Hiawatha, or Five Nation Confederacy
The Six Nations Confederacy belt, also known as the Hiawatha Belt symbolizes the original five nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy which united under the Tree of Peace.
At that time, a man whom we call the Peacemaker united the five warring nations and convinced us to bury our weapons of war under a tree of peace. When peace was achieved, the Peacemaker instructed us to think that we were all living together under one longhouse.
The first square on the belt symbolizes the council fire of the first nation to accept the message of peace, the Mohawks or Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (People of the Flint).
The next symbol represents the council fire of the Oneida or the Onyota'a:ka, (People of the Standing Stone).
The third symbol represents the Onondaga or Onoñda’gegá’ (People of the Hills). The Peacemaker uprooted the tallest white pine, the Tree of Peace, for the leaders to bury their weapons of war beneath it. Also, as Onondaga lies in the centre, the Peacemaker also titled them the Firekeepers of the Haudenosaunee confederacy.
The fourth symbol represents the Cayuga or Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫʼ (People of the Great Swamp).
The final symbol represents the Seneca or Onödowa'ga:' (People of the Great Hill).
The Tuscarora nation joined the Confederacy in 1722.
The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca people had been warring against each other. There was great bloodshed and death surrounding us. These people of the five nations had forgotten their ways and their actions saddened the Creator. The Creator decided to send a messenger to the people so that the five nations could live in peace. The messenger is referred to as the Peacemaker.
A wampum belt was made to record the event. It is called the Hiawatha Belt. The belt is made of purple shells with five symbols across the center. Hiawatha Belt begins with a symbol for the Mohawk people, next the Oneida, in the center is the Tree of Peace and the Onondaga, next is the Cayuga and the final symbol is the Seneca people. We were now all united in peace and have remained that way for countless centuries.