Around 1000 years ago, a long and bloody war engulfed the five indigenous nations that inhabited what is now known as central New York State, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, and western Vermont. In the west were the Seneca and Cayuga nations. To the east were the Kanien'kehá:ka and Oneida nations. Located in the center of this territory was the Onondaga Nation.

In the midst of this war, a messenger known as the Peacemaker provided a path of peace, righteousness, and power that unified these nations and put an end to their bloody war. This union or alliance is called the Haudenosaunee, a western Iroquoian term that is generally translated as People of the Longhouse. The Kanien'kehá:ka term is Rotinonhsón:ni, which means "they are building an extended house." In 1722, the Tuscarora Nation was adopted into the Haudenosaunee, becoming the sixth nation of the confederation.

The foundation of Haudenosaunee Confederacy is the Kaianere'kó:wa - the Great Law of Peace. This ancient doctrine provides an elaborate and efficient institution of democratic governance, social and economic stability, and a moral equation to achieve a personal and collective peace.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is a constitutional democracy that is governed by a group of 50 Chiefs, who make decisions through a complex consensus-building process.

In colonial times, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy held a prevalent political and military influence over the Eastern Woodlands of North America.

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