IntroductionThe Iroquois Indians are Native American people that lived in the Northeastern U.S. The area is also referred to as the Eastern Woodlands region and encompasses New York State and the immediate surrounding areas. The Iroquois originally called themselves Kanonsionni, meaning people of the Longhouse (the name of the shelter they live in), but today they go by the name Haudenosaunee. Originally five tribes made up this larger group, but in 1722 a sixth tribe joined the Iroquois nation and they also became known as the Six Nations. Read on to find out how they are unique in history and culture and what the important facts and information reveal about these people.
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Iroquois Tribe List:
Facts about Iroquois Hunting, Gathering, and Farming
- The Iroquois were hunters and gatherers, farmers, and fishermen but the main staples of their diet came from farming. They harvested the three sisters -corn, beans, and squash as well as tobacco for smoking. Their crops were grown in a very specific manner and were managed, grown, and harvested by the women of the tribe. Out of six annual ceremonies, four of them revolved around the corn crops.
- They would move to a new settlement close to water every 10-30 years as the soil lost its nutrients and the animal and fish population declined.
- The women of the tribe also gathered wild berries and roots, greens, barks, sunflower, nuts, and herbs for both cooking and for medicine. In early spring, they tapped the sap from Maple trees and turned it into maple syrup.
- The men were gone during the winter months hunting deer, elk, wild turkey, beaver, fowl, and other woodland animals. Being so close to the St. Lawrence river, they also relied heavily on fishing as a constant source of food. They caught several types of fish including salmon, trout, and bass.
- The main tools used for hunting and farming include stone axes, various size arrowheads, wooden hoes, and knives. Spears were also used when fishing.
Iroquois Culture Facts
- Some common crafts include bead jewelry, porcupine quillwork, clay pipes, and the making of wampum out of beads both for trade and for art. Men and women would sometimes have symbolic tattoos.
- As a musical instrument, rattles were made out of deer toes and hide but the most important instruments are the drums and the flute.
- The Iroquois are very well known for their masks. Although masks are commonly used among most Native Americans for many reasons including dance, celebrations, and to sell as decoration, the Iroquois strictly use their masks for religious purposes. They are considered sacred and not meant for anyone but tribe members to see.
- Festivals of the Iroquois Tribe:
- Corn Planting Festival
- Green Corn Festival
- Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving
- Maple Festival
- New Year Festival
- Strawberry Festival
- The Iroquois were very spiritual people. They believed that everything took place for a reason and everything, living and non-living, had a spirit. Stories were passed down verbally from generation to generation. The older tribe members would customarily sit around longhouse fires on cold winter nights and tell stories of how things came to be to the younger Iroquois.
- Typical Iroquois dress was made from animal fur and hides. Men wore leggings and breech cloths and women long wrap skirts with leather leggings. In the winter, both men and women wore heavy robes for warmth. Moccasins were worn by both sexes all year long. During ceremonies a kastoweh, a feathered ceremonial hat, was worn.
- Iroquois women not only managed the land but were also landowners. The property they owned before marriage stayed only their even after marriage. They made all the decisions involving the land for their clan.
- The men were hunters and traders, and protectors. They went to war when necessary and they did the jobs that required the most manual labor such as clearing land for new settlements and building new villages.