Haudenosaunee is the general term we use to refer to ourselves, instead of “Iroquois.” The word “Iroquois” is not a Haudenosaunee word. It is derived from a French version of a Huron Indian name that was applied to our ancestors and it was considered derogatory, meaning “Black Snakes.” Haudenosaunee means “People building an extended house” or more commonly referred to as “People of the Long House.” The longhouse was a metaphor introduced by the Peace Maker at the time of the formation of the Confederacy meaning that the people are meant to live together as families in the same house. Today this means that those who support the traditions, beliefs, values and authority of the Confederacy are to be know as Haudenosaunee.
The founding constitution of the Confederacy brought the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations under one law. Together they were called the Five Nations by the English, and Iroquois by the French. The Tuscarora joined around 1720, and collectively they are now called the Six Nations.
We also refer to ourselves as “Ongwehonweh,” meaning that we are the “Original People” or “First People” of this land. The Haudenosaunee is actually six separate nations of people who have agreed to live under the traditional law of governance that we call the Great Law of Peace. Each of these nations have their own identity, In one sense, these are our “nationalities.” Many of the names that we have come to know the tribes by are not even Indian words, such as Tuscarora or Iroquois. The original member nations are:
- Seneca, “Onondowahgah,” meaning The People of the Great Hill, also referred to as the Large Dark Door.
- Cayuga, “Guyohkohnyoh,” meaning The People of the Great Swamp.
- Onondaga, “Onundagaono,” meaning The People of the Hills.
- Oneida, “Onayotekaono,” meaning The People of the Upright Stone.
- Mohawk, “Kanienkahagen,” meaning The People of the Flint/Quartz.
- Tuscarora, known as “Ska-Ruh-Reh” meaning The Hemp Shirt Wearing People.