II. The Tribal Constitution
On September 16, 1987, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution acknowledging the contributions of the Rotinonhsón:ni Confederacy on the development of the United States Constitution. While the extent of Iroquois influence on the Founding Fathers has been the subject of considerable debate among American scholars, the concept has become enshrined in the traditional belief system.
One would assume, based on the above paragraph, that Mohawks would embrace a written constitution of our own, since our ancient political forms supposedly inspired the document that governs the United States of America. But in 1995, the introduction of a 12-page document that would overhaul the operation of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council caused almost a decade of expensive litigation and community turmoil. For a brief period of time, it succeeded in splintering the Tribal Council into two competing governments, each one claiming itself as the legal voice of the reservation.
Having already traced the early history of the Three Chief System, we now turn our attention to the tribal constitution, ON-KWA-IA-NE-REN-SHE-RA (Our Laws), and examine the effect it had on the governance of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation. We will also explore the controversies surrounding passing of the constitution and the subsequent legal wrangling that took place in the years since then.