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
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
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
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
within this Site
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