When a message of peace was shared with them, they were convinced to join together in a confederacy. They chose as their name Haudenosaunee for the homes they lived in. Haudenosaunee is a Native American word that means “People who Made a House” or “People of the Longhouse.” It is pronounced “hoe-dee-no-show-nee.” The alliance introduced cooperation among the five nations. It allowed them to stop fighting one another and find ways to work together. It also gave them a position of strength when it came to interacting with other Native American and European groups.
Historically, the Haudenosaunee lived in the northeastern United States, primarily in New York and around the Great Lakes. As their confederacy grew strong, their influence reached south to the Carolinas, westward to present-day Illinois, and northward into New England.
The original Five Nations created a Grand Council. The council provided leadership through a bicameral system. Two nations were designated as Elder Brothers. Two nations were designated as Younger Brothers. A set number of members represented each nation on the Grand Council. The members all were men and served for life without payment. They discussed issues until they all agreed on an action or a decision.
The confederacy also gave an important role to women. Known as clan mothers, women chose and advised the men who represented their clans on the Grand Council. If the men failed to lead with the best interests of their people in mind, the clan mothers removed them.
Traditionally, Haudenosaunee men were responsible for providing protection, shelter, and food. Women were in charge of day-to-day family life and raising the children. Several generations of family members often lived together in a bark-covered longhouse.
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