Clans: Iroquois tribes divided their tribe into groups called clans. Clans were family groups. It was forbidden to marry someone from your own clan. When a man married, he joined his wife's clan. When children were born, they became members of their mother's clan. The clan mother headed each clan. Most nations were divided into three clans. The Seneca had eight clans.
The Clan Mother: The clan mother had a great deal of power. She selected the Council members. Before the Council met to make decisions for the clan, the clan mother offered each member advice. Council members were usually chosen for life. But, if the clan mother felt she had made a mistake, she could fire a council member and choose someone new in his place. So, although the men ruled, they had to do so in a way that would please the clan mother.