(based on Longfellow's story)]]Hiawatha (also known as Ha-yo-went'-ha) who lived around 1550, was variously a leader of the Onondaga or Mohawk nations of Native Americans.
Hiawatha was a follower of Deganawidah, a prophet and shaman who was credited as the founder of the Iroquois confederacy. If Deganawidah was the idea man, Hiawatha was the politician who actually put the plan into practice. Hiawatha was a skilled and charismatic orator, and was instrumental in persuading the Iroquois peoples, the Senecass, Onondagass, Oneidas, Cayugas, and Mohawks, a group of Native Americans who shared a common language, to accept Deganawidah's vision and band together to become the Five Nations of the Iroquois confederacy. (Later, in 1721, the Tuscarora nation joined the Iroquois confederacy, and they became the Six Nations).
According to Longfellow The Song of Hiawatha is based on Schoolcraft'sAlgic Researches and History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. Schoolcraft seems to have based his "Hiawatha" primarily on the Algonquiantrickster-figure Manabozho. There is none, or only faint resemblance between Longfellow's hero and the life-stories of Hiawatha and Deganawidah; see Longfellow's Hiawatha vs. the historical Iroquois Hiawatha.
The poem is also recited (in part) in Mike Oldfield's work Incantations.