History of the Iroquois: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 United American Tribes
  • 1:22 The Long Houses
  • 1:48 New Neighbors
  • 2:34 Relations With Others
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Did you know the first official government formed in North America wasn't the United States? Learn about how the Iroquois Native Americans built their complex society in this lesson.

United American Tribes

You've heard that the Declaration of Independence united the Thirteen Colonies in 1776, but did you know that there was already a united group that existed in America before the first Europeans ever arrived? A collection of five different Native American tribes banded together several centuries ago to become known as the Iroquois Confederacy, meaning a league or group of states or nations. You see, the Iroquois weren't just one Native American tribe, but the result of the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, and Onondaga tribes coming together.

Just as we have legends about our Founding Fathers (like George Washington's wooden teeth), the Iroquois have legends about their own nation's creation. They believed that long ago, a period of great violence and unrest made life difficult, and that evil ones would even go so far to become cannibals! A woman had a dream that her daughter would give birth to a peacemaker called Deganawidah. When Deganawidah grew into a man, he built a canoe from stone, and traveled around the land, promising peace and justice. He convinced the five tribes to give up war, defeated an evil sorcerer, and buried the tribes' weapons to prevent more fighting.

The Long Houses

We know the tribe as the Iroquois, but they called themselves ''Haudenosaunee,'' which means ''people of the longhouses.'' They weren't exaggerating: some longhouses were as big as football fields! The Iroquois controlled a large region of modern-day New York state. They gave significant power to the women in their tribes: Iroquois women had the major responsibility of determining who got food and how much.

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