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  Haudenosaunee in short:

Haudenosaunee means "People of the Long House".

The original five nations of Haudenosaunee Confederacy lived on land south and east of Lake Ontario in what today is known as the state of New York. From west to east it was Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk (Tuscarora joined the Confederacy around 1720).

The nations formed the most powerful confederacy but the exact time is not known. According to the tradition, Deganawida saw in a vision how wars between the nations could end. He and Hiawatha persuaded the nations (in the following order: Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Onondaga) to join forces. This gave them power and strength that established their supremacy. They controlled the fur trade and until the end of the 18th century they fought in the white people's wars. They were allies of the British against the French and their participation was crucial. The American Revolution War split the Haudenosaunee for the first time in several hundred years over the issue of whether to support Great Britain, the United States of America or be neutral. In 1779, after the Americans won the war, many of their villages were destroyed.

They were farmers, hunters, excellent warriors and tradesmen. Their religion was complex and all spirits and powers were connected to animals, plants and the nature. They lived in large bark covered houses, called "long houses". Several families of the same clan lived in the same house. They lived in villages, often on hills near streams or springs and the villages were surrounded by palisades.

The women played an important part in their society. They owned most of the clan property including the houses. They were responsible for planting and harvesting (the main crops were corn, bean and squash), they raised the children and they looked after the elders. The clan system was matrilineal; so the mother was the head of the family and her name and rights were passed on to the children, which had great importance for the social and political organisation. It was the women that nominated the chiefs that were to represent the clans and the nation at the Grand Council, the highest authority of the Confederacy.

The Grand Council had 50 members, called Roiá:neh, from the nations; 9 Mohawk (one of the seats are always empty; it belongs to Peacemaker), 9 Oneida, 14 Onondaga, 10 Cayuga and 8 Seneca. Tuscarora had no members but were represented by Oneida and Cayuga.

The yearly ceremonies, which were a very important part of life, were connected to the season and the crop (e.g. apple-, corn- or strawberry feasts, that expressed thanks to the life giving soil), or were of a religious nature with the aim to heal and predict the future.

Their original language is very important for their cultural survival. Today about 1% of the entire Nation are fluent speakers and the majority of those are more than 60 years old. By establishing schools within the Nation's territories, there is hope for the survival.


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