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How did the social structure of the Iroquois Confederacy . Impact its political structure. The social structure of the Iroquois Confederacy.

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the social structure of the iroquois confederacy
The social structure of the Iroquois Confederacy

In Iroquois society, men and women were considered equals. They had, however, separate and clearly defined roles. Men hunted and fished; women farmed and made clothing. Both men and women helped the community in their own ways. The Iroquois political system was similar.

Only men could become chiefs, however this has changed in modern times. Only women could become clan mothers The relationship between the chiefs and the clan mothers was complex and ensured that no gender dominated the other.


The only way a man could become a chief was to be chosen by a clan mother. On the other hand, the only way a clan mother had a voice in the Grand Council was through the chief. A clan mother had the authority to remove a chief from power, but a clan mother who abused her power could have her authority revoked by the Council. The two major powers in Iroquois society were kept in balance. If a person from one group did not obey the Great Law, the other group could remove him or her from power.


The Grand Council system ensured each nation had an equal voice. No nation could dominate another nation. In order for a decision to become law, all of the nations had to agree to it. The presence of the clan mothers and faithkeepers ensured that the chiefs worked in the best interests of the people. The chiefs could not ignore the will of the nation or the Great Law.

  • An Iroquois citizen worked for the good of the group- the longhouse, village, clan, or nation. Citizen rarely worked by themselves; instead, they worked in teams to accomplish their goals. This sense of community carried over into the Iroquois political system. All decisions from local matter to issues affecting the whole Confederacy were made by consensus.

Primary Purpose: The League's primary purpose was the Great Law of Peace. This law said that the Iroquois should not kill each other.


The most common way for an Iroquois woman to become a clan mother was to

  • Win an election within the clan
  • Be appointed by the Grand Council
  • Be appointed by her nation’s chiefs
  • Inherit the title from her own mother

When making a decision, a chief’s most important consideration was

  • The Great Law of Peace
  • The wished of the clan mother
  • The will of his nation’s people
  • The needs of future generations