What was the Iroquois Confederacy and When was the Five Nations formed?

In about 1400, five great tribes, the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca, banded together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. The confederacy was also called the Iroquois League or the Five Nations.

A sixth tribe, the Tuscarora, joined the confederacy in 1722. The Tuscarora were a Iroquoian tribe from what is now North and South Carolina. They traveled north and settled near the Oneida after English settlers drove them from their homeland.

The Iroquois tell stories of a dark time before the confederacy when the different tribes were enmeshed in blood feuds. When someone was murdered, the victim’s relatives were bound to avenge the death by killing the murderer or one of the killer’s relatives. This practice led to a cycle of murder and revenge that could last many years and destroy entire families.

Finally, a man named Hiawatha (sometimes spelled Hayenwathe) got the tribes to agree to make peace.