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Deganawida  and

Words that look like this have links attached to them. 

After the assigned reading and lesson (if there is time) you may explore a little more!


             Centuries ago the Native people of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga and Oneida clans were in a cycle of violence and intertribal war. During that time of violence, a peacemaker named Deganawida was born.

             Deganawida grew up near Lake Ontario.  During this time, he had many visions of peace and unity among the people of his land, and many visions of the Great White Pine.  It stood tall and strong, reaching up to the sky while staying rooted firmly in the ground. He noted how the tree’s long, soft pine needles grew in clusters of five.  He also saw a majestic eagle perched at the top of the tree. The eagle was a protector and used its keen sense of sight to keep a look out for danger.


             Deganawida (who is also known as "The Peacemaker") was walking through the woods one day and came across a man named Hayehwatha. The Great Chief had been grieving for a very long time over the deaths of his three daughters. Deganawida consoled the grieving man by offering him kind words and three strings of special beads called Wampum.  Wampum were beads that were carefully carved from shells  These shells were very difficult to get because they came from the East Coast of Canada and the United States.  Hayehwatha was honoured by the gift from Deganawida and they began to talk. They soon realized that they had similar hopes of peace for their people. It did not take long before the two men were very devoted friends.


             Together Hayehwatha and The Peacemaker traveled around the eastern Great Lakes  to spread their message.  Because Deganawida  had a stutter when he spoke, Hayehwatha often spoke for him. It took them many years for the other people to agree, but eventually the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, Cayuga and Oneida came together to form a confederation of peace and understanding. Many people disagree about the year the confederation happened. Estimates range from hundreds of years to over a thousand! In any case, on the day they gathered, all five nations sat under branches of the Great White Pine Tree and buried their weapons under its roots. Even though the year is disputed, everyone agrees that, with the help of The Peacemaker and Hayehwatha, the five bands became united under the Great Tree of Peace and became known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.


             This great accomplishment was recorded, not with ink and paper, but by using a Wampum Belt which was a long cloth belt beautifully decorated with Wampum beads.  The Wampum Belt that the Haudenosaunee made used symbols to show the story of the original Five Nations coming together. The belt became known as the Hiawatha Belt. The symbols on the Hiawatha Belt remind everyone of the historic event and of the values that are important to the Five Nations. The Belt tells the story of the “Law of the Great Peace of the People of the Long House.


             The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is a very important part of Canada's history. Many people believe that Confederation in Canada was based on that of the Haudenosaunee, and none of it would have been possible without the help of the visionary and peacemaker called Deganawida.



   So where are you going next?

  Want to see an on-line reenactment of the final stages of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy?  This version was on TV as one of the Canadian Historic Minutes:
  Want to know a little more about the Haudenosaunee People?  Here you will find a few web pages put together by a grade 5/6 class with their 3-D models: 

Want to know a LOT more about the Haudenosaunee People?!

The Haudenosaunee and the Rights of Girls and Women (an article on Matilda Joslyn Gage).


 Wampum Belt Links

The Hiawatha Belt:

Modern Wampum Belts:

Two-row Belts

Close-up on the beads: