Haudenosaunee : The Nations : Culture : The Constitution : The Great Law of Peace : The Grand Council : Treaties : Land : Legends : The Fire That Never Dies : Links : Books : FAQ : Thank you : Contact
Grand Council on...
  Relationship between the Haudenosaunee and the Land

The relationship between the Haudenosaunee and the earth is sacred and unlike Western European concepts of land ownership. The earth, particularly this continent, is regarded as a great turtle on whose back are all things necessary for life. This land, the Turtle Island, was created for all to use forever - not to be exploited merely for this present generation. In no event is land for sale.

Under Haudenosaunee law, Gayanerkowa, the land is held by the women of each clan. It is principally the women who are responsible for the land, who farm it, and who care for it for the future generations. When the Confederacy was formed, the separate nations formed one union. The territory of each nation became Confederacy land even though each nation continued to have a special interest in its historic territory.

In fact, members of the Confederacy lived throughout the territory. Oneida, Mohawk and Onondaga villages were scattered throughout the area with little regard for historic divisions. For many generations, the Tuscarora lived with or near the Oneidas. Now they live in what was once Seneca territory.

As a result, the lands of the Confederacy may only be dealt with legally by the Council of Chiefs of the Confederacy. It is this principle which has been so much abused by the state and federal governments, which have sought and still seek to divide the Confederacy and deal with the nations and lands separately. It remains the position of the Confederacy that no land may be ceded or given up without the sanction of the Confederacy.


In the early 1600's, the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch people agreed on how our two peoples would co-exist with neither interfering with the other. This agreement was recorded in the Two Row Wampum Belt. It is called by Haudenosaunee, Guswenta.

The Guswenta, or Two Row, has set the precedence for all other treaties and agreements between the Haudenosaunee and other European nations. There were many international agreements reached between their government and the colonizing nations who came to North America, but all were on the basis of one country to another.

In later years, treaties of peace and friendship were made between the Haudenosaunee and the newly formed United States. The first treaty which was asked for by the United States was the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 1784. The second treaty, again asked for by the United States is the Canandaigua or Pickering Treaty of 1794. These two treaties between the governments are the basis of all of their relations as two sovereign and separate peoples.

In 1790, President George Washington explained to the Haudenosaunee that the "Non-Intercourse Act" was a law passed by the United States to protect the Haudenosaunee from future encroachments, forever. The language of the Act declares any State treaties or agreements made without federal participation were "null and void". Nothing is said about such dealings being alterable, or federally approvable at a later date!

In the early years of their relations, representatives of the two governments met regularly to reaffirm these agreements and to polish the Silver Covenant Chain as each new Honohdahguyus assumed his office. In recent years the Silver Covenant Chain has become tarnished from neglect, and has caused confusion within your government. These confusions will form another part of future discussions between the governments.

The Haudenosaunee have never been militarily defeated by the United States. Nor, have they ever subjected themselves to the United States' trusteeship over their lands. They have never accepted American citizenship or any of the other vestiges of becoming "American Indians". They have struggled long and hard to remain a free people following the Original Instructions as they were given to them by the Creator. They represent the original and continuing government of their people. It is with them that the aforementioned treaties have been made. All the other so-called treaties and agreements have never been affirmed by their government.

They have not disappeared as the government of their people, as some American historians have tried to assert.


It seems strange, at this time, that they are asserting the obvious fact of their continuing existence. For countless centuries the fact of their existence was unquestioned, and for all honest people, it remains unquestioned today. They have existed since time immemorial. They have always conducted their affairs from their territories, under their own laws and customs. They have never, under those laws and customs, willingly or fairly surrendered either territories or their freedoms. Never, in the history of the Haudenosaunee have the People or the government sworn allegiance to a European sovereign. In that simple fact lies the roots of their oppression as a People.

By pretending that the Haudenosaunee government no longer exists, both the U.S. and Britain illegally took Haudenosaunee territories by simply saying the territories belong to them. The Haudenosaunee territories are not, and never have been, part of the U.S. or Canada. The citizens of the Haudenosaunee are separate people, distinct from either Canada or the U.S. Because of this the Haudenosaunee refuse to recognize the border drawn through their lands by a foreign people.

In 1924, the Canadian government "abolished" Haudenosaunee government at the Grand River territory. The Oneida and Akwesasne territories were invaded and occupied by Canadian troops in order to establish neo-colonial "elective systems" in the name of democracy. Also in 1924, the United States government passed illegal legislation declaring all "American Indians" to be U.S. citizens.

The 1924 Citizenship Act was an attempt to deny the existence of Native nations, and the rights of these Native nations to their lands. The denial of the existence of Native nations is a way of legitimizing the United States' claim to their homelands. This concept is furthered by the imposition of non-Native forms of government. This also serves to fulfill the United States' need to destroy any semblance of native sovereignty. The actual process of taking lands can be abolished when the Native nation no longer exists in its original context - when it is less a nation. With all semblance of a Native nation's original context destroyed, Canada and the U.S. can rationalize that integration has occurred. With this rationale in hand, both governments have set out to enact their final solutions to the "Indian Problem."

The Haudenosaunee vigorously objected to the Citizenship Act and maintains to this day that the People of the Longhouse are not citizens of Canada or the U.S., but are citizens of their own nations of the Confederacy. To underline this position their government has issued its own passports to those of their people traveling abroad. To date, they entered eighteen countries with their passports.

They never were, nor are they now, nor ever intend to be "citizens" of the U.S. or Canada. They are Haudenosaunee, determined to make a future for their people based on their own constitution, the Great Law of Peace, their religion, and the message of the Gai wiio [Code of Handsome Lake].

Text: © Haudenosaunee Resource Center     |    Used with permission from Haudenosaunee Resource Center

Layout and design © 2002 - for sixnations.cassandranorth.com