Oren Lyons and Sen. Daniel Inouye holding the two row wampum belt in 1987.

Onondaga Nation: Haudenosaunee and Sen. Inouye Had Special Relationship

December 22, 2012


The following is a remembrance by the Onondaga Indian Nation following the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).


The Onondaga Nation sends its condolences to the family and friends of the Senator Daniel Inouye from Hawaii who passed away on December 17, 2012.

The Haudenosaunee and the Senator had a special relationship. In 1987, Senator Inouye accepted the invitation by the Onondaga Nation to discuss the role of the Six Nations in the creation of the principles of the United States government. This acknowledgment of the beginnings of the United States was timely as it was the Constitution’s 200th anniversary.

“When we reached out to Senator Inouye, he was very receptive to our idea,” said Faithkeeper Oren Lyons. “We began meetings with the Senator explaining the Great Law. A few historians accompanied us to verify the dialogue our leaders had with the founding fathers of the United States. He was very receptive and wanted others to know about what he learned as well.”

As the Chairman of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Inouye then took the information gathered from the meetings with Haudenosaunee leaders and began drafting a Resolution to recognize the Haudenosaunee’s influence on the founding of the United States during the Congress’ 100th session.

“Not only did the Senator write about the influences of the Haudenosaunee in setting up the United States government, but also reaffirmed the Government to Government relations between us and the United States,” added Oren Lyons. “That is a very important statement that the Senator made, that the Senate of the United States still recognizes the Haudenosaunee as a separate nation with its own citizens, land, language, and means of governance. That is a powerful statement.”

Making strong statements about indigenous self-determination rights in Congress wasn’t an easy sell to his constituents.

“I know that the Senator had to do some crafty negotiations to get this resolution on the floor,” said Oren Lyons.

The resolution Senator Daniel Inouye put forth to Congress began, in part: “Whereas the original framers of the Constitution, including most notably, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, are known to have greatly admired the concepts, principles and governmental practices of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy…”

It continues later with, “The Congress on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution acknowledges the historical debt which this Republic of the United States of America owes to the Iroquois Confederacy…”

The Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee are grateful for the work of Senator Daniel Inouye and look forward to working with more leaders from the United States who follows in the Senator’s footsteps.

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