Who Are Some Famous Iroquois People?

Famous Iroquois people include Dekanawidah, the author of the Iroquois Constitution, and the prophet Handsome Lake. Hiawatha and Chief John Big Tree also are notable Iroquois.

The Iroquois consider Dekanawidah, or the Great Peacemaker, the founder of the Iroquois Confederacy. He established the Great Peace and Great Law, which served as the tribe’s constitution. In some legends, Hiawatha, another famous Iroquois, and Jigonsaseh, or Peace Queen, helped write the document. They forbade the Iroquois from engaging in cannibalism, human sacrifice and black magic. Though Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized Hiawatha in “The Song of Hiawatha,” he based the poem on Manabozho, who wasn’t even Iroquois. Some stories cast Hiawatha as Dehanawidah’s descendant, disciple or assistant, while other stories describe them as equals.

During an attempt to unite the five Iroquois tribes, Joseph Brant served as the Mohawk’s tribal spokesman. He also was a Christian missionary and a British military officer during the Revolutionary War. The prophet Handsome Lake helped revive the Iroquois League. He also established the Code of Handsome Lake, which predicted that failure to abstain from drunkenness, witchcraft, sexual promiscuity, wife beating, quarreling and gambling would cause fire to destroy the world.

Perhaps the most recognized Iroquois is actor Chief John Big Tree, whose face is on the Indian Head Nickel. Pontiac also uses his profile on its car emblem.