The Ethnographic History of Native America People

Before the white man, the story of Iroquois Indians began long before the white explorers, traders, and settlers reached the shores of the New World. The Iroquois originally lived in some unknown part of North America. According to legend, these Indians were instructed by the Great Spin to move into the Northeast. There they carved a territory for themselves in the middle of a rival group of Indians, the Algonquins.

The Iroquois settled in beautiful and rich lands of northern New York State.

We know this territory today as the area surrounding Lake Ontario the Five Finger Lakes, and the Saint Lawrence River The lakes and rivers provided abundant fish, and thick woods offered a game of many kinds. It was an ideal location but the Iroquois had to fight their neighbors to maintain this new homeland.

Fighting became a way of life for the Iroquois in those centuries before the arrival of the white man. the word “Iroquois” is the Algonquin word meaning “rattlesnake”.

That name tells how the enemy viewed the Iroquois. The Iroquois called themselves “Haudenosaunee” (Ho-de-no-saw-one), meaning the people of the long house”. The Iroquois Indians are not one tribe but several; the group includes the Mohawk and the Seneca. the Onondaga, the Oneida, and the Cayuga tribes. Today these names mark well-known areas of New York and the northeast. The Iroquois became a Nation of the six tribes after 1715 when the Tuscarora Indians relocated from the south to join them.

The Iroquois Indians were constantly fighting: they fought to defend themselves from their enemies.

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They fought to gain more land or more power. They also fought to avenge themselves in intertribal: they fought as often with each other as they did with unrelated tubes.

The Seneca and the Mohawk tribes were the fiercest among the Iroquois Nation. The warriors conducted many raids upon other Iroquois tribes as well as upon the rival Algonquin and the Huron. As raiders, they could approach like foxes, fight like on, and disappear like birds. They were masters Of the silent ambush in the woods.

In the League of the Iroquois Nation after centuries of continuous family warfare, the Iroquois were finally united in a “great peace’, according to the legend, a holy man named Deganawidah conceived the idea of a union of the five Iroquois tribes. He had a vision of the tribes united under the sheltering branches of a great trip. At the top of the tee rested a gigantic eagle that would warn the Iroquois of approaching enemies.

A Mohawk Indian by the name of Hiawatha heard of Deganawidah’s vision and he strongly believed that peace could happen. This Hiawatha traveled from village to village, from tribe to tribe, spreading the message of peace. It took several years, but he was finally successful in his mission. Do not confuse this Hiawatha, with the Indian in Longfellow’s poem, that Hiawatha was a fictional character.

In 1570, the Mohawks, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, and Cayuga tribes formed a confederacy called the League of the Iroquois, oF the League of the Five Nations. This was the first form of democracy in the New World, This was fifty years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Under the rules of the league, each of the five tribes continued to govern itself, The task of the Great Council of the league was to confer about problems with outside tribes. This governing body is made up of 50 members from each tribe, and that number has remained the same to this day. After Hiawatha died, another Mohawk on the council never filed his seat, None felt they were worthy to take his place.

People of the Longhouses, the Iroquois Indians are famous for the style of the house they developed, They were called the Longhouse, because it was a long and narrow building that could be from 50 to 150 feet long and 18 to 25 feet wide, The roof was arched, the walls formed by curved poles were covered with sheets of bark, these houses had no windows.

Many families of a clan lived in one small space, not much more than a large bunk bed of today. This family “bunk’ was part of two continuous platforms, one above the other and built along each wall, The lower platform is where the whole family slept together under a blanket of Deerskin, The upper level, the family stored i’s possessions, pots, cradleboards, and weapons. A central hallway the length of the longhouse. Small ires bumed at many sites along with thethemthem with open space, two families. shared each fire for cooking, as well as warmth and light. The smoke from these fires curled upward and out of the building through smoke holes in the roof, I trained, oF snowed these holes were closed.

A woman governed each Longhouse. When an Iroquois couple married, they went to live in the longhouse of the wife’s family. All the property belonged to the Iroquois woman, and all power came from her. Each village had many longhouses, depending on the number of people living in the village. A village, usually located high on a riverbank, surrounded by a palisade, a high fence made of pointed, and slender tree trunks. Warriors would stand guard on the palisade day and night village had a pile of about 10 years. After the farmlands around the village were no longer fertile, then the people would move on to new locations. On land that was cleared, the Indian woman planted crops of com, squash, beans, tobacco, and sunflowers. The Iroquois woman also collected wild nuts, fruits, and berries; they made teas from herbs, plants, and some trees.

They would dry foods by hanging fish, com, meat, and strips of pumpkin from the ceiling of the Longhouse. For the long winter months, vegetables were placed in deep pits that were lined and covered with bark, and a final cover of the earth was secured to store vegetables. The meat was stored in similar ways, except deer, skins were used to line and cover the pits.

The men of the wines were the hunters, in the late fall and early winter they would spend weeks hunting for game to supply the village with meat for the year ahead, The forests were abundant with deer, bear, wild fowl, and other small animals. They used blowguns, and bows and arrows to hunt

The Staple of life ~ Com Most Indians of the east, the Iroquois, depended upon corn as their main source of food. They ate corn in soups, bread, and even puddings. Com and beans made succotash, a favorite food, and com was served with greens and nuts, flavored with berries or maple sugar. A pot of food was alwaysfiretoo on the fire too for when they got hungry, but they usually ate once a day, about mid-morning. Reminds me of my grandmother’s house, she always had things cooking on her stove.

The Iroquois made crafts and canoes. Their canoes were made from elm bark, which was too thick to make swift and swift and -running boats. The canoes were ugly and heavy, and although the Iroquois were surrounded by waterways; they never made great use of water transportation. One craft that seemed to be unique to the Iroquois was a burden carer, basswoodthesetwas a frame made of hickory and basswoodcarrying fibers. The woman usually carted it on her back and secured it by long straps around her head or shoulders. Mothers to carry a baby used variations of cradleboard caries, and then the carrier was called a cradleboardarrivalof the. The woman also made clay pots for cooking and storage, clay pots had round bodies and raisedarrivalof the square collars or rims. After the arrival of the white men, the work thelike1600srtered for the sturdy brass kettles to replace the clay pots.

When the word wampum is mentioned, people often think of money, its rue wampum was used like1600s money to barter for goods, which happened in the 1600s after the Dutch setupAtlantic trading post along the Hudson River. The Indians of the Atlanticquinoa coast developed wampum and used it for historical and religious purposes. Wampum was the name for tube-tike beads Indians made from seashells. White wampum beads were made from the inside of a couch or whelk, large saltwater shells that are good to eat. | love them in a seafood salad. The purple wampum came from a quinoaclam called quinoa also a saltwater shell, These were the most valuable because it was harder o find the shells that they were made from. Making wampum was a special skill so only certain Indians fromIroquoifrom Iroquois the Iroquois Nation were the official makers. Soon wampum came in many colors, but the Dutch and European traders and setters: manufactured them.

The Iroquois had no written language, 50 used wampums as, their form of paper and books. They shaped wampum with strings and formed designs on wampum belts that told a story but of course, not everyone understood the words and ideas sealed in the wampum shapes. Each tribe had an official keeper for the wampum, this was a sacred job to memorize the message of each belt or string, The keeper learned the story first from the chief or sachem he listened carefully so he could repeat it exactly as It was spoken, and to preserve its history, each keeper trained an apprentice. Wampum oid the story, not only of the tribe’s history tribes tribe but also its customs and laws. In times of danger, the wampum was buried until the danger passed, then the keeper unearthed the valuable beads.

Ceremonies and Festivals were important to the Iroquois, these events were held to honor the Great Spirits who provided good crops and games. Ceremonies scared off the Evil spins, they called this falsefamilyof a face society. This society was called at times from the family of a sick person to help with the shells healing ceremony. Members wore large ugly carved masks when they came to the longhouses and caied noise makers that were made from turtles filled filed with pebbles. They danced around the ick person, chanting and ratting the noisemakers. Once a person was cured he became a member Of the False Face Society. Each of these masks was a commemoration of a mythical creature, the original False Face who was punished by the Great Spirit fr being too boastful and proud. His punishment was to spend eternity healing the sick. The members of this society performed the task every spring and fall they would go into the longhouses and conduct a ceremony to scare away PittsIndiansIn the of ness.

When the White Man came this started the fur trade with the Indians. In the new world, the white man was eager to trade with the Indians for fur. The Indians were just as eager to trade with the White Man, they obtained wonderful possessions of metal pots, Kettles, steel needles, jewels, woven cloth, blankets,kille, and guns. Before the Indians only killed animals for food, but when the greedy Europeans came they wanted all the fur they could get from the Indians, then the Indians became greedy and wanted more of the goods from these strangers who were invading their land.

The Iroquois were killing by too many animals, but their solution to this dilemma, they invaded the territory of their rivals who lived further west and north. They often seized boatloads of furs from other Indians. Atte they conquered their neighbors Hurrah and Algonquin they controlled travel on the rivers. By 1644 they controlled the territory for St. Lawrence River to Tennessee and from New England to Michigan. Between 1650 and 1651 the Iroquois League maintained a general peace throughout their territory. By 1700 the Iroquois became more drawn into the rivalry between the French and the British. This rivalry eventually spt the league and destroyed the power of the Iroquois.

In 1615 the soldiers of the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, attacked an Onondaga Village and killed many Indians this was the beginning of a great hatred for the French. During the French and Indian War (1750-1763) many Indian tribes in the east sided with the French. it was the French and Indians against the British. Some of the Iroquois Nation became allies of the British because of an Irish man named Wiliam Johnson, the Iroquois supported the British forces. Johnson was placed in charge of Indian affairs by the British king and soon became one of the largest landowners in America.

In the Albany Congress of 1754 one of the most famous colonial leaders that attended was Benjamin Franklin, The British also invited 150 Iroquois Iroquois chiefs in hopes that they would sign an agreement to support the British when war broke out. The Iroquois made no agreements; they scolded the British or let the French get such a stronghold west of the Hudson River. They feared for themselves in the presence of so many French. It was chief Joseph Brant (Thayandaneca) who the Iroquois Supported and the British soldiers that they fought with, The final defeat of the British was also a final defeat for the Iroquois Nation. They paid a high price for supporting the losing side in the war. They were forced to surrender control of their lands to the new government of the United States. in 1784 they signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. Joseph Brant knew the Iroquois would have to give up millions of acres of and for a small part of reservation land in New York. So he fled to Canada to persuade the king to give the Iroquois lands in Canada as valuable as those they would use in the United States. The King granted Brant a large tract of land in Ontario Canada. Today it is called Brant County it is still home to many Mohawk Indians and other descendants of the Iroquois nation.

The Iroquois today. The Iroquois have not vanished there are more than 28,000 living in New York State on or off reservations. In Canada, there are another 30,000 or more, mostly Mohawk descendants. A few thousand are scattered across the United States. The Iroquois survived better than the Indians on western reservations. They maintained their great council, which continued to meet, according to tradition in Onondaga terry.

Finally, the Mohawk men developed a new job skill. In 1886, the Mohawk men of the Iroquois Nation became the first Indian state! workers hired to work on the construction of a bridge over the St. Lawrence River connecting Canada and the United States. As bridge men, the Iroquois men continue to display their courage as warriors of steel girders and work in many parts of the world today. They are very proud people, in the past 40 years the descendant of the Iroquois work in factories, schools, hospitals, and laboratories on a farm fields. These Native Americans and Canadians have a proud past land a strong future.

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The Ethnographic History of Native America People. (2022, Jun 13). Retrieved from

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