The Micmac V.S. the Iroquois

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  • Topic: Iroquois, Mi'kmaq, Tribal chief
  • Pages : 9 (2845 words )
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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The Micmac V.S. The Iroquois

Although the Micmac and the Iroquois Confederacy are both Aboriginal groups, they have many differences as well as similarities. One area of such, is their traditional justice systems. Their governments and laws are in some ways similar, but in many ways different.

The Micmac reside in what is now Nova Scotia, eastern New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and southern Gaspe. The territory was subdivided in to seven districts. Each of these districts contained family groupings in small settlements based on hunting and fishing. Those from P.E.I. held more territory in common than any other Micmac district. Their land was allotted by family.

The Iroquois were a agricultural people. They lived in permanent villages in a domain now called southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and northeastern United States. Indian Nations living here formed a formal and lasting confederacy by 1450. Their members were called ‘Ho-De-No-Sau-Nee'. The league was called ‘Kanonsionni', meaning EXTENDED HOUSE. The first five nations to join the confederacy were Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. Tuscaroras migrated from Carolina and joined the confederacy in 1722. The Iroquois are bound in a treaty of friendship with the Ojibway to the North.

The Micmac government was three-tiered, with local, district, and national chiefs, or ‘Sagamores'. Each settlement's council of elders chose a local chief. The chief was the focus of power in the settlement. The local chief attained position through both hereditary right and meritorious behavior. The oldest son of a dead chief was usually given first consideration as a successor. If he was found unfit for office, despite special training, others in family and/or others in the community were considered. These chiefs usually had two assistants or captains. These were called second and third watchers. They would assume command from a sick or incompetent chief. The local chiefs would convene in a district council and select one of their numbers to preside over their meetings and represent the regions' interests. Councils usually met in the spring or fall, and all decisions were based on unanimity.

District Sagamores made up the governing body of the Micmac nation. One district chief would act as Grand Chief. All three of these types of chieftainship followed bloodlines as a natural course of leadership ascendency. The people expected their chief to be a man of intelligence, knowledge, dignity, courage, generosity, an able hunter, and fearless warrior. Leaders ruled through impeccable example, not force.

The Iroquois confederacy was formalized by a constitution, recorded on wampum belts to preserve the understanding for all generations to follow. Each nation retained its own council and managed its own local affairs. General control was to be lodged in a federal senate, composed of representatives elected by each nation, holding office during good behavior, and acknowledged as ruling chiefs throughout the whole confederacy. Every nation was further subdivided into clans. Each clan discussed a matter to be brought before the federal council, followed by unanimous agreement between clans. The head chief would then announce the vote of his nation in the league council.

In the Iroquois society, fifty "sachem ships" were created, these men represented their nation's interests on the general council, while continuing to exercise leadership at the local level. Together they formed the executive, legislative, and judicial authority of the league. Although each nation possessed unique responsibility in the confederacy, no sachem had greater rights than another. Onondaga had 14 representatives; the Cayuga, 10; the Mohawk and Oneida, nine; and the Seneca, eight. All council decisions were unanimous. Onondaga as the fire-keepers (chairman) and the Mohawks as the founders of the league , had the special duty and right of preventing a decision from passing if it was harmful to...
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