Decision Making Model

On Tue, 7/20/10, Abram Karl-Gruswitz wrote:

From: Abram Karl-Gruswitz;
To: “AERO listserve”

Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 11:10 AM


I thought the democratic education contingency here might find this interesting.  This is the consensus decision-making process for the Iroquois Confederacy.  I know that some talk about Iroquois democracy here, so here’s the process directly from the source.  I heard one Mohawk man make a comment that Capitalism (Benjamin Franklin particularly) and Socialism (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels particularly) took from the Iroquois, but they both got it wrong.



—– Original message —–

From: “Mohawk Nation News” <kahentinetha2@>
To: abe@emersonlilyfree
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2010 17:30:23 -0400 (EDT)


MNN. Oct. 31, 2009. Our ancestors brought rational thinking to a principle. To keep our identity, we have to be free in body, mind and energy. We have to make up our own mind based on all the facts.

There are many similarities in the nature based philosophies of all Ongwehonwe on Onowaregeh [GreatTurtleIsland] and beyond. These are the basic principles of our decision making process.

Human rights are expressed through the decision making process of the Rotino’shonni:onwe. [Wampums 5 to 11, Kaianereh’ko:wa].

GOAL. The decision must be in the best interests of all the people. Consensus does not mean that all agree but that all understand the decision.

NOTE. Whatever ideas are put into the process, the needs and attitudes of each is considered and is part of the decision. The individual must be directly involved and bring their ideas into the discussion. The final decision will be fully satisfactory to some, satisfactory to others and relatively satisfactory to the remainder, and will reflect elements from each group. Each individual must fully understand though this slow careful process. The decision is not made by a leader.

WAR CHIEF makes sure that collective rational thought and behavior are followed.

CLANS. The people are divided into three clans: Bear, Wolf and Turtle. Each have 3 chiefs for a total of 9.

ASSISTANT WAR CHIEF is selected by the clan as a temporary spokesperson.

WELL-KEEPER announces the subject for discussion and passes the issue over the Council Fire.

The three clans deliberate.

Then the Assistant War Chief either asks questions or reports a final decision. If the Clans disagree or there is an error or the proceedings are irregular, the Assistant War Chief calls attention to it on behalf of his clan. They once again deliberate.

The issue is then passed by all three clans.


When an issue is discussed, the clans consider the short term and long term pros and cons of the issue. Three criteria must be met:

1. PEACE. Does it preserve skenna that is already established?
2. RIGHTEOUSNESS. Is it morally correct? And
3. No There are no one POWER. Does it preserve the integrity
of the nation in the present and how does it affect the
future seven generations?


Each must follow the criteria of peace, righteousness and power at all times. Persons are asked throughout if they fully understand. If not, the process stops until this is accomplished. One cannot be stubborn and refuse to understand as they will be questioned.

Every Person has a responsibility to expand and exercise their minds. The forces of life have given the human being a mind to create a better life through peace, power and righteousness.

In the decision-making process:

-all opinions have to be considered;
-all must be completely reasonable;
-all should come with an open mind;
-all must fully understand the other’s viewpoint;
-each participant cannot repeat a position once it has been
fully explained and understood;
-if a person does not agree with the views that have been
stated, they must fully explain their dissenting views;
-no one can impose their will nor make decisions for another;
-all must understand the viewpoint and agree of their own free will; and
-if there is no consensus, the consensus is to retain the status quo.

The Chiefs and the War Chief who preside over the meeting make sure that the Kaianereh’ko:wa and collective rational thought and behavior are followed.

All human beings are capable of rational thought, which helps solve even the most difficult problem. Human beings are loving, caring and wish to interact in a positive way. People cannot think clearly when they are in psychological plain, or have feelings of rage or lose hope. The process must bring us from despair to hope. We have to resist being manipulated or having decisions made for us or pacifying us. To think is to create a sane world for the present and future generations, a world safe from the emotional, irrational behavior controlled by fear, hatred, greed, jealousy, suspicion and the conflict. The main obstacle to our survival is fear.

We are a distinct nation with our own law, government, people and territory. We have to always assert this.

Kahentinetha MNN Mohawk Nation News, kahentinetha2@ For more news, books, to donate and to sign up for MNN newsletters, go to www.mohawknationnew See Category “Kanehsatake”.

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“Without cooperative governance, we’d have nothing but chaos and hierarchy.”

Abe Karl-Gruswitz

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