The Iroquois Indians lived in the Northeastern of the United States, in what is now New York. The Iroquois Indians

Iroquois Customs

were actually a "nation" of Indians made up of five tribes, including the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. These tribes were hostile and war-like among each other until they joined together to become the "League of the Five Nations." When they were not at war with each other, their primary occupation was clearing fields and building villages. The men carefully removed all facial hair and wore their hair in a Mohawk style. Tattoos were common for both sexes. The Iroquois often practiced torture and ritual cannibalism. There are some 80,000 people in the United States today that claim an Iroquis heritage.

False Face Society (Meditation)Edit

The False Face Society is probably the best known of the medicinal societies among the Iroquois, especially for its dramatic wooden masks. The masks are used in healing rituals which invoke the spirit of an old hunch-backed man. Those cured by the society become members. Also, echoing the significance of dreams to the Iroquois, anyone who dreams that they should be a member of the society may join. In modern times, the masks have been a contentious subject among the Iroquois. Some Iroquois who are not members of the False Face Society have produced and sold the masks to non-Native tourists and collectors. The Iroquois leadership responded to the commercialization of this tradition and released a statement against the sale of these sacred masks. They also called for the return of the masks from collectors and museums. Iroquois traditionalists object to labeling the masks as simply "artifacts" since they are not conceived as objects but the living representation of a spirit.

Iroquois relationship with US formation and Contributions to the US ConstitutionEdit

Benjamin Franklin, one of the original architects of the United States government, introduced as a model for the

Iroquois American Government Influence

country's framework document the constitution of the Iroquois Nation, according to a Smithsonian Institution specialist of American Indian history.

The Iroquois, a North American Indian confederacy of several tribes, allied with some of the first European settlers of what later became the United States.

The Iroquois' detailed constitution -- called the Great Law of Peace -- guaranteed freedom of religion and expression and other rights later embraced in the U.S. Constitution, said Jaime Hill, co-editor of "American Indian," a new Smithsonian magazine about the past, present and future of indigenous peoples from throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Hill and co-editor Millie Knapp participated in a live call-in radio broadcast from Washington September 22 during the First Americans Festival. The September 21-27 event is a major part of events in Washington surrounding the September 21 opening of the Smithsonian's newest museum and the first tribute to American Indians in Washington.

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is an important recognition of "the first citizens of the Americas," said W. Richard West, the museum's director at the NMAI opening.

On the radio program "Native America Calling" Hill said the Iroquois document also presented to framers of the U.S. Constitution the concept of a two-house legislature and a combined government structure of state jurisdictions and a national government.

According to the Iroquois constitution, states were first to solve disputes between them on their own. If resolution efforts failed then the national government would take authority, Hill said.

The Iroquois place the creation of their constitution, which was recorded on belts, at between 1000 and 1400 A.D., according to the Smithsonian magazine. The Great Law said the national government should have a commander-in-chief and that person should present a "state of the union" address to the nation, Hill said.

The Iroquois' also said that when a legislator was presenting an issue to the governing chamber, others should be quiet, a practice adopted by Congress that contrasts with protocol in the British parliament, Hill said.

Franklin, then Pennsylvania's official printer, became familiar with the Iroquois political system by printing minutes of their meetings, according to the magazine.

"He recognized that the Iroquois constitution contained many features absent in other governments at the time," including the concept that "elected officials were never masters but remained servants of their constituencies," the magazine states.

However, the Iroquois constitution differed from the later U.S. document in one important way -- it specifically mentioned women, said Knapp. Many Indian nations were matriarchal with women nominating legislators, she added.

Native America Calling is a syndicated radio program heard by more than 40 tribal communities throughout the United States and Canada, according to program organizers. The program teaches listeners about languages and cultures once considered to be dying and stresses "compassion" among all cultures for others, said Calling's co-host Patty Talehongva. The program originates from Alaska.

Iroquois ConstituionEdit

Main article: Iroquois Constitution