What Is the History of the Iroquois Tribe?

The Iroquois are made up of five different tribes that settled around upstate New York 4,000 years ago; this Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy included the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga and Onondaga. The Iroquois language was the major common factor that united these tribes. The Iroquois empire peaked in 1680; it shrunk following the American Revolution because the tribes had sided with the defeated British forces. Today, many Seneca, Tuscarora and Onondaga people continue to live in New York.

The Iroquois territory originally ranged between the Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls before expanding to include parts of Michigan, Kentucky, Quebec and New England. In 1712, the Tuscarora tribe joined the Confederation, which adopted the name Haudenosaunee, or "six nations," to reflect the change. American forces invaded Iroquois territory in 1779, which resulted in many Iroquois being pushed north into Canadian territory.

During the early decades of the 1800s, a great part of the original Iroquois lands were ceded to the United States. However, unlike the Cherokee, the Iroquois tribes found ways to stay in their homeland territory. The Cayuga tribe migrated to Ohio, and later moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. They were later joined there by members of the Seneca tribe, and formed the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.

The Iroquois people were known for being skilled diplomats and warriors who were successful at solving problems together. In the 1640s, the tribes acquired Dutch firearms, which enabled them to more easily conquer other tribes. Prisoners became part of the tribe that captured them, which strengthened family connections between the groups. The leaders of each tribe negotiated politics through a complex system similar to modern American and European legislation. The Iroquois worshipped a spirit named Tarachiawagon and maintained order through cooperation and mutual respect.