In terms of power and achievement as well as influence, the Iroquois were one of the most important alliances in early America. Consisting of the Six Nations--originally, the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca, and in 1715 joined by the Tuscarora--the Iroquois controlled a region that included western Massachusetts to Lake Erie and from southern Canada into North Carolina. The alliance was a democratically governed entity, with elected representatives. Women actively participated in tribal governance. For instance, Iroquois women not only advised the tribal chiefs but were responsible for nominating the individuals for election to position of chief. The origin story "Sky Woman" reflects the longstanding integrative nature of Iroquois culture.
In the faraway days of this floating island, there grew one stately tree that branched beyond the range of vision. Perpetually laden with fruit and blossoms, the air was fragrant with its perfume, and the people gathered to its shade where councils were held.
One day the Great Ruler said to his people, "We will make a new place where another people may grow. Under our council tree is a great cloud sea which calls for our help. It is lonesome. It knows no rest and calls for light. We will talk to it. The roots of our council tree point to it and will show the way."
Having commanded that the tree be uprooted, the Great Ruler peered into the depths where the roots had guided, and summoning Ata-en-sic, who was with child, bade her look down. Ata-en-sic saw nothing, but the Great Ruler knew that the sea voice was calling, and bidding her carry its life, wrapped around her a great ray of light and sent her down to the cloud sea.