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Iroquois also known as the Haudenosaunee, the Five Nations and Five
Nations of the Iroquois (Six Nations after 1722), and (to themselves)
the Goano'ganoch'sa'jeh'seroni or Ganonsyoni, are a historically
powerful important Native American people who formed the Iroquois
Confederacy, a league of five (later six) distinct nations. French,
Dutch and British colonists in both Canada and the Thirteen Colonies
wanted to curry favor with the Iroquois; for nearly 200 years
considerations of the Iroquois were a powerful factor in North American
colonial policy-making decisions. All sides wooed them, each settlement
feared them, politically they were unique, a large Native American
polity which, until during the American Revolution, could not be
first arrived in North America, the Haudenosaunee were based in what is
now the northeastern United States, primarily in what is referred to
today as upstate New York west of the Hudson River and through the
Finger Lakes region. In 1995, more than 50,000 enrolled Six Nations
people lived in Canada, and about 30,000 in the United States. After
the defeat of the British and their Iroquois allies in the American
Revolutionary War, most migrated to Canada and their descendants live
The Iroquois are
a mix of horticulturalists, farmers, fishers, gatherers and hunters,
though their main diet traditionally has come from farming. The main
crops they cultivated are corn, beans and squash, which were called the
three sisters and are 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 lasted for two to three years.
When the soil eventually lost its fertility, the Haudenosaunee migrated.
believe that the spirits change 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-Algonquin parents. Traditional spirituality was revived to some
extent in the second half of the 18th century by the teachings of the
Haudenosaunee prophet Handsome Lake.
who have one foot in the canoe and
one foot in the boat are going to fall in the river."
Iroquois call themselves the Haudenosaunee, which means "People of the
Longhouse," or more accurately, "They Are Building a Long House."
According to their tradition, The Great Peacemaker introduced the name
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.
Traditionally, Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) are the guardians of the eastern
door, as they are located in the east closest to the Hudson, and the
Seneca are the guardians of the western door of the "tribal longhouse",
the territory they controlled in present-day New York. Onöñdagega
(Onondaga), whose homeland is in the center of Haudenosaunee territory,
are keepers of the League's (both literal and figurative) central flame.
Grand Council of the Iroquois League is an assembly of 56 Hoyenah
(chiefs) or Sachems, a number that has never changed. Today, the seats
on the Council are distributed among the Six Nations as follows:
The original homeland of the Iroquois was in upstate New York between the
Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls. Through conquest and migration,
they gained control of most of the northeastern United States and
eastern Canada. At its maximum in 1680, their empire extended west from
the north shore of Chesapeake Bay through Kentucky to the junction of
the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers; then north following the Illinois
River to the south end of Lake Michigan; east across all of lower
Michigan, southern Ontario and adjacent parts of southwestern Quebec;
and finally south through northern New England west of the Connecticut
River through the Hudson and upper Delaware Valleys across Pennsylvania
back to the Chesapeake. With two exceptions - the Mingo occupation of
the upper Ohio Valley and the Caughnawaga migration to the upper St.
Lawrence - the Iroquois did not, for the most part, physically occupy
this vast area but remained in their upstate New York villages.
During the hundred years preceding the American Revolution, wars with
French-allied Algonquin and British colonial settlement forced them
back within their original boundaries once again. Their decision to
side with the British during the Revolutionary War was a disaster for
the Iroquois. The American invasion of their homeland in 1779 drove
many of the Iroquois into southern Ontario where they have remained.
With large Iroquois communities already located along the upper St.
Lawrence in Quebec at the time, roughly half of the Iroquois population
has since lived in Canada. This includes most of the Mohawk along with
representative groups from the other tribes. Although most Iroquois
reserves are in southern Ontario and Quebec, one small group (Michel's
band) settled in Alberta during the 1800s as part of the fur trade.
Iroquois Oral Traditions
[Guyohkohnyo - People of the
[Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation]
(People of the Satnding Stone)
The Natural World teaming, with life allows each species to live & to
be different. Differences do not cause conflict as much as disrespect.
The following are Cultural differences that Hodenoshaunee have and they
are offered for your consideration and understanding.
Our cultural knowledge explains that our two people were created
separately on two different continents. We did not come across the
Bering Strait. To be placed on a progressive continuum is in itself the
purest form of racism.
begin to travel in two paths with understanding, respect and
cooperation,the bench mark of separation.
have two distinct legacies of life. We each have an entirely different
way of viewing the world. These differences have led us to deal with
each other in a sometimes bizarre mannar.
Aboriginal world view contains a greater sense of the current
completeness of existence.
Aboriginal people have a different way of seeing reality. Any
discussion of land becomes a discussion of religion, kinship and is our
view of land. We view everything as possessing a life and we look to
the unity of whole as the completeness of existence. All life comes
from Mother Earth.
Belief is more important than what they can prove.
Land does not belong to us. It belongs to the coming faces (generations
to come). In this sense, we cannot own,sell buy and give land away. It
belongs to all.
Everything is related and survival depends on how one exercises the use
of resources. We only take what we can use.
Our view of time and space is different. The spirts allow us to return
to the orgins of ceremonies and as long as we do them in completeness
we can draw on that original power and strength. It seeks harmony in a
cyclical contact over time. We are concerned with being and maintaining
rather than becoming developing, changing, making and storing.
Every Hodenoshaunee person has a personal relation with nature and does
not strive to control it. There is no connection of land, labor and
The future does not contain the stimulating prospect of progress.
To meet the Non-Native halfway is to self destruct.
Why is the option of leading a separate cultural domain into the future
so shocking? Reaction would be pure racism. Any one wants to be
different. Work on understanding the difference. Form a partnership not
Chief Harvey Longboat
Simply put, the Iroquois
were the most important native group in North American history.
Culturally, however, there was little to distinguish them from their
Iroquian-speaking neighbors. All had matrilineal social structures -
the women owned all property and determined kinship. The individual
Iroquois tribes were divided into three clans, turtle, bear, and wolf -
each headed by the clan mother. The Seneca were like the Huron tribes
and had eight (the five additional being the crane, snipe, hawk,
beaver, and deer). After marriage, a man moved into his wife's
longhouse, and their children became members of her clan. Iroquois
villages were generally fortified and large. The distinctive, communal
longhouses of the different clans could be over 200' in length and were
built about a framework covered with elm bark, the Iroquois' material
of choice for all manner of things. Villages were permanent in the
sense they were moved only for defensive purposes or when the soil
became exhausted (about every twenty years).
Agriculture provided most of the Iroquois diet. Corn, beans, and squash
were known as "deohako" or "life supporters." Their importance to the
Iroquois was clearly demonstrated by the six annual agricultural
festivals held with prayers of gratitude for their harvests. The women
owned and tended the fields under the supervision of the clan mother.
Men usually left the village in the fall for the annual hunt and
returned about midwinter. Spring was fishing season. Other than
clearing fields and building villages, the primary occupation of the
men was warfare. Warriors wore their hair in a distinctive scalplock
(Mohawk of course), although other styles became common later. While
the men carefully removed all facial and body hair, women wore theirs
long. Tattoos were common for both sexes. Torture and ritual
cannibalism were some of the ugly traits of the Iroquois, but these
were shared with several other tribes east of the Mississippi. The
False Face society was an Iroquois healing group which utilized
grotesque wooden masks to frighten the evil spirts believed to cause
It was the Iroquois political system, however, that made them unique,
and because of it, they dominated the first 200-years of colonial
history in both Canada and the United States. Strangely enough, there
were never that many of them, and the enemies they defeated in war were
often twice their size. Although much has been made of their Dutch
firearms, the Iroquois prevailed because of their unity, sense of
purpose, and superior political organization. Since the Iroquois League
was formed prior to any contact, it owed nothing to European influence.
Proper credit is seldom given, but the reverse was actually true.
Rather than learning political sophistication from Europeans, Europeans
learned from the Iroquois, and the League, with its elaborate system of
checks, balances,, and supreme law, almost certainly influenced the
American Articles of Confederation and Constitution.
Canadian Genealogy (The Iroquois)
Iroquois Indian Museum
The Great Peace CD-ROM
Aboriginal CD-ROM dedicated to the history, culture, and spirituality
of the Iroquois Confederacy and The Great Law, which formed the basis
of the U.S. Constitution. This CD is of high interest to schools,
libraries, museums and other individuals. The website is created and
maintained by natives from the Six Nations of the Grand River
Great Peace CD-ROM Webmaster
were originally natives of the plain, connected very probably with the
Dakotas of the west. But they moved eastwards from the Mississippi
valley towards Niagara, conquering as they went. No other tribe could
compare with them in either bravery or ferocity. They possessed in a
high degree both the virtues and the vices of Indian character--the
unflinching courage and the diabolical cruelty which have made the
Indian an object of mingled admiration and contempt. In bodily strength
and physical endurance they were unsurpassed. Even in modern days the
enervating influence of civilization has not entirely removed the
original vigor of the strain. During the American Civil War of fifty
years ago the five companies of Iroquois Indians recruited in Canada
and in the state of New York were superior in height and measurement to
any other body of five hundred men in the northern armies.
When the Iroquoian Family migrated, the Hurons settled in the western
peninsula of Ontario. The name of Lake Huron still recalls their abode.
But a part of the race kept moving eastward. Before the coming of the
whites, they had fought their way almost to the sea. But they were able
to hold their new settlements only by hard fighting. The great stockade
which Cartier saw at Hochelaga, with its palisades and fighting
platforms, bore witness to the ferocity of the struggle. At that place
Cartier and his companions were entertained with gruesome tales of
Indian fighting and of wholesale massacres. Seventy years later, in
Champlain's time, the Hochelaga stockade had vanished, and the Hurons
had been driven back into the interior. But for nearly two centuries
after Champlain the Iroquois retained their hold on the territory from
Lake Ontario to the Hudson. The conquests and wars of extermination of
these savages, and the terror which they inspired, have been summed up
by General Francis Walker in the saying: 'They were the scourge of God
upon the aborigines of the continent.'
in some respects superior to most of the Indians of the continent.
Though they had a limited agriculture, and though they made hardly any
use of metals, they had advanced further in other directions than most
savages. They built of logs, houses long enough to be divided into
several compartments, with a family in each compartment. By setting a
group of houses together, and surrounding them with a palisade of
stakes and trees set on end, the settlement was turned into a kind of
fort, and could bid defiance to the limited means of attack possessed
by their enemies. Inside their houses they kept a good store of corn,
pumpkins and dried meat, which belonged not to each man singly but to
the whole group in common. This was the type of settlement seen at
Quebec and at Hochelaga, and, later on, among the Five Nations. Indeed,
the Five Nations gave to themselves the picturesque name of the Long
House, for their confederation resembled, as it were, the long wooden
houses that held the families together.