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The history of the Iroquois Confederacy goes back to its formation by the Peacemaker in 1142, bringing together five distinct nations in the southern Great Lakes area into "The Great League of Peace".

Day proposes a hypothetical Montagnais phrase irno kwédač, meaning "a man, an Iroquois", as the origin of this term.

For the first element irno, Day cites cognates from other attested Montagnais dialects: irinou, iriniȣ, and ilnu; and for the second element kwédač he suggests a relation to kouetakiou, kȣetat-chiȣin, and goéṭètjg – names used by neighboring Algonquian tribes to refer to the Iroquois, Hurons, and Laurentians.

Iroquois influence extended into present-day Canada, westward along the Great Lakes and down both sides of the Allegheny mountains into present-day Virginia and Kentucky and into the Ohio Valley.

The League is governed by a Grand Council, an assembly of fifty chiefs or sachems, each representing one of the clans of one of the nations.

The name "Haudenosaunee" first appears in English in Lewis Henry Morgan (1851), where it is written as Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, although the spelling "Hotinnonsionni" is also attested from later in the nineteenth century.

This term derives from the Mohawk kanǫhsyǫ́·ni ("the extended house"), or from a cognate expression is a related Iroquoian language, and is frequently encountered in earlier sources variously spelled "Kanosoni", "akwanoschioni", "Aquanuschioni", "Cannassoone", "Canossoone", "Ke-nunctioni", or "Konossioni".are a historically powerful northeast Native American confederacy.They were known during the colonial years to the French as the "Iroquois League", and later as the "Iroquois Confederacy", and to the English as the "Five Nations" (before 1722), and later as the "Six Nations", comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora peoples.The women elders nominate the chief for life from the clan, and own the symbols of his office.When Europeans first arrived in North America, the Haudenosaunee were based in what is now the northeastern United States, primarily in what is referred to today as Central New York west of the Hudson River and through the Finger Lakes region, and upstate New York along the St.Day in 1968, who elaborates upon an earlier etymology given by Charles Arnaud in 1880.