What Was the Main Purpose of the Iroquois Constitution?

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The Iroquois Confederacy, a group of five (later six) related Indian tribes, created the Iroquois constitution, properly termed the “Constitution of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy,” to establish a common form of governance across a huge geographic area, bringing peace and prosperity to formerly warring tribes. Each tribe had a set of wampum belts recording their common constitution for reference in legal disputes.

The Iroquois constitution was based on the principles of peace, power and righteousness. It laid out a system of government and a method of electing representatives to its Long House Council surprisingly similar to the United States governmental system today. For instance, the Council is divided into Younger Brother and Elder Brother meetings, an instance of a bicameral legislature. Because trade and treaties with the Native Americans were critical to the success of the American colonies, the Iroquois constitution and related documents were translated into English and distributed throughout the colonies and European traders.

For this reason, the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution were familiar with the Iroquois constitution and were impressed with its ability to keep a common peace while also allowing flexibility for different geographical regions. During the Constitutional Convention, South Carolina’s delegate John Rutledge quoted one section of a 1520 treaty based on Iroquois constitutional law, “We, the people, to form a union, to establish peace, equity, and order. . . ” This and other documents written by freedom-loving Native American nations helped shape the U.S. Constitution, explains Constitution.org.