CLAN MOTHERS


Replacing the Chief, 1978The Iakoiane or Clan Mother, a title which is passed down hereditarily through a clan. Among the five nations of the confederacy there are nine Mohawk Clan Mothers, nine Oneida, thirteen Onondaga, ten Cayuga and eight Seneca for a total of forty-nine Clan Mothers. It is her responsibility to look out for the welfare of the clan by overseeing the actions of the Chief and ensuring that he is performing his duties in accordance with the Great Law. As Clan Mother she will have her own wampum of two strings, one white and one purple, signifying her title within the Haudenosaunee. Should she pass on, the string will then be passed on to the next hereditary Clan Mother.

If a Chief acts improperly or is not living up to his responsibilities his Clan Mother and Faith Keepers will warn him about his actions. If he continues to act selfishly the Clan Mother may symbolically remove his antlers, thus removing his authority as Chief.

When a Chief passes away a Clan Mother selects a candidate to replace him hopefully within three days of the funeral though this process can take much longer. She will choose the candidate and present him to her nation. This candidate is then presented to their brother nation for approval. If approved the candidate is presented to all other members of Grand Council for approval before a Condolence ceremony may begin to raise up the new Chief. The Chief Todaharo does not have a Clan Mother which is why there are only 49 Clan Mothers yet 50 Chiefs. In the case of replacing him the Onondaga Chiefs will all decide on a candidate while taking into consideration the advice of all the Clan Mothers.

The Clan Mothers title is usually passed on to her female relatives, first to her eldest sister or other sisters and if an appropriate person isn’t found she will then look to her eldest daughter and other daughters. If an appropriate person is still not found a candidate will be sought out in the rest of the clan.

Like the Chiefs they choose, Clan Mothers must also live up to their duties and be good mothers to their children, knowledgeable of the Great Law and political structure of the Grand Council, honest and truthful and be a role model to the members of her clan.

As well as selecting and deposing Chiefs, Clan Mothers are also responsible for naming children from their own list of clan names and approving marriages to ensure that a bride and groom do not belong to the same clan and thus to the same family.