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Native Americans were the first people to live in America. Learn more about the Iroquois tribe.

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Iroquois Nation

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The Iroquois were Native Americans who lived in Western, Central and Northern New York. The Iroquois were also known as the 'Haudenosaunee,' which means "The People of the Longhouse," as longhouses were their homes. The houses were called 'longhouses', because they were longer than they were wide. Many families lived in one longhouse, which was made entirely of wood. The Iroquois are also known as the "Ongwehonweh," which means "The Original people" or "The First people" of this land.

The Iroquois or Ongwehonweh are divided into 6 nations. They are the:

  • Cayuga
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga
  • Mohawk
  • Seneca
  • Tuscarora.

Cayuga:
The people of the Cayuga or "Guyohohnyoh" nation are known as "The People of the Great Swamp."

Oneida:
The people of the Oneida or "Onayotekaono (Onytaaka)" nation are known as "The People of the Standing Stone."

Onondaga:
The people of the Onondaga or "Onundagaono" nation are known as "The People of the Hill".
They are also known as "Keepers of the Fire."

Mohawk:
The people of the Mohawk or "Kahniankeaka(Ganiengehaka)" nation are known as "The People of the Flint."
They are also known as "Keepers of the Eastern door."

Seneca:
The people of the Seneca or "Nundawaono (Onondowahgah)" nation are known as the "Great hill People".
They are also known as the "Keepers of the Western door."

Tuscarora:
The people of the Tuscarora or "Sha-Ruh-Reh" nation are known as "The Shirt-wearing People."

Iroquois Clans

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Within each nation, clans are formed. A clan is a group of families that share a common female ancestry, such as a mother or a grandmother. In a clan the woman is the one, who is responsible for the function of the clan. She is called the clan mother.

Clan Names:
Clans are named after animals that are special to the Iroquois.
Some clan names are:

  • Turtle
  • Beaver
  • Bear
  • Wolf
  • Hawk
  • Heron

 

Iroquois Homeland

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The original homeland of the Iroquois was between the Adirondacks Mountains and Niagara Falls in upstate New York. 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. To the north following the Illinois River to the south end of Lake Michigan. To the 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.

Culture

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The Iroquois were one of the most important native groups in North American history. Culturally they were very similar to their Iroquoian speaking neighbors. All had matrilineal (tracing descent through the female line) 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.

 

Books on the Iroquois

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Links to other sites on the Iroquois

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Iroquois History http://www.tolatsga.org/iro.html
The Six Nations http://www.ratical.org/many_worlds/6Nations/
Iroquois Democracy http://www.iroquoisdemocracy.pdx.edu/index.htm
Iroquois Constitution http://www.indigenouspeople.net/iroqcon.htm
 

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