The Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga and Tuscarora are united under the Great Tree of Peace, commonly referred to as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy or the Iroquois League. The alliance was formed during ancient times by Deganawida the Great Peacemaker and Hiawatha by gathering 50 chiefs to create the structure of their confederacy.
The Peacemaker brought peace to the Haudenosaunee by changing minds, subverting constant war and chaos, and uniting the nations in a spiritual-political system referred to as The Great Law. The Great Law system organizes families into clans, with clan-identity passed down through the mother. Each clan family has a chief and clan-mother, whose responsibilities include taking care of the law and serving the people. Traditionally, Chiefs pass titles down to successors who are chosen by Clan-mothers. Clans include three animals from the water, the land, and the sky. They are turtle, eel, and beaver; bear, wolf, and deer; and heron, hawk, and snipe. The Great Law emphasizes care, living life with a good mind and good intentions, abiding by the laws of nature, and individual freedom through the wellbeing of whole communities.
During the American Revolution, Captain Joseph Brant led many from the Iroquois Confederacy to ally with the British. For their loyalty to the Crown, the Six Nations would be deeded a tract of land along the Grand River. Eventually, most of the land would be stripped from them and they would be reduced to their present 46,000 acres. Currently, Six Nations of the Grand River is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada by population and the second largest reserve by size. It is also the only reserve in North America where all six Iroquois nations live together.
Between 1980 and 1995, Six Nations of the Grand River submitted 29 claims to Canada under Canada’s Specific Claims Policy. So far, only one of these claims has been resolved. In 1995, the Six Nations commenced litigation against Canada and Ontario for an accounting of what happened to its land, money and the manner in which the Crown managed and disposed of these assets. In 2009, the Six Nations formally reactivated the 1995 litigation against Canada and Ontario. Their claims are now being pursued in the courts.