Ely Parker 1770-1844

Hiawatha Belt

The Hiawatha Wampum Belt is a visual record of the creation of the League of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Six Nations or Iroquois). The date of that event is the subject of considerable debate: estimates range from hundreds to over a thousand years ago, but Haudenosaunee oral tradition of that event has remained constant. At the center of the Hiawatha Belt is the Confederacy's symbol, the "Great White Pine," also known as the "Tree of Peace." The center figure also represents the Onondaga Nation where the central council fires reside -- all issues involving the entire Confederacy are debated and decided there. The other Haudenosaunee nations are visualized as squares: on the outer edges are the Mohawks, guardians of the Eastern Door; and the Seneca, Keepers of the Western Door. The Oneida and Cayuga are depicted in the two inner squares; the Tuscarora, the sixth nation in the Confederacy, joined after this Wampum was created.

The Hiawatha Wampum Belt also encapsulates the origins of the Haudenosaunee's guiding principles, which were first described to them by a man called the Peacemaker.

    "Basically it's called the Great Law of Peace because it's aimed at satisfying people's needs to use their minds instead of violence to settle their problems. So it is really aimed at passions. It's aimed at hatreds, and it constructed a very elaborate culture based on negotiations and on the principle of coming together to solve problems using your mind and not your weapons."

    . John Mohawk, Ph.D. (Seneca)
    Professor of American Studies
    SUNY Buffalo

    "And the Peacemaker said, now I am going to instruct you on the process of how you will run your nations. How you will raise your chiefs. How you will raise your Clan Mothers. How you raise the Faithkeepers, and what are the duties and responsibilities of those people -- and what are the principles of your government. And the first principle was peace, the second was equity and justice, and the third one was the power of the good minds. And that's great power, but it's a collective power. It doesn't work unless it's together. Each nation maintained its own leadership, but they all agreed that common causes would be decided in the Grand Council of Chiefs. The concept was based on peace and consensus rather than fighting."

    Oren Lyons (Seneca)
    Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation

    ""One good mind" to make decisions, that's the way we proceed. When the Confederacy was born, each nation agreed to act as a part of a league. There is autonomy for each nation, each nation has its own fire. Each nation has its own chiefs, its own Clan Mothers, but when it comes to matters that impact the entire Confederacy, then we act as one.

    The Peacemaker used as a symbol of our Confederacy not a flag, but a tree, the great white pine. The Tree of Peace. And at the base of that tree grow four white roots in the four cardinal directions of the earth: north, south, east, and west. And any nation that can embrace the concepts of peace, power, and righteousness can follow back one of those roots to the tree of Peace and join there with us."

    G. Peter Jemison
    Faithkeeper,
    Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Nation

For a complete account of the Haudenosaunee Great Law and the account of the Peacemaker, visit: http://sixnations.buffnet.net