Hiawatha and the Peacemaker

Hiawatha was a Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inform the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

Primary teachers can use it to model asking questions and inferring, while older grades can dive into character analysis and study oral traditions.The book also provides information to enhance students' understanding of how this story shaped U.S. history.


Social Justice Standards:

Justice 14. Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.

  • The Haudenosaunee Confederacy was a model for the U.S. Federal system, study more by watching this video and this video. Discuss why these details are often left out of traditional "American Revolution" curriculum and then discuss the impact of privilege and power.

Justice 15. Students will identify figures, groups, events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice around the world.

  • Analyze the philosophies used by the Iroquois to unite the nations- justice, peace, love and unity. Study the Haudenosaunee Confederacy website and analyze their social justice strategies and philosophies.

Reading Strategies:

Genres: Study oral traditions, myths, and legends.

Character Analysis: Analyze Hiawatha and the events that shape his feelings and choices.

Story Elements: plot, setting, problem/solution

Theme: Discuss what is needed to live in a peaceful society. Analyze the ways oral traditions like these have helped to preserve peace within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Author's Craft: The author includes the that the Peacemaker had a speech impediment- why do storytellers include this detail? (Teaching listeners that even heroes have flaws to overcome).

Book Details:
  • Oral Tradition, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Iroquois Nations
  • Author's stated heritage: Mohawk and Cayuga descent
  • Subject Integration: Government, History

Learn more about the Haudenosaunee Confederacy today

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy, made up of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas united the nations and created a peaceful means of decision making.

Often described as the oldest, participatory democracy on Earth, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s constitution is believed to be a model for the American Constitution. What makes it stand out as unique to other systems around the world is its blending of law and values. For the Haudenosaunee, law, society and nature are equal partners and each plays an important role.

Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain