According to tradition, a long time ago one of the spirits of the celestial world descended and observed the earth; he found it beautiful and decided to create people to live there. Before returning, he gathered them together, gave them names and said: “For the Mohawks, I give them corn; for the Oneidas, I give them nuts and the fruits of many trees; for the hard-working Senecas, beans; for Cayugas, the roots of the plants they eat; for wise and eloquent Onondagas, I give grapes and pumpkins to eat and tobacco to smoke in campfires. Then enveloped in a cloud of light, he moved like a rapid arrow towards the Sun, to meet the fraternal spirits of Heaven.

They corresponded to the same cultural group that divided when they migrated from the San Lorenzo River Valley to New York to escape the Algonquin siege. The date of the migration is uncertain; when Frenchman Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) explored the St. Lawrence River in 1534, there were at least eleven Iroquois villages between Stadacona (Quebec) and Hochelaga (Montreal), when the French returned in 1603, the Iroquois had disappeared and in their place are the Montagnais and the Algonquins.

The founding date of the Confederation iroquois is equally puzzling, some estimates put it around AD 900, but the general consensus is that it occurred a few decades before European contact. The Five Nations remained in constant belligerence, and while they were in danger of self-destruction appeared Deganawida, "The Great Peacemaker", who with the help of Hiawatha convinced the tribes iroquoises to end their struggle and form a League.

During the Council convened, Deganawida said: “  You must act to serve others and be in harmony with one another. Bury your differences under the tall fir trees, and in their shadow you will never walk in fear again, but you will live together in peace and quiet.. There was silence, then the representatives of the Mohawks and Seneca, seated to the east of the fire, and the Oneidas and Cayugas, seated to the west, nodded, and finally the Onondagas, including Tadodaho, did. . Then the prophet continued: "I, Deganawida and the Confederate Lords, we will pull up the greatest tree, and in the depths of the earth, in the currents of the underworld which flow to unknown regions, we will throw all the weapons of war, then we will replant it. "

They envisioned the Confederacy as a large, five-compartment communal house where each nation would have its own fire, shared sovereignty in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and responsibility to protect peace, nature, and future generations. In the center - Onondaga – the Great Tree of Peace was planted, its branches representing the houses of the confederate nations and its roots extending to the four cardinal points, inviting other peoples to take refuge there, as was the case for the Tuscarora in 1722.

The formation of the League put an end to conflicts between its members, the period of peace, political and military unity, it was a period of great prosperity although it was not free from conflicts with other tribes. The Iroquois Confederacy is perhaps the oldest example of the unification of nations under one form of government and spirituality (the Iroquois make no distinction between politics and spirituality).


“The Iroquois tree of peace”. Oren Lyons1, 1970

The Great Law of Peace proclaimed by Deganawida established the Iroquois Confederacy and the principles of cooperation among the five nations.

Law and religious authority are united, and this is symbolized by the fir tree that grows on the sword of Grandmother Turtle (Earth). The animals grouped around the tree represent the main maternal clans: heron, eagle, beaver, wolf, bear, turtle, deer, snipe and falcon.

Its four roots extend to the four cardinal points, the tree attracts people to its base.