The name usually given to the Book of Rites, or rather to its contents, is, in the Canienga dialect, Okayondónghsera Yondénnase (or in the French missionary orthography, Okaiontonhsera Iontennase), which maybe rendered "Ancient Rites of the Condoling Council." 1 Among the many councils, civil and religious, tribal and federal, in which the public spirit and social temper of the Iroquois found their most congenial and most popular mode of display, the Yondennase, the Condoling (or Mourning) Council, held the highest rank. It was, in a certain way, typical of the whole, and comprised the elements of all the other councils. In its earlier form this council was not peculiar to the Iroquois. We know, from the Jesuit reports, that it was the custom of the Hurons to hold a public lamentation for the death of a chief, and at the same time to appoint another who should take his place and assume his name. But that which among the Hurons was merely a tribal custom became, in the Iroquois, form of government, an important institution, essential to the maintenance of their state. By the ordinances of their League, it was required that the number of their federal senate should be maintained undiminished. On the death of one of its members, it was the duty of the nation to which he belonged to notify the other nations of the event, and of the time and
place at which he would be lamented and his successor installed. The notice was given in the usual manner, by official messengers, who bore for credentials certain strings of wampum, appropriate to the occasion. The place of meeting was commonly the chief town of the nation which had suffered the loss. In this nation a family council, under the presidency, and subject, indeed (as has been shown), to the controlling decision, of the chief matron of the deceased senator's kindred--usually his mother, if she survived him--was in the meantime convened to select his successor. The selection must be approved both by his clan and by his nation; but as their sentiments were generally known beforehand, this approval was rarely withheld. Indeed, the mischief resulting from an unsuitable choice was always likely to be slight; for both the national council and the federal senate had the right of deposing any member who was found unqualified for the office.
At the appointed day the chiefs of the other nations approached the place of meeting. A multitude of their people, men and women, usually accompanied them, prepared to take part both in the exhibitions of grief and in the festivities which always followed the installation of the new councillor. The approaching chiefs halted when they reached the border of the "opening," or cleared space surrounding the town. Here took place the "preliminary ceremony," styled in the Book of Rites, "Deyughnyonkwarakda," a word which means simply "at the edge of the woods." At this point a fire was kindled, a pipe was lighted and passed around with much formality, and an address of welcome was made by the principal chief of the inviting nation. The topics of this address comprised a singular mixture of congratulation and condolence, and seem to have been prescribed forms, which had come down from immemorial antiquity, as appropriate to the occasion.
The guests were then formally conducted--"led by the
hand," as the Book recites--to the Council House of the town. They seem, anciently at least, to have advanced in the order of their clans. The towns belonging to the Wolf clan were first enumerated--probably as the chiefs belonging to them took their plates--then the towns of the Tortoise clan (or double clan, as it is styled), and finally those of the Bear clan. In all, twenty-three towns are named. Five of them are expressly stated to have been "added lately." The residue are supposed to be the names of the towns in which the people of the Five Nations resided at the time when the confederacy was formed, though this point is uncertain. That few of these can now be identified, is what would naturally be expected. It is well known that the Indians had the custom of removing their towns from time to time, at intervals varying from ten to twenty years, as the fuel in their neighborhood became exhausted, and as the diminished crops under their primitive mode of agriculture showed the need of fresher soil. Only those villages would be permanent whose localities offered some special advantages, as fortresses, fishing places, or harbors. 1
This list of towns has another peculiarity which arrests the attention. It apparently comprises all the towns of the League, but these are divided among only three clans, those of the Wolf, the Tortoise and the Bear. The other clans of the confederacy are not once named in the book. Yet there are indications which show that when the list of chiefs which concludes the book was written, at a date long after this list of towns was first recited, other clans existed in three of the nations. This is an important point, which merits further consideration. Those who have read the admirable account of the "League of the Iroquois," by Morgan, and his philosophic work on "Ancient Society," are aware that he has brought out and elucidated with much clearness and force the nature and results of the remarkable clan system which
prevails among the North American Indians. It is not universal, as it does not seem to be known among the widely scattered bands of the Crees and the Athapascans, or among the Indians of Oregon. 1 It was found, however, among the great majority of tribes in the region north of Mexico and east of the Rocky Mountains, and was sufficiently alike in all to indicate a common origin. Mr. Morgan finds this origin in a kinship, real or supposed, among the members of each clan. He considers the clan, or gens, and not the single family, to be the natural unit of primitive society. It is, in his view, a stage through which the human race passes in its progress from the savage state to civilization. It is difficult, however, to reconcile this theory with the fact that among some races, as for example, the Polynesian and Feejeean, which are in precisely the same stage of social advancement as the North American Indians, this institution is unknown; and even among the Indians, as has been said, it is not everywhere found. There are many indications which seem to show that the system is merely an artificial arrangement, instituted for social convenience. It is natural, in the sense that the desire for association is natural to man, The sentiment is one which manifests itself alike in all stages of society. The guilds of the middle ages, the masonic and other secret brotherhoods, religious organizations, trade unions, clubs, and even political parties, are all manifestations of this associative instinct. The Indian clan was simply a brotherhood, an aggregate of persons united by a common tie, sometimes of origin, sometimes merely of locality. These brotherhoods were not permanent, but were constantly undergoing changes, forming, dividing, coalescing, vanishing. The names of many of them show their recent origin. The Chicasas have a "Spanish clan." 2 The Shawnees had a "Horse clan." 3 The Iroquois, of Eastern Canada, made up of fragments of all the Five Nations, had
an "Onondaga clan," and an "Oneida clan." 1 It is a curious fact that, as Mr. Morgan states, "the Iroquois claim to have originated a division of the people into tribes [clans or gentes] as a means of creating new relationships, to bind the people more firmly together. It is further asserted by them that they forced or introduced this social organization among the Cherokees, the Chippeways (Massasaugas) and several other Indian nations, with whom, in ancient times, they were in constant intercourse." "The fact," he adds, "that this division of the people of the same nation into tribes does not prevail generally among our Indian races, favors the assertions of the Iroquois." 2 Further inquiry and reflection led this distinguished investigator to take a totally different view, and to go to what may be deemed the opposite extreme of regarding this clan system as an essential stage in the growth of human society.
There can be no question that an idea of kinship pervaded the clan system, and was its ruling element. It may, in many instances, have been purely imaginary and, so to speak, figurative, like the "brotherhood" of our secret associations; but it was none the less efficacious and binding. As the members of a clan regarded themselves as brothers and sisters, marriages among them were not allowed. This led, of course, to constant intermarriages between members of the different clans of which a nation was composed, thus binding the whole nation together. What the founders of the Iroquois League did was to extend this system of social alliances through the entire confederacy. The Wolf clansman of the Caniengas was deemed a brother of the Wolf clansman of the Senecas, though originally there may have been no special connection between them. It was a tie apparently artificial
in its origin, as much so as the tie which binds a freemason of Berlin to a freemason of New Orleans. But it came to have all the strength of a tie of kindred. Mr. Morgan has well pointed out the wisdom shown by the Iroquois founders, in availing themselves of this powerful element of strength in the formation of their federal constitution. 1 Their government, though politically a league of nations, was socially a combination of clans. In this way Hiawatha and Dekanawidah may be deemed to have given to the system of clanship an extension and a force which it had not previously possessed; and it is by no means unlikely that this example may, as the Iroquois assert, have acted upon neighboring nations, and led to a gradual increase in the number and influence of these brotherhoods.
But here a discrepancy presents itself in the Iroquois system, which has perplexed all who have written on the subject. Two of the Six Nations, the Caniengas and Oneidas, had only three clans, the Wolf, the Tortoise and the Bear; while the others had, or at least have, each eight or nine, and these variously styled in the different nations. The three which have been named are, indeed, found in all; but besides these three, the Onondagas have five, Deer, Eel, Beaver, Ball and Snipe. The Cayugas and Senecas have also eight clans, which are similar to those of the Onondagas, except that among the Cayugas the Ball clan is replaced by the Hawk, and among the Senecas both Ball and Eel disappear, and are replaced by Hawk and Heron. The Tuscaroras have likewise eight clans, but among these are neither the Hawk, the Heron or the Ball. In lieu of them the Wolf clan is divided into two, the Gray Wolf and the Yellow Wolf, and the Tortoise furnishes two, the Great Tortoise and the Little Tortoise; 2 the Bear, the Beaver, the Eel and the Snipe remain, as among the Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas.
We are naturally led to ask how it happens that only three clans are found among the Caniengas and Oneidas, while the other nations have eight. Mr. Morgan was inclined to think that the other five once existed among the two former nations, and had become extinct. 1 The native annalists of those nations, however, affirm that no more than three clans ever existed among them. This assertion is now confirmed, indirectly but strongly, by the testimony of the Book of Rites, which seems to show that only three clans were recognized in the whole confederacy when the League was formed. All the towns of the united nations were distributed among the three primary clans of the Wolf, the Tortoise and the Bear. If the other clans existed, it was probably merely as septs or divisions of these three. 2 It is more likely, however, that these additional clans were of later creation or introduction. Their origin, as well as their restriction to the three western nations, may be easily explained. The successive conquests achieved
by the Iroquois in the early part of the seventeenth century had the result of incorporating with their people great numbers of Hurons, Eries, Attiwandaronks, Andastes, and other captives belonging to tribes of the same stock, speaking similar dialects, and having usages closely resembling those of their captors. Of these captives, some were directly adopted into the Iroquois families and clans; but a larger number remained for a time in separate towns, retaining their own usages. They were regarded, however, and they regarded themselves, as Iroquois. Constant intercourse and frequent intermarriages soon abolished all distinctions of national origin. But the distinction of clanship would remain. The Hurons (or, at least, the Tionontates, or Tobacco Nation) had clans of the Deer and the Hawk, and they had a Snake clan bearing a name (yagontrunon) not unlike the name of the Onondaga Eel clan (ogontena), and evidently derived from the same root. The other conquered nations had doubtless some peculiar clans; for these brotherhoods, as has been shown, were constantly in process of formation and change among the Indian tribes. Almost all the captives were incorporated with the three western nations of the League, to whom the conquered tribes were mostly nearer than to the Caniengas and Oneidas. The origin of the additional clans among the Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas is thus readily understood.
One fact, important in its connection with the structure of the federal council, remains to be noted, and if possible, elucidated. The councillors of each nation were divided into classes, whose part in the deliberations of the councils bore a certain resemblance to that held by the committees of our legislatures. The operation of this system cannot be better described than in the words of Morgan: "The founders of the confederacy, seeking to obviate, as far as possible, altercation in council, and to facilitate their progress to unanimity, divided the sachems of each nation into classes,
usually of two or three each, as will be seen by referring to the table of sachemships. No sachem was permitted to express an opinion in council, until he had agreed with the other sachem or sachems of his class upon the opinion to be expressed, and had received an appointment to act as speaker for the class. Thus the eight Seneca sachems, being in four classes, could have but four opinions, the ten Cayuga sachems but four. In this manner each class was brought to unanimity within itself. A cross-consultation was then held between the four sachems who represented the four classes; and when they had agreed, they appointed one of their number to express their resulting opinion, which was the answer of their nation. The several nations having, by this ingenious method, become of "one mind" separately, it only remained to compare their several opinions to arrive at the final sentiment of all the sachems of the League. This was effected by a conference between the individual representatives of the several nations; and when they had arrived at unanimity, the answer of the League was determined." 1
A careful consideration of the facts, in the light cast upon them by the evidence of the "Book of Rites" and the testimony of the Canadian Iroquois, leaves no doubt that these classes were originally identical with the clans. Among the Caniengas and Oneidas this identity still exists. Each of these nations received nine representatives in the federal council. These were--and still are--divided into three classes, each composed of three members, and each class representing a clan. In the Canienga tribe the members of the first class are all of the Tortoise clan, those of the second class are of the Wolf clan, and those of the third class of the Bear clan. Among the Oneidas, the councillors of the first class belong to the Wolf clan, those of the second class to the Tortoise clan, and those of the third class to the Bear clan. Such was the information which Mr. Morgan received from his Seneca
friends and such I found to be the fact among the Iroquois now in Canada. When we come to the other nations we find a wholly different state of things. No correspondence now exists between the classes and the clans. The Cayugas have now, as has been shown, eight clans; but of these only six, according to the list given by Morgan, and only five in that furnished to me by the Canadian chiefs, are represented in the council. These are distributed in three classes, which do not correspond to the clans. In Morgan's list the first class has five members, the first of whom belongs to the Deer clan, the second to that of the Heron, the third and fourth to that of the Bear, and the fifth to that of the Tortoise. In my list this class also comprises five chiefs, of whom the first two (identical in name with the first two of Morgan) belong to the Deer clan, while the third (who bears the same name as Mr. Morgan's third) is of the Bear clan. In the "Book of Rites" the first Cayuga class comprises only two chiefs, but their clans (which were supposed to be known to the hearers) are not indicated. The fourteen Onondaga councillors are divided into five classes, according to Morgan, and also in the modern Canadian list. The "Book of Rites" seems to give only four, but none of these--according to the evidence of the Canadian chiefs--correspond with the modern clans; and the same councillor, in lists received from different sources, is found to belong to different classes and different clans. Thus the distinguished title of Skanawati is borne, in Mr. Morgan's list, by a chief of the fifth class and of the third clan. In the list obtained by me at Onondaga Castle this chief is of the fourth class and of the Ball clan. The great Seneca chief Kanyadariyo is, in Mr. Morgan's list, a member of the Tortoise clan, while among the Canadian Senecas he belongs to the Wolf clan. In short, it is evident that the introduction of the new clans among the western nations has thrown this part of their constitutional system into confusion. The probability is that when the confederacy was established
only three clans, Bear, Wolf and Tortoise, existed among the Iroquois, as only three clans, Bear, Wolf and Turkey, existed in recent times among their Algonkin neighbors, the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares. Thus the classes of their Council grew spontaneously out of their clan system, as the senators of each clan would naturally consult together. Afterwards new clans arose; but it seems probable that when the list of councillors comprised in the "Book of Rites" was written--that is, about the middle of the last century--the correspondence of classes and clans was still maintained. The number of both was increased in the western tribes, but each class was still composed of chiefs of the same clan. The written book fixed the classes to a certain extent, but the clans to which their members belonged continued to vary, under the influence of political and social changes. If, at the death of a councillor, no member of his clan was found qualified to succeed him, a successor would be elected from another clan which was deemed to be in some way connected with him. I was assured by the Onondaga chiefs of the New York Reservation that this was their rule at present; and it is quite sufficient to account for the departure, in the western nations, from the ancient system. It is evident that after the nations and clans were rent to fragments by the dissensions and emigration caused by the American Revolution, these changes would, for a time, be necessarily frequent. And thus it happens that chiefs are found in the duplicate confederacies which after this disruption were established in Canada and New York, who bear the same titular designation, but differ both in the clans and in the classes to which they belong.
48:1 Okaiontonhsera is a substantive derived from ahaion, old, or ancient. The termination sera gives it an abstract sense. "The antiquities," or rather "the ancientnesses," is the nearest literal rendering which our language allows. Iontennase is a verbal form, derived from kitenre (in Bruyas, gentenron) to pity, or sympathize with. It may be rendered "they who sympathize," or "the condolers." Both words, however, have acquired a special meaning in their application to these ceremonies.
50:1 See Appendix, note E.
51:1 See Ancient Society, pp. 167, 175, 177.
51:2 Ancient Society, p. 163.
51:3 Ibid, p. 168.
52:1 Rotisennakete, and Rotinenhiotronon. See J. A. Cuoq, Lexique de la Langue Iroquoise, p. 154. The proper meaning of these names will be hereafter shown.
52:2 League of the Iroquois, p. 91.
53:1 League of the Iroquois, p. 82, et seq.
53:2 It is deserving of notice that this division of the Tortoise clan seems to p. 54 exist in a nascent form among the Onondagas. The name of this clan is Hahnowa, which is the general word for tortoise; but the clan is divided into two septs or subdivisions, the Hanyatengona, or Great Tortoise, and the Nikahnowaksa, or Little Tortoise, which together are held to constitute but one clan. How or why the distinction is kept up I did not learn. In the Book of Rites the Tortoise clan is also spoken of in the dual number--"the two clans of the Tortoise." it is probable, therefore, that this partial subdivision extended throughout the original Five Nations, and became complete among the Tuscaroras.
54:1 League of the Iroquois, p. 81. Ancient Society, p. 92.
54:2 "The Turtle family, or the Anowara, was the most noble of the whole League; next came the Ochquari, or clan of the Bear, and the Oquacho, or that of the Wolf. These three were so prominent that Zeisberger hardly recognizes the others."--De Sehweinitz's Life of Zeisberger, p. 79. Zeisberger had been adopted into the nation of the Onondagas and the clan of the Tortoise. His knowledge of the laws and usages of the Kanonsionni was acquired chiefly in that nation. Charlevoix makes the Bear the leading clan of the Iroquois. It would seem that the relative rank of the clans varied in the different nations. The chiefs of the Wolf clan come first in the list of Oneida councillors.
56:1 League of the Iroquois, p, 112.