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by: Joey Zhang



Hiawatha is a significant figure in the history of the Iroquois nation, also known as the Haudenosaunee nation, located in present-day southern Ontario and upper New York. he was crucial to the formation of the first five tribes of the federal confederacy known Six Nations (Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida). Later in 1722, the Tuscarora nation joined, making the Six Nations but Hiawatha had nothing to do with this part of the history of the Six Nations. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia Hiawatha’s name has many definitions, of which two that are most common are “He who has lost his mind, but seeks to find it,” (referring to the months he spent roaming around the woods in deep depression after the death of his family) or he who combs (referring to when he convinces Athatotarho/Atotarho/Tadodaho).


Historical note


        As with most stories, this story is probably part legend, part mixed history, and part modern ideas. no stories are the same. Common differences include when this happened (about around the fourteenth century to the seventeenth century is all we're sure of), his nation that he originated from and even whether he either an actual person or just a figure in a legend.


However, one of the things that are the same is the circumstances in which this story emerges from. From the fourteenth century to the early seventeenth century between the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida war was enforced within these nations as a seemingly endless cycle violence and vengeance. There was a practice of replacing fallen warriors from their tribe with warriors from other tribes taken captive. This practice was meant to help the mourners (family and friends) of the fallen cope with their grief. Instead, this tradition exacerbated the conflict because it typically caused more death, violence and therefore grief by further aggravating the other tribes. It aggravated the other tribes because their warriors was taken captive, so they wanted revenge on the tribe that had taken their warriors captive and they people who took the people from the other tribe captive gladly joined the fight, seeking vengeance on these people who killed their warriors and because of this more people would be taken captive and more people would die, further worsening the situation even more. It is this situation when the legend of Hiawatha takes place.

The  Legend Of  Hiawatha


There are three primary characters in this legend. #1 Is Hiawatha, a Mohawk or Onondaga warrior (depending on which sources you look at) who is a victim of these cycles of violence, having lost not only his wife to war but also his daughters. It is said that following their deaths he was in a deeply depressed state, thinking of vengeance against Athatotarho/Atotarho/Tadodaho. In this depressed state, he was said to have wandered the lands of the Iroquois one day coming upon an island to rest. it is on this island that the following morning he met the Peacemaker.

#2 is the "evil villain " in the story. In this legend, the "evil villain" is an Onondaga chief named Athatotarho/Atotarho/Tadodaho. in some stories, he is said to have dark magic powers causing the other tribes to fear him. According to some sources, in the end, he became the protector of the six nations and sided with the other tribes.

#3 is the Peacemaker, also known as Deganawida who came from the north, of the lands of the Huron people, in order to bring the five nations together in an effort to make peace. Some variations of the peacemaker are Jigonsahseh (Jigonsaseh), also known as the peace queen who is a woman descended from the sky mother.

It is said that this was the men met, and discussed the war, each sharing about how they wanted to end it. It is said that given the state of deep depression he was in, he was not clear minded, so the peacemaker conducted a ceremony of condolence. Only those with clear minds could conduct ceremonies of condolences.first, he dried Hiawatha's eyes, so he could see. Next, he cleared the ears of him, to hear. Finally, he cleared his throat, so that he could talk. After this ceremony, Hiawatha's sense of reasoning returned and his grief eased. It is said that the peacemaker sought Hiawatha out as his disciple because Hiawatha had a strong voice. After this they traveled from one tribe to the other, convincing each of them to form this alliance. In the end, all the tribes other than the Onondaga tribe agreed to form an alliance for peace and unity. It is with this group that they approached athatotarho/atotarho/tadodaho and asked him and his tribe to form an alliance. His reply was no, as he still had a lust for violence and bloodshed. Representatives from the four nations approached Hiawatha, asking him why they could not simply force him into the alliance. Hiawatha believed that this would be hippocratic to the formation of the alliance, as this alliance was formed for peace, so it would be best to do it peacefully. Hiawatha believed there was a better way to convince him. Again they approached athatotarho/atotarho/tadodaho and offered him the central role in this alliance, the great chief (chief sachem) athatotarho/atotarho/tadodaho agreed. The alliance was formed.

The significance of Hiawatha


The alliance allowed them stay strong during the 17teenth and 18teenth centuries, also leetting them fight together many times. They were also an important ally in many wars such as the french and indian wars.the united states’s many principles were also influenced by the six nations.