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THE GREAT LAW (ENGLISH)

The Great Law of Peace

THE GREAT LAW
OF THE
IROQUOIS CONFEDERACY

WAMPUM 59: IN CASE ANY OR ALL CHIEFS GO AGAINST THE GREAT LAW, THEY MAY EITHER BE DEPOSED OR EXECUTED BY THE WAR CHIEF AND HIS MEN

A bunch of wampum strings, three spans of the hand in length, the upper half of the bunch being white and the lower half black, and formed from equal contributions of the men of the Five Nations, shall be the token that the men have combined themselves into one head, one body and one thought, and it shall symbolize their ratification of the peace pact of the League, whereby the Chiefs of the Five Nations have established the Great Peace. The white portion of the shell strings represent the women and the black portion of men. The black portion, furthermore, is a token of power and authority vested in the men of the Five Nations.

This string of wampum vests the people with the right to correct their erring chiefs. In case a part of the chiefs or all of them pursue a course not vouched for by the people and heed not the third warning of their women relatives (Wasenensawenrate). Then the matter shall be taken to the general council of the Women of the Five Nations. If the chiefs notified and warned three times fail to heed, then the case falls into the hands of the men of the Five Nations. The War Chiefs shall then by right of such power and authority, enter the open Council to warn the chief or chiefs to return from their wrong course. If the chiefs heed the warning, they shall say: "We shall reply tomorrow." If then an answer is returned in favor of justice and in accord with the Great Law, then the Chiefs shall individually pledge themselves again, by again furnishing the necessary shells for the pledge. Then shall the War Chief or Chiefs exhort the chiefs, urging them to be just and true.

Should it happen that the chiefs refuse to heed the third warning, then two courses are open: either the men may decide in their council to depose the chief or chiefs, or to club them to death with war clubs. Should they in their council decide to take the first course, the War Chief shall address the chief or chiefs saying:

"Since you, the chiefs of the Five Nations, have refused to return to the procedure of the Constitution, we now declare your seats vacant and we take off your horns, the token of your chieftainship, and others shall be chosen and installed in your seats. Therefore, vacate your seats."

Should the men in their council adopt the second course, the War Chief shall order his men to enter the Council, to take positions beside the errant chiefs sitting between them wherever possible. When this is accomplished, the War Chief holding in his outstretched hand a bunch of black wampum strings shall say to the erring chiefs:

"So now, Chiefs of the Five Nations, harken to these last words from your men. You have not heeded the warnings of the General Council of Women and you have not heeded the warnings of the Men of the Nations, all during you to the right course of action. Since you are determined to resist and to withhold justice from you people, there is only one course for us to adopt."

At this point, the War Chiefs shall drop the bunch of black wampum and the men shall spring to their feet and club the erring chiefs to death. Any erring chief may become submissive before the War Chief lets fall the Black Wampum.

The Black Wampum here used symbolizes that the power to execute is buried, but it may be raised up again by the men. It is buried, but when the occasion arises, they may pull it up and derive their power and authority to act as here described.

Note: The right to decide on execution is held by both the General Council of the Men of the Five Nations and the General Council of the Women of the Five Nations. So is the right to decide on war. The "War Chief shall order his men." In the present century a new title has been given to the War Chief and his men: "The Warrior Society."