The Iroquois Confederacy
The people in the Iroquois Confederacy call themselves Hauderosaunee (“People of the Longhouse”).
A confederacy is a group of nations that united together because they share culture and political systems. There are five nations in the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy
The five original nations of the Iroquois Confederacy were:
- Mohawk, who call themselves Kanien’Kehá:ka. Their name means “people of the flint.”
- Oneida, who call themselves OnɅyoteɁká. Their name means “people of the standing stone.”
- Onondaga, who call themselves Ononda’gega. Their name means “people of the hills.”
- Cuyuga, who call themselves Gayogoho:nq’. Their name means “people of the great swamp.”
- Senaeca, who call themselves Onödowa’ga. Their name means “people of the great hill.”
The Tuscana joined in 1722 to make the six nations. They call themselves Skarù∙ręʔ. Their name means “people of the shirt.”
The Oldest Democracy
The Iroquois Confederacy is often classed as one of the oldest participatory democracies.
A democracy is when people can all vote to decide who makes the decisions. Participatory means that everyone in the community plays a part and participates.
Hauderosaunee means people of the “longhouse” and this name gives us a clue about how the Iroquois Confederacy works.
All clans would elect a leader. This leader was a councilman. These leaders all had one vote each to make decisions.
To make the decision final, every single leader needed to agree. When all people agree, this is called unanimity.
You may have heard people use the phrase “unanimous decision.” This means “all in agreement”.
The Great Law of Peace
The Hauderosaunee had a law called “The Great Law of Peace.” They called this Gayanesshagowa. There were 50 peace chiefs whose main job it was to keep the peace between all the different nations.
The peace chiefs were known as sachems.
A Successful Confederacy
Because the Hauderosaunee were so well organised at home, they did well when fighting outsiders.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, these outsiders were mostly the British and the French how had come to settle on American lands.
In the seventeenth century, the Iroquois went to war with the French colonial forces. These wars were called the Iroquois Wars, the Beaver Wars or the French and Iroquois Wars.
The Iroquois Confederacy were involved in European fur trade.
The Iroquois hunted so much beaver that they expanded their land and this aggravated the French.
There were a number of wars until 1701 when they agreed to stay neutral in the wars between the French and the British.
Quiz – Test What You’ve Learned!
What do the Iroquois call themselves?
What is a confederacy?
Name two tribes in the Iroquois confederacy?
What does Cayuga mean?
How many peace chiefs were there?