The Great Law story of condolence as told by Seth Newhouse

HDIs land claim challenge includes an affidavit by historian Rick Hill that says the Seth Newhouse version of the Great Law is rejected.

Early documents from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, obtained by TRT, show that the gospelization of the Great Law was an early strategy put in place just after HDI was formally brought together.

The first order of business, according to the HCCC, was to ensure that there was only one version of the Great Law being used and that copies of that version were to be made available to everyone.

This was in 2008.

Today, a little basic googling will tell you that there are around 24 different versions out there of the Great Law — which makes sense given that the story transitioned from oral tradition to written word.

Even Wikipedia has its own version.

So why all the stress over this one specific Seth Newhouse version?

You can read all about the HDIs problems with it in the land claims documents that are posted on line. They have had their say. We want to focus on is what it does say.

What does Seth Newhouse say?

Why is it banned?

By nature – banned things draw interest. So we grabbed a copy of Seth Newhouse’s original manuscript and read it.

It moved us to tears. Almost instantly. It is inspiring to see the handwritten notes of this old, greyed out document from almost 150 years ago before your own eyes and to see the painstaking work that went into the research that Newhouse conducted, over decades, bringing together the oral traditions into a collective gathering of the Great Law.

One of the most lovely things Newhouse captured, was the essence of how our Great Law is a reflection of the Haudenosaunee family. Under the Great Law, he says the Chiefs are Brothers, the Warriors are the Nephews, the Women are the Nieces, and everyone has a voice.

Everyone is related.

The other touching aspect is the condolence ceremony. The Chiefs are brought together in this incredible narrative of travelling across the territory, singing a hymn, gathering together the leaders of warring nations. The condolence, wipes away tears from their eyes, clears their throats of blockages and settles their insides from grief. It is a story filled with song, and touching outreach, brother to brother — developing something that is rarely seen inside our community today.


Recognizing one another in your grief. Acknowledging our shared grief, our humanity, our common need for peace of mind and to bring one another together in safety.

Dekanawida walks through the forests, bringing together the Warriors in a song that reaches through time and space — speaking to the people by crying out, “My offspring…”. It is as if our grandfathers are speaking directly to us.

The words of Seth Newhouse are everything this community needs right now. So we will share a bit here today. The full document will be available to the community on our website.

“Now today I have been greatly surprised by your voice coming over this forest, having come through a dangerous path

over many obstacles you kept seeing in the way.

Traces of counsel fires on which we defended,

My offspring,

How then can your mind be on troubled

you kept seeing the foot marks of our forefathers

entirely perceptible but the smoke where they used to smoke their pipes

how then can you remind me,

troubled weeping on your way,

but now being greatly comforted and peaceful.


You having now arrived,

and we are now smoking together

because on every hand are dangers

with intentions of becoming the means of destroying it

Points are near at hand

And blows are ready to fall

and incantations that might have prostrated you

my offspring,

and there are waters by which you might have fallen

my offspring,

and also the appearing of the hatchet


Shadows surrounding the house every day,

damaging our people

Great Faceless Witch

the great means of death by which you might have fallen.


My offspring

great thanks now you have peacefully crossed the forests

because what might have happened had your path been barred?


People might have been surprised with the message.

Seeing yonder are lying dead bodies with horns on

they might’ve wondered what had occurred

my offspring

decreed by them.


Our forefathers have said

here shall be the fire kindled for others,

here at the border of the bush

here do condole one another with your words…

Related Posts