What Was the Purpose of the Iroquois League?

The Iroquois League of Nations’ primary purpose was to enforce the Great Law of Peace to settle disputes and prevent warfare between the allied tribal nations. Originally consisting of five tribes, the League considered unallied tribes enemies and occasionally went to war against them. In 1722, the Tuscarora nation joined, and the League became known as the Six Nations.

The Iroquois called themselves the Haudenosaunee, which roughly translates to “People of the Longhouse,” symbolizing how the five nations strove to conduct themselves as families living in a single longhouse. The original League of Nations was made up of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk.

The need for the Iroquois League rose from increasing intergroup aggression, most likely stemming from resource competition in the face of rising populations. Small villages tied themselves together into larger clans for protection, but they were also obliged to revenge themselves for the murder of one of their members, creating a cycle of revenge and warfare that led to ceaseless warfare and raids. According to legend, the Mohawk chief Hiawatha along with Deganawida the Peacemaker convinced the chiefs of five tribes to form a confederacy that became the Iroquois League. Although its exact origin is unknown, the Iroquois League still exists.