League of the Iroquois

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The league of the Iroquois refers to the famous and prominent historic confederacy formed by five nations. The countries forming the Confederacy are the Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida as well as the Mohawk located in New York State1. The league was well known by its non-aggression characteristic, recognition of common interests and well-established structure of decision making. The League of the Iroquois possessed well-organized leadership that involved all the representatives from the five groups forming the pact. To a given extent, the structure of leadership applied by the League of Iroquois characterizing a form of representative government is believed to be the foundation of the governance adopted by the United States. During the 1700s, the League of Iroquois received a new tribe known as the Tuscarora to make a pact of six groups from the previous five tribes. Currently, the Confederacy is referred as the Six Nations Iroquois.


The Iroquois Confederacy was described in print form for the first in the mid-eighteenth century. The printing of information regarding the League elicited many discussions in efforts to uncover the actual age and origin of the Iroquois Confederacy. The first print out containing details of the League was published by a Moravian missionary. Some claim that the League was in existence dating back in the year 1630 when Jesuit initially paid a visit to the Canadian Huron2. However, there are different and contrasting opinions regarding the accurate date when the League was formed. The main topics of these discussions focused on revealing the exact reason leading to the formation of the pact. It is not yet clear whether the League was formed as a result of interaction with the Europeans or it was an initiative of the Iroquois themselves.

How the League of Iroquois was formed

The formation of the Confederacy is believed to have occurred between 1570 and 16003. However, the first printed information were discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. The formation of the pact is tied to the efforts of the Dekanawidah, born a Huron. Dekanawidah is said to have convinced Hiawatha and Onondaga living together with the Mohawks to abandon cannibalism and embrace peace, righteousness, great law and the civil authority. The initial union of the five Indian tribes started as a small council composed of clan leaders and village chiefs. Each of the five tribes composed clans, villages, and their respective leaders. However, each tribe was allowed to cast a single vote regarding the decision of forming the league. The tribes agreed that each tribe would make a choice, and the decision would be made unanimous. Immediately the decision to unite and form a non-aggressive block was reached, a combined jurisdiction of about fifty chiefs referred as the Sachems was established.

The League of Iroquois was every unique and varied from other American Indian confederacies especially in the northeastern woodlands greatly. The Iroquois Confederacy was better organized, defined and more effective. The Iroquois applied ritualized systems to pick the preferred leaders and making significant decisions and judgments. The young league persuaded the colonial governments to use the system of rituals during the joint negotiations. During the formation of the Confederacy in around 1600, the five tribes that participated concentrated mainly in what is currently upper and New York State.

Reasons for the Formation of the League of Iroquois

The formation of League of Iroquois was a political strategy aimed at combining resources to make the involved tribes stronger and powerful. The main reason for forming the League of Iroquois was to protect the five-nations from the invasion of political enemies4. The five nations formed an alliance that would enhance security within the region as opposed to individual nations. The other reason that facilitated the formation of the league of Iroquois was to embrace and enforce the great law of peace and harmonious existence. The league aimed at solving disputes and preventing an outbreak of war between the allied tribes. Initially, the league composed of five tribes namely the Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida and the Mohawk. These nations were determined to form a strong block that would maintain peace within the region by overpowering peace threatening tribes. Often, these countries engaged in battles aimed at restoring peace and silencing the violent and opposing tribes.

The other reasons for combining efforts among the five and recently six nations was to enhance security against the colonial governments that had managed to oppress the people with poor governance and slavery5. Therefore, unity among the nations would form an invincible force that would minimize the ruthless and cruel approaches of the colonial administration as well as the violent oppositions.

Achievements of League of Iroquois

The main achievement of the Iroquois Confederacy was its uniting factor and symbol of harmony among the five tribes. Before the League of Iroquois was formed, the tribes were participating in frequent fights against one another for various reasons. However, in 1600 these nations realized they had several common challenges that would be easily overcome by uniting and discard internal wrangles. The idea to form the Iroquois Confederacy brought great relief to the members of the five tribes as the alliance managed to solve several disasters. Among the main challenges solved by the alliance was the elimination of internal conflicts and enhancement of peace by fighting external sources of danger together6. Moreover, the alliance facilitated the achievement and maintenance of peace a factor that was lacking in the territory for a long time. In addition, the alliance promoted the formation of a co-operative and considerate government that applied traditional rituals in its governance, decision making, and various decision making. Moreover, the Confederacy formed was capable of conducting successful missions that were aimed at reducing the suppression of colonial governments. Apart from uniting the six nations forming the Iroquois Confederacy, the league managed to fight the non-cooperative nations that were not part of the alliance especially the ones that posed a security threat.

In conclusion, the League of Iroquois was a non-aggressive political alliance that was formed with the sole intention of uniting Indian American nation. The league was formed by five nations initially but later a sixth tribe joined making the movement stronger and more stable. The league was formed by the Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida as well as the Mohawk tribes located in New York State. The league is believed to have existed long before its first printed details were recorded in the mid-eighteenth century. The formation of the Confederacy was initiated by first uniting fifty chiefs of the involved tribes. The league managed to accomplish several objectives including the lasting peace, unity and fighting the colonial governments.

1 Shimony and Foster, “The Iroquois League and the Longhouse. Conservatism among the Iroquois at the Six Nations Reserve.”

2 Campbell and Canadian Institute, “The Oldest Written Records of the League of the Iroquois.”

3 Morgan and Morgan, League of the Iroquois.

4 Dolbear and Benoit, The Iroquois.

5 Randolph, The Iroquois League.

6 Hewitt, “Legend of the Founding of the Iroquois League.”