Sovereignty and Jurisdiction
The Haudenosaunee enjoy and maintain a sovereign status that is separate from both Canada and the United States. Likewise, the Haudenosaunee apply its own jurisdiction within its territories in order to maintain its sovereign and territorial integrity. While colonizing setter states such as Canada and the United States condemn the Haudenosaunee right to exist as a distinct sovereign people; the Haudenosaunee continue to assert and exercise its self-determination in various ways.
Historically, the Haudenosaunee have existed as sovereign people long before the colonization of North America. After colonization, the Haudenosaunee exercised its sovereign ability by entering into treaties and compacts with colonizing peoples; including the Netherlands, the Great Britain, France, and the United States.
According to contemporary international standards, the Haudenosaunee qualify and exercise its ability to exist as a sovereign state; meeting the qualifications for statehood as provided by the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which was signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on 1933.Dec.26 and entered into force on 1934.Dec.26.
Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention specifies that, The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
- a permanent population;
- a defined territory;
- capacity to enter into relations with the other states.
1. Permanent Population
The Haudenosaunee consist of a population of over 200,000 people, 100,000 of which inhabit the territory traditionally occupied by the Iroquois Confederacy.
2. Defined Territory
Kanonhsonnì:keh; the Country of the Haudenosaunee continues to occupy territory in what is often referred to as the States of New York and Vermont via the Untied States, and the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario via Canada. According to international treaties made with the Great Britain and the United States, Haudenosaunee Territory can be identified in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768), the Treaty of Fort Harmer (1789), and the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794).
The Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) states that;
“A line shall be drawn, beginning at the mouth of a creek about four miles east of Niagara, called Oyonwayea, or Johnston's Landing-Place, upon the lake named by the Indians Oswego, and by us Ontario; from thence southerly in a direction always four miles east of the carrying-path, between Lake Erie and Ontario, to the mouth of Tehoseroron or Buffaloe Creek on Lake Erie; thence south to the north boundary of the state of Pennsylvania; thence west to the end of the said north boundary; thence south along the west boundary of the said state, to the river Ohio; the said line from the mouth of the Oyonwayea to the Ohio, shall be the western boundary of the lands of the Six Nations, so that the Six Nations shall and do yield to the United States, all claims to the country west of the said boundary, and then they shall be secured in the peaceful possession of the lands they inhabit east and north of the same, reserving only six miles square round the fort of Oswego, to the United States, for the support of the same.”
The Treaty of Canandaigua states in Article 3 that;
“ The land of the Seneca nation is bounded as follows: Beginning on Lake Ontario, at the north-west corner of the land they sold to Oliver Phelps, the line run westerly along the lake, as far as O-yong-wong-yeh Creek at Johnson's Landing-place, about four miles eastward from the fort of Niagara; then southerly up that creek to its main fork, then straight to the main fork of Stedman's Creek, which empties into the river Niagara, above Fort Schlosser, and then onward, from that fork, continuing the same straight course, to that river; (this line, from the mouth of O-yong-wong-yeh Creek to the river Niagara, above Fort Schlosser, being the eastern boundary of a strip of land, extending from the same line to Niagara River, which the Seneca Nation ceded to the King of Great Britain, at a treaty held about thirty years ago, with Sir William Johnson;) then the line runs along the river Niagara to Lake Erie; then along Lake Erie to the north-east corner of a triangular piece of land which the United States conveyed to the state of Pennsylvania, as by the President's patent, dated the third day of March, 1792; then due south to the northern boundary of that state; then due east to the south-west corner of the land sold by the Seneca nation to Oliver Phelps; and then north and northerly, along Phelps' line, to the place beginning on Lake Ontario.
Now, the United States acknowledge all the land within the aforementioned boundaries, to be the property of the Seneca nation; and the United States will never claim the same, nor disturb that Seneca nation, nor any of the Six Nations, or their Indian friends residing thereon and united with them, in the free use and enjoyment thereof: but it shall remain theirs, until they choose to sell the same to the people of the United States, who have the right to purchase.”
The Haudenosaunee are still governed in accordance with its constitution, the Kaianere’kó:wa. Haudenosaunee governments operate at three different levels;
- Federal; via the Grand Council of Chiefs
- National; via each member nation’s individual National Council Fire
- Territorial; via each local Longhouse Council Fire within a particular member nation’s territory.
The Haudenosaunee system of government is a constitutional democracy founded upon a constituency organized according to clan identification. Within each clan family, an Iakoiá:ner (Clanmother) selects a Roía:ner (Chief) from within their clan family and take a proactive role in monitoring their actions; ensuring they maintain the interests of their constituency.
Representing their clan families, the Rotiià:ner (Chiefs) gather in council to deliberate and pass resolutions on behalf of the Haudenosaunee within the respective jurisdiction of their corresponding level of governance (i.e. National Council or Grand Council).The Haudenosaunee enjoy a participatory government that offers a unique form of direct democracy.
4. The Capacity to Enter into Relations with Other States
Historically, the Haudenosaunee have exercised its sovereign jurisdiction by entering into international treaties and agreements with other peoples such as the Netherlands, Britain, France, and the United States.Tékeni Teiohá:ke, the Two Row Wampum, establishes the criteria for international relations with the Haudenosaunee. The Two Row Wampum treaty is the first international covenant between the Haudenosaunee and the first European colonists of North America. It is a treaty that establishes a code of non-interference and a policy of mutual respect for the independence and sovereignty of both parties, which includes among others, all social, political, and economic activities of that party and its constituents.
As it is portrayed in the Kahswéntha, each nation will travel side by side, the river of life in their own vessels. Never shall one cross into the path of the other; thus establishing a code of non-interference. Furthermore, each vessel shall contain within it, their various institutions, customs, and beliefs etc. Never shall one vessel impose such items upon the other; thus establishing a policy of mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and independence.
The Two Row Wampum is a treaty of respect for the dignity and integrity of the other nation, and stresses the importance of non-interference of one nation in the business of the other. The early principles established in the Two Row formed the basis of all Haudenosaunee treaties with other nations including the Dutch, the French, the British and the United States.
Today, the Haudenosaunee still maintain international relations by participating within the United Nations. Since 1977, the Haudenosaunee exercised its sovereignty by issuing passports to its citizens traveling abroad.
Pursuant to this sovereign status, the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake sits beneath its protective umbrella and enjoys the freedoms and liberties afforded to it under the Haudenosaunee Constitution; the Kaianere’kó:wa. Likewise, the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake symbiotically serves as custodians of Haudenosaunee sovereignty within the Territory of Kahnawake.