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The Iroquois Confederacy is a group of First Nations originally based in northern New York state around the Finger Lakes region. They now occupy territory in Canada, New York and elsewhere.

The spiritual union of the nations began before European contact. The visionary Hiawatha brought a message of peace to the original five nations. These were the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Mohawks. For the most part they ceased fighting with one another and became one of the strongest forces in the 17th and 18th century in northeastern North America. They engaged in a series of wars against the French.

In 1720 the Tuscarora fled the European invasion of North Carolina to New York to become the sixth nation (non-voting) under the protection of the confederacy.

The combined leadership of these nations is known as the Haudenosaunee. It should be noted that “Haudenosaunee” is the term that the people use to refer to themselves. The word "Iroquois" comes from a French version of a Huron (Wendat) name--considered an insult--meaning "Black Snakes." Haudenosaunee means "People Building a Long House." The term was introduced by the Peace Maker at the time of the formation of the Confederacy. It implies that the Nations of the confederacy should live together as families in the same house.

The Iroquois political union and democratic government has been credited as one of the influences on the United States Constitution.


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