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Early History (Pre-1400)
Woodland and Hopewell CulturesThe beginnings of the present-day Iroquois Confederacy are rooted in the history of Eastern Borealia in general. The first major cultural tradition that thrived in the region was the Woodland Culture, which heralded the beginning of sedentary life across most of the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and Mississippi River. Beginning with the introduction of pottery around 1000 BC, the early Woodland Culture, which is a catch-all term for the region's culture from 1000 BC to 1000 AD saw the rise of subsistence agriculture throughout the southern parts of this region, and a general rise in the usage of agriculture, stone and bone tools, and leather.
From circa 1-500 AD, the Woodland culture was at its apex in what is known as the Hopewell culture. Permanent settlements spread northward, along the Mississippi River Valley and trade began to link the various cultures that were developing across the region. The eventual home of the Iroquois was part of the Hopewell Culture, and during this time it is believed that farming was introduced to the region. Permanent settlements continued to grow, and the lasting relic of the Hopewell, large burial mounds rivaling some of the largest structures on the planet at the time were built, especially in what would become Cahokia in the future.
For some reason, from circa 500-1000 AD, the overall population of Woodland tribes spread out, and while populations as a whole did not decrease, the large mounds and towns almost ceased to be built, alongside the pan-region trade system that had been developed. Agriculture continued to develop, and the bow and arrow largely came into use, decimating the herds of large game animals, and forcing the inhabitants of the region to rely more on agriculture. Due to these factors, the towns that were developing within the region began to isolate themselves from the main tribes and develop their own ways. More small farming villages were built than ever before, and it was during this time that the proto-Iroquois began to develop.
The Rise of Cahokia and the Old MississippiansThe proto-Iroquois and their Algonquian cousins during this time continued to live the old way of life, cultivating corn, squash, and beans and hunting near Lake Ontario, but to the southwest, another way of life was beginning to emerge. The Old Mississippian Culture began to emerge with the epicenter on the Mississippia River and the town of Cahokia which is the ancestor of OTL Saint Louis. Characterized by large earthen pyramids that were the successors of the Hopewell mounds, metals such as copper being used in tools and weapons, the abandonment of the old tribal system for a fully sedentary chiefdom system, the revival of trade along the Mississippia River and its tributaries, and intensive corn-based agriculture that almost fully supplanted hunting as the primary source of food, the Mississippians reversed the trend of fragmentation of the old Woodland people, and many large cities began to grow again, almost to unbelievable heights.
Chief amongst said large cities was Cahokia, a trade-based town established circa 600. Due to its position at the confluence of several tributaries of the Mississippia River and the Mississippia River itself, Cahokia grew rich and large off of trade and spread its influence across the region until by 1200, it was undoubtedly the most important city in the region. The city began to decline around the 1300s due to over-hunting and deforestation until by 1400 it was a shadow of its former self. Many outlying tribes by this time had abandoned the land-intensive Old Mississippian way of life and have reverted back to the old tribal system. The rise and fall of the Old Mississippian culture underscores the connections that the Iroquois have between the tribes and nations of the Mississippia River Valley.
The Beginnings of the Iroquois and Deganawida
While the Old Mississippian culture was falling in the west, the tribes which would later form the core of the Iroquois began to develop. Around 1350, several Iroquoian tribes around Lake Ontario known as the Wenro, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk that shared the same language began to constantly feud amongst themselves and fight against neighbors for various petty reasons, leaving the region war-torn by raids, feuds, and infighting. That all began to change in 1400 when an Onondaga man by the name of Deganawida and a follower of his, a Mohawk man by the name of Hiawatha began to go to each of the nations, spreading a message of peace and unity to the war-ravaged tribes. By the end of the year 1401, many tribes received his message of cooperation, especially the easterly Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk who see the value in unification to create a united front against their nearby traditional enemies, the Algonquians. A Great Iroquois Council was scheduled for 1403 to discuss the prospects of unification.
At the council though, rifts developed between Deganawida and the Mohawk, who hosted the council. Though the tribes were willing to unify, their intentions were aggressive in nature, seeking to conquer all of the Algonquian tribes between the Mohawk and the Atlantic Ocean once they were unified. These warmongering intentions shocked Deganawida, who advocated peace with neighboring tribes, both Iroquoian and non-Iroquoian. The Mohawk chiefs, convinced that Deganawida's efforts are a scam to weaken the warrior spirit plan to kill him. Despite these disagreements, the Mohawk agreed to join a larger confederacy.
The Mohawks finally manage to kill Deganawida when in 1405, he is "accidentally" shot by an arrow during a hunt.