Iroquois Confederacy

1 January 2018

An additional 5,000 Iroquois reside in Canada, where there are wow Iroquois reservations. The people are not averse to adopting new technology when it is beneficial, but they want to maintain their own traditional identity. HISTORY The “Five Tribes” that first joined to form the Iroquois Confederacy, or ague, were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca (listed in order from east to west according to where they lived in an area that roughly corresponds to central New York state).They called themselves Headcounts (pronounced “who-Dee-non-SHAW-nee”), or people of the longhouse, referring to the construction of their homes, in which extended implies of up to 50 people lived together in bark-covered, wooden-framed houses that were 50 to 1 50 feet long.

They also envisioned their extended community as occupying a symbolic longhouse some 300 miles long with the Mohawk guarding the eastern door and the Seneca the western.The origin of the name Iroquois is uncertain, although it seems to have involved French adaptations of Indian words. Among the possibilities that have been suggested are a blending of hero (an Iroquois word used to conclude a speech) and kook (an exclamation); reservoir (“they who smoke”); kayak (“bear”); or the Algonquian words inn (“real”) and aka (“snake”) with the French -OSI termination. One likely interpretation of the origin of the name is the theory that it comes from the Algonquian word “Ironwood,” which the French spelled with the -OSI suffix.The French spelling roughly translates into “real adders” and would be consistent with the tendency of European cultures to take and use derogatory terms from enemy nations to identify various Native groups. The Mohawk called themselves Kingmaker, or “people of the flint country. ” Their warriors, armed with flint arrows, were known to be overpowering; their enemies called them Mohawk, meaning “man eaters.

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” The name Oneida means “people of the standing stone,” referring to a large rock that, according to legend, appeared wherever the people moved, to give them directions.The Onondaga (“people of the hills”), the Cayuga (O’Hare they land the boats”), and the Seneca (“the people of the big hill”) named themselves by describing their homelands. Because the Algonquian people living on both sides of the Iroquois corridor are of a different culture and linguistic stock, it appears likely that the Iroquois migrated into this area at some time. No evidence has been found to indicate where they came from, however. The Cherokee people, whose historic homeland was in the southeastern United States, belong to the same linguistic group and share some other links with the Iroquois.Where and when they may have lived near each other is unknown. Despite their common culture and language, relations among the Five Tribes deteriorated to a state of near-constant warfare in ancient times.

The infighting, in turn, made them vulnerable to attacks from the surrounding Algonquian tribes. This period, known in the Iroquois oral tradition as the darkies,” reached a nadir during the reign of a psychotic Onondaga chief named Today.Legend has it that he was a cannibal who ate from bowls made from the skulls of his victims, that he knew and saw everything, that his hair contained a tangle of snakes, and that he could kill with only a Medusa- like look. Into this terrible era, however, entered two heroic figures. Deadweight came from his Huron homeland in the north, traveling unchallenged among the hostile Iroquois. Finally, he encountered a violent, cannibalistic Onondaga. According to legend, Deadweight watched through a hole in the roof while he man prepared to cook his latest victim.

Seeing the stranger’s face reflected in the cooking pot, the barbarian assumed it to be his own image. He was struck by the thought that the beauty of the face was incompatible with the horrendous practice of cannibalism and immediately forsook the practice. He went outside to dispose of the corpse, and when he returned to his lodge he met Deadweight. The foreigner’s words of peace and righteousness were so powerful that the man became a loyal disciple and helped spread the message.Deadweight named his disciple Hiawatha, meaning “he who combs,” and .NET him to confront Today and remove the snakes from the chiefs hair. After enduring terrible hardships at his adversary’s hands, and after convincing the other Iroquois chiefs to accept the Good Message, Hiawatha finally convinced Today as well.

On the banks of Onondaga Lake, sometime between 1350 and 1 600, Deadweight established the Iroquois Confederacy, a league of nations that shared a positive code of values and lived in mutual harmony.Out of respect, the Iroquois refer to him as the peacemaker. When the first white explorers arrived in the early seventeenth century, they mound the settled, agricultural society of the Iroquois a contrast to the nomadic culture of the neighboring Algonquian. RELATIONS WITH NON- NATIVE AMERICANS The French had established a presence in Canada for over SO years before they met the Iroquois. During that period, the Iroquois began to acquire European trade goods through raids on other Indian tribes.They found the metal axes, knives, hoes, and kettles far superior to their implements of stone, bone, shell, and wood. Woven cloth began to replace the animal skins usually used for clothing materials.

The recurring raids prompted the French to help their Indian allies attack the Iroquois in 1 609, opening a new technological era for the people of the Confederacy. French body armor was made of metal, whereas that of the Iroquois was made of slatted wood. Furthermore, the French fought with firearms, while traditional Iroquois weapons were bows and arrows, stone tomahawks, and wooden warblers.In response to European influence, the Iroquois gradually changed their military tactics to incorporate stealth, surprise, and ambush. Their motives for fighting also changed. In the past, they had fought for prestige or revenge, or to obtain goods or captives; now they fought for economic advantage, seeking control over bountiful beaver hunting grounds or perhaps a stash Of beaver skins to trade for European goods. Although it provided the Indians with better tools, European incursion into the territory was disastrous for the indigenous people.

In the 1 sass alone, the Iroquois lost between 1 ,600 and 2,000 people in fighting with other Indian tribes. In addition, European diseases such as smallpox, measles, influenza, lung infections, and even the common cold took a heavy toll on them since they had developed no immunity and knew no cures. These seventeenth century population devastations prompted the Iroquois people to turn increasingly to their traditional practice of adopting outsiders into their tribes to replace members who had died from violence or illness.While some captives were tortured unmercifully to death, others were adopted into Iroquois families (the leading clanswomen decided prisoners’ fates, sometimes basing their decision on the manner in which a relative of theirs had been killed). The adopted person, who was sometimes the opposite gender or of a significantly different age than the deceased Indian he replaced, was treated with the same affection, given the same rights, and expected to fulfill the same duties as his predecessor. Most, if not all, of the Indians who were educated by the English returned to their native cultures at the first opportunity.Many colonists, on the other hand, chose to become Indians, either by joining Indian society voluntarily, by not trying to escape from captivity, or by staying with their Indian captors in the wake of peace treaties that gave them the freedom to return home.

Early in the eighteenth century the Tuscarawas, another Iroquois-speaking tribe living in North Carolina, moved into the territory occupied by the Confederacy. They had rebelled against the encroachment of colonial settlers, against continual fraudulent treatment by traders, and against repeated raids that took their people for the slave trade.They suffered a terrible defeat, with hundreds of their people killed and hundreds more enslaved. Those who escaped such fates made their way north and became the sixth nation of the Iroquois League. The first half of the eighteenth century was a period of rebuilding. The Iroquois made peace with the French and established themselves in a neutral position between the French and the English. This strategy lasted until the French and Indian War erupted in 1 754; though the Confederacy was officially neutral, the Mohawk sided with the English, and the Seneca with the French.

Before long, another conflict arose among the European colonists, and the Iroquois were faced with the American Revolutionary War. Again, the various tribes failed to agree on which side to support. Without unanimous agreement on a common position, each nation in the Confederacy was free to pursue its own course. The Oneida fought on the side of the colonists, eventually earning official commendation from George Washington for their assistance. A major faction of the Mohawk sided with the British and recruited other Iroquois warriors to their cause.The League as a political entity was severely damaged by the conflict, and the war itself brought death and devastation to the member tribes. After the war, American retaliatory raids destroyed Iroquois towns and crops, and drove the people from their homelands.

The Six Nations remained fragmented in political, social, and religious ways throughout the nineteenth century. The development Of the New Religion, beginning in 1799, helped revivalist the traditional culture and facilitated the transition to reservation life.Finally, beginning in the sass, the Mohawk, Seneca, and Tuscarawas became involved in major land disputes over power- production and flood-control projects proposed by the New York State Power Authority and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Paired with the social climate favoring ethnic assertion in the mid-twentieth century, these land disputes helped foster a resurgence in Iroquois solidarity. KEY ISSUES The Iroquois see themselves as a sovereign nation, not as merely another ethnic group within the United States population, and gaining further recognition of that status is a major objective.They have asserted their position in interesting ways. For example, when the united States declared war on Germany in 191 7, the Iroquois Confederacy issued its own independent declaration and claimed status as an allied nation in the war effort.

In 1949 a Headcounts delegation attended groundbreaking ceremonies for the United Nations building in New York City. Iroquois statesmen and athletes use Headcounts passports as they travel around the world. Protecting the land is another priority. Since the 1 sass, the Headcounts have been involved in land issues involving projects as varied as the KeenanDam project, the SST. Lawrence Seaway, and the Niagara Power Plant. After New York state attempted to condemn a portion of the Séance’s land for use in building a highway, a federal court ruled in the sass At the beginning of the century, many Iroquois were leaving the reservations for various job opportunities, such as these steel workers in 1925 New York City. At the beginning of the century, many Iroquois were leaving the reservations for various job opportunities, such as these steel workers in 1925 New York City.

That the state would have to negotiate with the Iroquois as equal sovereigns.In another land issue, the SST. Regis (Awakens) Mohawk reservation has been affected by off-reservation pollution sources, including a neighboring toxic-waste dump and nearby ruffling industrial plants. In the sass, struggles over land rights and protection of the land have also included the extension of leases on property and towns in western New York, as well as ongoing conflicts over pollution and the environment. Resolving the question of gambling on the reservations is also an important issue. In 1990 the controversy erupted into a gun battle that left two Mohawk dead.The Onondaga Council of Chiefs issued a “Memorandum on Tribal Sovereignty” that said: “These businesses have corrupted our people and we are appalled at the Longhouse people who have become part of these activities.

They have thrown aside the values of our ancient confederacy for personal gain” (The Onondaga Council Of Chiefs Memorandum on Tribal Sovereignty). On the other hand, the Oneida tribe saw a dramatic decrease in unemployment after building a bingo hall in 1985; first year profits of over $5 million were used by the tribe to acquire additional land adjacent to the reservation.Each compartment, measuring about 13 feet by six feet, was occupied by a nuclear Emily. A wooden platform about a foot above the ground served as a bed by night and chair by day; some compartments included small bunks for children. An overhead shelf held personal belongings. Every 20 feet along the central corridor, a fire pit served the two families living on its opposite sides. Bark or hide doors at the ends of the buildings were attached at the top; these openings and the smoke holes in the roof 15 to 20 feet above each hearth provided the only ventilation.

Villages of 300 to 600 people were protected by a triple-walled stockade of wooden stakes 15 to 20 feet tall. About every 15 years the nearby supplies of wild game and firewood would become depleted, and the farmed soil would become exhausted. During a period of two years or so, the men would find and clear an alternate site for the village, which would then be completely rebuilt. The primary crops, revered as gifts from the Creator, were called the “Three Sisters”: Corn provided stalks for climbing bean vines, while squash plants controlled weeds by covering the soil.The complimentary nutrient needs and soil-replenishing characteristics of the three crops extended the useful life of each set of fields. In addition to providing food, the corn plants were used to make a variety of other goods. From the stalks were made medicine-storing tubes, corn syrup, toy warblers and spears, and straws for teaching children to count.

Corn husks were fashioned into lamps, kindling mattresses, clotheslines, baskets, shoes, and dolls. Animal skins were smoked over corn cob fires.Although bows and arrows tipped with flint or bone were the primary hunting weapons, blow guns were used for smaller prey. Made from the hollowed stem of swamp alder, blow guns were about six feet long and one inch thick, tit a half-inch bore; the arrows were two and a half feet long. Elm bark was put to many useful purposes, including constructing houses, building canoes, and fashioning containers. Baskets were woven of various materials, including black ash splints. Pottery vessels were decorated with angular combinations of parallel lines.

Wampum (cylindrical beads about one-fourth inch long and one-eighth inch in diameter) was very important in the Iroquois culture. The beads were made of quahog, or large, hardships clam shells and could only be obtained through trading or as tribute payments from coastal tribes. White and purple beads were made from the different sections of the shells. Although the beads were used as ornamentation on clothing wampum had several more important uses. Strings of the beads were used in mourning rituals or to identify a messenger as an official representative of his nation.Wampum belts served as symbols of authority or of contract. Patterns or figures woven into wampum belts recorded the terms of treaties; duplicate belts were given to each of the contracting parties.

Because of its important uses, Wampum became a valuable commodity and was sometimes used as a form of currency in trading. Traditional Iroquois games ranged from lively field contests like lacrosse to more sedentary activities involving the bouncing of dried fruit-pit “dice” from a wooden bowl. The games were played both as entertainment and as elements of periodic ceremonies.A favorite winter game called “snow-snake” involved throwing a long wooden rod and seeing how far it would slide down an icy track smoothed out on a snowy field. The Iroquois had no stringed musical instruments. The only wind instrument, the wooden “courting flute,” had six finger stops and was blown from the end. Single-tone rhythm instruments provided the only musical accompaniment for ceremonial dancing and singing.

Rattles were made by placing dried corn kernels inside various materials including turtle shells, gourds, bison horns, or folded, dried bark.The traditional drum was about six inches in diameter, made like a wooden pail, and covered with stretched animal skin; just the right amount of water was sealed inside to produce the desired tone when the drum was tapped with a stick. TRANSFORMATION OF CULTURE The Iroquois have been willing to adapt to a changing world, but they have resisted efforts to substitute a European culture for their own heritage. For example, in 1 745 the Reverend David Brainerd proposed to live among them for two years to help them build a Christian church and become accustomed to the weekly worship cycle.They were direct in declining his offer: ‘We are Indians and don’t wish to be transformed into white men. The English are our Brethren, but we never promised to become what they are” (James Estella, The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnologists of Colonial North America. [New York: oxford university press, 1981] p.

78). Yet changes were inevitable. In 1 798 a Quaker delegation worked among the Seneca, teaching them to read and write. They also instructed them in modern farming methods and encouraged men to work on the farms, which represented a major cultural shift.A respected Seneca warrior named Giant’s, known as The Correlated, helped bring about this change, as did his half brother, Candidacy (Handsome Lake). More Iroquois began to accept the concept of private ownership of land; historically, tribal lands were held in common, although individuals might have the right to farm certain parcels during their lifetime. During the nineteenth century, the Iroquois sold large amounts of land in exchange for useful trade goods.

Leading chiefs were sometimes induced to support such sales by the offer of lifetime pensions.Shrinking land holdings made hunting increasingly difficult and left the men with little to do, which contributed to the Quakers’ success in turning them to agricultural work. Families were encouraged to leave the longhouses and live separately on small farms so the men could work in their fields without being embarrassed by being seen doing women’s work. Today, longhouses are used only for religious and ceremonial purposes. In the mid-sass a rather abrupt change occurred in the style of artwork used o decorate clothing with beads, quills, and embroidery’.Rather than the traditional patterns Of curving lines and scrolls, designs became representational images of plants and flowers, influenced by the floral style prominent among the seventeenth, and eighteenth-century French. Eventually, the Onondaga discovered that non-landings would be willing to pay to see their ceremonial dances, and they experimented with public performances.

In 1893 the annual Green Corn Festival was delayed several weeks for the convenience of the audience, and the council house was filled three times with spectators who paid 15 cents admission. The contemporary historian William M.Béchamel wrote, “Of course, this deprived the feast of all religious force, and made it a mere show; nor did it quite satisfy those who saw it” (“Notes on Onondaga Dances,” An Iroquois Source Book, Volume 2, edited by Elisabeth Took. [New York: Garland Publishing, 1985] p. 183). As was the case with other Native Americans, much of the friction between the Iroquois and non-landings has involved different attitudes toward land. During the 1 sass and sass the long-standing disparity was brought into sharp focus during the planning and construction of the Zinnia Dam, which looted over 9,000 acres of Seneca Land.

The Indians fought the dam, claiming it violated the treaty between the Six Nations and the united States. The government reimbursed the tribe financially, but the reservation was disrupted. The grave of the revered Correlated had to be moved to accommodate the dam; his descendant Harriet Pierce commented, “The White man views land for its money value. We Indians have a spiritual tie with the earth, a reverence for it that Whites don’t share and can hardly understand” (Alvin M. Josephs, Jar. , Now That the Buffalo’s Gone: A Study of Today’s American Indians [New York: Alfred A. Knops, 1982] p.

129).Traditional values are sustained on the various Iroquois reservations. The ancient languages are spoken and taught, traditional ceremonies are observed, and baskets are woven. Material wealth is not characteristic of reservation Indians, but Downward Seneca Chief Corbett Sundown, keeper of the Iroquois “spiritual fire,” disputes the assessment that the people are poor. He told a National Geographic writer: “We’re rich people without any money, that’s all. You say we ought to set up industries and factories. Well, we just don’t want them.

We’re you going to grow potatoes and sweet corn on concrete? You call that progress?

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