|First Posted: July 7, 2010|
Mar 6, 2011
Iriquois Indian Nation
Total population: approx. 125,000 (80,000 in the U.S, 45,000 in Canada)
The Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhous," are an indigenous people of North America. In the 16th century or earlier, the Iroquois came together in an association known today as the Iroquois League, or the "League of Peace and Power." The original Iroquois League was often known as the Five Nations, and comprised the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations. After the Tuscarora nation joined the League in the 18th century, the Iroquois have often been known as the Six Nations. The League is embodied in the Grand Council, an assembly of fifty hereditary sachems.
When Europeans first arrived in North America, the Iroquois were based in what is now the northeastern United States, primarily in what is referred to today as upstate New York. Presently, Iroquois live primarily in the United States and Canada.
The Iroquois League has often also been known as the Iroquois Confederacy, but some modern scholars now make a distinction between the League and the Confederacy. According to this interpretation, the Iroquois League refers to the ceremonial and cultural institution embodied in the Grand Council, while the Iroquois Confederacy was the decentralized political and diplomatic entity that emerged in response to European colonization. The League still exists, but the Confederacy was shattered by the defeat of the British and allied Iroquois nations in the American Revolutionary War.
The Iroquois also refers to themselves as the Haudenosaunee, which means "People of the Longhouse," or more accurately, "They Are Building a Long House." The term is said to have been introduced by The Great Peacemaker at the time of the formation of the League. It implies that the nations of the League should live together as families in the same longhouse. Symbolically, the Seneca were the guardians of the western door of the "tribal longhouse" and the Mohawk were the guardians of the eastern door. The Onondagas, whose homeland was in the center of Haudenosaunee territory, were keepers of the League's (both literal and figurative) central flame.
The name "Iroquois" was bestowed upon the Haudenosaunee by the French and has several potential origins. A possible origin of the name Iroquois is reputed to come from a French version of irinakhoiw, a Huron (Wyandot) name - considered an insult - meaning "Black Snakes" or "real adders." The Iroquois were enemies of the Huron and the Algonquin, who allied with the French, because of their rivalry in the fur trade.
The Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) often end their oratory with the phrase hiro kone; hiro translates as "I have spoken," and kone can be translated several ways, the most common being "in joy," "in sorrow," or "in truth." Hiro kone to the French encountering the Haudenosaunee would sound like "Iroquois," in the French language of the time.
Another version is however supported by French linguists such as Henriette Walter and anthropologists such as Dean Snow. According to this account, "Iroquois" would derive from a Basque expression, Hilokoa, meaning the "killer people." This expression would have been applied to the Iroquois because they were the enemy of the local Algonquins, with whom the Basque fishermen were trading. However, because there is no "L" sound in the Algonquian languages of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence region, the name became "Hirokoa," which is the name the French understood when Algonquians referred to the same pidgin language as the one they used with the Basque. The French then transliterated the word according to their own phonetic rules, thus providing "Iroquois.""History
Formation of the League
The language spoken by members of the League is different from that of the other speakers of the languages of the same Iroquoian family. This suggests that while they had a common historical and cultural origin, they diverged over a long enough time that the languages became different. Archaeological evidence shows that the Iroquois lived in the Finger Lakes region from at least 1000 AD.
The Iroquois moved to the south in long wars of invasion in present-day Kentucky. According to one pre-contact theory, it was Iroquois who, by about 1200, had pushed tribes of the Ohio River valley, such as the Quapaw (Akansea) and Ofo (Mosopelea) out of the region in a migration west of the Mississippi River. However, La Salle definitely listed the Mosopelea among the Ohio Valley peoples overthrown by the Iroquois in the early 1670s, during the later Beaver Wars. By 1673, these Siouan groups had settled in their historically known territories of the Midwest, with some displacing other tribes to the west in their turn. Iroquois also live in longhouses.The Iroquois League was established prior to major European contact. Most archaeologists and anthropologists believe that the League was formed sometime between about 1450 and 1600.
A few claims have been made for an earlier date; one recent study has argued that the League was formed in 1142, based on a solar eclipse in that year that seems to fit one oral tradition. Anthropologist Dean Snow argues that the archaeological evidence does not support a date earlier than 1450, and that recent claims for a much earlier date "may be for contemporary political purposes."
According to tradition, the League was formed through the efforts of two men, Deganawida, sometimes known as the Great Peacemaker, and Hiawatha. They brought a message, known as the Great Law of Peace, to the squabbling nations. The nations who joined the League were the Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Mohawk. Once they ceased most of their infighting, the Iroquois rapidly became one of the strongest forces in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century northeastern North America.
According to legend, an evil Onondaga chieftain named Tadodaho was the last to be converted to the ways of peace by The Great Peacemaker and Hiawatha. He became the spiritual leader of the Haudenosaunee. This event is said to have occurred at Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, New York. The title Tadodaho is still used for the league's spiritual leader, the fiftieth chief, who sits with the Onondaga in council. He is the only one of the fifty to have been chosen by the entire Haudenosaunee people. The current Tadodaho is Sid Hill of the Onondaga Nation.Expansion
In Reflections in Bullough's Pond, historian Diana Muir argues that the pre-contact Iroquois were an imperialist, expansionist culture whose use of the corn/beans/squash agricultural complex enabled them to support a large population that made war against Algonquian peoples. Muir uses archaeological data to argue that the Iroquois expansion onto Algonquian lands was checked by the Algonquian adoption of agriculture. This enabled them to support populations of their own that were large enough to include a body of warriors to defend against the threat of Iroquois conquest.
The Iroquois may be the Kwedech described in the oral legends of the Mi'kmaq nation of Eastern Canada. These legends relate that the Mi'kmaq in the late pre-contact period had gradually driven their enemies - the Kwedech - westward across New Brunswick, and finally out of the Lower St. Lawrence River region. The Mi'kmaq named the last-conquered land "Gespedeg" or "lost land," leading to the French word "Gaspé." The "Kwedech" are generally considered to have been Iroquois, specifically the Mohawk; their expulsion from Gaspé by the Mi'kmaq has been estimated as occurring ca. 1535-1600. Around 1535, Jacques Cartier reported Iroquoian groups on Gaspé and along the St. Lawrence River, and Samuel de Champlain found Algonquian groups in the same locations in 1608 - but the exact tribal identity of any of these groups has been debated.
Iroquoian tribes were also well-known in the south by this time. From the time of the first English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia (1607), numerous 17th century accounts describe a powerful people known to the Powhatan Confederacy as the Massawomeck, and to the French as the Antouhonoron, who came from the north, beyond the Susquehannocks. These "Massawomeck"/"Antouhonoron" have often been identified with the Iroquois proper, but other Iroquoian candidates include the Erie tribe who were finally destroyed by the Iroquois in 1654. It is certain that the Five Nations acquired political control of most of Virginia west of the fall line over the years 1670-1710, a region which they continued to claim until they began selling this area to their British allies in 1722.Beaver Wars
It is based on the "Hiawatha Wampum Belt ... created from purple and white wampum beads centuries ago to symbolize the union forged when the former enemies buried their weapons under the Great Tree of Peace." It represents the original five nations that were united by the Peacemaker and Hiawatha. The tree symbol in the center represents an Eastern White Pine, the needles of which are clustered in groups of five. Beginning in 1609, the League engaged in the Beaver Wars with the French and their Iroquoian-speaking Huron allies. They also put great pressure on the Algonquian peoples of the Atlantic coast and what is now the boreal Canadian Shield region of Canada, and not infrequently fought the English colonies as well. During the seventeenth century, they were said to have exterminated the Neutral Nation and Erie Tribe to the west. The wars were a way to control the lucrative fur trade, although additional reasons are often given for these wars.
In 1628, the Mohawks defeated the Mahicans to gain a monopoly in the fur trade with the Dutch at Fort Orange, New Netherland. The Mohawks would not allow Canadian Indians to trade with the Dutch. In 1645, a tentative peace was forged between the Iroquois and the Hurons, Algonquins and French. In 1646, Jesuit missionaries at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons went as envoys to the Mohawk lands to protect the fragile peace of the time. However, Mohawk attitudes toward the peace soured during the Jesuits' journey. They were attacked by a Mohawk party en route. Taken to the village of Ossernenon (Auriesville, N.Y.), the moderate Turtle and Wolf clans decreed setting the priests free. Angered by this, the more hawkish Bear clan killed Jean de Lalande and Isaac Jogues on October 18, 1646. The two French priests were later commemorated as among the eight North American Martyrs. In 1649 during the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois used recently purchased Dutch guns to attack the Hurons. From 1651 to 1652, the Iroquois attacked the Susquehannocks without success.
In the early seventeenth century, the Iroquois were at the height of their power, with a population of about twelve thousand people. In 1654, they invited the French to establish a trading and missionary settlement at Onondaga (in present-day New York state). The following year, the Mohawk attacked and expelled the French from this trading post, possibly because of the sudden death of 500 Indians from an epidemic of smallpox, a European infectious disease to which they had no immunity.From 1658 to 1663, the Iroquois were at war with the Susquehannock and their Delaware and Province of Maryland allies. In 1663, a large Iroquois invasion force was defeated at the
Susquehannock main fort. In 1663, the Iroquois were at war with the Sokoki tribe of the upper Connecticut River. Smallpox struck again; and through the effects of disease, famine, and war, the Iroquois were threatened by extermination. In 1664, an Oneida party struck at allies of the Susquehannock on Chesapeake Bay.
In 1665, three of the Five Nations made peace with the French. The following year, the Canadian Governor sent the Carignan regiment under Marquis de Tracy to confront the Mohawks and the Oneida. The Mohawks avoided battle, and the French burned their villages and crops. In 1667, the remaining two Nations signed a peace treaty with the French. This treaty lasted for 17 years.
Around 1670, the Iroquois drove the Siouan Mannahoac tribe out of the northern Virginia Piedmont region. They began to claim ownership of it by right of conquest. In 1672, the Iroquois were defeated by a war party of Susquehannock. The Iroquois appealed to the French for support and asked Governor Frontenac to assist them against the Susquehannock because "it would be a shame for him to allow his children to be crushed, as they saw themselves to be...they not having the means of going to attack their fort, which was very strong, nor even of defending themselves if the others came to attack them in their villages."
Some old histories state that the Iroquois defeated the Susquehannock during this time period. As no record of a defeat has been found, historians have concluded that no defeat occurred. In 1677, the Iroquois adopted the majority of the Susquehannock into their nation.
By 1677, the Iroquois formed an alliance with the English through an agreement known as the Covenant Chain. Together, they battled to a standstill the French who were allied with the Huron. These Iroquoian people had been a traditional and historic foe of the Confederacy. The Iroquois colonized the northern shore of Lake Ontario and sent raiding parties westward all the way to Illinois Country. The tribes of Illinois were eventually defeated, not by the Iroquois, but rather by the Potawatomis. In 1684, the Iroquois invaded Virginian and Illinois territory again, and unsuccessfully attacked the French fort at St. Louis. Later that year, the Virginia Colony agreed at Albany to recognize the Iroquois' right to use the North-South path running east of the Blue Ridge (later the Old Carolina Road), provided they did not intrude on the English settlements east of the fall line. In 1679, the Susquehannock, with Iroquois help, attacked Maryland's Piscataway and Mattawoman allies. Peace was not reached until 1685.
With support from the French, the Algonquian nations drove the Iroquois out of the territories north of Lake Erie and west of present-day Cleveland, regions which had been conquered during the Beaver Wars. Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis de Denonville, Governor of New France from 1685 to 1689, set out for Fort Frontenac with a well-organized force. There they met with the 50 hereditary sachems of the Iroquois Confederation from the Onondaga council fire, who came under a flag of truce. Denonville recaptured the fort for New France and seized, chained, and shipped the 50 Iroquois Chiefs to Marseilles, France, to be used as galley slaves. He then ravaged the land of the Seneca. The destruction of the Seneca land infuriated the Iroquois Confederation.
On August 4, 1689, they burned to the ground Lachine, a small town adjacent to Montreal. Fifteen hundred Iroquois warriors had been harassing Montreal defenses for many months prior to that. They finally exhausted and defeated Denonville and his forces. His tenure was followed by the return of Frontenac, who succeeded Denonville as Governor for the next nine years (1689-1698). Frontenac had been arranging a new plan of attack to lessen the effects of the Iroquois in North America and - realizing the danger of the imprisonment of the Sachems - he located the 13 surviving leaders and returned with them to New France that October 1698.
During King William's War (North American part of the War of the Grand Alliance), the Iroquois were allied with the English. In July 1701, they concluded the "Nanfan Treaty," deeding the English a large tract north of the Ohio River. The Iroquois claimed to have conquered this territory 80 years earlier. France did not recognize the validity of this treaty, as it had the strongest presence within the area in question. Meanwhile, the Iroquois were negotiating peace with the French; together they signed the Great Peace of Montreal that same year.French and Indian Wars
After the 1701 peace treaty with the French, the Iroquois remained mostly neutral even though during Queen Anne's War (North American part of the War of the Spanish Succession) they were involved in some planned attacks against the French. Four delegates of the Iroquoian Confederacy, the "Indian kings," traveled to London in 1710 to meet Queen Anne in an effort to seal an alliance with the British. Queen Anne was so impressed by her visitors that she commissioned their portraits by court painter John Verelst. The portraits are believed to be some of the earliest surviving oil portraits of Aboriginal peoples taken from life.
In the first quarter of the eighteenth century, the Tuscarora fled north from the British colonization of North Carolina and petitioned to become the sixth nation. This was a non-voting position but placed them under the protection of the Confederacy.
In 1721 and 1722, Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia concluded a new Treaty at Albany with the Iroquois, renewing the Covenant Chain and agreeing to recognize the Blue Ridge as the demarcation between Virginia Colony and the Iroquois. However, as white settlers began to move beyond the Blue Ridge and into the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s, the Iroquois objected and were told that the agreed demarcation merely prevented them from trespassing east of the Blue Ridge, but it did not prevent English from expanding west of them. The Iroquois were on the verge of going to war with the Virginia Colony, when in 1743, Governor Gooch paid them the sum of 100 pounds sterling for any settled land in the Valley that was claimed by the Iroquois. The following year at the Treaty of Lancaster, the Iroquois sold Virginia all their remaining claims on the Shenandoah Valley for 200 pounds in gold.
During the French and Indian War (North American part of the Seven Years' War), the Iroquois sided with the British against the French and their Algonquian allies, both traditional enemies of the Iroquois. The Iroquois hoped that aiding the British would also bring favors after the war. In actuality, few Iroquois joined the campaign, and in the Battle of Lake George, a group of Mohawk and French ambushed a Mohawk-led British column. The British government issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 after the war, forbidding white settlements beyond the Appalachian Mountains, but this proclamation was largely ignored by the settlers, and the Iroquois agreed to adjust this line again at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768), whereby they sold the British Crown all their remaining claim to the lands between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.American Revolution
During the American Revolution, many Tuscarora and the Oneida sided with the colonists, while the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga remained loyal to Great Britain, thereby marking the first major split among the Six Nations. Joseph Louis Cook offered his services to the United States and received a Congressional commission as a Lieutenant Colonel - the highest rank held by any Native American during the war. However, after a series of successful operations against frontier settlements - led by the Mohawk war chief Joseph Brant, other war chiefs, and British allies - the future United States reacted with vengeance. In 1779, George Washington ordered the Sullivan Campaign led by Col. Daniel Brodhead and General John Sullivan against the Iroquois nations to "not merely overrun, but destroy," the British-Indian alliance.Post-war
After the war, the ancient central fireplace of the League was reestablished at Buffalo Creek. Captain Joseph Brant and a group of Iroquois left New York to settle in Canada. As a reward for their loyalty to the British Crown, they were given a large land grant on the Grand River. Brant's crossing of the river gave the original name to the area: Bran's ford. By 1847, European settlers began to settle nearby and named the village Brantford, Ontario. The original Mohawk settlement was on the south edge of the present-day city at a location still favorable for launching and landing canoes.Culture
The Iroquois are a melting pot. League traditions allowed for the dead to be symbolically replaced through the "Mourning War" in raids intended to seize captives to
replace lost compatriots and take vengeance on non-members. This tradition was common to native people of the northeast and was quite different from European settlers' notions of combat.
The Iroquois aimed to create an empire by incorporating conquered peoples and remolding them into Iroquois and thus naturalizing them as full citizens of the tribe. Cadwallader Colden wrote "It has been a constant maxim with the Five Nations, to save children and young men of the people they conquer, to adopt them into their own Nation, and to educate them as their own children, without distinction; These young people soon forget their own country and nation and by this policy the Five Nations make up the losses which their nation suffers by the people they lose in war." By 1668, two-thirds of the Oneida village were assimilated Algonquians and Hurons. At Onondaga there were Native Americans of seven different nations and among the Seneca eleven.Food
The Iroquois were a mix of farmers, fishers, gatherers, and hunters, though their main diet came from farming. The main crops they farmed were corn, beans and squash, which were called the three sisters and were considered special gifts from the Creator. These crops are grown strategically. The cornstalks grow, the bean plants climb the stalks, and the squash grow beneath, inhibiting weeds and keeping the soil moist under the shade of their broad leaves. In this combination, the soil remained fertile for several decades. The food was stored during the winter, and it lasts for two to three years. When the soil eventually lost its fertility, the Iroquois migrated.
Gathering was the job of the women and children. Wild roots, greens, berries and nuts were gathered in the summer. During spring, maple syrup was tapped from the trees, and herbs were gathered for medicine.
The Iroquois hunted mostly deer but also other game such as wild turkey and migratory birds. Muskrat and beaver were hunted during the winter. Fishing was also a significant source of food because the Iroquois were located near a large river. They fished salmon, trout, bass, perch and whitefish. In the spring the Iroquois netted, and in the winter fishing holes were made in the ice.Wampum
Since they had no writing system, the Iroquois depended upon the spoken word to pass down their history, traditions, and rituals. As an aid to memory, the Iroquois used shells and shell beads. The Europeans called the beads wampum, from wampumpeag, a word used by Indians in the area who spoke Algonquin languages.
The type of wampum most commonly used in historic times was bead wampum, cut from various seashells, ground and polished, and then bored through the center with a small hand drill. The purple and white beads, made from the shell of the quahog clam, were arranged on belts in designs representing events of significance.
Certain elders were designated to memorize the various events and treaty articles represented on the belts. These men could "read" the belts and reproduce their contents with great accuracy. The belts were stored at Onondaga, the capital of the confederacy, in the care of a designated wampum keeper.
Famous wampum belts of the Iroquois include the Hiawatha Wampum, which represents the (original) Five Nations, the spatial arrangement of their individual territories, and the nature of their roles in the Confederacy. The modern Iroquois flag is a rendition of the pattern of the original Hiawatha Wampum belt. The Two Row Wampum, also known as Guswhenta, depicts the agreement made between the Iroquois league and representatives of the Dutch government in 1613, an agreement upon which all subsequent Iroquois treaties with Europeans and Americans have been based. Today, replicas of the Two Row Wampum are often displayed for ceremonial or educational purposes. Other historical wampum belts representing specific agreements or historical occurrences are known to exist, although many have been lost or stolen.Women in Society
When Americans and Canadians of European descent began to study Iroquois customs in the 18th and 19th centuries, they observed that women assumed a position in Iroquois society roughly equal in power to that of the men. Individual women could hold property including dwellings, horses and farmed land, and their property before marriage stayed in their possession without being mixed with that of their husband's. The work of a woman's hands was hers to do with as she saw fit. A husband lived in the longhouse of his wife's family. A woman choosing to divorce a shiftless or otherwise unsatisfactory husband was able to ask him to leave the dwelling, taking any of his possessions with him. Women had responsibility for the children of the marriage, and children were educated by members of the mother's family. The clans were matrilineal, that is, clan ties were traced through the mother's line. If a couple separated, the woman kept the children. Violence against women by men was virtually unknown.
The chief of a clan could be removed at any time by a council of the mothers of that clan, and the chief's sister was responsible for nominating his successor.Spiritual Beliefs
Spirits animated all of nature and controlled the changing of the seasons. Key festivals coincided with the major events of the agricultural calendar, including a harvest festival of thanksgiving. The Great Peacemaker (Deganawida) was their prophet. After the arrival of the Europeans, many Iroquois became Christians, among them Kateri Tekakwitha, a young woman of Mohawk-Algonkin parents. Traditional religion was revived to some extent in the second half of the 18th century by the teachings of the Iroquois prophet Handsome Lake.People
The first five nations listed below formed the original Five Nations (listed from west to north); the Tuscarora became the sixth nation in 1720.English name Iroquoian Meaning 17th/18th century location
Seneca Onondowahgah "People of the Great Hill" Seneca Lake and Genesee River
Note: Tuscarora1(1) Not one of the original Five Nations; joined 1720. North Carolina (2) Settled between Oneidas and Onondagas.For a continuation of this article follow the link: Iriquois
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