Posted by: CL Ellis Wacholtz | July 20, 2008

The Haudenosaunee Flag and the Hiawatha Wampum Belt

The Haudenosaunee Flag and the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Many small beads are sewn together to form a belt. Wampum belts are used to commemorate great events, treaties, and laws. It is the beads, purple and white in color, made from the Cohag shell that gives us the color of our flag.The Hiawatha wampum belt is comprised of thirty-eight rows, with a heart represented by a great tree in the center. On either side there are two squares, all are connected with the heart by white rows of wampum. The belt is the symbol of unity among the five original Nations.The first square on the right represents the Mohawk Nation, Keeper of the Eastern Door. The inner square on the right represents the Oneida Nation. The white tree of peace in the middle represents the Onondaga Nation. The Great Peace is lodged in the heart, meaning that the Haudenosaunee council fire is to burn at Onondaga, serving as the capitol of the Haudenosaunee. The inner square to the left of the heart represents the Cayuga Nation. The last square, the one furthest to the left represents the Seneca Nation, known as the Keepers of the Western Door.

The two lines extending from each side of the squares of the belt, from the Mohawk and Seneca Nations, represent a path of peace that other Nations are welcome to travel in order to take shelter beneath the Great Tree of Peace.


The Iroquois People

The Iroquois, also known as the Six Nations, represent the indigenous people that originally occupied extensive lands in what is now New York State, southern Quebec and Ontario, Canada. Stretching from the Hudson River and Mohawk Valley to the northern and central Great Lakes region, a confederacy was formed bringing together the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk and Seneca Nations forming the first ” League of Nations” in North America. The Tuscarora joined the Confederacy in the mid-1700s to become the sixth member nation.

The Iroquois are the originators of the modern day game of Lacrosse. Shrouded in time, Lacrosse was played among the Confederacy long before the coming of the Europeans to the shores of North America. It can be said that when the Europeans first came to America, Lacrosse was one of the most popular and widespread games played across the continent and with many variations. The long stick game played internationally today belongs to the Iroquois.

The Iroquois name for ourselves is ‘Haudenosaunee’ which means “People of the Longhouse”. The longhouse symbolizes a way of life where the Six Nations Confederacy live under one common law, think with one mind and speak with one voice. That law is called “Gien na sah nah gonah”, the Great Law of Peace. The alliance of the Haudenosaunee created the first United Nations in this land. Thus, we maintain the oldest, continuously operating form of government in North America. We have lived in northeastern North America for thousands of years. The people of the Six Nations currently residing in New York and Canada remain sovereign and independent. We, the Iroquois people identify ourselves as citizens of our respective nations and travel internationally under our own passports.

Historical evidence indicates that we, the Iroquois, played a significant role in the development of democratic principles in North America that the ideas and concepts of the Haudenosaunee form of government influenced the thinking of Benjamin Franklin (who was instrumental in the development of the American Constitution). All the nations of the confederacy speak dialects of the Iroquois language. The people of the Confederacy belong to any one of the nine family clans (Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Deer, Beaver, Hawk, Heron, Snipe or Eel) of the Haudenosaunee and share many common beliefs and traditions under the Great Law of Peace. In 1987, the Congress of the United States unanimously passed Concurrent Resolution S.76, recognizing the contribution of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) to the democratic principles of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Today, approximately 70,000 plus Iroquois people reside in eighteen communities in the states of New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

The Great Seal

The Great Seal of the Haudenosaunee represents the unbroken circle of fifty Chiefs who gather around the Great Tree of Peace. The Chiefs represent the strength and unity of the Confederacy. The Great Tree symbolizes the protective power that results when people gather in friendship to promote peace. The animals encircling the Great Tree of Peace – Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Deer, Beaver, Hawk, Heron, Snipe and Eel – represent the family clans and all of the people who believe in the Way of Life of the Haudenosaunee. Atop the Tree of Peace perches the Guardian Eagle as the protector of our people.


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