Teaching Students About the League of Iroquois

The League of the Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy or the Six Nations, played a crucial role in shaping Native American history and serves as an excellent subject for teaching students about indigenous culture, politics, and values. The league’s complex system of governance, social structure, and spiritual beliefs can offer valuable insights into the richness and diversity of Native American societies. This article will explore effective ways to teach students about the League of Iroquois, discussing various activities and resources to enhance their understanding.


Before diving into teaching methods, it is essential to provide some background on the League itself. The Iroquois Confederacy was founded around the 15th or 16th century and originally consisted of five nations: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. Later on, in the 18th century, the Tuscarora joined to form the Six Nations we know today. The primary purpose of forming this alliance was to maintain peace among the member tribes and create a strong defense against external threats.

Teaching Strategies:

1. Introduce students to a brief overview of Native American history and place a particular emphasis on the formation and significance of the League of Iroquois.

2. Encourage students to research individually or in groups about specific aspects of Haudenosaunee culture such as governance systems (e.g., Great Law of Peace), traditional ceremonies (e.g., Green Corn Ceremony), creation stories, arts and crafts (e.g., beadwork), or agriculture (e.g., Three Sisters gardening method).

3. Host group discussions where students can present their research findings and debate various perspectives on cultural practices or historic events.

4. Invite guest speakers with a background in Native American studies or members of the Iroquois community to share their perspectives and knowledge with the class.

5. Utilize multimedia resources, such as videos, documentaries, or podcasts, to provide a visual and auditory understanding of Iroquois life and history. Investigate the possibility of taking your students on a field trip to an Iroquois historical site or cultural center.

Suggested Resources:

– Books:

1. “The Iroquois: The Six Nations Confederacy” by Mary Englar

2. “Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier” by Timothy J. Shannon

3. “Sisters in Spirit: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Influence on Early American Feminists” by Sally Roesch Wagner

– Websites:

1. Haudenosaunee Confederacy Official Site (https://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/)

2. The National Museum of the American Indian (https://americanindian.si.edu/)

– Documentaries:

1. “The Great Indian Wars” directed by Denis Mueller

2. “We Shall Remain: America Through Native Eyes” produced by PBS


Teaching students about the League of Iroquois is crucial for understanding native history, culture, and values that shaped today’s America. By combining various teaching strategies and resources, educators can provide their students with a comprehensive and engaging learning experience that extends beyond textbook knowledge.

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