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Legendary Native American Figures: The Great Peacemaker

Name: The Great Peacemaker
Tribal affiliation: Iroquois
Native names: Skennenrahawi, Hononhsoni:donh, Deganawida, Dekanawida, Deganawidah, Dekanawideh, Tekanawita
Pronunciation: varies by language: in Mohawk it is pronounced skun-nun-lah-hah-wee. Deganawida is a more reverent name and is not usually spoken aloud except in ceremonial contexts.
Type: Native American hero, legendary leader, peace maker

The Great Peacemaker (Skennenrahawi or Deganawida) is a revered mythological leader from the traditions of the Iroquois tribes. He is considered by most communities to be the founder of the Iroquois Confederacy and the establisher of the Great Peace and Great Law that governed the Confederacy, although in many stories he shared that honor with the orator Hiawatha and a female Seneca chief named Jigonsaseh (sometimes called the Peace Queen.) According to many versions of the story, Deganawida and Hiawatha forbade violent previous practices such as cannibalism, human sacrifice, and black magic. The details of the Peacemaker's story vary significantly between different Iroquois communities. In some stories, he is portrayed as a lionized historical figure, similar to George Washington; in others, as a mythic hero with magical powers, more similar to Odysseus.

His spiritual name, which is rarely pronounced aloud, means "Two Rivers Flowing Together." His Mohawk title, Skennenrahawi, literally means "Peace-Maker," which is generally used as his translated name in English. Another commonly heard title is Hononhsoni:donh, which means "Strengthens the Longhouse" in Cayuga.

Peacemaker Stories

*The Peacemaker * The Peacemaker and the Tree of Peace:
    Haudenosaunee legends about the Peacemaker and the founding of the Iroquois League.
*De-Ka-Nah-Wi-Da and Hiawatha * Birth of a Nation * Deganawida and Hiawatha:
    Haudenosaunee stories about the legendary heroes Hiawatha and the Peacemaker.

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Recommended Books of Peacemaker Stories

White Roots of Peace: Iroquois Book of Life:
    A good rendition of the epic of Deganawidah the Peacemaker.
Peace Walker: The Legend of Hiawatha and Tekanawita:
    Illustrated story of the founding of the Iroquois League by a Mohawk author and artist.
Creation and Confederation: The Living History of the Iroquois:
    The history of the Iroquois Confederacy, including the story of the Great Peacemaker Dekanawida.
Great Peacemaker:
    Children's picture book about the life of the Iroquois Peacemaker.
The Great Law and the Longhouse:
    Book about the Iroquois legal and political system, founded by Hiawatha and the Peace Maker.

Additional Resources

 People of the Longhouse
 Iroquois stories
 The Haudenosaunee
 Iroquoian languages
 Huron language
 Onondaga language
 New York tribes
 Northeastern Woodlands



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