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Iroquois Tribe: What You Know About Their Religion and Culture

Iroquois Tribe: Religion and Culture
The Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee is unique in culture and religious beliefs. This 'League of Peace and Power' or 'People of the Longhouse' as they call themselves, are the result of a merger of the Onondaga, the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Seneca, the Cayuga and the Tuscarora natives.
Gaynor Borade
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
The origin of the Iroquois tribe dates back centuries, much before the Europeans settlers first arrived on North American soil. Way back then, the native American confederacy was concentrated in northeastern United States. The term they use for themselves, 'Haudenosaunee', when literally translated means 'People of the Longhouse'. Their culture grew around discipline and defined responsibilities within the tribesmen. For example, while the Seneca guarded the 'western door', the Mohawk protected the 'eastern door' and the Onondagas were guardians of the 'central flame'. The Haudenosaunee have a common cultural and historical origin, and very slight differences in their languages.
Typical Characteristics of the Iroquois Tribe
The tribes have certain cultural peculiarities like:

Special, spiritually important beads called wampum, that is even compared in value to money.
The accuracy of their origin lies more in oral tradition, than written record. The orally handed down information specifies August 31, 1142.

They revere two prophets; Ayonwentah and Dekanawidah.
Iroquois Culture
people of the iroquois tribe
The Iroquois enjoy a rich and varied culture that is more of a melting pot. They have, in time, included captives to replace those lost in war and non-members, who were part of the vengeance strategy. The Iroquois not only incorporate the vanquished and conquered, but also dedicatedly remold them and naturalize tribe citizenship.
Women have always enjoyed an equal status with men in Iroquois society. Women are in charge of property, agricultural land holdings including dwellings and horses. The women choose to work as they please and in event of a divorce, the man is asked to leave the dwelling, with his possessions. Children are educated by matriarchal members of the tribe. There have never been instances of domestic violence against women.
occupation of the iroquois tribe
Iroquois tribesmen take up various occupations like farming, gathering of forest products, fishing and hunting. Gathering forest products is mainly handled by women and children.
Food eaten by the Iroquois people
They favor an agrarian based staple diet. Corn, squash and beans are the main meal components. They also relish and consume a number of wild roots, berries and greens. Nuts that are gathered in the summer months are consumed all year round. Maple syrup and various herbs from the base of their medicines. The Iroquois also eat wild turkey, muskrat and beaver. In fish, their preferences are for salmon, bass, trout, whitefish and perch.
Iroquois amn dancing
Most of their festivals coincide with events in agriculture, like the Iroquois harvest festival of Thanksgiving. They celebrate the joy of being blessed by the land with abundance and all festivities begin and end with prayer and worship.
Iroquois belt
The importance of the wampum or wampumpeag beads is almost the same as money and the written script across the globe. The tribe does not have a writing system, and hence, they adhere to orally expounded traditions and history. The beads also act as memory stimulants. They use shell beads that are polished and bored with a hand drill. Each bead, like those on the abacus board, represent significant events. The Hiawatha Wampum and Two Row Wampum or Guswhenta are popular wampum belts.
Iroquois Religion
Iroquois prophet
The Iroquois religious beliefs are centered on an omniscient 'Great Spirit', who they believe is also their creator. They are strong proponents of anthropomorphism or animated nature and seasons. Many Iroquois are followers of Christianity. They show great respect and reverence at the mention of Handsome Lake, the Iroquois prophet.
The Iroquois people are of the view that ordinary humans can indirectly communicate with the Great Spirit by burning tobacco, which carries their prayers to the lesser spirits of good. Dreams are regarded dreams as important supernatural signs which express the desire of the soul. The Iroquois pay serious attention to dream interpretation and fulfillment of a dream is of paramount importance to an individual.
The Iroquois people carry out six major ceremonies during the year. These are Maple, Planting, Strawberry, Green Corn, Harvest, and Mid-Winter or New Year's festival. These religious ceremonies are often tribal affairs and are concerned primarily with farming, curing illness, and thanksgiving. The Iroquois believed in an afterlife and that their spirit would join the Good Spirit in the place where the Good Spirit lived, provided the Iroquois honored the Good Spirit and lived a good life.
Over the centuries the Iroquois people have survived because of their unity, sense of purpose, and superior societal organization. Until very recently many Iroquois considered themselves to be distinct from either Canadians or Americans. But today, Iroquois people live like their non-Indian neighbors, yet retain much of their culture and tradition.