PROBLEMS AMONG THE EARLY IROQUOIS. Marcia Streeter St Margaret’s School [email protected] Long before the Pilgrims came to the New World, five Native American Indian tribes lived in in what is now upstate New York. The tribes were the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and the Mohawk.
Despite a common culture and language, relations among these Five Tribes deteriorated to a state of near-constant warfare. This infighting, in turn, made them vulnerable to attacks from the surrounding Algonquian tribes.
A very wise Mohawk leader named Hiawatha was tired of the endless fighting between the five nations. He wanted things to change. One day, he met a great Iroquois speaker named Dekanawida. Dekanawidaconvinced him that the way to bring peace was to form a new nation, a single Iroquois Nation, where all five nations would have a voice in government, so that things could be solved peacefully.
“We bind ourselves together by taking hold of each other’s hands so firmly and forming a circle so strong that if a tree should fall upon it, it could not shake or break it, so that our people and grandchildren shall remain in the circle of security, peace, and happiness.”
The Hiawatha Wampum Belt symbolizes the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy. Each square represents an Iroquois Nation.
On the far right is the Mohawk Nation - The Keepers of the Eastern Door. On the far left is the Seneca Nation - The Keepers of the Western Door. The two younger brothers, the Oneida and Cayuga are in between. The central fire, represented by a tree is the Onondaga Nation. The Tuscarora Nation joined the Iroquois Confederacy in the early 1700's so they are not represented in the earlier Hiawatha belt.