The People of the Longhouse: The Iroquois League

By | September 15, 2019

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Iroquois longhouse. Source: (

In the northeast of what was to be the United States an American Indian people united into one of the most powerful Native American coalitions in North America.

It was so influential that many scholars believe that the Iroquois Confederacy or League may have influenced the development of American democracy.

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Iroquois warrior. Source: (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

The Great Peacemaker

According to tradition, before the European contact tribes of Native Americans just south of the Great Lakes, mostly based in today’s New York State but extending into Canada and Pennsylvania were frequently at war. These tribes, the Senecas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas, had a shared language and cultural heritage but there were continual violent squabbles and wars over territory.

A figure known as the Great Peacemaker appeared on the scene. Not much is known of the Great Peacemaker, not even his proper name. Instead, he is reverentially referred to by a spiritual name Deganawida -- which signifies “two rivers flowing together” and many other names, too. But the most common is the Great Peacemaker. He can best be described as a semi-mythological prophet-like figure who preached peace between the warring nations. His argument was that if the tribes united then they could fend off attacks and achieve prosperity.