Terms of Reference

Terminology has a great impact on how we perceive information, as some words have differing associations to their meaning. For our sake, we will be using the following definitions for preferred terms:
*Haudenosaunee - This is the general term to be used instead of "Iroquois". It is the traditional name that we use to define ourselves. The word Iroquois is really a derogatory term, derived from the French version of the Huron name for the Haudenosaunee, meaning "Black Snake". Haudenosaunee means "People who are building an extended house," more commonly translated as "People of the Longhouse." The longhouse was a metaphor introduced by the Peace Maker at the time of the formation of the Confederacy. Those that support the traditions, beliefs, values, and authority of the Confederacy are known as Haudenosaunee.
*Tradition - The word tradition has become confusing in that academic scholars and Indians often have different views as to what is a tradition. While most anthropologists define a native tradition as any communal activity that took place prior to contact, Indians think of traditions as having a broader base. There are many things that are done today that are considered a tradition, even though they might not have been done in the ancient days. For the purposes of us, the phrase of Konrad Lorenz rings true: "Tradition is the spiritual heritage of a culture."
*Iroquoian - This term refers to the language group of the Haudenosaunee, which includes other native nations such as the Huron, Cherokee, Neutral, Erie, and Nanticoke. While each has a common language stock, the individual national languages are not readily understood by all Iroquoian speaking people.
*Clan - The extended family related by common female ancestry. People get their personal identity (clan and nation) through their mother. Haudenosaunee clans are named after the animals: turtle, bear, wolf, beaver deer, hawk, heron, eel, snipe. The clans are divided into two groups for ritual and social purposes. These divisions are called moieties.
*Chief - The male leaders of the extended family clans that serve as representatives of the clan in council. In Tuscarora they are called Rahgawaneh, "caretakers of the peace." Each nation as a different number of Chiefs, but all Chiefs have the same power and authority. There is no "head" chief with more power than others. Some clans may have more than one Chief. They were also called "sachems" in some documents. There are other traditional leaders, appointed because of their special skills and are referred to as "Pine Tree Chief." Each chief is also to have a sub-chief to help with his duties. The Chief's title rests within the clan, and the Clan Mother can remove a delinquent Chief from his position.
*Clan Mother - The elder matron of the extended family that arranges marriages, counsels members, selects male chiefs, monitors his actions and removes him from office if necessary. The Clan Mothers title rests within the clan and it is usually passed upon her female relations, looking first at the eldest sister, the other sisters, then her eldest daughter and other daughters to find someone who can handle the duties of the position.
*Confederacy - This is the common term for the union of the Iroquois nations also called the League of Peace. It was formed by the Peace Maker when he convinced the warring nations to unite together under the Great Law. The idea was to have all the nations living as one extended family, living under one roof of a metaphorical longhouse that stretches from east to west across the traditional territory of the Five Nations.
*Grand Council - It is the assembly of the fifty chiefs of the Confederacy that represent all of the clans of all of the member nations. In the past, the Grand Council met yearly to resolve disputes between member nations and plan mutual strategy to protect the Great Law and the member nations. Today, it still meets more regularly at Onondaga, the capitol of the Confederacy. There is also another Grand Council on the Canadian side at the Grand River Reserve that have been in operation since 1784 when nearly half of the Haudenosaunee left their home communities to live in Canada at the close of the Revolutionary War.
*Great Law of Peace - The founding constitution of the Confederacy that brought the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations under one law. Together they were called the Five Nations. The Tuscarora joined the Confederacy around 1720, and collectively they are now called the Six Nations.  The Great Law establishes the duties and procedures for the Chiefs, Clan Mothers and provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between member nations. The Great Law is also called the constitution of the Confederacy and is codified in a series of sacred wampum belts, most of which are held in trust by the Onondaga Nation - the Wampum Keepers.
*Longhouse - It is both the traditional home which was a long, narrow bark covered lodge, that was extended as the families grew. It also refers to the actual building where ceremonies and council meetings are held since the 19th century. People who follow the Code of Handsome Lake are referred to as "Longhouse People", as the term also means the spiritual teaching and practices asociated with the traditional religion of the Haudenosaunee. Longhouse in Tuscarora is Goo-nea-seah-neh, meaning "the old style of house."
*Wampum - Sacred shell beads woven into special designs to record the oral traditions and laws of the Confederacy. The Great Law is documented in several large wampum belts which are still in existence. Wampum strings are also used to carry messages, serve as credentials and keep ceremonies in ritual order.
* From the "Polishing the Silver Covenant Chain: Building Relationships Between Federal Agencies and the Haudenosaunee";
September 11 & 12, 2002
Onondaga Nation