The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy

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University of Oklahoma Press, 1998 - History - 786 pages
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This masterful summary represents a major synthesis of the history and culture of the Six Nations from the mid-sixteenth century to the Canandaigua treaty of 1794. William N. Fenton, the dean of Iroquoian studies, has used primary sources extensively, in both French and English, to create a very readable narrative and an invaluable reference for all future scholars of Iroquois polity.

The Great Law, a living tradition among the conservative Iroquois, is sustained by celebrating the condolence ceremony when they mourn a dead chief and install his successor for life on good behavior. This ritual act, reaching back to the dawn of history, maintains the League of the Iroquois, the legendary form of government that gave way over time to the Iroquois Confederacy. Fenton verifies historical accounts from his own long experience of Iroquois society, so that his political ethnography extends into the twentieth century as he considers in detail the relationship between customs and events. His main argument is the remarkable continuity of Iroquois political tradition in the face of military defeat, depopulation, territorial loss, and acculturation to European technology.

Fenton's style of writing combines Iroquois and American English in a way that no one else has been able to do. His analysis and comparison of multiple versions of the same myth is a valuable contribution in itself, while his distillation of previous cultural and historical studies will be of special interest to historians of anthropology as well as those concerned with the American Indian.

  

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Contents

The Five Nations and Their Traditional History
3
PART
17
PART
133
PART THREE
241
Accommodation by Trade and Treaty
269
Voices of the Five Nations
277
The English Takeover 16641700
296
The Grand Settlement at Montreal 1701
330
The Six Nations Fenced In
517
The Big Giveaway at Fort Stanwix 1768
533
The Reverend Samuel Kirkland
548
Dark Clouds over Onondaga
564
The Struggle for Neutrality
582
PART SIX The Federal Treaty Period 17771794
599
Bitter Medicine at Fort Stanwix 1784
601
Prelude to Canandaigua
622

The English Renew the Chain 1701
349
PART FOUR Balancing Onontio and the English Crown 17021759
361
Kings in the Court of Queen Anne
363
Tuscarora the Sixth Nation
382
The Council Brand Passes to Pennsylvania
398
The Treaty at Lancaster 1744
416
New Treaties Precarious Balance
434
The Chain Is Broken
448
The Albany Congress Mends the Chain
465
Johnson Remakes the Confederacy
481
Iroquois Policy Vacillates as Power Shifts
496
PART FIVE Balancing Crown and Colonies 17601777
515
The Tortuous Road to Canandaigua
641
Pickering Kindles a Fire at Kanandaigua
660
The Council Fire Grows Warm
678
The Treaty Concludes
691
CONCLUSION
707
The Later Evolution of the League and Confederacy
709
Summary of Elements of the Condolence Council
725
The Songs
733
Condolence Ceremonies Involving Sir William Johnson
738
Bibliography
743
Index
765
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About the author (1998)

In a new introduction to this edition, William N. Fenton, an emeritus professor of anthropology at SUNY-Albany, writes about Parker's unparalleled contribution to the preservation of Iroquoian folklore.

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