• Native American Profiles: Hiawatha

    In 1855, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published the epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which is a fictional account of the childhood and life of one Native American, Hiawatha. The poem takes place on the shores of Lake Superior and details Hiawatha’s love for his grandmother, his people, and the natural world. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was probably the most popular American poet of his time and The Song of Hiawatha remains a beloved American poem. The real Hiawatha was a great diplomat and chief among the Iroquois Indians. Born around 1525, Hiawatha belonged to the Onondaga tribe, a tribe that belonged to the powerful Iroquois nation. Even though the tribes in the Iroquois nation spoke the same language and shared similar culture, they were constantly at war with one another. Hiawatha wanted peace and worked to unite the tribes.

    Native American Profiles – Images of Hiawatha

    Fun Facts

    • Hiawatha lived near Lake Champlain and the Saint Lawrence River.
    • Legend says that he had five daughters who were killed by enemies.
    • Hiawatha went deep into the forest to grieve. There he met the prophet, Deganawida.
    • Deganawida healed Hiawatha of his sorrows. Hiawatha became a spokesman for the prophet.
    • He traveled to the many tribes, encouraging them to unite and to stop fighting.
    • Hiawatha and Deganawida met a council from the five Iroquois tribes. Hiawatha spoke to them about the Great Law of Peace.
    • He persuaded them to adopt five principles of peace. The council decided that the five tribes would become part of a great Iroquois Confederacy. They agreed to stop fighting, settle arguments peacefully, and protect each other against enemies.
    • They developed a constitution that helped them keep peace for many years. Early American settlers, Benjamin Franklin, admired the constitution and used some of its ideas in American government.


    1. Epic poem: a long poem that tells about historical or mythical events
    2. Grieve: to have deep feelings of sadness and loss
    3. Council: a meeting of a group of leaders

    Questions and Answers

    Question: Who was Longfellow’s inspiration for his poem, Hiawatha?

    Answer: Hiawatha is based on Chippewa (Ojibway) legends as recorded by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and John Tanner. Longfellow was also inspired by an Ojibway chief who stayed at his home.

    Learn More

    Visit PBS to watch a video about Henry Longfellow’s epic poem, Hiawatha.


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APA Style Citation

Tobin, Declan. (2024). Hiawatha Native Indian Facts for Kids -. American History for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.americanhistoryforkids.com/native-american-profiles-hiawatha/

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