In a distant time, the Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga warred against each other. It was a period of great upheaval that continued until the arrival of the Peacemaker, who brought The Great Law of Peace, uniting the warring nations and forming the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy.
To emphasize the union that had been created between the five nations, the Peacemaker chose a white pine tree, whose height pierced the firmament and whose needles cluster in groups of five. The Peacemaker explained that as the white pine tree retains its color throughout the seasons, so too would the Great Peace forever hold sway over the Five Nations.
The white pine tree – the Tree of Peace – was pulled from the ground by its roots, the Great White Root, which had grown in the four directions — north, south, east and west. Into the resulting hollow were buried all the weapons of war. And from this place, strong currents of water would carry the weapons away. An eagle was placed upon the top of the tree to see far into the distance and warn the Haudenosaunee of approaching danger.
The Peacemaker then took an arrow from each of the nations and bound them together to symbolize the power of unity. One arrow can break and bend easily, but five together add strength. The Peacemaker then said:
“We have now completed our power so that we the Five Nations Confederacy shall in the future have one body, one mind, and one heart. If any evil should befall us in the future, we shall stand or fall united as one man.”