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Recreated Bark Longhouse, Ganondagan Historic Site, New York, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

A work made of chromogenic print.

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  • A work made of chromogenic print.


July 2000


Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Joel Sternfeld


Recreated Bark Longhouse, Ganondagan Historic Site, New York, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"


United States (Artist's nationality)


Made 2000


Chromogenic print


No markings recto or verso When Columbus disembarked on the shores of what would become America, there was no “wilderness”—the land was home to a hundred million people, most of them living in highly organized societies. The Iroquois Confederacy was and is a political union of six North American Indian Nations. The people of the Six Nations refer to themselves as “people of the longhouse,” taking their identity from the traditional building that served as a communal dwelling and ceremonial hall, and which characterized the permanent villages in which the Iroquois lived. This confederacy, perhaps the oldest democracy on earth, existed long before the Europeans arrived and took notice of it. It was based on two legislative bodies, or “brotherhoods,” the elder comprised of Mohawks and Seneca, the younger of Oneidas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras. If these two “houses” were unable to agree on a matter, the Onondagas would cast the deciding vote. The Iroquois equivalent of the Supreme Court was the Women’s Council, which settled disputes and adjudicated legal matters. Implicit in Iroquois political philosophy is a commitment to the highest principles of human liberty, including freedom of speech and the right of women to participate in government. Underlying all deliberations was a spiritual figure, the Peacemaker, who gave the Tree of Peace as a symbol of the Great Law of Peace. Beneath the tree, the Nations buried their hatchets, and atop it sat the Eagle-who-sees-far. Iroquois law strongly influenced Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other framers of the US Constitution. The theory that the Constitution is based on the Iroquois Great Law of Peace rather than Greek democracy is gaining credence. Certainly Jefferson adopted Iroquois symbols: the Tree of Peace became the Tree of Liberty, and the Eagle-who-sees-far became the symbol of the new American government (clutching thirteen arrows). From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005


Image: 26.4 × 33.2 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/8 in.); Paper: 27.9 × 35.4 cm (11 × 13 15/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

Reference Number


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