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The Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy

How It's Used

"The Iroquois' homeland was in upper New York, and their five nations were named Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga and Seneca. From the Powhatans, Smith gathered this résumé: 'Beyond the [Blue Ridge]...inhabit their most mortal enemies, the Massawomekes, upon a great salt water [Lake Ontario]...These Massawomekes are a great nation and very populous.' Smith then names four tribes 'continually tormented by them: of whose crueltie, they generally complained.'"

—Eugene Scheel, "In Passing, Indians Left Their Mark on Local Ground," The Washington Post, January 7, 2001.

"Relations between England and France were strained; the English in Albany did not want the Iroquois to reach a treaty with the French. During the negotiations, Huron chief Kondiaronk played a key role in bringing the sides together. He became ill, and died on Aug. 3; rather than endanger the treaty discussions, the respect with which both sides held him contributed to the momentum that led to the treaty being signed.

"The treaty ended almost a century of conflict between the French and the First Nations, and resulted in decades of peace. It was a diplomatic master-stroke by [Governor Louis-Hector de] Calliere. 'Calliere had persuaded the Iroquois to agree that in any future war between England and France, the Five Nations would remain neutral,' wrote W.J. Eccles in his classic history of New France. This, he pointed out, destroyed the English claims to sovereignty over the Iroquois, and cut away New York's main source of military strength."

—Graham Fraser, "Remembering a diplomatic master stroke," The Toronto Star, June 17, 2001, p. A11.

"The Iroquois League was made up of five nations: the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Oneida, and Cayuga. Each nation had a council made up of leaders (sachems) elected by the clan mothers of that nation. The councils governed their own territories separately. But to discuss and decide upon issues that affected all, they met at the Grand Council (also called the Council of the Good Minds). The overriding principle of their government was the Great Law of Peace, which in its simplest form states that it's better to live in peace than in war.

"Grand Councils opened with a thanksgiving address. This prayer, which might take hours to recite, helped the Iroquois achieve 'one-mindedness.' Today, some 17 Iroquois communities in New York and Canada still gather at Grand Council meetings in Onondaga, N.Y. They do not vote until everyone is in agreement."

—Nancy Humphrey Case, "Gifts from the Indians: Native Americans not only provided new kinds of food and recreation, they may have given the founding fathers ideas on how to form a government," The Christian Science Monitor, November 26, 2002.

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Related on eAlmanac
The Five Civilized Tribes
The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy

Beyond eAlmanac
Wikipedia article on the Iroquois

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