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  • Writer's pictureShane Moore

History of the Herkimer Area Part 1 Coming Together as One.

The name, Iroquois, is a French name created from the Iroquoian language term Hiro meaning "I have said". This phrase was often used at the end of speeches prayers and stories. The full name, Iroquois, was first written in Champlains Journey to Tadoussac in 1603. There are have many spellings since this but there is no real known origin of the name.

Some say the Mohawk ideology started at the Great Falls of the West Canada Creek. These falls, referred to as Kuyahoora or Leaping River of the Deyoghtoraron or stream with colored waters were suggested to be the origin of Mohawk becoming the People of the Flint, Kanien kehaka, which may or may not be a reference to Herkimers. Mohawks used these crystals for both trade and in use of spiritual tools. They did not mine them in the modern sense but found them in the rivers and streams.

The Peacemaker

There is some debate as to when peace occurred, but scholars have suggested it to have happened between 1450 and 1660. Others, have suggested it as early as the mid 1100's. At the time, the native tribes of the

Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations were all at war. Many were afraid to leave their homes in the night hours and violence was a daily part of life. Deganawida, or the Great Peace Maker, as he was later to be known set out to spread his message of peace among these tribes.

His first convert was a woman, Jigonhsasee. She lived along the warrior path "path of armed ones". She was known for her hospitality towards warriors and travelers. She became known as The Mother of Nations. She would later hold a large role in the political system as the one who picked and assigned chiefs.

Soon after, The Peacemaker would meet and join with Hiawatha, an Onodaga man, who was stricken by grief after losing seven of his daughters. The Peacemaker assisted him in processing his pain and soon Hiawatha, a great speaker would join him with his cause.

The Peacemaker and Hiawatha started here in the Herkimer Area , with the Mohawks, The story goes that the Peacemaker lit a fire and waited for the Mohawks to come. When they did they were very reluctant to accept the promise of peace from a stranger so the Peacemaker made a proposal. He would climb a tree and let them cut it down. If he survived, they would know that they can trust him. They did, he did and they met and discussed the idea of a peace among people. Here The Peacemaker met Ayonwatha, who would also travel along side him to promote peace amount the five tribes.

The Confederacy

It took years, but they accomplished peace. They called it Haudenosaunee, or the people of the long house, (The League of 5 Nations or Iroquois Confederacy to settlers) named after the place of spiritual and political meetings within the tribe. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations all joined this collective and were ruled under The Great Law, a Constitution written by The Peacemaker.

The ideas of this Great Law would be very familiar to anyone who knows our own government system. This is because our government would be based on this. It included checks and balances as Jigonhsasee picking chiefs and chiefs voting on different decisions. Territories were broken up with tangible landmarks such as rivers and each tribe had a specific job in guarding from a given direction. For instance, the Mohawks would be the keepers of the East, The Seneca were the keepers of the Western door and the Onondaga were the fire keepers, a very sacred job in meetings and spiritual gatherings. During meetings up to 50 chiefs would meet and discuss the welfare of the people and political decisions. They were the first democracy in the world giving them the upper hand in numbers.

The Haudenosaunee were so powerful, the settlers conducted business and had political meetings with them up through the Revolutionary war. They were a force to be reckoned with and had a massive amount of land. But just because they had everything amongst themselves figured out, their lives would soon be riddled with betrayals, and hardships.

Please keep a watch out for part two: The Iroquois, French and Dutch Encounters

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