League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois


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A present of white wampum, sent on the part of the murderer to the family of his victim, when accepted, forever obliterated and wiped out the memory of the transaction. Immediately on the commission of a murder, the affair was taken up by the tribes to which the parties belonged, and strenuous efforts were made to effect a reconciliation, lest private retaliation should lead to disastrous consequences. If the criminal belonged to one of the first four tribes, and the deceased to one of the second four, these tribes assembled in separate councils, to inquire into all the facts of the case. The question of the guilt or innocence of the accused was generally an easy matter to determine, when the consequences of guilt were open to condonation. The first council then ascertained whether the offender was willing to confess his crime, and to make atonement. If he was, the council immediately sent a belt of white wampum, in his name, to the other council, which contained a message to that effect. The latter then endeavored to pacify the family of the deceased, to quiet their excitement, and to induce them to accept the wampum in condonation. If this was not sent in due time, or the family resisted all persuasions to receive it, then their revenge was allowed to take its course. Had it chanced that both parties belonged to one of the four brother tribes, a council of this division alone would convene, to attempt an adjustment among themselves. If, however, the family continued implacable, the further interference of mutual friends was given over, leaving the question to be settled between the murderer and the kindred of his victim, according to the ancient usage: If the belt of wampum was received before the avenger had been appointed, and had left the lodge on his mission, it was usually accepted as a condonation, but if he had gone forth, the time for reparation had passed. The family then either took upon themselves jointly the obligation of taking what they deemed a just retribution, or appointed an avenger, who resolved never to rest until life had answered for life. In such cases, the murderer usually fled. As all quarrels were generally reconciled by the relatives of the parties, long-cherished animosities, and consequently homicides, were unfrequent in ancient times. The present of white wampum was not in the nature of a compensation for the life of the deceased, but of a regretful confession of the crime, with a petition for forgiveness. It was a peace offering, the acceptance of which was pressed by mutual friends, and under such influences that a reconciliation was usually effected, except, perhaps, in aggravated cases of premeditated murder.1

1Morgan, L.H.n/an/an/an/a, , 331–333.


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Chicago: "League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois," League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4V9D78U6TSCWZCZ.

MLA: . "League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois." League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4V9D78U6TSCWZCZ.

Harvard: , 'League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois' in League of the Hodenosaunee, or Iroquois. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4V9D78U6TSCWZCZ.