known as New York State. Most Iroquois remained in upstate New York but some traveled to Ohio to join relatives and others moved to places like Kansas. There is not a concrete date for when the Iroquois tribe was established but “some estimates put this as far back as 900 A. D. , but the general consensus is sometime around 1570″ (http://tolatsga. org/iro. html).
The founder of the Iroquois Confederacy is acknowledged to be Dekanawida, who was from the Mohawk tribe. Around the time of its foundation, there were close to twenty-thousand members between all tribes of the Iroquois. This was not many people considering the enormous impact they had on history. The Iroquois created new ideas for different cultures and countries to adapt after the success of these ideas was noticed. “Their society serves as an outstanding example of political and military organization, complex lifestyle, and an elevated role of women” (http:// www. ushistory. org/us/1d. asp).
They were an example to others for how to live an effective lifestyle and run a successful community. They were a highly respected and remembered symbolic feature of the area, which helped them impact the future. Today, the Iroquois are spread all across the United States and Canada due to migration with the passage of time. According to the New World Encyclopedia, there are approximately 125,000 Iroquois today that still continue to practice the customs originating from their culture. “Although separated geographically, the Iroquois culture and traditions are preserved in these locations” (http://www. ewworldencyclopedia. org/ entry/Iroquois). The Iroquois tribes are some of the oldest and most influential groups that still reside in the United States. It is evident that these people maintain a strong belief in cultural value because of the commitment these people have to preserve the traditions despite the geographic separation. In addition, these people have kept these traditions over hundreds of years, which further supports the idea that they value the culture that is rooted within generations of their people.
As one of the most culturally strong groups in the world, the Iroquois have many aspects of their culture that is deemed utterly important to their people. In regards to government, the Iroquois value its function and influence on the world. “The Iroquois Indians had a unique form of representative central government. It was called the League of Nations. These were not tribes that joined together to form a nation. These were nations that joined together to form the League of Nations” (http://nativeamericans. mrdonn. org). The framework of their government was something they were extremely proud to have developed.
A key component to the government they created was that “the League was characterized by a non-aggression pact between the five tribes, recognition of shared concerns, and structures for decisionmaking and leadership which brought together representatives from the five groups (https://www. mpm. edu/wirp/ ICW-155. html). Their form of government heavily influenced the eventual creation of the United States government. The concept of the elected representatives from the five groups can be seen in the United States government as the senators and representatives that are elected for congress.
There were voting sessions that happened within the Iroquois government that can be viewed in parallel to the voting sessions within the United States government. In America, representatives and senators vote on certain issues, which is what the Iroquois did to prevent all issues being presented to the public. Using elected representatives to vote for issues is an effective way to resolve certain problems without disrupting the public for every minor decision. The effectiveness of the Iroquois system was noticed by Benjamin Franklin, who proposed that the United States adapt these ideas when faced with the creation of their government.
Therefore the systematic approach of the League of Nations impacted many important aspects of American government and influenced the United States to take on a similar approach when constructing the government. Another aspect of the Iroquois government that is similar to the United States is the idea of a constitution. The League of Nations had a written constitution that served as a set of rights and agreements that all the people had to honor. The Iroquois had a written constitution so there would be no dispute between what was acceptable and what was considered against the law.
In this case, the law was the aspects of the written constitution that, if followed, ensures safety and cooperation between citizens. Likewise, the United States Constitution serves as “The Law of the Land” and everyone within the country must abide by its principles. In both instances, a constitution helps the government function to its fullest potential because it structures the government and lays out the responsibilities and laws of the people residing within the country. As stated earlier, an important aspect of the Iroquois government included the idea of representatives that speak on behalf of their electees.
An exceprt from the Iroquois Constitution states, “35-Should any man of the Nation assist with special ability or show great interest in the affairs of the Nation, if he proves himself wise, honest and worthy of confidence, the Confederate Lords may elect him to a seat with them and he may sit in the Confederate Council” (http:// sourcebooks. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/iroquois. asp). This exemplifies two important ideas mentioned previously. This statement shows the importance of a written constitution because it provides a definite structural process of how a specific governmental operation functions.
This assures that here are no debates about how this specific operation works. Also, this excerpt exemplifies a structural similarity with America in that the Iroquois government consists of people that serve higher up, proving themselves to be worthy of that position. Likewise, people in America must elect their congressional representatives to provide input on the “higher-up” governmental issues on behalf of their electees. As one of the most influential tribes to reside in the United States, the overall structural and functional impact the Iroquois had on the United States is evident due to the numerous similarities between the two governments.
Shifting gears from the Iroquois government to their religion, the supernatural world of the Iroquois included numerous deities. The main supernatural being was known as the Great Spirit, who was responsible for the creation of human beings, plants, animals, and the forces of good in nature. They believed that the Great Spirit influenced the lives of many people and indirectly guided their decisions. Aside from the main Great Spirit, other important deities included the Thunderer, Three Sisters, and the spirits of Maize, Beans, and Squash, who were said to specialize in specific prayer requests.
If there were any conflicts with The Great Spirit, they believed that diseases and other misfortunes were the results and visible consequences of the disputes. According to the Iroquois, Communication with the Great Spirit could not be done directly by an ordinary human. However, through burning tabbaco, they believed that “the smoke carried their messages skyward to the creator” (http:// elearning. la. psu. edu/anth/146/lesson-5/lesson-page-2). Another aspect of their religion was their reliance on dreams.
Dreams were regarded as supernatural messages that had to be addressed for continued health” (http://elearning. la. psu. edu/ anth/146/lesson-5/lesson-page-2). The Iroquois regarded dreams as very important signs, and a lot of attention was given to interpreting dreams. At festivals, many people enjoyed participating in the activity of dream guessing to show the value they placed on dreams and their interpretations. It was believed that dreams expressed the inner desire of the soul, and as a result, the fulfillment of a dream was very meaningful to an individual.
To publically practice the traditions of their religion, there were many religious ceremonies held within the Iroquois culture that were aimed at farming, curing illness, and bonding through thanksgiving. The Iroquois people carry out six major ceremonies during the year. These are Maple, Planting, Strawberry, Green Corn, Harvest, and Mid-Winter. All but MidWinter involved public confessions followed by group ceremonies which included speeches by authoritative religious figures, tobacco offerings, and prayer.
They conducted these ceremonies because entrance to the afterlife they believed in was monitored by the Great Spirit, so they believed that participating in religious ceremonies would make their appreciation and religious practices known to the Great Spirit. In their understanding, this would aid in their quest for admittance into to afterlife. Since the origination of these religious beliefs, there was another religion introduced to their culture. Around 1800, a Seneca sachem named Handsome Lake had a series of visions which he believed showed the way for the Iroquois to regain their lost cultural integrity.
These visions also promised supernatural aid to all those who followed him. The Handsome Lake religion emphasized many traditional elements of Iroquoian culture, but also incorporated many modern American aspects of culture. While this religion was accepted, many people remained loyal to the original and traditional religion because of its importance and cultural value to the Iroquois. Overall, religion was an important aspect of the Iroquois culture as many people engaged in its traditions within the culture.