Let each nation be responsible for its own members

At the beginning of the Revolutionary War the Iroquois tried to remain neutral but it did not take them long to realize that neither the English or the Americans intended to leave their country out of the war.

At a great council at Onondaga, the Capital of the Six Nations, they talked over their problem. Some were for helping Great Britain because of the ancient Treaty of Friendship and alliance made with her so many years before. You must remember that in order for the Iroquois to officially declare war it was necessary for each state in their union to declare war. According to the Iroquois Constitution it had to be unanimous. Council after council was held but all could not agree as to what policy to follow.

The Mohawks were for war. The Onondagas were neutral. The Senecas and Cayugas were lukewarm to either side. The Oneidas and Tuscaroras sympathized with the struggling colonies. Even within a nation all could not agree.

Finally Theyendinagea, a Mohawk war leader, said, “Let each nation be responsible for its own members. Let each nation decide for itself what path it will take in this war.”

He held up this wampum belt which has on it the figures of two roads. They represent the road of the English and the road of the American colonies. The nations of the Iroquois could choose either road to follow. This belt, as well as the war, did harm to the Iroquois and helped to divide them. The best belt to use would be the Friendship belt with the British. It is surprising that the Haudenosaunee do not use the Friendship Belt to assert their sovereignty as frequently as they use the Two Row Wampum, considering the potential definitely exists.

The very fact the British negotiated with the Haudenosaunee, creating, presenting, and accepting wampum belts in the context of the Covenant Chain alliance, testifies to the Confederacy’s historic independence. If properly seized, the solid historical foundation of Friendship Belts — instead of the Two Row Wampum, weakened due to its perplexing origins — can be used by the Haudenosaunee as grounds for self government.

Sakoieta Wakathahionni

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