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History of Iroquois Confederacy


The Iroquois are a group of northeastern tribes of North America that have an important place in the world’s history. They are known to have established unity based on the principles of peace and equality after years of feud. Five separate tribes living on the neighboring lands came to an agreement to function as a whole and became known as the Five Nations. Later, another tribe joined the Confederacy, making it the Six Nations. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the origin of the Iroquois Confederacy and its organizational peculiarities, as well as to consider its impact on the course of American history.

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The five original tribes, comprising the Five Nations, were Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk. They lived in a feud, which was damaging for each of the five tribes. Thus, the Great Peacemaker named Dekanawidah and his spokesman Hiawatha developed a plan which would unite the five nations and put the wars and hatred to an end (Noseworthy 8). It was called the Great Plan of Peace and comprised three principles by which the peace would remain. The principle of the Good Word implied justice among the community; the Health principle required peace in mind and body, as well as among each member of the tribes. Accordingly, the last principle of Power referred to both physical and spiritual strength. Introducing these three core principles ensured peaceful, fruitful cooperation among the nations, making it the world’s oldest democratic union.

The unity of nations required the gathering of each tribe’s representatives for council meetings where all major community decisions were made together. The first meeting, which officially established the Iroquois Confederacy, gathered over fifty tribe chiefs around the Tree of Peace to claim unification and collaboration. The Confederacy members called themselves The People of the Long House, the latter representing the metaphor for the united living (Noseworthy 8). The people considered their common land to be a longhouse with its western door symbolically guarded by the Seneka tribe, while the Mohawks guarded the eastern door. The Onondagas were the guards of the Central Council Fire, as they were located right in the middle. Thus, the Long House was a symbol of united governing, which strengthened the tribes’ faith in peaceful interaction.

The lives of the Iroquois changed drastically after the arrival of the Europeans to their lands in the 1700s. After the French and Indian War in 1754, most of the land was occupied by the Europeans. Then, it was taken up by the colonists after the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783. However, the Confederacy managed to preserve its basic principles even after uncertain times of various challenges. The Great Plan of Peace was still an exceptional phenomenon which many years later drew the attention of Benjamin Franklin, who invited the Confederacy members to the Constitutional Convention. They explained the principles of their governing system to the representatives of the colonial states. The representatives were inspired by what they heard, thus the Great Plan of Peace served as a foundation for the Constitution of the United States of America.


To conclude, the Iroquois Confederacy was the first to establish a democratic governing system in the world. They were loyal to the principles Dekanawidah introduced, thus they lived in peaceful collaboration for many years. Their Great Plan of Peace inspired the creation of the United States Constitution as we know it today. The US Congress recognized the impact of the Iroquois on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, preserving the heritage of the native tribes. It is important to remember the historical events that led to creating the country’s most valuable governmental document, thus acknowledging the wisdom of the great Native American people.

Work Cited

Noseworthy, William B. Gale Researcher Guide for: The Iroquois League and Colonial Encounter in North America. Gale, 2018.

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