Tsikonsaseh: The Mother of Nations
Before the Great Law of Peace, which was established between the Five Nations and later Six Nations Confederacy, there was a time of war and turmoil across the territories. When the Peacemaker Deganawida set off to deliver the message of peace, he encountered two important people. The first was a warrior who lost his wife and daughters to the ongoing wars and was given a ceremony of condolence by Deganawida. His name was Hiawatha, and the wampum belt to symbolize the unity of the Five Nations Confederacy would later be named after him. A title in the Mohawk Turtle Clan would also be named after him, Ayonwatha. This was because of Jigonsaseh, the second person whose path they crossed in their journey to spread the message of peace. Jigonsaseh was said to welcome all warriors to her home to rest and eat when they were on their journey. The only rule was there were no enemies between those who ate her food at her home. Because of her influence and good standing among nations she was assigned an important role, which gave her the nickname “Mother of Nations”. She went out each day for nine days, and the first animal she saw would become one of the clans in the new Confederacy. Each person who held these clans, regardless of their nation, would be considered family. This meant that a Mohawk and Seneca Turtle clan member would be considered family. Each family is matrilineal, which means that the children carry on their clan from their mother. The women hold the titles and choose who can hold them, and if they should be taken away. The ones that held these titles would be called Royaner, or what some would call Chiefs. Not only was the clan system established for social stability, it also created a governance system which is still practiced and recognized today. There are nine clans within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as a whole, but the Mohawk Nation is divided into three different families which are Turtle, Wolf, and Bear. Each clan has three titles which are laid out in the Great Law of Peace along with their responsibility within the Confederacy: “Wampum 5: The Council of the Mohawk shall be divided into three parties as follows: Tekarihoken, Ayonwatha and Sha'tekarihwate are the first party (titles of the turtle clan); Sharenhowaneh, Deyoenhegwenh and Oghrenghrehgowah (titles of the wolf clan) are the second party, and Dehennakrineh, Aghstawenserenthah and Shoskoharowaneh (titles of the bear clan) are the third party. The third party is to listen only to the discussion of the first and second parties and if an error is made or the proceeding is irregular they are to call attention to it, and when the case is right and properly decided by the two parties they shall confirm the decision of the two parties and refer the case to the Seneca Chiefs for their decision. When the Seneca Chiefs have decided in accord with the Mohawk Chiefs, the case or question shall be referred to the Cayuga and Oneida Chiefs on the opposite side of the house.”
Written by Sha'tekayèn:ton Andrew Brant
Tyendinaga Mohawk Turtle Clan
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