What are the Underlying
Values of Haudenosaunee Culture?
Our culture is a way of thinking, a way of
feeling, but also an intuitive way of problem solving and a unique way
to express ourself in the world. The Haudenosaunee call all of this
"Ongwehonweka" meaning all the things that pertain to the way of life of
the Original People. Ongwehonweka includes all of the values, mores,
ethics, philosophy and beliefs that we have inherited from our
There are shared values held by each generation that contribute to the
concept of the self. Values are shared principles that are considered
important in life, that include:
Thinking collectively, considering the future generations.
Consensus in decision making, considering all points of view.
Sharing of the labor and benefits of that labor.
Duty to family, clan, nation, Confederacy and Creation.
Strong sense of self-worth without being egotistic.
People must learn to be very observant of the surroundings.
Everyone is equal and is a full partner in the society, no matter what
The ability to listen is as important as the ability to speak.
Everyone has a special gift or talent that can be used to benefit the
There are mores that are the customs that are considered essential to
maintaining the characteristics of the community:
Clanship relations and names are important. Clan identity impacts on
nearly all aspects of the social, political and spiritual organization
of the community.
Council Chiefs protect the welfare of the people.
Clan Mothers maintain social harmony.
Faithkeepers keep the ritual order moving.
Annual cycles of thanksgiving help establish order and rhythm.
The arts connect the generations in spirit.
The native languages are the keys to the expression of the soul.
There are ethics that are the moral philosophy and principles that
determine what is right and what is wrong in the mind of the traditional
To be generous
To show respect
To honor others
To love your family
To live in peace
To be honest
To feed others
To be thankful
To be hospitable
To be kind
To be cooperative
To live in harmony with nature
To ignore evil or idle talk
The philosophy of the Haudenosaunee is the search for understanding of
the basic truths of the native universe. It is how the Haudenosaunee
have come to understand their role in the world and the important
lessons that understanding teach:
There is a Creator who produced the things that give bounty to this
The universe is full of living beings - sun, moon, stars, earth, winds,
There is a living spirit in all things - animals, plants, minerals,
water, and winds.
People have power, called orenda, that accumulates through life
People should live in peace with each other.
People should live in harmony with nature.
People should be thankful everyday.
People should be kind, sharing what they have.
Life is a journey, as people are born from the earth, exist on the earth
and are returned to the earth to continue that journey after death.
Belief is simply the feeling that something is real and true. The
Haudenosaunee trust and have confidence in their beliefs about the
universe, about the spiritual powers of that universe and about how
humans are to conduct themselves on their journey through life. To
believe is a conscious act that effect the way we see the world. Art, in
broad terms of language, music, dance, and making things, is the act by
which we manifest belief, express the unseen parts of the world, and
express our own personalities of people living in the world. The
Haudenosaunee beliefs include the following:
I) The Universe is large a large sphere that is divided in the Skyworld
above and the Underwater World below. In the middle plane of that sphere
rests the earth, which is like an island floating on the back of a giant
II) The celestial bodies and forces of that universe are living entities
with a inner spirit that can be beneficial to humans if proper respect
is paid to them. All people have a spiritual obligation to perform the
rituals of thanksgiving in order to assure the harmony of the universe
can be maintained.
III) The Great Creator has sent three main spiritual messages to the
Haudenosaunee after the Creation. These were the Four Sacred Dances, the
Great Law of Peace and the Gaiwiio, or Code of Handsome Lake.
IV) The children of the Haudenosaunee are born within a Circle of
Tradition, but that birthright also requires duty to maintain that
circle. Those that join another religion, become citizens of foreign
countries or work against the general welfare of the people are
considered to have removed themselves from within this circle. Those
that do, leave all of the rights of the Haudenosaunee behind.
V) Talent is a gift from the Creator that is meant to be used for the
sake of the entire community and not self-engrandizment.
from the Six Nations Web site
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