Hiawatha is a legendary figure and holds a lot of significance for the North Americans. He was a diplomat, shaman, and a lawgiver. Hiawatha is well known for uniting Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk tribes which became known as the Iroquois Confederacy.

In 1722, Tuscarora also joined the Confederacy which led to the creation of the Six Nations. There is very little contemporary information available regarding Hiawatha’s life. Some claim that his figure is a myth. However, there is some evidence that proves that Hiawatha did exist.


It is believed that Hiawatha was born in 1525. According to various sources, he was a member of the Onondaga tribe. Different tribes existed on the Iroquois territory. They were in constant conflict with each other, and violence prevailed everywhere. During this period, two great leaders, Deganawida and Hiawatha, emerged. They wanted to unite the Five Nations and were interested in establishing peace.

Hiawatha and the Iroquois Confederacy

Hiawatha and Deganawida traveled all across Iroquois and imparted their message of peace. They talked about the strength of unity and highlighted how it could help the nation. During the council meeting of the Five Nations, they put forward their ‘Great Law of Peace’ message.

Chief Hiawatha succeeded in convincing the chiefs of Five Nations, and the Iroquois Confederacy was established. The Confederacy adopted ‘The Great Law of Peace’ as its constitution.

Iroquois Confederacy Constitution

The Iroquois Confederacy constitution comprised of 117 articles which covered various aspects such as Great Council’s role, membership, eligibility, resignation, War Chief’s rights and duties, emigration laws, foreign nation’s rights, treason, succession of a nation, and rights and powers during war.

The constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy was impressive and was admired by various American colonists.

Following are some of the most important objectives of the Confederacy Constitution.

  • Elimination of inter-tribal wars in the Iroquois territories.
  • Establishment of peace.
  • Protection of the current territories and fighting against the invaders.
  • Expansion of Iroquois influence across various other territories.
  • A democratic government to be run by representatives of various tribes.

Fall of the Confederacy

Although peace was established in Iroquois Confederacy, it was soon destroyed. As its power grew, the Confederacy became a huge threat to other nations. Alliances were formed, and a war was waged. The Five Nations fought against the French army, who ended up creating an alliance with the British. After this, the Confederacy began to lose power and became weak. The Iroquois could not win against the American enemies.

The European resistance also created more problems this led to the downfall of the Iroquois Confederacy. Ten years later, a treaty was signed between the USA and Iroquois, which stated that they wouldn’t interfere with each other. Among the Six Nations Onondaga, Seneca, Tuscarora and some members of Oneida settled in New York while the Mohawk and Cayuga moved to Canada.


The Confederacy constitution greatly influenced Benjamin Franklin. He made it the base of Articles of Confederation. The Congress accepted it on 15th November 1777. Many of these articles are still in force in the USA.

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker Hardcover – September 8, 2015