Nation Building began in the United States long before Europeans settled North America. The Iroquois Confederacy was the most powerful nation in North America until the English settlements in the 17th century. Central to the Iroquois was the Tree of Peace, or what we call today the white pine.
The Iroquois consisted of five nations, the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas. Legend has it that a man named Deganawidah, while traveling amongst the five nations, preached only of peace, friendship, and unity. Many could not understand such thoughts as war was a constant of that era. Eventually enough did listen and the Iroquois Confederacy was formed.
The symbol of the Confederacy was the Tree of Peace or as they knew it then the tree of Great Long Leaves. The white pine had four roots, symbolizing the four cardinal directions and if any other nation wished to join they would have to follow the roots to their source and take shelter beneath the tree and wait for the Iroquois to arrive. The needles of the white pine come in bundles of five, symbolizing the five nations. An eagle was placed at the top of the tree to spot approaching danger.
For chiefs the white pine represented to them immortality. Their chiefly titles would be passed down and by doing so the idea of the Tree of Peace would never die. As European contact became common and treaties were negotiated, the colonists peaceful intentions would be symbolized by the burying of weapons under a white pine, or you could say burying the hatchet!
While the Iroquois no longer exist as a nation many of the symbols still exist among other Native American tribes and even in the general population of the United States. After all, that eagle is one of the many symbols of our nation.