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The Circle Wampum

The Circle Wampum fashioned with fifty strings, which depicts the constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy. The fifty strings represent the fifty “Roiianer” of the Confederacy. (Roiianer  sometimes translated  into english meaning lord, or chief.)

Along the circumference of the circle are two intertwining strands symbolizing the joined arms of the chiefs and their responsibility to oversee and protect both the political and spiritual ways of the Haudenosaunee. Within the protective domain of this circle exists the national characteristics that define the Haudenosaunee as a peoples


(Encircles Everything)

The “chiefs” must work together collaborative with each other, and with the clan mothers. The clan mothers work together with the people.

In the early years of the Haudenosaunee there was a dark era, a time when our ancestors fought amongst one another. Our ancestors had forgotten all of the Creator’s instructions on how to live here on Mother Earth.

The Creator saw how the Onkwehonwe (the Original People) were treating each other and this was making him very upset. At this time the Creator sent a man being to be born with a specific set of instructions. Along with these instructions he gave him special abilities that were different from the rest of the man beings. This man is known as the Peacemaker. He was sent on a journey to help restore peace, strength and unity of purpose to the Haudenosaunee people.

The Peacemaker brought with him a democracy known as the Great Law of Peace that changed our ancestors’ life ways. The Peacemaker’s teachings are still practiced to this day. Through the Great Law a chieftainship was born and the Five Nations were brought together.

The original of this wampum record was made at the time of the Founding of the League and has been handed down through a line of Wampum Keepers until the present time. This circle of white wampum also represents the seating plan of the fifty chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederate Republic. Each strand stands for a Confederate Chief’s name. They are bound together by intertwined strands representing the Unity of the Laws of Peace, Kaianerenko:wa. The circle of white wampum is very sacred.

Circle Wampum. The significance of the circle of wampum beads with wampum strings attached signifies the Fifty Chiefs, Rotiiane:shon, of the Five Nations and also symbolizes the Union of the Five Confederate Nations:

  • The Mohawks, Kanienkeha:ka, have nine Roiianer.
  • The Oneidas, Oneniota:a:ka, have nine Roiianer.
  • The Onondagas, Onontakeha:ka, have fourteen Roiianer.
  • The Cayuga, Kaiokwenha:ka, have ten Roiianer.
  • The Seneca, Onontowa:ka, have eight Roiianer.

Under the Great Tree of Peace, Skaronheseko:wa stands the Fifty Chiefs with joined hands in a circle signifying unity.

It also provides that should anyone of the Confederate Chiefs leave the council, the Clan Mother will remove his antlers of the deer, the symbol of a ‘title holder’, together with his birthright.

Similarly, his title and the crown of deer-horns will fall from his head inside the circle and will remain within the Confederacy and it will be given back to the Clan Mother who will nominate another in her descent or lineage for the lordship in the family.

If any of the people in the confederacy wish to go out of the circle, all their rights will remain inside the circle of the Confederacy. The Fifty Chiefs of the Five Nations shall always stand firm with a tight grip of joined hands. So that if someday a tree falls upon the joined hands and arms, it will fall and would not separate or break the link of the Confederacy, not weaken the hold and that this Great Union, Teiotiokwaonhaston, will always be preserved.

Shatetionkwatte: We are all the same height. No one is above the other. This is the basis for the Iroquois vision of world peace. It is all recorded in beads, wampum as mnemonics.

The original Circle wampum belt consisted of fifty strings of wampum joined at one end of each string to the perimeter of a large circle made of two intertwined wampum strings.

Each single string represents one of the original fifty chiefs of the Haudenosaunee. The belt symbolized the invitation of the Peacemaker, the architect of the Great Law of Peace, to each of the fifty chiefs.

They were to join hands in a circle to recognize that they are all of equal rank and that they should never forget their responsibilities to the people.

The two intertwined strings represent the Great Peace that was established among the nations in the founding of the Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee.