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Culture

Haudenosaunee culture has many unique and interesting facets. Perhaps the most notable part of Haudenosaunee (179kb/2sec) culture is the spirituality which is shared among the nations. This spirituality is seen through expressions of thanks for all we have and hope to have. Throughout every ceremony there is a respect for each living thing and thanks is given out of respect for all that has been received. In giving thanks the Haudenosaunee follow a cycle of ceremony holding rituals which follow the seasons.
Spirituality is a central part of the lives of the Haudenosaunee people but parallel to this is a respect for other religions. Unlike many religions which promote the recruitment of new followers, the Haudenosaunee have never tried to force their beliefs on anyone and allow for their own people to follow their own beliefs without criticism. The Great Law of Peace itself has built into it freedom of religion which is respected by all its followers.
An essential value which forms the foundation for much of the Haudenosaunee ways is the duty of preparing for the seventh generation. The nations of the Haudenosaunee believe that we borrow the earth from our children’s children and it is our duty to protect it and the culture for future generations. All decisions made now are made with the future generations who will inherit the earth in mind.

SYMBOLS

A cluster of arrows
Recognized from the creation story the cluster of arrows is a symbol of unity for the Haudenosaunee. The Peacemaker used this symbol to point out how if the nations joined together they could not be broken. This symbol represents the strength that results from the joining of the nations.
Eagle
Said to be a messenger to the Creator the eagle is the protector of peace. Placed atop the Tree of Peace (227kb/2sec) it alerts members of the confederacy if danger approaches.
White Pine Tree/ Great Tree of Peace
The white pine tree was the tree chosen by the Peacemaker as a symbol of the unity of the nations of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. Its needles which always grow in clusters of five are symbolic of the uniting of the nations. The white pine also has broad branches that can provide shelter and it is beneath the tree that the Peacemaker asked the Chiefs to join him.

Four White Roots
The roots at the base of the Great Tree of Peace are said to be the four white roots (236kb/2sec) which represent the points north, south, east and west. Following these roots other nations can find the Great Tree of Peace and seek to join the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The number four is also significant as there are four winds that blow and the four sacred medicines.

Long house
The long house is symbolic of the traditional territories held by the Haudenosaunee. Within a long house families all live together in harmony. With the nations united they are all one family living territorially in one long house.
Circle
The circle is a widely used symbol in many cultures and nations. For the Haudenosaunee it represents unity, strength and the cycles of life. Gathering the original Chiefs in a circle around the Tree of Peace the Peacemaker had them hold hands to make their circle strong. He showed them that if they kept their circle united, they would always be able to keep the Tree of Peace standing. If they let go of their grip to each other and broke the circle the Tree could fall to the ground and then so too would the peace.
Sky World
A pattern of a semi-circle is often seen in many beaded designs or quill work and represents a huge overhead dome to recognize the Sky World from where life came.
Turtle
Aside from being one of the clan animals the turtle is a symbol for North America as it is said that the turtle carries it on its back. From the creation story it was the turtle who carried sky woman (212kb/2sec) on his back.
CEREMONIES

The Haudenosaunee have 13 ceremonies throughout the year representing the 13 moons throughout the year. These ceremonies occur at various times of the year often following seasonal changes. Most ceremonies are a way of expressing thanks to the people, the natural world, the spirit world and the creator. It is hoped that this will help to maintain the health and prosperity of the nations.

Each ceremony includes an opening and closing prayer followed by dances and songs. Often various stories special the Haudenosaunee are shared to continue traditional teachings.
The ceremonies are:

Midwinter (169kb/1sec) – Second week in January and lasts for approximately eight days.
Maple Ceremony – Second week in February and lasts one day.
Thunder Dance – First week in April to welcome back the thunderers.
Sun and Moon dance – Beginning of May to give thanks to the sun and second week of May to give thanks to the moon in the morning and evening respectively.
Seed Ceremony – Middle of May and lasts 1 day

Planting Ceremony – End of May

Strawberry Ceremony (156kb/1sec) – Middle of May and lasts 1 day

String bean – First week in August and lasts 1 day

Corn – Middle of August

Harvest – Middle of October and lasts four days.

Thunder – November

End of seasons – December
CULTURAL MISCONCEPTIONS

Those not acquainted with the traditional culture of the Haudenosaunee (179kb/2sec) have no other resource to turn to then books or internet sources often promoting skewed or incorrect information. It’s information like this that leads many to believe biased claims or stereotypes many stemming from the idea that all Indigenous nations are the same. For this reason many nations are clumped together and their practices and culture assumed to be the same for all.
Understanding other cultures, races and ethnic groups can go a long way in promoting respect among all nations around the world as many of the stereotypes are created unintentionally by observers who do not understand the culture.
While some nations shared certain practices or adopted practices from other nations each Indigenous nation had its own ways of living and celebrating. One common misconception is that all nations originally held pow wows. The Haudenosaunee did not participate in pow wows until they became popular customs much later. Powwows originated with the Western Plains People.
There are also many misconceptions about dwellings. Most Indigenous nations had different dwellings depending on their location and lifestyle. A common misconception is that all native people lived in teepees. However only the nations of the plains who traveled often following the migration of the buffalo lived in teepees. Haudenosaunee, known as the people of the long house lived in long bark covered houses.
A long held misconception is that the history of North America started with the arrival of the Europeans but long before Europeans settled on the shores the Haudenosaunee people were thriving on the land. Called Ongwehonweh (160kb/1sec) or “original people” it was the Haudenosaunee who helped the early settlers to overcome the hardships of the land.
TOBACCO

As an essential plant for the Haudenosaunee people tobacco, or Nicotiana tabacum by its latin name, has been used in ceremonies, prayer and thanksgiving for thousands of years. Often cultivated in small gardens within the village it was the only crop for which men were primarily responsible including planting, plowing and harvesting.
It is said that rising smoke from a fire into which tobacco is thrown or from a sacred pipe burning tobacco will carry the messages and prayers of the people to the Creator (165kb/1sec) . It could be mixed with other herbs and smoked in men’s pipes as it was believed to provide the smoker with good thoughts. For this reason no man was without his pipe when important matters were at hand. Tobacco is often smoked using a white clay pipe following the installation of a new Chief (153kb/1sec) as it seals the event and provides time to relax. Many nations also used tobacco combined with other plants and herbs to treat some illnesses or burned the tobacco to pray for the effectiveness of other herbs.
The tobacco used for such spiritual purposes is pure and free from the additives and chemicals of commercial tobacco. It was traditionally intended only to be used in small amounts for prayers and ceremonies.

STORY TELLING

Story telling is an essential part of Haudenosaunee (179kb/2sec) culture. It isn’t just about telling stories, it’s a positive way to teach the beliefs and values the Haudenosaunee hold. Through each story the listener can learn the values, laws and acceptable behaviours of a community without having them simply listed off as rules.
Today story telling is a thriving art form whereby the Haudenosaunee people express legends to future generations. Some make their livelihood as story tellers who continue to share the culture of the Haudenosaunee.

VALUES

Among the nations of the Haudenosaunee is a core value called the Seventh Generation. While the Haudenosaunee encompass traditional values like sharing labour and maintaining a duty to their family, clan and nation and being thankful to nature and the Creator (165kb/1sec) for their sustenance, the Seventh Generation value takes into consideration those who are not yet born but who will inherit the world.
In their decision making Chiefs (153kb/1sec) consider how present day decisions will impact their descendants. Nations are taught to respect the world in which they live as they are borrowing it from future generations. The Seventh Generation value is especially important in terms of culture. Keeping cultural practices, languages, and ceremonies alive is essential if those to come are to continue to practice Haudenosaunee culure.

WAMPUM

Bound on strings, wampum (139kb/1sec) beads were used to create intricate patterns on belts. These belts are used as a guide to narrate Haudenosaunee history, traditions and laws, The origins of wampum beads can be traced to Aiionwatha, commonly known as Hiawatha at the founding of the League of Five Nations. Archeological study however, has found it to have been used long before the union of the nations.
Most commonly made from the Quahog, a round clam shell, the word wampum comes from the Algonquin term for the shells. While it is called Ote-ko-a in the Seneca (198kb/2sec) language, wampum is the most widely recognized term.
The process of making the wampum beads is arduous. Once acquired, the shell was broken into white or purple cubes. White wampum signifying peace while purple relates messages of more serious or political matters. The cubes were clamped and a stone or reed drill was used to bore into the cube. Later, as technology advanced, iron drills were used. Droplets of water prevented the drill’s friction from heating up and breaking the cube. A hole was drilled halfway through and then reversed and drilled from the opposite side. In order to shape and smooth the beads they were strung on lengths of thread and ground against a grooved stone. Through this process wampum beads, long cylindrical beads about ¼” long and 1/8” in diameter, were created.
The use of wampum beads has been much debated throughout the years with many claiming that Aboriginal people used the beads as currency. Historians however have proved that it was first used as currency by the American colonists. For the Haudenosaunee, wampum held a more sacred use. Wampum served as a person’s credentials or a certificate of authority. It was used for official purposes and religious ceremonies and in the case of the joining of the League of Nations was used as a way to bind peace. Every Chief of the Confederacy and every Clan Mother has a certain string or strings of Wampum that serves as their certificate of office. When they pass on or are removed from their station the string will then pass on to the new leader. Runners carrying messages would not be taken seriously without first presenting the wampum showing that they had the authority to carry the message.
As a method of recording and an aid in narrating, Haudenosaunee warriors with exceptional skills were provided training in interpreting the wampum belts. As the Keepers of the Central Fire the Onondaga Nation was also trusted with the task of keeping all wampum records. To this day wampum is still used in the ceremony of raising up a new chief and in the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving ceremonies. True wampum is scarce today and only wampum strings are used. Many belts have been lost or are in museums to this day.
Most Recognizeable Wampum Belts
Hiawatha Belt
A broad dark belt with 38 rows. It has the symbol of the great tree in the centre with two white squares on either side. All are connected by rows of white wampum. This wampum belt conveys the unity of the five nations.
Wing or Dust Fan of the Confederate Nations
This belt symbolizing an everlasting tree is the widest wampum belt known.
Wampum Strings
These strings can have a variety of meanings. Some strings are invitational, some call for mourning or condolence and some are used to call a council.
LANGUAGES

The Haudenosaunee languages belong to a family of 16 North American languages spoken around Canada and the United States. Most of the languages have been lost after falling out of use over time however those of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy including: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, have survived as well as the Tuscarora and some Wyandot. Those that are dwindling in use are being rekindled with the help of community Elders and the younger generation. Because the Haudenosaunee believe in preserving the traditions for those that will follow, great efforts are being taken to carry on the culture and language so it will be enjoyed for generations to come.

For most languages the number of fluent speakers has gone down but individual nations are working to restore their languages and keep them alive. The Mohawk language is the healthiest with 3000 fluent speakers spread out in Canada and the United States.

Cayuga (235kb/2sec) and Oneida (229kb/2sec) is in decline but elders and the younger generation are working together to revive the languages. Onondaga is spoken mostly in Canada while Seneca is spoken mostly in the United States. Those that do speak the languages are creating programs to protect their language and at the same time preserve the traditional knowlege. The Tuscarora language is all but lost but young Tuscaroras are working to learn their ancestral language again.

CULTURE

Haudenosaunee culture has many unique and interesting facets. Perhaps the most notable part of Haudenosaunee (179kb/2sec) culture is the spirituality which is shared among the nations. This spirituality is seen through expressions of thanks for all we have and hope to have. Throughout every ceremony there is a respect for each living thing and thanks is given out of respect for all that has been received. In giving thanks the Haudenosaunee follow a cycle of ceremony holding rituals which follow the seasons.
Spirituality is a central part of the lives of the Haudenosaunee people but parallel to this is a respect for other religions. Unlike many religions which promote the recruitment of new followers, the Haudenosaunee have never tried to force their beliefs on anyone and allow for their own people to follow their own beliefs without criticism. The Great Law of Peace itself has built into it freedom of religion which is respected by all its followers.
An essential value which forms the foundation for much of the Haudenosaunee ways is the duty of preparing for the seventh generation. The nations of the Haudenosaunee believe that we borrow the earth from our children’s children and it is our duty to protect it and the culture for future generations. All decisions made now are made with the future generations who will inherit the earth in mind.

SYMBOLS

A cluster of arrows
Recognized from the creation story the cluster of arrows is a symbol of unity for the Haudenosaunee. The Peacemaker used this symbol to point out how if the nations joined together they could not be broken. This symbol represents the strength that results from the joining of the nations.
Eagle
Said to be a messenger to the Creator the eagle is the protector of peace. Placed atop the Tree of Peace (227kb/2sec) it alerts members of the confederacy if danger approaches.
White Pine Tree/ Great Tree of Peace
The white pine tree was the tree chosen by the Peacemaker as a symbol of the unity of the nations of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. Its needles which always grow in clusters of five are symbolic of the uniting of the nations. The white pine also has broad branches that can provide shelter and it is beneath the tree that the Peacemaker asked the Chiefs to join him.

Four White Roots
The roots at the base of the Great Tree of Peace are said to be the four white roots (236kb/2sec) which represent the points north, south, east and west. Following these roots other nations can find the Great Tree of Peace and seek to join the nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The number four is also significant as there are four winds that blow and the four sacred medicines.

Long house
The long house is symbolic of the traditional territories held by the Haudenosaunee. Within a long house families all live together in harmony. With the nations united they are all one family living territorially in one long house.
Circle
The circle is a widely used symbol in many cultures and nations. For the Haudenosaunee it represents unity, strength and the cycles of life. Gathering the original Chiefs in a circle around the Tree of Peace the Peacemaker had them hold hands to make their circle strong. He showed them that if they kept their circle united, they would always be able to keep the Tree of Peace standing. If they let go of their grip to each other and broke the circle the Tree could fall to the ground and then so too would the peace.
Sky World
A pattern of a semi-circle is often seen in many beaded designs or quill work and represents a huge overhead dome to recognize the Sky World from where life came.
Turtle
Aside from being one of the clan animals the turtle is a symbol for North America as it is said that the turtle carries it on its back. From the creation story it was the turtle who carried sky woman (212kb/2sec) on his back.
CEREMONIES

The Haudenosaunee have 13 ceremonies throughout the year representing the 13 moons throughout the year. These ceremonies occur at various times of the year often following seasonal changes. Most ceremonies are a way of expressing thanks to the people, the natural world, the spirit world and the creator. It is hoped that this will help to maintain the health and prosperity of the nations.

Each ceremony includes an opening and closing prayer followed by dances and songs. Often various stories special the Haudenosaunee are shared to continue traditional teachings.
The ceremonies are:

Midwinter (169kb/1sec) – Second week in January and lasts for approximately eight days.
Maple Ceremony – Second week in February and lasts one day.
Thunder Dance – First week in April to welcome back the thunderers.
Sun and Moon dance – Beginning of May to give thanks to the sun and second week of May to give thanks to the moon in the morning and evening respectively.
Seed Ceremony – Middle of May and lasts 1 day

Planting Ceremony – End of May

Strawberry Ceremony (156kb/1sec) – Middle of May and lasts 1 day

String bean – First week in August and lasts 1 day

Corn – Middle of August

Harvest – Middle of October and lasts four days.

Thunder – November

End of seasons – December
CULTURAL MISCONCEPTIONS

Those not acquainted with the traditional culture of the Haudenosaunee (179kb/2sec) have no other resource to turn to then books or internet sources often promoting skewed or incorrect information. It’s information like this that leads many to believe biased claims or stereotypes many stemming from the idea that all Indigenous nations are the same. For this reason many nations are clumped together and their practices and culture assumed to be the same for all.
Understanding other cultures, races and ethnic groups can go a long way in promoting respect among all nations around the world as many of the stereotypes are created unintentionally by observers who do not understand the culture.
While some nations shared certain practices or adopted practices from other nations each Indigenous nation had its own ways of living and celebrating. One common misconception is that all nations originally held pow wows. The Haudenosaunee did not participate in pow wows until they became popular customs much later. Powwows originated with the Western Plains People.
There are also many misconceptions about dwellings. Most Indigenous nations had different dwellings depending on their location and lifestyle. A common misconception is that all native people lived in teepees. However only the nations of the plains who traveled often following the migration of the buffalo lived in teepees. Haudenosaunee, known as the people of the long house lived in long bark covered houses.
A long held misconception is that the history of North America started with the arrival of the Europeans but long before Europeans settled on the shores the Haudenosaunee people were thriving on the land. Called Ongwehonweh (160kb/1sec) or “original people” it was the Haudenosaunee who helped the early settlers to overcome the hardships of the land.
TOBACCO

As an essential plant for the Haudenosaunee people tobacco, or Nicotiana tabacum by its latin name, has been used in ceremonies, prayer and thanksgiving for thousands of years. Often cultivated in small gardens within the village it was the only crop for which men were primarily responsible including planting, plowing and harvesting.
It is said that rising smoke from a fire into which tobacco is thrown or from a sacred pipe burning tobacco will carry the messages and prayers of the people to the Creator (165kb/1sec) . It could be mixed with other herbs and smoked in men’s pipes as it was believed to provide the smoker with good thoughts. For this reason no man was without his pipe when important matters were at hand. Tobacco is often smoked using a white clay pipe following the installation of a new Chief (153kb/1sec) as it seals the event and provides time to relax. Many nations also used tobacco combined with other plants and herbs to treat some illnesses or burned the tobacco to pray for the effectiveness of other herbs.
The tobacco used for such spiritual purposes is pure and free from the additives and chemicals of commercial tobacco. It was traditionally intended only to be used in small amounts for prayers and ceremonies.

STORY TELLING

Story telling is an essential part of Haudenosaunee (179kb/2sec) culture. It isn’t just about telling stories, it’s a positive way to teach the beliefs and values the Haudenosaunee hold. Through each story the listener can learn the values, laws and acceptable behaviours of a community without having them simply listed off as rules.
Today story telling is a thriving art form whereby the Haudenosaunee people express legends to future generations. Some make their livelihood as story tellers who continue to share the culture of the Haudenosaunee.

VALUES

Among the nations of the Haudenosaunee is a core value called the Seventh Generation. While the Haudenosaunee encompass traditional values like sharing labour and maintaining a duty to their family, clan and nation and being thankful to nature and the Creator (165kb/1sec) for their sustenance, the Seventh Generation value takes into consideration those who are not yet born but who will inherit the world.
In their decision making Chiefs (153kb/1sec) consider how present day decisions will impact their descendants. Nations are taught to respect the world in which they live as they are borrowing it from future generations. The Seventh Generation value is especially important in terms of culture. Keeping cultural practices, languages, and ceremonies alive is essential if those to come are to continue to practice Haudenosaunee culure.

WAMPUM

Bound on strings, wampum (139kb/1sec) beads were used to create intricate patterns on belts. These belts are used as a guide to narrate Haudenosaunee history, traditions and laws, The origins of wampum beads can be traced to Aiionwatha, commonly known as Hiawatha at the founding of the League of Five Nations. Archeological study however, has found it to have been used long before the union of the nations.
Most commonly made from the Quahog, a round clam shell, the word wampum comes from the Algonquin term for the shells. While it is called Ote-ko-a in the Seneca (198kb/2sec) language, wampum is the most widely recognized term.
The process of making the wampum beads is arduous. Once acquired, the shell was broken into white or purple cubes. White wampum signifying peace while purple relates messages of more serious or political matters. The cubes were clamped and a stone or reed drill was used to bore into the cube. Later, as technology advanced, iron drills were used. Droplets of water prevented the drill’s friction from heating up and breaking the cube. A hole was drilled halfway through and then reversed and drilled from the opposite side. In order to shape and smooth the beads they were strung on lengths of thread and ground against a grooved stone. Through this process wampum beads, long cylindrical beads about ¼” long and 1/8” in diameter, were created.
The use of wampum beads has been much debated throughout the years with many claiming that Aboriginal people used the beads as currency. Historians however have proved that it was first used as currency by the American colonists. For the Haudenosaunee, wampum held a more sacred use. Wampum served as a person’s credentials or a certificate of authority. It was used for official purposes and religious ceremonies and in the case of the joining of the League of Nations was used as a way to bind peace. Every Chief of the Confederacy and every Clan Mother has a certain string or strings of Wampum that serves as their certificate of office. When they pass on or are removed from their station the string will then pass on to the new leader. Runners carrying messages would not be taken seriously without first presenting the wampum showing that they had the authority to carry the message.
As a method of recording and an aid in narrating, Haudenosaunee warriors with exceptional skills were provided training in interpreting the wampum belts. As the Keepers of the Central Fire the Onondaga Nation was also trusted with the task of keeping all wampum records. To this day wampum is still used in the ceremony of raising up a new chief and in the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving ceremonies. True wampum is scarce today and only wampum strings are used. Many belts have been lost or are in museums to this day.
Most Recognizeable Wampum Belts
Hiawatha Belt
A broad dark belt with 38 rows. It has the symbol of the great tree in the centre with two white squares on either side. All are connected by rows of white wampum. This wampum belt conveys the unity of the five nations.
Wing or Dust Fan of the Confederate Nations
This belt symbolizing an everlasting tree is the widest wampum belt known.
Wampum Strings
These strings can have a variety of meanings. Some strings are invitational, some call for mourning or condolence and some are used to call a council.
LANGUAGES

The Haudenosaunee languages belong to a family of 16 North American languages spoken around Canada and the United States. Most of the languages have been lost after falling out of use over time however those of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy including: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, have survived as well as the Tuscarora and some Wyandot. Those that are dwindling in use are being rekindled with the help of community Elders and the younger generation. Because the Haudenosaunee believe in preserving the traditions for those that will follow, great efforts are being taken to carry on the culture and language so it will be enjoyed for generations to come.

For most languages the number of fluent speakers has gone down but individual nations are working to restore their languages and keep them alive. The Mohawk language is the healthiest with 3000 fluent speakers spread out in Canada and the United States.

Cayuga (235kb/2sec) and Oneida (229kb/2sec) is in decline but elders and the younger generation are working together to revive the languages. Onondaga is spoken mostly in Canada while Seneca is spoken mostly in the United States. Those that do speak the languages are creating programs to protect their language and at the same time preserve the traditional knowlege. The Tuscarora language is all but lost but young Tuscaroras are working to learn their ancestral language again.