The Iroquois Tribe belongs to the Confederacy by the same name. Known by different names, such as ‘League of Peace and Power’, ‘Six Nations’, and even ‘People of the Longhouse’, the group is one of the earliest Native Americans.
The Iroquois Tribe is common to the Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, and Tuscarora. They inhabited northeastern United States as far back as the time when the early settlers from Europe made the Americas their home. The region that is popular as Upstate New York today, is the region that was their original home. The tribes established the six nations they inhabited within a confederacy and began calling themselves the Haudenosaunee or ‘People of the Longhouse’.
This tribe picked the term in conjunction with the decision to inhabit a common longhouse. Their political unity and common goals for the betterment of the tribe, keeps differences at bay and helps the chiefs to integrate new admissions without inhibition. Each sub-tribe has a particular function in this confederacy. The main are:
~ Seneca – guardians of the western door
~ Mohawk – guardians of the eastern door
~ Onondagas – keepers of the central flame
The Iroquois tribesmen indulge in a number of primary occupations, such as agriculture, fishing, hunting, and forest ‘gathering’. The staple diet comprises beans, corn and squash, which the people consider the gifts of the gods to them. The ‘three sisters’, as the tribe calls them, are grown in a unique combination. The cornstalks are grown to also accommodate the climbing beans and the squash, beneath. The latter keeps a check on weeds.
The Iroquois tribe included roots, berries, greens, and nuts in their diet. They also hunted deer, wild turkey, musk rat, beaver, migratory birds, Iroquois fish, and ate large quantities of salmon, trout, perch, and bass.
Men use natural materials found in the immediate environment to make clothes. These materials comprise animal hides and woven plant fibers. The men wear feathered headgear called Gustoweh. It is designed out of ash splints that are interwoven with a sinew. The top of the frame is covered with animal hide and decorated with porcupine quills or beads.
Iroquois men wear fringed deerskin shirts and loose finger-woven sashes that are made from basswood or nettle fiber and/or deerskin. The men sport a leather or wool bib. The kilts are made from leather and secured by the sash. They also wear leggings and deer or elk skin moccasins. The warrior men shave their heads except for a crest of hair down the center of their head.
The headgear of Iroquois women resembles a tiara and each one is designed differently. They wear deerskin dresses designed with porcupine quills, beads and silver brooches. Women too sport leggings of either leather or cloth. Their footwear, the same as men, is braided with corn husks and beads. Women, generally, wear their hair long and loose or plaited in a long braid. Women never cut their hair, only if they are in mourning.
Famous Iroquois People
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell: A Senator from Colorado and the only American Indian in the House of Representatives and Senate.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse: Arvol was committed to the freedom and revival of his people.
Chief Dan George: He was an actor from British Columbia.
Dennis J Banks: Banks is a teacher and activist. He is the Director of Sacred Run Foundation and co-founder of AIM.
N. Scott Momaday: N. Scott Momaday is a renowned novelist and playwright. He is also a professor of English. He hit the headlines when he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel ‘House Made of Dawn’.
Winona LaDuke: She is the recipient of the International Reebok Human Rights Award in 1989 and ranked within the ‘Top 50 Leaders’ listed by the Time Magazine in 1995.
Interesting Facts about the Iroquois Tribe
~ The league was formed around 1570.
~ Kinship is maternally traced. Chiefs are graded, according to the matrons of the unit.
~ Legislative, executive and judicial functions are managed by one class.
~ In the 17th century, the tribe reached their highest population point of 16,000.
~ During the American Revolution, other than the Oneida and segments of the Tuscarora, the Iroquois league supported the English cause.
~ The population of the tribe varied at different times in history, greatly affected by consistent wars. In 1698, the tribe was reduced to only about 1,220 warriors.
~ They often end oratory with ‘I have spoken, in joy’, pronounced ‘Hiro kone’ in their language.
The Iroquois people which consisted of five tribes have inhabited the areas of upstate New York for around 4000 years and their way of living and rules regarding women and society are an example even for newer and recent societies of the Western world.