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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials –The Iroquois Confederacy

The United States of America has a long tradition of participatory democracy, but not everyone knows that a participatory democracy existed within our nation’s borders before 1776. That democratic confederation is the Iroquois Confederacy, a collection of Native American tribes formed in the late 16th century and still extant today. The Iroquois Confederacy was formed in upper New York state and consists of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and (later) Tuscarora nations.

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on The Iroquois Confederacy. THE GREAT PEACEMAKER

According to Iroquois tradition, a Huron named Dekanawidah, or Peacemaker, formed the Confederacy sometime between 1570-1600. Hiawatha of the Onondaga nation was his close ally. Dekanawidah united the tribes with his Doctrine of Peace and Power, and advocated against practices such as ritual cannibalism. Dekanawidah also associated the great white pine tree with the Iroquois Confederacy, dubbing it the Tree of Peace.


The Iroquois Confederacy is known by many names. However, they often called themselves Haudenosaunee or People of the Long House, referring to their typical dwelling place. The Iroquois longhouse was a building of up to 100 feet in length. It was lined on either side with bunks and had fireplaces in the center. This closeness reflected the unity the Confederacy strived for: political decisions had to be approved unanimously among the tribal representatives, or sachems.


The Beaver Wars were a series of conflicts between the Iroquois Confederacy and Algonquian-speaking peoples of the Ohio Country. The Ohio Country corresponds roughly to parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania between the Appalachian Mountains and Lake Eerie. The Iroquois Confederacy fought the French-allied tribes in that region for control of the lucrative fur trade, but the French responded with attacks of their own. The Treaty of Grand Paix or Great Peace ended the Beaver Wars in 1701.


The American Revolution temporarily split the Iroquois Confederacy, with the Oneida and Tuscarora supporting the Americans and the remaining tribes supporting the British. Joseph Brant (born Thayendanega) was a Mohawk war chief who fought alongside the British. Brant successfully commanded Iroquois troops at the 1777 Battle of Oriskany, and his raids infuriated the colonists. In response, George Washington authorized the Sullivan Expedition, an extended 1779 military campaign that destroyed much of the Iroquois Confederacy’s homeland.


In the wake of the British defeat in the Revolutionary War, the Iroquois Confederacy was forced to negotiate from a position of weakness. The resulting treaty, The Treaty of Fort Stanwix, ceded significant Iroquois territory to the Americans. As a result of this defeat, the Iroquois Confederacy would decline in influence and power as the Americans continued to expand.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

  • The Longhouse was the central meeting place of the Iroquois people. Learn more about Iroquois longhouses here.

  • We traditionally associate the Iroquois Confederacy with upstate New York, but one of the tribes, the Tuscarora, hailed from North Carolina. What events drove them to travel over 500 miles north and join the Iroquois Confederacy?

  • How much influence did the Iroquois Confederacy have on the US system of government? More than you might think!

  • Watch this video to learn more about the mythic origins of the Iroquois Confederacy!


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