- Both a name and title of chieftainship which was passed on from father
to son in the Tortoise Clan of the Mohawk Indians.
The first known Indian to bear the name
Hiawatha lived during the middle of the sixteenth century. He was
famed as a reformer, a legislator, a statesman, and a magician, and was
the founder of the League of the Iroquois, first known as the Five
Hiawatha, as a reformer, sought to banish
murder, the eating of human flesh, and to bring about peace among the Indian
tribes of the same family. One of his ideas was that when a man was
killed in a blood feud, his relatives should receive ten strings of wampum,
each the length of the forearm. This was the value he placed on human
Apparently Hiawatha's ideas were so radical
that he was banished by his own tribe. He went up and down the Mohawk
Valley preaching for brotherly feeling among tribes, and a strong union
of relatives for war and defense. Finally the Oneida consented to
such a union if Hiawatha's own tribe would join. The Mohawks later
agreed and so the Five Nations was formed.
The hero of Longfellow's poem Hiawatha
is drawn from the writings of Henry R. Schoolcraft, who had confused the
real Hiawatha with a Chippewa deity. As a result nothing in Longfellow's
poem relates in any way to the great Iroquois reformer and statesman.
within this Site
][ Longfellow ][ Schoolcraft
][ Torture ]