The Mohawks (Kanien’kehá:ka) of the Iroquois Confederacy are the keepers of the Kaianera:kowa, The Great Law of Peace. There are 9 Chiefs who are the peoples voice. 3 Bear, 3 Wolf and 3 Turtle. The clan mothers direct the chiefs on there roles and responsibility and are charged with the power of installing and removing chiefs. There are 50 Chiefs in the whole Confederacy, but no council is legitimate unless all 9 Kanien’kehá:ka Chiefs are present. This is because they where the first to accept this great message.
The message was a way to council and to resolve all issues without bloodshed. This was accomplished through counselling in clans with a formula of passing issues over the fire until consensus was reached. This same formula was applied on a national level amongst the other surrounding nations. Any nation , man or woman that wished to join the council of peace had to pledge to the council that they would hold up true peace and leave the ways of deceit and bloodshed.
The peacemaker came across a hunting party, a cannibal and an evil woman who perpetuated both sides of the war. He told them that the Time of Peace has come and that they should inform their people. He told them he would meet them in Onondaga.
He then came along the village of a Roianer, a Chief. He asked him if he had heard of the message of peace. He truly had heard the message and wanted to concur with his colleagues.
The head warrior proposed a Test of Power. That he will climb the tree over hanging the great falls Kahon:ios (Cohoes Falls, Ny) and the men will cut it down. If the messenger survived to see the next day then he would truly accept this message. The deputy warrior agreed asking about the hostile nations to the west and east . The messenger agreed and climbed the tree to seal his fate.
The next day smoke was seen down stream and the two men who had cut the tree went to investigate. They arrived back to the village with the peace carrier.
The Chief would become known as Aionwà:tha and would be Tekanawita’s right hand man. The two warriors would become known as Tekarihó:ken (hesitating over 2 things as which course to adopt) and Sha’tekarí:wate (one who respects all matters of importance equally).
The three Names are still used today for the Turtle Clan Chiefs.
CLAN FAMILIES OF THE MOHAWK NATION
There are several Clan families with the Five Nations Confederacy. Membership to a Clan is passed hereditarily through the female line. In order to hold a Chieftainship Title, a Woman or Man must have the Birthright which is inherited through their matrilineal Clan. All observers and newcomers fall under the “Protection of the Bear Clan” unless they choose to petition for adoption into a Clan and are accepted by the people. Adopted members share every right and privilege within the Clan as members with a birthright, except that they cannot hold a hereditary Title as Female/Male Chief.
Adopted members have Clans which are “hung about the neck” and are not passed on through matrilineal succession.
Clans are quite literally families. People of the same Clan, whether or not they are born of the same bloodline are relatives which form the collective of members to each respective Clan. People outside of an individual’s Clan are regarded as a distant relative, or cousin. Because of this, it is forbidden for two people to marry within the same Clan. The Clan family also extends to members of other Nations. Therefore, one cannot marry within the same Clan of any Nation. To do so would be considered incestuous. Clan families’ council together and also lived together in their Longhouse.
There are three Clans within the Kanien’kehá:ka/Mohawk Nation, the Turtle, Wolf and Bear. Throughout the Five Nations Confederacy there are a number of additional Clans, however, these three Clans are found in every Nation. Members of each Clan choose representatives to speak on their behalf in council. Since the women are the progenitors of the Nation, Female Chiefs or Clan Mothers are chosen by a consensus of the collective Clan members. They are known as “Oianer” meaning “righteous/she is good”. The Clan Mothers shall select Male representatives known as “Roianer” meaning “righteous/he is good” to speak on their behalf and on the behalf of the Clan family. There are three Chieftainship Titles per Clan. Female Chiefs/Clan Mothers have the right to remove an installed Male Chief and choose a successor in the event of a death or de-horning (removing the Antlers of the Male Chief, a symbol of the Chieftainship Title).
We have posted a page for each of our three Clans explaining their role and characteristics.
THE BEAR CLAN: ROTIHSKARE:WAKE – THE DELIBERATORS
Rotihskare:wake sit with their backs to the south, where the warm winds come from. The bear clan are the deliberators of the three counseling clans; due to their medicine they are able to detect any systemic problems within the application process on any given issue with great prudence. The three Bear Clan Titles are: Tehana’Karin:ne, Ahstawenserenhtha, Shoskoharo:wane.
The Bear Clan has the greatest numbers of all three Mohawk Clans. This is due to the fact that visitors or those who do not carry the birthright of one of the Clans automatically fall under the “Protection of the Bear”. This includes people who are “retracing their roots”. The Bear Clan acts as a surrogate family to the visitor for the duration of their interaction with the Longhouse, until the visitor departs or their request for adoption is accepted into a Clan. The Bear Clan will ensure that all people who fall under their protection are well cared for and mentored on Longhouse matters and the Great Law of Peace. This policy also protects the Longhouse people and Great Law of Peace from being hindered or altered by “a bad mind” or interference from those who may not know our ways.
Bear Clan people have a very strong physical power coupled with a very strong reactionary nature which makes for a sometimes seemingly abrasive and sometimes aggressive personality. However, their unyielding and often ferocious power is tempered by the gentleness of the female, making them emotionally driven. By nature they are capable of taking a lot of mockery, teasing and abuse. However, when they have reached a point in which their patience has run thin, like an awoken hibernating bear, they can be very fierce. Although they never forget a negative situation they are always more than willing to move past it for a more positive outcome for everyone.
The Bear Clan enjoys helping others and are good listeners. They flourish in a relaxed environment. Leisure is a strong part of their life; however they are always willing to help with any problem or ailment whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. Due in large part to their nature, the Bear Clan has the function of retaining knowledge of the sacred medicine’s and medicine societies. As a collective, the Bear Clan has a great healing power due to their acute knowledge of the energy transfer within all living things on Mother Earth.
THE WOLF CLAN: RONATAION:NI – THEY LEAD THE WAY
The Wolf Clan people “Lead the Way”. The Wolf Clan sits with their backs to the North (where the cold winds come from). The Wolf Clan is known as the “Well” where all issues and manners of business are dropped into and managed on behalf of the Longhouse. As the “Well”, the Wolf Clan are the Initiators of business during the counseling process (The Bear Clan are the Deliberators, the Turtle Clan are the Verifiers). The Wolf Clan representatives determine the order of business based upon the collective knowledge of the Great Law of Peace, including what issues are presented on the Council floor to be decided by the people. It is the role of the Wolf Clan to ensure that the Council stays on topic and that order is maintained. The three Wolf Clan Titles are: Sarenho:wane, Teionhehkwen, Orenhre’ko:wa. As a Nation, the Mohawks take on the role of the “Well” in the Grand Council of the Five Nations Confederacy.
Wolf Clan people, like the Wolf, are very intelligent and cunning. Their strength is in their knowledge of the Great Law of Peace of which they must have expertise in order to properly facilitate Longhouse business. They are great thinkers and doers. Wolf Clan people are generally outspoken and opinionated. They love to debate and deliberate on issues and can pursue issues aggressively at times. They are very diplomatic particularly when handling business, staying calm and focused. Wolf Clan people do not let their emotions hinder their thoughts, keeping a cool demeanor under pressure. They are also great orators and can respond to issues quickly without requiring much time to council amongst themselves.
As a family, the Wolf Clan is a group of very independent and capable people. They have a candid and forthright nature which may give the appearance of aggressiveness when they interact with each other. However, Wolf Clan people are fiercely loyal to each other and will bind together to defend a member of the Clan Family instantly. They are very playful and loving with their children but will push and test each other often. Wolf Clan members are very capable as individuals but the strength of Wolves lies in the collective.
THE TURTLE CLAN: RATINIATON – OWNERS OF THE HOUSE
The Turtle Clan/Ratiniaton are the “Owners of the House” and the Fire Keepers of the Mohawk Nation. The Turtle Clan sits with its back to the East (where the sun rises). The Turtle is honored as being the owner of the house, as they are one of the oldest living things within creation, dating back to the Creation Story. The Great Turtle carries Mother Earth upon its back. Within the Council of the Mohawks, the Turtle Clan are the Verifiers. All business of the House is presented to them for final consideration. The three Turtle Clan Chieftainship Titles are: Tekarihoken, Aionwatha, and Satekariwateh. In addition to the three hereditary Chieftainship Titles held by each of the Clans, the Turtle Clan also holds the Title of War Chief for the Mohawk Nation. (There is only one War Chief for the Nation)
Turtle Clan people are very consistent and determined. They prefer a calm atmosphere and are disturbed by confrontation. They are generally neutral in most situations. Like the Turtle, they may hide in their shell until things have calmed down. They can be stubborn at times and do not adjust to change very quickly. Most Turtle Clan people are thought of as shy because they are not as outspoken or opinionated as people from the other two Clans. They also take more time to let go of anger or irritation because they would prefer not to be faced with a confrontation.
Turtle Clan people get along well with one another. However, they generally keep to themselves. They take their time to think before they respond to a question or issue. Because they are neutral, they are good at mediating and resolving disputes. Like the Turtle, they have a very strong protective shell and it may take time to get to know them. As a collective, the Turtles are wise and fair.
Other Turtle Facts:
The turtle has 13 sqaures on its shell/back representing the 13 cycles of ceremonies.
Turtle shells are used to make rattles. These rattles are used in ceremony, specifically to perform the Astowakowa “Great Feather Dance” (Creator’s Dance).
Other Duties Shared by the Women and Men
- Ensure the harmony of the home
- Teaching the Great Law of Peace
- Be patient with Clan relatives, children & visitors.
- Be a good example through actions and words.
- Be welcoming to visitors and guests, being sure to greet guests and invite them into the people.
- Provide and make gifts for those evolving in their roles.
- Solve issues (disputes) in relationships and families.
- Keep records, history & stories (make/maintain wampum beads and belts).
- Make/maintain ceremonial items (Ex: Kastowa).
- Keep and care for Eagle Feathers as well as clean them regularly in the fire.
- Remember and pass on songs and stories.
- Ensure continuation of teachings (Creation Story, Formation of the League, Great Law) and our language.
- Help Longhouse, community, Nation to be strong.
- Ensure the Longhouse & grounds are cleaned regularly with medicine.
- Take care of elderly, injured and sick.
- Share and interpret dreams/visions.
- Ensure that “dust and dirt” does not accumulate in the Longhouse (this also refers to bad minds, issues, etc…).
- Take care of Clan Family members, providing support and assistance.
- Must not dwell on petty issues or allow anger to fester (keep a good mind).
- Constantly conduct oneself in a respectful manner and ensure that all women, men and children do the same.
- Constantly keep in mind and remind the people to act on the behalf of the faces yet beneath the Earth.
- Assist the Clan-mothers/Female Chiefs and Male Chiefs if required, and in some cases act as sub-Chiefs if directed.
- Participate in Moon Ceremonies on a regular basis during specified points in the lunar cycle.
- Be aware of lunar/solar events (ie: eclipses).
- It is to be acknowledged that the first being is female therefore it is important that this be constantly in the minds of the people by ensuring that the female is mentioned first as in “female/male, her/his, she/him” to show respect. If the identity of a person or thing is unknown it is referred to as female.
- All words and expressions of the Creator must not refer to “he” or “him” as this excludes the female and is against the natural order of creation. (We use the word “Ionkhiia’tison” which means, “They who created us” referring to all of the elements which all living things are made from.
- All women are to strive to be like Tiakonsaseh the first Clan Mother/Female, founder of the Longhouse and the Great Law of Peace
- All men are to strive to be like Tekanawita the Peacemaker, founder of the Longhouse and the Great Law of Peace
Duties Particular to Women
- Be motherly, loving and caring.
- Mentor other women.
- Make sure men stay on task and perform duties.
- The women must ensure that after times of war they work with the men to relieve them of their duties and war mindset in order to bring their minds back to a peaceful state.
- Clean and prepare the dead of opposite Clans for burial ceremony.
- Women are the Titleholders and considered owners of the land.
- Women are the leaders of the Nation but must empower the men to stay in balance with them. Women must never emasculate a man or the role of the men.
Duties Particular to Men
- A majority of Thanksgiving addresses are carried out by men to keep the words fresh in their hearts and minds.
- Singing: A majority of the Ceremonial songs are sung by men as the men have the duty of performing this task for the women.
- Speaking: A majority of speaking is done by the men either by Male Chiefs or male representatives both of which are appointed and directed by the women.
- Mentor other men.
- Men hold particular duties to certain medicine societies for the Longhouse.
- The men must ensure the beautification and protection of all things female in Creation.
- Waging Peace, defending the Great Law of Peace in times of war, including “Wasá:se”.