Algonquians and Iroquoians: Farmers of the Woodlands

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This essay written by Peter Nabokov and Dean Snow, illustrates how these two groups of Native American tribes, the Algonquians and Iroquoians, developed an effective and rich society based on taking advantages of the natural resources, and coexisting together as a complex cultural mosaic before European settlement. First, the authors make mention of the tribe Algonquian (colloquially known as Wabanakis), semi-nomads whose subsistence means were mainly hunting and fishing. This society was composed of small groups with flexible social organization to allow them to move freely, favoring this way the hunting life of Penobscot. Also, they utilized the bark, primarily the bark from the birch tree to build canoes, roofing mats, receptacles among others. Both tribes practiced agriculture, growing vegetables through what is known as swidden, which implies burned and cleared the soil. Burned and organic materials favored corn harvest, squash and bean vines. Iroquoians' dominant mean of support was swidden agriculture. The members of this tribe considered semi-sedentaries, were true farmers and its matrilineal social system would play a determinant role. Everything concerning to plant cultivation, food processing and storage was responsibility of women. The domestic life of Iroquoians was divided into two branches the clearings, consisted of longhouses led by women, and the wider wilderness scenery of hunting activities dominated by men. The communal longhouse was part of the political creation of this tribe and it allowed the expansion of population throughout the territory. Finally, this essay reflects that there was a flourishing culture developing in North America, and Native Americans were establishing their own government system and society without the influence of Europeans.

1. Frederick M. Binder, David M. Reimers. The Way We Live. Essays and Documents in American Social History. 5th ed. Boston, New York: Houghton Miffin Company, 2004.
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