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

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Iroquois Nation

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Iroquois People
A group of Iroquois people.

The Iroquois Indians, also called the Iroquois Confederacy or the Iroquois League, were actually a group of smaller tribes (also called nations). There were originally five nations: the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca. In the 1700's, the Tuscarora, the sixth nation, joined the Iroquois League. The Iroquois League was founded to keep peace among its members. Each nation functioned on its own and had slightly different cultures and traditions.

Iroquois Farming
The Iroquois grew corn,
beans, and squash.

The Iroquois originally lived in present-day New York, but at one point, they had conquered parts of northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Because they chose to side with the British in American Revolution, about half of the Iroquois were forced to flee to southern Ontario in 1779, where most of their descendants live today.

 

Iroquois Warrior
Iroquois traded with settlers for
guns, such as the rifle shown
in the picture above.

The Iroquois had a matrilineal system, which meant that property was passed down from mother to daughter. Though the Iroquois lived mostly off of crops the women grew, including corn, beans, and squash, the men also hunted animals such as deer, elk, and fish. Though they were a very fierce tribe, the Iroquois traded a lot with their neighbors by the time the first settlers came. The first settlers were the French, who began to set up a fur trade in the area. The Iroquois gave the settlers furs and in return, the French gave them guns and steel and other materials.

 

Iroquois Chief
Iroquois chiefs, in charge of
the military and negotiation,
could only be men.

The Iroquois government had a complex system of checks and balances that influenced America's own Constitution. The Iroquois also had a council, resembling the United States' Congress, which consisted of a certain number of male representatives from each nation, who were chosen by the women of the nation. Women in the Iroquois nations were in charge of agricultural and property decisions, but the tribe's chiefs, who were in charge of the military and negotiations, had to be male.

 

 

Iroquois Mohawk Haircut
Iroquois men had
different hairstyles. Many
preferred a "Mohawk".

The Iroquois built and lived in longhouses, which were made of wood and could end up being around one hundred feet! One clan, usually sixty or so people, lived in each longhouse. Men wore breechcloths and women wore skirts and tunics. Both men and women wore moccasins and heavy robes in the winter. Many Iroquois men would shave their heads completely except for a line down the center. This hairstyle came to be called the "Mohawk".

 

 

Iroquois Drum
Usually, the Iroquois filled
their drums with water, giving
it an interesting sound.

The Iroquois used mostly the flute and the drum in their music. Usually, they would fill their drums with water to give their songs a unique touch. The Iroquois were famous for their beadwork and mask-carving, which they considered a sacred art. They also became famous as the inventors of lacrosse. Lacrosse was considered a test of strength and stamina, and the Iroquois used it for various reasons, ranging from mere entertainment to celebrating religious festivals.

 

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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