Longhouse Religion

The Longhouse Religion is the popular name of the religious movement known as The Code of Handsome Lake or Gaihwi:io (Good Message), founded in 1799 by the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake (Sganyodaiyoˀ). This movement combines and reinterprets elements of traditional Iroquois religious beliefs with elements adopted from Christianity, primarily from the Quakers. Gaihwi:io currently has about 5,000 practicing members. Originally the Gaihwi:io was known as the "new religion" in opposition to the prevailing animistic beliefs, but has since become known as the "old religion" in opposition to Christianity.

Prior to the adoption of the single-family dwelling, Iroquois lived in large, extended-family homes also known as longhouses which also served as meeting places, town halls, theaters, and sites for religious ceremonies. Gaihwi:io keeps the longhouses for ceremonial purposes, and the movement was therefore termed the "Longhouse Religion."

Onondaga Longhouse
Onondaga longhouse on the Six Nations Reservation in the early 1900s


At the age of 64, after a lifetime of poverty and alcoholism, Ganioda'yo received his revelations while in a trance, after which he ceased drinking and formed the movement. Ganioda'yo's teachings were encoded in wampum[1] and spread through the populations of western New York, Pennsylvania, and Iroquois country, eventually being known as The Code of Handsome Lake.

Handsome Lake vested responsibility for preaching the Gaihwi:io in a number of "holders of the Gaihwi:io", as of 1912 six in number. Since the transmission was oral, the versions began to diverge. In the 1860s the holders of the Gaihwi:io met at Cold Spring at the former home of Handsome Lake. They compared versions and, when differences were found, Seneca Chief John Jacket adjudicated the correct version and wrote it down in the Seneca language on letter paper. When he was done the group reassembled at Cattaraugus and memorized the corrected version. Chief Jacket gave the written copy to Chief Henry Stevens who in turn passed it on to Chief Edward Cornplanter, who somehow lost it. In 1903, afraid that oral transmission would again lead to errors, Chief Cornplanter rewrote it from memory and passed it on to the New York State Archives for preservation. William Bluesky, a lay Baptist preacher, translated it into English.[2]


Handsome Lake Preaching at Tonawanda
Handsome Lake Preaching at Tonawanda by Jesse Cornplanter

The Gaihwi:io is proclaimed twice a year: at the Midwinter Thanksgiving, which falls sometime between January 15 and February 15, and again at the Six Nations meeting in September. Usually the preachers are exchanged between reservations for the event. A full recitation takes three days, mornings only. Before sunrise on each morning of the three days the preacher stands at the fireplace of the longhouse and sings the Sun Song to ensure good weather.

During the ceremonies the preacher stands before the fireplace, aided by an assistant who sits beside him holding a white wampum strand. Some of the congregation sits on benches placed across the longhouse and the remainder sit on benches placed along the walls. Women cover their heads with a shawl.[2]

The atmosphere at the ceremony somewhat resembles a revival meeting. Participants may be moved to tears, and the emotional atmosphere sometimes becomes so contagious that many publicly re-declare their allegiance to the religion.[2]


There is a movement which rejects The Code of Handsome Lake as being too influenced by the First and Second Great Awakenings. These modern traditionalists follow the teachings of Deganawidah, The Great Peacemaker as laid down in the Great Law of Peace, which is the constitution of the Six Nations or Haudenosaunee. Although this constitution protects the rights of religious ceremonies which have been in practice prior to ratification and acknowledges the duties of positive role models to the community, this movement contends that some of Handsome Lake's teachings may contradict existing articles in their interpretation of the Great Law of Peace.

Social context

The Second Great Awakening was a religious movement in the United States beginning around 1790. It has been described as a reaction against skepticism, deism, and rationalism. This movement was centered in the so-called "Burned-over district" in central and western New York State. Handsome Lake's revelations occurred in the same area and "anticipated by a matter of months the surge of revivals that swept through early national and antebellum America."[3]


Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is believed to have been influenced by Handsome Lake's revelations, with which his own visions share a resemblance.[4][5][6]


In his 1989 book Popular Religion in America: Symbolic Change and the Modernization Process in Historical Perspective Miami University professor Peter W. Williams stated that over time the movement became more routinized and more resembles "such 'cultic' religions on the borderline of traditional Christianity such as Mormonism."[7]


  1. ^ Johanson and Mann, pg. 310
  2. ^ a b c Parker, Arthur C. (Nov 1, 1912). "The Code of Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet". [NYS] Education Department Bulletin (163). Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  3. ^ Plane, Ann Marie; Tuttle, Leslie (2013). Dreams, Dreamers, and Visions: The Early Modern Atlantic World. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 228. ISBN 9780812245042.
  4. ^ Manseau, Peter (2015). One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0316100038. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  5. ^ Riess, Jana. "New theory connects a Native American prophet with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon". Religion News Service. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  6. ^ Taylor, Lori. "Joseph Smith in Iroquois Country: The Handsome Lake Story". The Juvenile Instructor. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  7. ^ Williams, Peter M. (1989). Popular Religion in America: Symbolic Change and the Modernization Process in Historical Perspective. University of Illinois Press. p. 38. ISBN 0252060733. Retrieved 1 June 2015.


  • Hirchefekder, Arlene and Paulette Molin. Encyclopedia of Native American Religions. Checkmark Books.
  • Johanson, Bruce Elliot and Barbara Ellis Mann. Encyclopedia of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy).] Abingdon, UK: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. ISBN 978-0-313-30880-2.

Further reading

External links

1799 in Canada

Events from the year 1799 in Canada.


Ali Illahism (Persian: علی‌اللّهی‎) is a syncretic religion which has been practiced in parts of Iranian Luristan which combines elements of Shia Islam with older religions. It centers on the belief that there have been successive incarnations of the Deity throughout history, and Ali Ilahees reserve particular reverence for Ali, the son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is considered one such incarnation. Various rites have been attributed as Ali Ilahian, similarly to the Yezidis, Ansaris, and all sects whose doctrine is unknown to the surrounding Muslim and Christian population. Observers have described it as an agglomeration of the customs and rites of several earlier religions, including Zoroastrianism, historically because travelogues were "evident that there is no definite code which can be described as Ali Illahism".Sometimes Ali-Illahism is used as a general term for the several denominations that venerate or deify Ali, like the Kaysanites, the Alawis or the Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsanis, others to mean the Ahl-e Haqq.


Antireligion is opposition to religion of any kind. The term has been used to describe opposition to organized religion, religious practices or religious institutions. This term has also been used to describe opposition to specific forms of supernatural worship or practice, whether organized or not. Opposition to religion also goes beyond the misotheistic spectrum. As such, antireligion is distinct from deity-specific positions such as atheism (the lack of belief in deities) and antitheism (an opposition to belief in deities); although "antireligionists" may also be atheists or antitheists.

Cayuga Nation of New York

The Cayuga Nation of New York is a federally recognized tribe of Cayuga people, based in New York, United States. Other organized tribes with Cayuga members are the federally recognized Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma and the Canadian-recognized Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario, Canada.

Comparative religion

Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world's religions. In general the comparative study of religion yields a deeper understanding of the fundamental philosophical concerns of religion such as ethics, metaphysics, and the nature and forms of salvation. Studying such material is meant to give one a broadened and more sophisticated understanding of human beliefs and practices regarding the sacred, numinous, spiritual, and divine.In the field of comparative religion, a common geographical classification of the main world religions includes Middle Eastern religions (including Iranian religions), Indian religions, East Asian religions, African religions, American religions, Oceanic religions, and

classical Hellenistic religions.

Dawes Rolls

The Dawes Rolls (or Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes, or Dawes Commission of Final Rolls) were created by the United States Dawes Commission. The Commission, authorized by United States Congress in 1893, forced the Five Civilized Tribes to agree to a land allotment plan and dissolution of the reservation system.

In order to allot the communal lands, all the citizens of the five tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole) had to be registered, including freedmen who had been emancipated after the American Civil War and their descendants. The rolls were needed as the basis to assign the allotments to heads of household and to provide an equitable division of all monies obtained from sales of surplus lands. These rolls became known as the Dawes Rolls. The Dawes Commission was quickly flooded by applicants from all over the country trying to get on the rolls.

The Commission went to the individual tribes to obtain the membership lists but the first attempts were inadequate. Finally Congress passed the Curtis Act of 1898; it provided that a new roll would be taken and supersede all previous rolls. Overall the rolls are incomplete and inaccurate for the following reasons: many individuals from each tribe were not correctly documented, some individuals were entirely excluded because white census takers didn't believe an individual looked "Indian enough", families had already left Indian Territory after the Civil War, or individuals termed "Blanket Indians" refused to be enrolled because they did not trust the government. These factors created descendants whom are Native American by blood unenrollable in the tribes they descend from. Historian Kent Carter termed people who are Native American by blood, but are unable to enroll because of the previously listed factors the "Outalucks".Tribal citizens were enrolled under several categories:

Citizen by Blood

New Born Citizen by Blood

Minor Citizens by Blood

Citizen by Marriage

Freedmen (persons formerly enslaved by Native Americans and/or adopted by the Cherokee tribe)

New Born Freedmen

Minor Freedmen

Delaware Indians (those adopted by the Cherokee tribe were enrolled as a separate group within the Cherokee)More than 250,000 people applied for membership, and the Dawes Commission enrolled just over 100,000. An act of Congress on April 26, 1906, closed the rolls on March 5, 1907. An additional 312 persons were enrolled under an act approved August 1, 1914.

Notable among those who resisted enrollment were Muscogee Chitto Harjo (Crazy Snake), and Cherokee Redbird Smith. Both Harjo and Smith were eventually coerced into enrolling, but according to the Cherokee professor and activist Steve Russell, some full-bloods hiding in the Cookson Hills never did enroll. Although some Native Americans chose not to enroll, many of these Native Americans were later enrolled by force whether they wanted to participate or not. Some of these people were arrested and forced to enroll, while others were enrolled on their behalf by people in their communities. Since that period, the tribes have relied on the Dawes Rolls as part of the membership qualification process, using them as records of citizens at a particular time, and requiring new members to document direct descent from a person or persons on these rolls. Courts have upheld this rule even when it has been proven that a brother or sister of an ancestor was listed on the rolls but not the direct ancestor himself/herself.

The Rolls remain important today, as several tribes use descent from Dawes Roll members as a requirement for tribal membership even though the rolls are incomplete and inaccurate. The federal government uses them in determining blood-quantum status of individuals for Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.

Eagle feather law

The eagle feather law provides many exceptions to federal wildlife laws regarding eagles and other migratory birds to enable Native Americans to continue their traditional spiritual and cultural practices.

Under the current language of the eagle feather law, individuals of certifiable American Indian ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are legally authorized to obtain eagle feathers. Unauthorized persons found with an eagle or its parts in their possession can be fined up to $250,000.

Edward Cornplanter

Edward Cornplanter or So-son-do-wa (1856–1918) was a chief of the Seneca people of the Iroquois Nation (Haudenosaunee) and a leading exponent of the Code of Handsome Lake (Gai'wiio, also known as the Longhouse Religion).

Cornplanter, the son of Moses and Sarah (Phillips) Cornplanter, was born in November 1856 on the Seneca Cattaraugus Reservation. He was the great-great-grandson of Chief Cornplanter, who led the tribe during the American Revolutionary War. His Seneca name So-son-do-wa means "Deep Night."

In 1882, he married Nancy Jack. They had three children including Jesse Cornplanter, who became renowned as an artist and author; Carrie Cornplanter, whose childhood artwork would also find exposure; and Anna Cornplanter (1895–1960), about whom very little is known. Edward experienced infirmity beginning in 1915; he was initially expected to recover (which led to Jesse being free to enlist and fight World War I) but never did, dying while Jesse was overseas in 1918. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish flu pandemic decimated the family, killing Nancy, Carrie and all but two grandchildren.Cornplanter was one of six iroquois authorized as "holders of the Gai'wiio"; he regularly traveled among the Iroquois reservations to pass on the teachings. In 1903 he became concerned that oral transmission of the Gai'wiio` would not keep it from being lost. He wrote it down from memory and gave the material to the archives of New York State for preservation. His son Jesse Cornplanter illustrated this manuscript.

In addition to transcribing The Code of Handsome Lake, Cornplanter assisted the New York State Museum in compiling materials about Native American life in the state. He provided information as to the Iroquois cultivation and use of "maize and other plant foods and many ... myths and tales."

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.


The Meherrin Nation is one of seven state-recognized nations of Native Americans in North Carolina. They reside in rural northeastern North Carolina, near the river of the same name on the Virginia-North Carolina border. Historically the Iroquoian-speaking tribe had lived in the Piedmont of Virginia but moved south in the early 18th century under pressure of English colonists' encroachment on their territory.

Assigned a reservation in the area of Hertford County, North Carolina in the early 18th century, they lost most of their land to encroachment by colonial settlers. They had maintained cultural continuity through supporting independent churches and schools. In the late 20th century, the people reorganized and established a government. In 1986 the Meherrin Nation was recognized by the state of North Carolina. The Meherrin have an enrollment of 900+ people.

Mohawk people

The Mohawk people (Mohawk: Kanienʼkehá꞉ka) are the most easterly tribe of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy. They are an Iroquoian-speaking indigenous people of North America, with communities in northern New York State and southeastern Canada, primarily around Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River. As one of the five original members of the Iroquois League, the Mohawk are known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door - the traditional guardians of the Iroquois Confederation against invasions from the east.

Historically, the Mohawk people were originally based in the valley of the Mohawk River in present-day upstate New York, west of the Hudson River. Their territory ranged north to the St. Lawrence River, southern Quebec and eastern Ontario; south to greater New Jersey and into Pennsylvania; eastward to the Green Mountains of Vermont; and westward to the border with the Iroquoian Oneida Nation's traditional homeland territory.

Native American Rights Fund

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is a non-profit organization that uses existing laws and treaties to ensure that U.S. state governments and the U.S. federal government live up to their legal obligations. NARF also "provides legal representation and technical assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide."

Native American civil rights

Native American civil rights are the civil rights of Native Americans in the United States. Native Americans are citizens of their clanic nations as well as the United States, and those clanic nations are characterized under the Law of the United States as "domestic dependent nations", a special relationship that creates a particular tension between rights retained via tribal sovereignty and rights that individual Natives obtained as U.S. citizens. This status creates tension today, but was far more extreme before Native people were uniformly granted U.S. citizenship in 1924. Assorted laws and policies of the United States government, some tracing to the pre-Revolutionary colonial period, denied basic human rights—particularly in the areas of cultural expression and travel—to indigenous people.Though it is difficult to summarize the many tribes and peoples Native to the land that is now owned by the United States, there are some rights that nearly all Native Americans are still actively pursuing. These include the protection of rights to voting, and the resistance to Cultural assimilation of Native Americans. Many tribes that live on Indian reservations are currently facing the destruction of surrounding environments and water sources, depressed economies, violence against women, and drug and alcohol addiction crises.

Native American religion

Native American religions are the spiritual practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. This article focuses on Native North Americans. Traditional Native American ceremonial ways can vary widely and are based on the differing histories and beliefs of individual tribes, clans, and bands. Early European explorers describe individual Native American tribes and even small bands as each having their own religious practices. Theology may be monotheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic, animistic, shamanistic, pantheistic or any combination thereof, among others. Traditional beliefs are usually passed down in the forms of oral histories, stories, allegories, and principles, and rely on face to face teaching in one's family and community.

Native Americans and World War II

As many as 25,000 Native Americans actively fought in World War II: 21,767 in the Army, 1,910 in the Navy, 874 in the Marines, 121 in the Coast Guard, and several hundred Native American women as nurses. These figures represent over one-third of able-bodied Native American men aged 18–50, and even included as high as seventy percent of the population of some tribes. Unlike African Americans, Native Americans did not serve in segregated units and served alongside white Americans.Alison R. Bernstein argues that World War II presented the first large-scale exodus of Native Americans from reservations since the reservation system began, and presented an opportunity for many Native Americans to leave reservations and enter the "white world". For many soldiers, World War II represented the first interracial contact between natives living on relatively isolated reservations.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.

Revitalization movement

In 1956, Anthony F. C. Wallace published a paper called "Revitalization Movements" to describe how cultures change themselves. A revitalization movement is a "deliberate, organized, conscious effort by members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture" (p. 265), and Wallace describes at length the processes by which a revitalization movement takes place.

Wallace' model 1956 describes the process of a revitalization movement. It is derived from studies of a Native American religious movement, The Code of Handsome Lake, which may have led to the formation of the Longhouse Religion.

Wallace derived his theory from studies of so-called primitive peoples (preliterate and homogeneous), with particular attention to the Iroquois revitalization movement led by Seneca religious leader and prophet Handsome Lake (1735-1815). Wallace believed that his revitalization model applies to movements as broad and complex as the rise of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Wesleyan Methodism.

Revitalizaton is a part of social movements.

Scholars such as Vittorio Lanternari (1963) and Peter Worsley (1968) have developed and adapted Wallace's insights.


Wampum is a traditional shell bead of the Eastern Woodlands tribes of American Indians. It includes white shell beads hand fashioned from the North Atlantic channeled whelk shell and white and purple beads made from the quahog or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam. Before European contact, strings of wampum were used for storytelling, ceremonial gifts, and recording important treaties and historical events, such as the Two Row Wampum Treaty or The Hiawatha Belt. Wampum was also used by the northeastern Indian tribes as a means of exchange, strung together in lengths for convenience. The first Colonists adopted it as a currency in trading with them. Eventually, the Colonists applied their technologies to more efficiently produce wampum, which caused inflation and ultimately its obsolescence as currency.


Yazdânism, or the Cult of Angels, is a proposed pre-Islamic, native religion of the Kurds. The term was introduced by Kurdish scholar Mehrdad Izady to represent what he considers the "original" religion of the Kurds.According to Izady, Yazdânism is now continued in the denominations of Yazidism, Yarsanism, and Ishik Alevism. The three traditions subsumed under the term Yazdânism are primarily practiced in relatively isolated communities; from Khurasan to Anatolia, and parts of western Iran.

The concept of Yazdânism has found a wide perception both within and beyond Kurdish nationalist discourses, but has been disputed by other recognized scholars of Iranian religions. Well established, however, are the "striking" and "unmistakable" similarities between the Yazidis and the Yaresan or Ahl-e Haqq, some of which can be traced back to elements of an ancient faith that was probably dominant among Western Iranians and likened to practices of pre-Zoroastrian Mithraic religion. Mehrdad Izady defines the Yazdanism as an ancient Hurrian religion and states that Mitanni could have introduced some of the Vedic tradition that appears to be manifest in Yazdanism.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.