The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse

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Anthropology Research Assignment

The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse

Prepared for: Victor Gulewitsch

TA: Cecibel Rodriguez


Prepared By: Ellen Griffin

Student ID: 0726506

Date: March 17, 2011

The Iroquois: People of the Longhouse

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)

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...
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