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Iroquois - A powerful confederation of Iroquoian tribes, usually spoken of by historians as the Iroquois.  First known as the Five nations, the league was composed of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Senca.  But they became known as the Six nations when in 1722 the Tuscarora were adopted into the confederacy.  The name Iroquois is from an Algonquian word meaning "real adders," with the French suffix -ois.
 
The Delaware called them Mingwe, or Mingos, a name familiar in early colonial history.  They called themselves Ongwanonsionni, or "We of the Extended Lodge."  Thus the French also named the confederacy the "Long House."  In their long house the Seneca were guardians of the "western door,"  the Mohawks of the "eastern door," while the Omonodaga, in the center, were keepers of the council fire and the wampum belt treaties.
 
The League of the Iroquois, or the original Five nations, was formed in the late 1500's by the great Mohawk chief, Hiawatha, who advocated many reforms.  Each tribe was to keep its independence, but was to act with the others for the common good.  There was to be no war until all tribes voted for it.  The "constitution" of the Iroquois was not written, but it was greatly admired by the colonists.  Many claim that this confederacy served as a pattern for the Constitution in providing the sovereign rights of the states.
 
The Iroquois were ruthless in war and wiped out their relatives, the Huron, and later the Erie.  They began to expand their territory, but were stopped in the west by the Chipewa, in the south by the Cherokee, and in the north by the French.  But at one time they were masters of all territory from the Ottawa River to the Tennessee River and from the Kennebec River to the Illinois River and Lake Michigan.
 
On one of his early expeditions, the French explorer Chanplain joined a party of Canadian Indians against the Iroquois, which made the latter bitter enemies of the French, and caused them to side with the English in the early colonial wars.  When the Revolutionary War started, the Iroquois league agreed to allow each individual tribe to decide rather or not to enter the conflict.  All the tribes, except the Oneida and about half of the Tuscarora, joined the English.
 
Although citizens of the United States, the Iroquois still consider themselves an independent nation.  When the United States declared was on Germany in 1917, the Iroquois sent a runner in full war regalia to Washington with a message that the Iroquois Nation also had declared war.  However, when war was declared in 1941, the Iroquois sent no declaration.  They had never made peace with Germany, so this second war was to them a renewal of hostilities.
 
The name Iroquois has been given to a river, county, and town in Illinois, and to a village in South Dakota.  The names of each of the other tribes of the confederation have been widely used.

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