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A Free Reading Passage on the Role of Women in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

May 15

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The role of women in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is a referenced topic in the Cultural Interactions Between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Haudenosaunee Woman
Haudenosaunee Woman/public domain


The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also known as the Iroquois Confederacy, is a powerful alliance of six Native American nations: the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. Founded long before European contact, the Confederacy is renowned for its sophisticated political and social systems. Central to these systems is the crucial role played by women.


Matrilineal System

The Haudenosaunee people follow a matrilineal system, meaning that lineage and inheritance are traced through the mother. This structure places women at the core of family and community life. Children belong to their mother’s clan, and property and hereditary leadership positions are passed down through the female line. This matrilineal practice ensures that women hold significant power and influence within their societies.


Clan Mothers

Among the Haudenosaunee, Clan Mothers are highly respected female leaders who hold a great deal of authority. Each clan is led by a Clan Mother, who is responsible for the welfare of her clan. She plays a vital role in selecting and advising the male leaders, known as chiefs or sachems. The Clan Mothers ensure that the chiefs uphold the values and traditions of the Haudenosaunee, and they have the power to remove a chief if he fails in his duties.


Women’s influence extends beyond the clan to the wider governance of the Confederacy. The Grand Council, the central governing body of the Haudenosaunee, is composed of 50 chiefs representing the six nations. While the chiefs are male, their selection and guidance come from the Clan Mothers. This unique system of governance ensures that women’s perspectives are integral to decision-making processes, reflecting a balanced and inclusive approach to leadership.


Agricultural and Economic Roles

In addition to their political influence, Haudenosaunee women were central to the economy and sustenance of their communities before and during European colonization. They were the primary agriculturalists, cultivating the “Three Sisters” – corn, beans, and squash. These crops were staples of the Haudenosaunee diet and were essential for the community’s survival. The women’s expertise in agriculture not only sustained the community but also played a significant role in trade with neighboring tribes and European settlers.


Guardians of Culture

Women of the Haudenosaunee are also the keepers of cultural knowledge and traditions. They pass down important cultural practices, stories, and songs to the next generation, ensuring the continuity of Haudenosaunee heritage. Through storytelling, ceremonies, and daily practices, women maintain the spiritual and cultural fabric of their society.


The role of women in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is profound and multifaceted. As matriarchs, Clan Mothers, agriculturalists, and cultural guardians, they hold a unique and powerful position in their society. The Haudenosaunee model of governance and social organization, which values and incorporates the voices and leadership of women, offers a powerful example of gender equity and respect. This balanced system has enabled the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to thrive for centuries and continues to inspire discussions on the importance of women in leadership roles today.



PRINTABLE READING PASSAGE ON THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE HAUDENOSAUNEE CONFEDERACY

Would you prefer to share a printable passage with your students? Click the image below to grab it!



The role of women in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about the Haudenosaunee Confederacy?






Cultural Interactions Between Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans 



Period 1



AP U.S. History





The Role of Women in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy



#HaudenosauneeConfederacy

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

May 15

6

0

0

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