The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse Assignment

The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse Assignment Words: 1719

Anthropology Research Assignment The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse Prepared for: Victor Gulewitsch TA: Cecibel Rodriguez ANTH*1150*02 Prepared By: Ellen Griffin Student ID: 0726506 Date: March 17, 2011 The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse Introduction The Iroquois are considered a branch of North American Indians, also known as Haudenosaunee or the “People of the Longhouse”. The Iroquois have greatly contributed to society through initiating the Iroquois confederacy also called the Iroquois League formed in 1570.

The North American confederacy consists of five nations called: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca, which resided in what is now known as Upstate New York. These tribes joined together as the ” 5 civilized tribes” for strength and survival. Between 1715 & 1722, a tribe called Tuscaroras, who had moved North from California, were formally admitted into the confederacy, as the sixth tribe, but they were non-voting members, but were placed under the protection of the Confederacy. (Colden, 1973)

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The Iroquois people were considered a hunter and gatherer society, they had to find and grow all their own food. In the early Iroquois stage the Iroquois people would grow maize and gather fish in the summer, but in the winter they would only hunt, these were there main sources of food. Later in the Iroquois stage there was an abundant source of agriculture farming, and they were finally able to grow corn, beans, and squash, which made up eighty percent of their daily diet. (Ali & Behan, 2010) When trading among bands the Iroquois would use wampum’s, traditional, sacred shell beads as a type of currency.

The Europeans realized the importance of wampum’s to the Iroquois and used it as a medium of exchange. Initially wampum’s were used as a form of documenting important events. The Iroquois people had a lot of trade tools but also were able to obtain guns and ammunition through fur trade with the Europeans. (Snyderman, 1961) The Iroquois families built longhouses made of logs, which were divided into several compartments; this is how they acquired their name ” People of the Longhouse”. Each family was in a separate compartment and each longhouse was surrounded in fort like form keeping their enemies afar. Colden 1973) The tribes picked areas surrounding Lake Ontario to live on; thus having lots of lakes and rivers to fish, abundant sources of thick wood, and land that was fertile enough to farm on. Summers were long, dry and hot, while winters were cold enough resulting in death. There were also abundant sources of trees to cut down to build shelter. The social structure of Iroquois tribes was based on matrilineal principles, as women owned all property and determined kinship. After marriage, men would move into the women’s longhouse, usually along with her parents.

Their children would become members of the women’s clan. (Baskin, 1982) Situation/ Description A problem that came from the European influence on the Iroquois was alcoholism. Seventeen century Iroquois used alcohol for its “hallucinogenic properties” and then proceeded to use it as a “way of communicating with the supernatural”. (Conrad, 1999) As the people of these tribes realized what alcohol could help them accomplish, the Iroquois people began to drink more, becoming dependent on it, and resulting in their alcohol addictions. As the years went on, the emphasis of alcohol shifted to using it as a release.

This would reduce anxiety and liberate aggression (Conrad, 1999). Alcoholism and substance abuse is still seen profoundly in the Iroquois nations. There were also issues of suicide in the Iroquois nations most commonly during the eighteen and nineteen century. These were hard times of change for the Iroquois, dealing with loss of lands, scarcity of game. They changed from a hunting and gathering society to an agricultural society. The Iroquois also believed that each person is given an allotted life span, and when a person believed his time was up and a natural death could not happen it was time for them to take their own life.

The primary and very painful method of committing suicide was through the ingestion of the root of the water hemlock. This method became a tradition of the Iroquois tribe. (Fenton, 1986) The main forms of environmental issues included the activities of clearing and cutting down forests for new agriculture fields. This occurred primarily when their prior land was nutrient depleted. The Iroquois allied with the British and the French in the 1600 and 1700s, but also fought with them continuously over land issues.

When the Europeans arrived in the area around the New York State in the early seventeenth century they became important trading partners to the Iroquois. The expansion of European settlement upset the Iroquois’ economic balance and forced confinement of the Iroquois clans to reservations. This also forced them to adapt to a traditional economic system. The loss of their cultural identity proved to be intolerable to these proud people. The Iroquois were also plagued by epidemics of disease, including the smallpox, brought by the Europeans resulting in the depopulation of the Iroquois.

It then became harder for the Indians to keep the seats of the Confederacy of the grand council filled. The consequences were the confederacy continued to remain a symbolic system, but the operating confederacy had to change their policies and resort to other leaders (Colden, 1973). The French and Iroquois wars were conflicts fought in the late seventeenth century in Eastern N. America, these wars were commonly known as Beaver Wars. The Iroquois wanted to expand their territory and also take control over the fur trade.

The Five Nations banned together lead by the Mohawk tribe, who had then became known as the leader of five nations, against one of their rivals, the Algonquin tribes. In the history of North America, these wars are known to be one of the bloodiest series of disputes. The French then decided they needed the Iroquois as allies against the English invasions, after the Iroquois lost their Dutch allies. Finally in 1698 the Iroquois filed a suit for peace finishing the wars. The Iroquois and French then signed the 1701 Grande Paix (Great Peace) agreement allowing refugees back onto their land. Aquila, 1983) Options/ Outcomes There are said to be 125000 Iroquois people still living in seventeen scattered communities, in the United States and Canada, primarily in Ontario, Quebec, and New York. These people are still dealing with the problems of their ancestors. The main issue they face today is still land. After the American Revolution, which resulted in the division of the Iroquois, an international border separated them. Many projects came about that did not benefit the Iroquois such as the development of highways, power lines, railroads, etc. resulting in the loss of land.

There were also many land sales that deteriorated their territory quickly. (Haudenosaunee Today, 2011) Today the Iroquois maintain strong links to each other even though they live miles from each other. They do this through family, political, and religious beliefs. Each community now has their own government, and their main chiefs still meet, as the Iroquois confederacy, to stay independent from the US or Canadian controls. (Haudenosaunee Today, 2011) Their society has changed immensely in the way they live. They no longer live in longhouses even though they can be still found on some reservations.

Instead they have updated into modern living, and live in framed houses or trailers, but are still situated on reservations. Their communities have now taken the look of any small community including shops, libraries, nursing homes, restaurants, etc. Some communities have built culture centers and museums to show their ancestors histories. These show how far they have come as a community, and all the obstacles they had to face. (Haudenosaunee Today, 2011) One major problem seen on the majority of reservations is the standard of living.

It is particularly lower on reservations compared to the white communities surrounding them. Although many of these Iroquois are wage workers, many of them are on welfare, causing unemployment to be a serious problem. (Haudenosaunee Today, 2011) To proceed in a positive way, I believe the Iroquois need to come to an agreement and work with the “white” people they fought with so many years ago. Doing so could provide them and their future Iroquois with more opportunities and start modern traditions that relate more closely with today’s societies.

Still allowing them to pass down their stories and many obstacles to all future Iroquois and keeping cultural traditions as all modern cultures do. Conclusion/ Future The Iroquois culture remains interesting and questionable. It will be interesting to see how the present and future Iroquois will relate and act, with respect to their ancestors, and how they will be raised. After many centuries of unresolved land issues, is there any way to fix these problems and live as one environment, to give every community equal chances. Will they follow the path of their ancestors and continue to fight.

One of the most fascinating things about the Iroquois is the fact that they are a matrilineal society will they ever adapt to the North American society where it is said that men are in main control. As a society, we must wait and let the world unfold and hopefully begin to answer our many questions. Work Cited Aquila, R. (1983). The Iroquois Restoration: Iroquois Diplomacy on the Colonial Frontier, 1701-1754. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Colden, C. (1973). The History of the Five Indian Nations: Depending on the Province of New-York in America. Ithaca and london: Cornell University Press.

Snyderman, G. S. (1961). The Function of Wampum in Iroquois Religion. JSTOR: Google Scholar, 105(6), 571 – 573. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from http://www. jstor. org/stable/985167? seq=3 HAUDENOSAUNEE TODAY. (n. d. ). Iroquois Museum. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from www. iroquoismuseum. org/iroquois. htm Ali, S. , ; Behan, M. (2010, December 14). Chapter Two: Before and After Contact | Feeding New York. Macaulay Honors College. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from http://macaulay. cuny. edu/eportfolios/marcotullio2010/2010/12/14/chapter-two-before-and-after-contact/

Baskin, C. (1982). Women in Iroquois Society. Canadian Women Studies, 4(2), p 42-46. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from https://pi. library. yorku. ca/ojs/index. php/cws/article/viewFile/13888/12941 Conrad, M. (1999). Disorderly DrinkingReconsidering Seventeenth-Century Iroquois Alcohol Use. American Indian Quarterly, 23. Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://www. questia. com/googleScholar. qst? docId=95212508 Fenton, W. (1986). A Further Note on Iroquois Suicide. Ethnohistory, 33(4), p 448-449. Retrieved March 15, 2011, from http://www. jstor. org/stable/482042? seq=1

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