THE GOVERNMENT OF THE
IROQUOIS NATIONS

One of the greatest Native American governments is the Confederacy of the six Iroquois Nations. This was more than a tribal government. It was a group of six different tribal governments. This is the true story of how the Iroquois Confederacy was started. This is a story that has been passed down among the Iroquois tribes from generation to generation.

Long ago, the Mohawks, the Senecas, the Onondagas, the Oneidas and the Cayugas were enemies who fought with each other all the time. One day, two wise men named Deganawidah and Hyantwatha decided the fighting had to stop. Deganawidah said, “To war against each other is foolish and evil. Hunters are afraid to go into the forest. Fishermen are afraid to follow the streams. Women are afraid to work in the fields. Because of war, people are starving and suffering. War must end, and Peace must be established for all peoples.”

The warriors of the Five Nations listened to Deganawidah. What he said made sense. So, they threw down their weapons.

All five Indian tribes formed a union. A union is also called a confederacy. Their government was called The Great Peace Law. It was the first United Nations. Later, the Tuscarora people joined the Great Peace Law too, so then there were six tribes in the confederacy. The nations who once fought against each other now worked together as brothers and sisters. They compared themselves to a long bark house of six fireplaces but of one family. They worked together as one people. If any one of these nations was attacked, the injury was felt by all of the union’s other nations too.

Here is a picture of a very old real wampum belt. This sacred wampum belt represents the union of the Five Nations. The belt was made to remember the Great Peace.
It means: the Five Nations joined together by the Path of Peace. The Great Tree figure in the center is the Onondaga, the head of their government. The Peace Path continues to either side and that means that others may follow this path and become part of the Great Peace.
Deganawidah said “Our confederacy is a Great Tree. It reaches high into the sky so that all people see it and know of it. The eagle watches from its top. The Tree has four white roots that go to the four corners of the world. If any man or nation wants to obey the laws of Peace, they will be welcome to take shelter under the Tree.”

Many nations took shelter under the tree. If any nation insisted on war, it was always warned three times to obey the Laws of the Great Peace and use words, instead of weapons, to settle the fight.
For many years, the Iroquois Confederacy protected the American colonies from invasions from the north. Without this protection during the French and English wars, there would be no United States of America today.

White leaders like Benjamin Franklin watched the Confederacy and learned democracy from it. One of the good ideas he learned is that each person should be able to speak without being interrupted. Today, our United States government is a lot like the Confederacy.

The Iroquois Confederacy was a group of three different tribal governments.
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The Mohawks, the Senecas, the Onondagas, the Oneidas and the Cayugas were enemies who decided never to fight with each other again.
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Iroquois Confederacy protected the American colonies from invasions from the north.
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false

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