The Iroquois cemented their nation of independent tribes through an elaborate constitution which touched nearly every aspects of their lives; it was one of the first attempts to establish a confederacy of independent states.
Iroquoian (including Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora), English, French
Longhouse Religion, Karihwiio, Kanoh'hon'io, Kahni'kwi'io, Handsome Lake teachings, Christianity; others
The Iroquois ( or ), also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse", are a league of several nations and tribes of indigenous people of North America. After the Iroquoian-speaking peoples of present-day central and upstate New York coalesced as distinct tribes, by the 16th century or earlier, they came together in an association known today as the Iroquois League, or the "League of Peace and Power". The Iroquois are a matrilineal society. They have clan mothers, or main women of the leagues.
The original Iroquois League was often known as the Five Nations, as it was composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations. After the Tuscarora nation joined the League in 1722, the Iroquois became known as the Six Nations. The League is embodied in the Grand Council, an assembly of fifty hereditary sachems. Other Iroquian peoples lived along the St. Lawrence River, around the Great Lakes and in the American Southeast, but they were not part of the Haudenosaunee and often competed and warred with these tribes.
When Europeans first arrived in North America, the Haudenosaunee were based in what is now the northeastern United States, primarily in what is referred to today as upstate New York west of the Hudson River and through the Finger Lakes region. Today, the Iroquois live primarily in New York, Quebec, and Ontario.
The Iroquois League has also been known as the Iroquois Confederacy. Modern scholars distinguish between the League and the Confederacy. According to this interpretation, the Iroquois League refers to the ceremonial and cultural institution embodied in the Grand Council, while the Iroquois Confederacy is the decentralized political and diplomatic entity that emerged in response to European colonization. The League still exists. The Confederacy dissolved after the defeat of the British and allied Iroquois nations in the American Revolutionary War.
The Iroquois call themselves the Haudenosaunee, which means "People of the Longhouse," or more accurately, "They Are Building a Long House." According to their tradition, The Great Peacemaker introduced the name at the time of the formation of the League. It implies that the nations of the League should live together as families in the same longhouse.
Traditionally, Kanien:kéhaka (Mohawk) are the guardians of the eastern door, as they are located in the east closest to the Hudson, and the Seneca are the guardians of the western door of the "tribal longhouse", the territory they controlled in New York. Onoñda'gega'(Onondaga), whose homeland is in the center of Haudenosaunee territory, are keepers of the League's (both literal and figurative) central flame. The French colonists called the Haudenosaunee by the name of Iroquois. The name has two possible origins, both deriving from tribes that were enemies of the Haudenosaunee:
Members of the League speak Iroquoian languages that are distinctly different from those of other Iroquoian speakers. This suggests that while the different Iroquoian tribes have a common historical and cultural origin, they diverged as peoples over a sufficiently long time that their languages (and cultures) became different, and they distinguished themselves as different peoples. Archaeological evidence suggests that Iroquois ancestors lived in the Finger Lakes region from at least 1000.
After becoming united in the League, the Iroquois invaded the Ohio River Valley in present-day Kentucky to seek additional hunting grounds. According to one theory of pre-contact history, the Haudenosaunee by about 1200 pushed tribes of the Ohio River valley, such as the Quapaw (Akansea) and Ofo (Mosopelea), out of the region in a migration west of the Mississippi River. However, Robert La Salle listed the Mosopelea among the Ohio Valley peoples defeated by the Iroquois in the early 1670s, during the later Beaver Wars.
By 1673, the Siouan-speaking groups had settled in the Midwest, establishing what became known as their historical territories. Just as the Siouan peoples were displaced by the Iroquois, they displaced less powerful tribes whom they encountered west of the Mississippi, such as the Osage, who moved further west.
The Iroquois League was established prior to major European contact. Most archaeologists and anthropologists believe that the League was formed sometime between about 1450 and 1600. A few claims have been made for an earlier date.
One recent study argues that the League formed shortly after a solar eclipse on August 31, 1142, an occurrence apparently related to oral tradition about the League's origins. Anthropologist Dean Snow argues that the archaeological evidence does not support a date earlier than 1450, and that recent claims for a much earlier date "may be for contemporary political purposes".
According to tradition, the League was formed through the efforts of two men, Dekanawida, sometimes known as the Great Peacemaker, and Hiawatha. They brought a message, known as the Great Law of Peace, to the squabbling Iroquoian nations. The nations who joined the League were the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Seneca. Once they ceased most of their infighting, the Iroquois rapidly became one of the strongest forces in 17th- and 18th-century northeastern North America.
According to legend, an evil Onondaga chieftain named Tadodaho was the last converted to the ways of peace by The Great Peacemaker and Hiawatha. He became the spiritual leader of the Haudenosaunee. This is said to have occurred at Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, New York. The title Tadodaho is still used for the league's spiritual leader, the fiftieth chief, who sits with the Onondaga in council. He is the only one of the fifty to have been chosen by the entire Haudenosaunee people. The current Tadodaho is Sid Hill of the Onondaga Nation.
In Reflections in Bullough's Pond, historian Diana Muir argues that the pre-contact Iroquois were an imperialist, expansionist culture whose use of the corn/beans/squash agricultural complex enabled them to support a large population. They made war against Algonquian peoples. Muir uses archaeological data to argue that the Iroquois expansion onto Algonquian lands was checked by the Algonquian adoption of agriculture. This enabled them to support their own populations large enough to have sufficient warriors to defend against the threat of Iroquois conquest.
The Iroquois may be the Kwedech described in the oral legends of the Mi'kmaq nation of Eastern Canada. These legends relate that the Mi'kmaq in the late pre-contact period had gradually driven their enemies – the Kwedech – westward across New Brunswick, and finally out of the Lower St. Lawrence River region. The Mi'kmaq named the last-conquered land "Gespedeg" or "last land," leading to the French word Gaspé. The "Kwedech" are generally considered to have been Iroquois, specifically the Mohawk; their expulsion from Gaspé by the Mi'kmaq has been estimated as occurring ca. 1535-1600.
Around 1535, Jacques Cartier reported Iroquoian-speaking groups on the Gaspé peninsula and along the St. Lawrence River. Archeologists and anthropologists have defined the St. Lawrence Iroquoians as a distinct and separate group (and possibly several discrete groups), living in the villages of Hochelaga and others nearby (near present-day Montreal), which had been visited by Cartier. By 1608, when Samuel de Champlain visited the area, that part of the St. Lawrence River valley had no settlements, but was controlled by the Mohawk as a hunting ground. On the Gaspé peninsula, Champlain encountered Algonquian-speaking groups. The precise identity of any of these groups is still debated.
The Iroquois became well known in the south by this time. After the first English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia (1607), numerous 17th-century accounts describe a powerful people known to the Powhatan Confederacy as the Massawomeck, and to the French as the Antouhonoron. They were said to come from the north, beyond the Susquehannock territory. Historians have often identified the Massawomeck / Antouhonoron as the Iroquois proper. Other Iroquoian candidates include the Erie, who were destroyed by the Iroquois in 1654 over competition for the fur trade.
Over the years 1670-1710, the Five Nations achieved political dominance of most of Virginia west of the fall line and extending to the Ohio River valley in present-day West Virginia. They reserved it as a hunting ground by right of conquest and continued to claim it until 1722, when they began selling land in the area to their British allies.][
Beginning in 1609, the League engaged in the Beaver Wars against the French, their Huron allies, and other neighboring tribes, including the Petun, Erie, and Susquehannock. They also put great pressure on the Algonquian peoples of the Atlantic coast, the Anishinaabe peoples of the boreal Canadian Shield region, and not infrequently fought the English colonies as well. During the Beaver Wars, they were said to have defeated and assimilated the Huron (1649), Petun (1650) the Neutral Nation (1651), Erie Tribe(1657), and Susquehannock (1680). The traditional view is that these wars were a way to control the lucrative fur trade in order to access European goods on which they had become dependent. Recent scholarship has elaborated on this view, arguing that the Beaver Wars were an escalation of the "Mourning Wars" that were an integral part of Iroquois culture. This view suggests that the Iroquois launched large scale attacks against neighboring tribes in order to avenge or replace the massive number of casualties resulting from smallpox epidemics or other battles.
In 1628, the Mohawk defeated the Mahican to gain a monopoly in the fur trade with the Dutch at Fort Orange, New Netherland. The Mohawk would not allow Canadian native people to trade with the Dutch. In 1645, a tentative peace was forged between the Iroquois and the Hurons, Algonquins, and French.
In 1646, Jesuit missionaries at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons went as envoys to the Mohawk lands to protect the fragile peace of the time. Mohawk attitudes toward the peace soured while the Jesuits' were traveling and the party was attacked by Mohawk warriors en route. The missionaries were taken to the village of Ossernenon (Auriesville, N.Y.), where the moderate Turtle and Wolf clans recommended setting the priests free.
Angered, members of the Bear clan killed Jean de Lalande and Isaac Jogues on October 18, 1646. The Catholic Church has commemorated the two French priests as among the eight North American Martyrs. In 1649 during the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois used recently purchased Dutch guns to attack the Hurons, who were allied with the French. These attacks, primarily against the Huron towns of Taenhatentaron (St. Ignace) and St. Louis, were the final battles that effectively destroyed the Huron Confederacy. From 1651 to 1652, the Iroquois attacked the Susquehannocks, without sustained success.
In the early 17th century, the Iroquois were at the height of their power, with a population of about 12,000 people. In 1654, they invited the French to establish a trading and missionary settlement at Onondaga (in present-day New York state). The following year, the Mohawk attacked and expelled the French from the trading post, possibly because of the sudden death of 500 native people from an epidemic of smallpox, a European infectious disease to which they had no immunity.
From 1658 to 1663, the Iroquois were at war with the Susquehannock and their Delaware and Province of Maryland allies. In 1663, a large Iroquois invasion force was defeated at the Susquehannock main fort. In 1663, the Iroquois were at war with the Sokoki tribe of the upper Connecticut River. Smallpox struck again; and through the effects of disease, famine and war, the Iroquois were threatened by extermination. In 1664, an Oneida party struck at allies of the Susquehannock on Chesapeake Bay.
In 1665, three of the Five Nations made peace with the French. The following year, the Canadian Governor sent the Carignan regiment under Marquis de Tracy to confront the Mohawk and the Oneida. The Mohawk avoided battle, but the French burned their villages and crops. In 1667, the remaining two Iroquois Nations signed a peace treaty with the French and agreed to allow their missionaries to visit their villages. This treaty lasted for 17 years.
Around 1670, the Iroquois drove the Siouan Mannahoac tribe out of the northern Virginia Piedmont region. They began to claim ownership of the territory by right of conquest. In 1672, the Iroquois were defeated by a war party of Susquehannock. The Iroquois appealed to the French for support and asked Governor Frontenac to assist them against the Susquehannock.
Some][ old histories state that the Iroquois defeated the Susquehannock during this time period. As no record of a defeat has been found, historians have concluded that no defeat occurred. In 1677, the Iroquois adopted the majority of the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock into their nation.
By 1677, the Iroquois formed an alliance with the English through an agreement known as the Covenant Chain. Together they battled to a standstill the French, who were allied with the Huron. These Iroquoian people had been a traditional and historic foe of the Confederacy. The Iroquois colonized the northern shore of Lake Ontario and sent raiding parties westward all the way to Illinois Country. The tribes of Illinois were eventually defeated, not by the Iroquois, but rather by the Potawatomis.
In 1684, the Iroquois invaded Virginia and Illinois territory again and unsuccessfully attacked French outposts in the latter. Later that year, the Virginia Colony agreed at Albany to recognize the Iroquois' right to use the North-South path running east of the Blue Ridge (later the Old Carolina Road), provided they did not intrude on the English settlements east of the fall line.
In 1679, the Susquehannock, with Iroquois help, attacked Maryland's Piscataway and Mattawoman allies. Peace was not reached until 1685.
With support from the French, the Algonquian nations drove the Iroquois out of the territories north of Lake Erie and west of present-day Cleveland, regions they had conquered during the Beaver Wars.
In 1687, Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis de Denonville, Governor of New France from 1685 to 1689, set out for Fort Frontenac with a well-organized force. There they met with the 50 hereditary sachems of the Iroquois Confederation from the Onondaga council fire, who came under a flag of truce. Denonville recaptured the fort for New France and seized, chained, and shipped the 50 Iroquois chiefs to Marseilles, France, to be used as galley slaves.
He ravaged the land of the Seneca, landing a French armada at Irondequoit Bay, striking straight into the seat of Seneca power, and destroying many of its villages. Fleeing before the attack, the Seneca moved further west, east and south down the Susquehanna River. Although great damage was done to the Seneca home land, the Seneca’s military might was not appreciably weakened. The Confederacy and the Seneca moved into an alliance with the British in the east; the destruction of the Seneca land infuriated the Iroquois Confederacy. On August 4, 1689, they retaliated by burning to the ground Lachine, a small town adjacent to Montreal. Fifteen hundred Iroquois warriors had been harassing Montreal defenses for many months prior to that. They finally exhausted and defeated Denonville and his forces. His tenure was followed by the return of Frontenac, who succeeded Denonville as Governor for the next nine years (1689–1698). Frontenac had been arranging a new plan of attack to lessen the effects of the Iroquois in North America. Realizing the danger of continuing to hold the sachems, he located the 13 surviving leaders of the 40 originally taken and returned with them to New France that October 1698.
During King William's War (North American part of the War of the Grand Alliance), the Iroquois were allied with the English. In July 1701, they concluded the "Nanfan Treaty", deeding the English a large tract north of the Ohio River. The Iroquois claimed to have conquered this territory 80 years earlier. France did not recognize the validity of the treaty, as it had the strongest presence of colonists within the area in question. Meanwhile, the Iroquois were negotiating peace with the French; together they signed the Great Peace of Montreal that same year.
After the 1701 peace treaty with the French, the Iroquois remained mostly neutral even though during Queen Anne's War (North American part of the War of the Spanish Succession) they were involved in some][ planned attacks against the French. Peter Schuyler, mayor of Albany, arranged for three Mohawk chiefs and a Mahican chief (the Four Mohawk Kings) to travel to London in 1710 to meet with Queen Anne in an effort to seal an alliance with the British. Queen Anne was so impressed by her visitors that she commissioned their portraits by court painter John Verelst. The portraits are believed to be the earliest surviving oil portraits of Aboriginal peoples taken from life.
In the first quarter of the 18th century, the Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora fled north from the pressure of British colonization of North Carolina and intertribal warfare. They petitioned to become the sixth nation of the Confederacy. This was a non-voting position but placed them under the protection of the Haudenosaunee.
In 1721 and 1722, Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia concluded a new Treaty at Albany with the Iroquois, renewing the Covenant Chain and agreeing to recognize the Blue Ridge as the demarcation between Virginia Colony and the Iroquois. But, as European settlers began to move beyond the Blue Ridge and into the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s, the Iroquois objected. Virginia officials told them that the demarcation was to prevent the Iroquois from trespassing east of the Blue Ridge, but it did not prevent English from expanding west of them. The Iroquois were on the verge of going to war with the Virginia Colony, when in 1743, Governor Gooch paid them the sum of 100 pounds sterling for any settled land in the Valley that was claimed by the Iroquois. The following year at the Treaty of Lancaster, the Iroquois sold Virginia all their remaining claims on the Shenandoah Valley for 200 pounds in gold.
During the French and Indian War (North American part of the Seven Years' War), the Iroquois sided with the British against the French and their Algonquian allies, both traditional enemies of the Iroquois. The Iroquois hoped that aiding the British would also bring favors after the war. Few Iroquois warriors joined the campaign. In the Battle of Lake George, a group of Catholic Mohawk (from Kahnawake) and French ambushed a Mohawk-led British column.
After the war, to protect their alliance, the British government issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, forbidding white settlements beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Colonists largely ignored the order and the British had insufficient soldiers to enforce it. The Iroquois agreed to adjust the line again at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768), whereby they sold the British Crown all their remaining claim to the lands between the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.
During the American Revolution, the Iroquois first tried to stay neutral. Pressed to join one side or the other, the Tuscarora and the Oneida sided with the colonists, while the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga and Cayuga remained loyal to Great Britain, with whom they had stronger relationships. It was the first political split among the Six Nations. Joseph Louis Cook offered his services to the United States and received a Congressional commission as a Lieutenant Colonel- the highest rank held by any Native American during the war.
The Mohawk war chief Joseph Brant, other war chiefs, and British allies conducted numerous operations against frontier settlements in the Mohawk Valley, including the Cherry Valley massacre, destroying many villages and crops, killing and capturing inhabitants. The Continentals retaliated and in 1779, George Washington ordered the Sullivan Campaign, led by Col. Daniel Brodhead and General John Sullivan, against the Iroquois nations to "not merely overrun, but destroy," the British-Indian alliance. They burned many Iroquois villages and stores throughout western New York; refugees moved north to Canada. By the end of the war, few houses and barns in the valley had survived the warfare.
After the war, the ancient central fireplace of the League was reestablished at Buffalo Creek. Captain Joseph Brant and a group of Iroquois left New York to settle in the Province of Quebec (present-day Ontario). As a reward for their loyalty to the British Crown, they were given a large land grant on the Grand River. Brant's crossing of the river gave the original name to the area: Brant's ford. By 1847, European settlers began to settle nearby and named the village Brantford. The original Mohawk settlement was on the south edge of the present-day city at a location still favorable for launching and landing canoes. In the 1830s many of the Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, and Tuscarora relocated into the Indian Territory, the Province of Upper Canada and Wisconsin.
The Iroquois are a melting pot of other Native groups. League traditions allowed for the dead to be symbolically replaced through captives taken in "mourning wars," the blood feuds and vendettas that were an essential aspect of Iroquois culture. As a way of expediting the mourning process, raids were conducted to take vengeance and seize captives. Captives were generally adopted directly by the grieving family to replace the member(s) who had been lost. This process not only allowed the Iroquois to maintain their own numbers, but also to disperse and assimilate their enemies. The adoption of conquered peoples, especially during the period of the Beaver Wars (1609-1701), meant that the Iroquois League was composed largely of naturalized members of other tribes. Cadwallader Colden wrote, "It has been a constant maxim with the Five Nations, to save children and young men of the people they conquer, to adopt them into their own Nation, and to educate them as their own children, without distinction; These young people soon forget their own country and nation and by this policy the Five Nations make up the losses which their nation suffers by the people they lose in war." By 1668, two-thirds of the Oneida village were assimilated Algonquians and Hurons. At Onondaga there were Native Americans of seven different nations and among the Seneca eleven. They also adopted European captives, as did the Catholic Mohawk in settlements outside Montreal. This tradition of adoption and assimilation was common to native people of the northeast but was quite different from European settlers' notions of combat.
The Iroquois are a mix of horticulturalists, farmers, fishers, gatherers and hunters, though their main diet traditionally has come from farming. The main crops they cultivated are corn, beans and squash, which were called the three sisters and are considered special gifts from the Creator. These crops are grown strategically. The cornstalks grow, the bean plants climb the stalks, and the squash grow beneath, inhibiting weeds and keeping the soil moist under the shade of their broad leaves. In this combination, the soil remained fertile for several decades. The food was stored during the winter, and it lasted for two to three years. When the soil eventually lost its fertility, the Haudenosaunee migrated.
Gathering is the traditional job of the women and children. Wild roots, greens, berries and nuts were gathered in the summer. During spring, sap is tapped from the maple trees and boiled into maple syrup, and herbs are gathered for medicine.
The Iroquois hunt mostly deer but also other game such as wild turkey and migratory birds. Muskrat and beaver during the winter. Fishing has also been a significant source of food because the Iroquois are located near the St. Lawerence River. They fished salmon, trout, bass, perch and whitefish until the St. Lawrence became too polluted by industry. In the spring the Iroquois netted, and in the winter fishing holes were made in the ice.
Plants traditionally used by the Iroquois include Agrimonia gryposepala, which was to treat diarrhea, and interrupted fern, used for blood and venereal diseases and conditions. Cone flower [[[Echinacea purpurea|Echinacea]]] an immune system booster and treatment for respiratory disease was also known and used.][
The Iroquois are a Mother Clan system, which is gender equal. No one is entitled to 'own' land but Creator appointed the women to be the stewards of the land. The Clan Mothers appoint the leaders because they raised the children so know best who to appoint. By the same token, if a leader does not prove sound or becomes corrupt or does not listen to the people, the Clan Mothers have the power to strip him of his leadership.
When Americans and Canadians of European descent began to study Iroquois customs in the 18th and 19th centuries, they learned that the people had a matrilineal system: women held property and hereditary leadership passed through their lines. They held dwellings, horses and farmed land, and a woman's property before marriage stayed in her possession without being mixed with that of her husband. They had separate roles but real power in the nations. The work of a woman's hands was hers to do with as she saw fit. At marriage, a young couple lived in the longhouse of the wife's family. A woman choosing to divorce a shiftless or otherwise unsatisfactory husband was able to ask him to leave the dwelling and take his possessions with him.
The children of the marriage belong to their mother's clan and gain their social status through hers. Her brothers are important teachers and mentors to the children, especially introducing boys to men's roles and societies. The clans are matrilineal, that is, clan ties are traced through the mother's line. If a couple separated, the woman traditionally kept the children. The chief of a clan can be removed at any time by a council of the women elders of that clan. The chief's sister was responsible for nominating his successor.
The Iroquois believe that the spirits change the seasons. Key festivals coincided with the major events of the agricultural calendar, including a harvest festival of thanksgiving. The Great Peacemaker (Deganawida) was their prophet. After the arrival of the Europeans, many Iroquois became Christians, among them Kateri Tekakwitha, a young woman of Mohawk-Algonquin parents. Traditional spirituality was revived to some extent in the second half of the 18th century by the teachings of the Haudenosaunee prophet Handsome Lake.
The first five nations listed below formed the original Five Nations (listed from west to east); the Tuscarora became the sixth nation in 1720.
Within each of the six nations, people are divided into a number of matrilineal clans. The number of clans varies by nation, currently from three to eight, with a total of nine different clan names.
The total number of Iroquois today is difficult to establish. About 45,000 Iroquois lived in Canada in 1995. In the 2000 census, 80,822 people in the United States claimed Iroquois ethnicity, with 45,217 of them claiming only Iroquois background. The figures for the 2010 Census are similar, with 81,002 claiming Iroquois ethnicity, and 42,461 Iroquois ancestry only. Tribal registrations among the Six Nations in the United States in 1995 numbered about 30,000 in total.
The Grand Council of the Iroquois League is an assembly of 56 Hoyenah (chiefs) or Sachems, a number that has never changed. Today, the seats on the Council are distributed among the Six Nations as follows:
When anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan studied the Grand Council in the 19th century, he interpreted it as a central government. This interpretation became influential, but Richter argues that while the Grand Council served an important ceremonial role, it was not a government in the sense that Morgan thought. According to this view, Iroquois political and diplomatic decisions are made on the local level, and are based on assessments of community consensus. A central government that develops policy and implements it for the people at large is not the Iroquois model of government.
Unanimity in public acts was essential to the Council. In 1855, Minnie Myrtle observed that no Iroquois treaty was binding unless it was ratified by 75% of the male voters and 75% of the mothers of the nation. In revising Council laws and customs, a consent of two-thirds of the mothers was required. The need for a double supermajority to make major changes made the Confederacy a de facto consensus government.
The women traditionlly held real power, particularly the power to veto treaties or declarations of war. The members of the Grand Council of Sachems were chosen by the mothers of each clan. If any leader failed to comply with the wishes of the women of his tribe and the Great Law of Peace, the mother of his clan could demote him, a process called "knocking off the horns". The deer antlers, emblem of leadership, were removed from his headgear, thus returning him to private life.
Councils of the mothers of each tribe were held separately from the men's councils. The women used men as runners to send word of their decisions to concerned parties, or a woman could appear at the men's council as an orator, presenting the view of the women. Women often took the initiative in suggesting legislation.
The term "wampum" refers to beads made from purple and white mollusk shells. Species used to make wampum include the highly prized quahog clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) which produces the famous purple colored beads. For white colored beads the shells from the channeled whelk (Busycon canaliculatum), knobbed whelk (Busycon carica), lightning whelk (Busycon sinistrum), and snow whelk (Busycon Laeostomum) are used.
Wampum was primarily used to make wampum belts by the Iroquois. Wampum belts are used to signify the importance of a specific message being presented. Treaty making often involved wampum belts to signify the importance of the treaty. A famous example is "The Two Row Wampum" or "Guesuenta" meaning 'it brightens our minds' which was originally presented to the Dutch settlers, and then French, representing a canoe and a sailboat, moving side by side along the river of life, not interfering with the others course. All non-Native settlers are, by associations, members of this treaty.
"The Covenent Belt" which was presented to the Iroquois at the signing of the Canandaigua Treaty. The belt has a design of thirteen human figures representing symbolically the Thirteen Colonies of the United States. The house and the two figures directly next to the house represent the Iroquois people and the symbolic longhouse. The figure on the left of the house represent the Seneca Nation who are the symbolic guardians of the western door (western edge of Iroquois territory) and the figure to the right of the house represents the Mohawk who are the keepers of the eastern door (eastern edge of Iroquois territory).
The Hiawatha belt is the national belt of the Iroquois and is represented in the Iroquois Confederacy flag. The belt has four squares and a tree in the middle which representing the original five nations of the Iroquois. Going from left to right the squares represent the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida and Mohawk. The Onondaga are represented by an eastern white pine which represents the Tree of Peace. Traditionally the Onondaga are the peace keepers of the confederacy. The placement of the nations on the belt represents the actually geographical distribution of the six nations over their shared territory, with the Seneca in the far west and the Mohawk in the far east of Iroquois territory.
Historians in the 20th century have suggested the Iroquois system of government influenced the development of the Articles of Confederation or United States Constitution. Consensus has not been reached on how influential the Iroquois model was to the development of the United States' documents. The influence thesis has been discussed by historians such as Donald Grinde and Bruce Johansen. In 1988, the United States Congress passed a resolution to recognize the influence of the Iroquois League upon the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In 1987, Cornell University held a conference on the link between the Iroquois' government and the U.S. Constitution.
Scholars, such as Jack N. Rakove and Elizabeth Tooker, challenge the thesis. Stanford University historian Rakove writes, "The voluminous records we have for the constitutional debates of the late 1780s contain no significant references to the Iroquois" and notes that there are ample European precedents to the democratic institutions of the United States. Historian Francis Jennings noted that supporters of the thesis frequently cite the following statement by Benjamin Franklin: "It would be a very strange thing, if six Nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such a Union … and yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a Dozen English Colonies," but he disagrees that it establishes influence. Rather, he thinks Franklin was promoting union against the "ignorant savages" and called the idea "absurd".
The anthropologist Dean Snow stated that though Franklin's Albany Plan may have drawn inspiration from the Iroquois League, there is little evidence that either the Plan or the Constitution drew substantially from this source. He argues that "...such claims muddle and denigrate the subtle and remarkable features of Iroquois government. The two forms of government are distinctive and individually remarkable in conception."
Tooker, a Temple University professor of anthropology and an authority on the culture and history of the Northern Iroquois, believes the "influence" thesis is myth rather than fact. She does not think that the Iroquois League was a democratic culture; such a conclusion is not supported within historical literature. The relationship between the Iroquois League and the Constitution is based on a portion of a letter written by Benjamin Franklin and a speech by the Iroquois chief Canasatego in 1744. Tooker concluded that the documents cited indicate that groups of Iroquois and white settlers realized the advantages of a confederation, but she thinks there is little evidence to support the idea that 18th century colonists were knowledgeable regarding the Iroquois system of governance.
Historic evidence suggests that chiefs of different tribes were permitted representation in the Iroquois League council, and the leadership positions were hereditary. The council did not practice representative government and had no elections. Deceased chiefs’s successors were selected by the most senior woman within the hereditary lineage in consultation with other women in the clan. Decision making occurred through lengthy discussion and decisions were unanimous, with topics discussed being introduced by a single tribe.
Tooker concludes, "...there is virtually no evidence that the framers borrowed from the Iroquois." She thinks the myth resulted from exaggerations and misunderstandings of a claim made by the Iroquois linguist and ethnographer J.N.B. Hewitt after his death in 1937.
The Haudenosaunee government has issued passports since 1923, when Haudenosaunee authorities issued a passport to Cayuga statesman Deskaheh (Levi General) to travel to the League of Nations headquarters.
More recently, passports have been issued since 1997. Before 2001 these were accepted by various nations for international travel, but with increased security concerns across the world since the September 11 attacks this is no longer the case. The Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team was allowed by the U.S. to travel on their own passports to an international lacrosse tournament in England after the personal intervention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 14, 2010, after previously being refused. But, the British government refused to recognize the Iroquois passports and denied the team members entry into the United Kingdom.
The Onondaga Nation spent $1.5 million on a subsequent upgrade to passports designed to meet 21st century international security requirements.
The Iroquois Nationals are considered a country-level organization in international lacrosse competition. It is the only international sport in which the Iroquois tribes field a team.
The Grand Council of the Iroquois Confederacy declared war on Germany in 1917 during World War I and again in 1942 in World War II.
English, Onöñda'gega', Other Iroquoian Dialects
Longhouse, Handsome Lake, Gai'hwi:io, Kanoh'hon'io, Kahni'kwi'io, Other Indigenous Religion
Seneca Nation, Oneida Nation, Tuscarora Nation, Mohawk Nation, Cayuga Nation, other Iroquoian peoples
The Onondaga (Onöñda’gega’ or the People of the Hills) are one of the original five constituent nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy. Their traditional homeland is in and around Onondaga County, New York. Known as Gana’dagwëni:io’geh to the other Iroquois tribes, this name allows people to know the difference when talking about Onondaga in Six Nations, Ontario or near Syracuse, New York. Being centrally located, they were considered the "Keepers of the Fire" (Kayečisnakwe’nì·yu’ in Tuscarora) in the figurative longhouse. The Cayuga and Seneca had territory to their west and the Oneida and Mohawk to their east. For this reason, the League of the Iroquois historically met at the Iroquois government's capital at Onondaga, as indeed the traditional chiefs do today.
An early date for the Onondaga comes from attempting to date an oral tradition related to The Great Peacemaker, who approached the Onondaga and others to found the Haudenosaunee. The dates he lived are not fixed but when the Seneca nation debated joining the Haudenosaunee based on his teachings there is a tradition of a solar eclipse happening. The most likely eclipse for this event was in 1142AD which actually fell over the land of the Seneca. Carbon dating of particular sites of Onondaga habitation shows dates starting close to 1200AD ± 60 years with growth for hundreds of years.
In the American Revolutionary War, the Onondaga were at first officially neutral, although individual Onondaga warriors were involved in at least one raid on American settlements. After an American attack on their main village on April 20, 1779, the Onondaga later sided with the majority of the League and fought against the American colonists in alliance with the British. Thereafter, many Onondaga followed Joseph Brant to Six Nations, Ontario, after the United States was accorded independence.
On November 11, 1794, the Onondaga Nation, along with the other Haudenosaunee nations, signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States, in which their right to their homeland was acknowledged by the United States in article II of the treaty.
Those Onondaga remaining in New York are under the government of traditional chiefs nominated by clan mothers, rather than elected.
On March 11, 2005, the Onondaga Nation of Nedrow, New York, filed a land rights action in federal court, seeking acknowledgment of title to over 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2) of ancestral lands centering in Syracuse, New York. In doing so they hope to obtain increased influence over environmental restoration efforts at Onondaga Lake and other EPA Superfund sites in the claimed area. This lawsuit is facing a motion to dismiss based on the precedent established in the Cayuga nation's land claim  and other defenses.
The Beaver Wars, also known as the Iroquois Wars or the French and Iroquois Wars, commonly refers to a series of conflicts fought in the mid-17th century in eastern North America.
Encouraged and armed by their Dutch and English trading partners, the Iroquois sought to expand their territory and monopolize the fur trade and the trade between European markets and the tribes of the western Great Lakes region. The conflict pitted the nations of the Iroquois Confederation, led by the dominant Mohawk, against the French-backed and largely Algonquian-speaking tribes of the Great Lakes region.
The wars were brutal and are considered one of the bloodiest series of conflicts in the history of North America. As the Iroquois succeeded in the war and enlarged their territory, they realigned the tribal geography of North America, and destroyed several large tribal confederacies—including the Huron, Neutral, Erie, and Susquehannock—and pushed some eastern tribes west of the Mississippi River, or southward into the Carolinas. The Iroquois also controlled the Ohio Valley lands as hunting ground, from about 1670 onward, as far as can be determined from contemporary French (Jesuit) accounts. The Ohio Country and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan were virtually emptied of Native people as refugees fled westward to escape Iroquois warriors (much of this region was later repopulated by Native peoples nominally subjected to the Six Nations; see Mingo).
Both Algonquian and Iroquoian societies were greatly disturbed by these wars. The conflict subsided with the loss by the Iroquois of their Dutch allies in the New Netherland colony, and with a growing French objective to gain the Iroquois as an ally against English encroachment. After the Iroquois became trading partners with the English, their alliance was a crucial component of the later English expansion. They used the Iroquois conquests as a claim to the old Northwest.
Written records for the St. Lawrence valley begin with the voyages of Jacques Cartier in the 1540s. Cartier wrote of encounters with a people later classified as the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, also known as the Stadaconan or Laurentian people, who occupied several fortified villages, including Stadacona and Hochelaga. Cartier recorded an ongoing war between the Stadaconans and another tribe known as the Toudaman, who had destroyed one of their forts the previous year, resulting in 200 deaths.
Wars and politics in Europe distracted French efforts at colonization in the St. Lawrence Valley until the beginning of the 17th century. When the French returned, they found the sites of both Stadacona and Hochelaga abandoned—completely destroyed by an unknown enemy.
Some anthropologists and historians have suggested that the Mohawk of the Iroquois Confederacy destroyed and drove out the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, based on analysis of political and economic conditions at the time. When the French returned, there were no inhabitants in this part of the upper river valley. The Iroquois and Huron used it as hunting ground. The causes remain unclear. (Iroquois oral tradition, as recorded in the Jesuit Relations, speaks of a draining war between the Mohawk Iroquois and an alliance of the Susquehannock and Algonquin sometime between 1580 and 1600).
When the French returned in 1601, the St. Lawrence Valley had already been the site of generations of blood-feud-style warfare. When Samuel de Champlain landed at Tadoussac on the St. Lawrence, the Montagnais, Algonquin, and Huron almost immediately recruited him and his small company of French adventurers to assist in attacking their Iroquois enemies upriver.][
Before 1603, Champlain had formed an offensive alliance against the Iroquois. He had a commercial rationale: the northern Natives provided the French with valuable furs and the Iroquois, based in present-day New York, interfered with that trade. The first battle in 1609 was fought at Champlain's initiative. Champlain wrote, "I had come with no other intention than to make war". In the company of his Algonquin allies, Champlain and his forces fought a pitched battle with the Iroquois on the shores of Lake Champlain. Champlain killed three Iroquois chiefs with an arquebus. In 1610, Champlain and his arquebus-wielding French companions helped the Algonquin and the Huron defeat a large Iroquois raiding party. In 1615, Champlain joined a Huron raiding party and took part in a siege on an Iroquois town, probably among the Onondaga south of Lake Ontario in present-day New York State. The attack ultimately failed, and Champlain was injured.
In 1610 the Dutch established a trading post on the edge of Iroquois territory,][ giving the Iroquois access to European markets. This removed the Iroquois need to rely on the French and the tribes who had functioned as middlemen in the trading of goods. The new post offered valuable tools that the Iroquois could receive in exchange for animal pelts. This began the Iroquois' large-scale hunting for furs.
At this time, conflict began to grow quickly between the Iroquois and Indians supported by the French. The Iroquois inhabited the region of present-day New York south of Lake Ontario and west of the Hudson River. The Iroquois lands comprised an ethnic island, surrounded on all sides by Algonquian-speaking nations, including the Shawnee to the west in the Ohio Country. Their enemies included the Iroquoian-speaking Huron and Neutral Nation Confederacies, who lived on the southern shore of Lake Huron and the western shore of Lake Ontario, respectively, but who were not part of the Iroquois Confederation.
In 1628 the Mohawk defeated the Mahican and established a monopoly of trade with the Dutch at Fort Orange (later Albany, New York), New Netherland. The Iroquois, particularly the Mohawk, had come to rely on the trade for the purchase of firearms and other European goods for their livelihood and survival. By the 1630s, the Iroquois had become fully armed with European weaponry through their trade with the Dutch. They used their growing expertise with the arquebus to good effect in their continuing wars with the Algonquin, Huron, and other traditional enemies. The French, meanwhile, outlawed the trading of firearms to their native allies, though they occasionally gave arquebuses as gifts to individuals who converted to Christianity. Although the Iroquois first attacked their traditional enemies (the Algonquins, Mahicans, Montagnais, and Hurons), the alliance of these tribes with the French quickly brought the Iroquois into fierce and bloody conflict directly with the European colonists.
The use of firearms enabled overhunting and accelerated the decline of the beaver population. By 1640 the animal had largely disappeared from the Hudson Valley. Some historians][ have argued that the growing scarcity of the beaver in the lands controlled by the Iroquois in the middle 17th-century accelerated the wars. The center of the fur trade shifted northward to the colder regions of present-day southern Ontario, an area controlled by the Neutrals as well as by the Hurons - the close trading partners of the French. The Iroquois, displaced in the fur trade by other nations in the region, and threatened by disease and with a declining population, began an aggressive campaign to expand their area of control.
With the decline of beaver, the Iroquois began to conquer their smaller neighbors. They attacked the Wenro in 1638 and took all of their territory. Survivors fled to the Hurons for refuge. The Wenro had served as a buffer between the Iroquois and the Neutral tribe and Erie allies. These two tribes were considerably larger and more powerful than the Iroquois. With expansion to the west blocked, the Iroquois turned their attention to the north. The Dutch also encouraged the Iroquois in this strategy. At that time, the Dutch were the Iroquois' primary European trading partners, with their goods passing through Dutch trading posts down the Hudson River and from there sent back to Europe. As the Iroquois' sources of furs declined, so did the income of the trading posts.
In 1641, the Mohawks traveled to Trois-Rivières in New France to propose peace with the French and their allied tribes. They asked the French to set up a trading post in Iroquoia. Governor Montmagny rejected this proposal because it would imply abandonment of their Huron allies.
In the early 1640s, the war began in earnest with Iroquois attacks on frontier Huron villages along the St. Lawrence River; their intent was disruption of the trade with the French. In 1645 the French called the tribes together to negotiate a treaty to end the conflict. Two Iroquois leaders, Deganaweida and Koiseaton, traveled to New France to take part in the negotiations. The French agreed to most of the Iroquois demands, granting them trading rights in New France. The next summer a fleet of eighty canoes carrying a large harvest of furs traveled through Iroquois territory to be sold in New France. When the Iroquois arrived, the French refused to purchase the furs and told the Iroquois to sell them to the Huron, who would act as a middleman. Outraged, the Iroquois resumed the war.
The French decided to become directly involved in the conflict. The Huron and the Iroquois had similar access to manpower, each tribe having an estimated 25,000–30,000 members. To gain the upper hand, in 1647 the Huron and Susquehannock formed an alliance to counter Iroquois aggression. Together their warriors greatly outnumbered those of the Iroquois. The Huron tried to break the Iroquois Confederacy by negotiating separate peaces with the Onondaga and the Cayuga. When the other tribes intercepted their messengers, they put an end to the negotiations. During the summer of 1647 there were several small skirmishes between the tribes. In 1648 a more significant battle occurred when the two Algonquin tribes attempted to pass a fur convoy through an Iroquois blockade. Their attempt succeeded and they inflicted high casualties on the Iroquois.
During the following years, the Iroquois strengthened their confederacy to work more closely and create an effective central leadership. Although the workings of their government remain largely unknown, by the 1660s the five Iroquois ceased fighting among themselves. They also easily coordinated military and economic plans among all five nations. In so doing, they increased their power and achieved a level of government more advanced than those of the surrounding tribes' decentralized forms of operating.
Although Indian raids were not constant, they terrified the inhabitants of New France. Initially, the colonists felt helpless to prevent them. Some of the heroes of French-Canadian folk memory are of individuals who stood up to such attacks. An example was Dollard des Ormeaux, who died in May 1660 while resisting an Iroquois raiding force at the Long Sault, the confluence of the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa Rivers. According to legend, he succeeded in saving Montreal by his actions. Another hero was Madeleine de Verchères, who in 1692 at age 14, led the defense of her family farm against Iroquois attack. Viewing the Iroquois as pawns of the Dutch and English, their traditional Protestant enemies, the French refused to make peace with the Natives.
In 1648, the Dutch authorized selling guns directly to the Mohawk rather than through traders, and promptly sold 400 to the Iroquois. The Confederacy sent 1,000 newly armed warriors through the woods to Huron territory. With the onset of winter, the Iroquois warriors launched a devastating attack into the heart of Huron territory, destroying several key villages, killing many warriors and taking thousands of people captive, for later adoption into the tribe. Among those killed were the Jesuit missionaries Jean Brebeuf, Charles Garnier, and Gabriel Lallemant. Each is considered a martyr of the Roman Catholic Church. The surviving Huron fled their territory to seek assistance from the ConfederacyAnishinaabeg in the northern Great Lakes region. The Nation (Ottawa)Odaawaa temporarily halted Iroquois expansion further northwest. With the Hurons' withdrawal, the Iroquois controlled a fur-rich region and had no more native tribes blocking them from the French settlements in Canada.
European diseases had taken their toll on the Iroquois and neighbors in the years preceding the war, however, and their populations had drastically declined. To replace lost warriors, the Iroquois worked to integrate many of their captured enemy by adoption into their own tribes. They invited Jesuits into their territory to teach those who had converted to Christianity. One priest recorded, "As far as I can divine, It is the design of the Iroquois to capture all the Huron...put the Chiefs to death...and with the rest to form one nation and country". The Jesuits also reached out to the Iroquois, many of whom converted to or added Catholicism to indigenous belief. The converted Iroquois would play an important part in the years to come.
In the early 1650s, the Iroquois began to attack the French. Some of the Iroquois Nations, notably the Oneida and Onondaga, had peaceful relations with the French but were under control of the Mohawk. The latter were the strongest nation in the Confederacy and were hostile to the French presence. After a failed peace treaty negotiated by Chief Canaqueese, Iroquois war parties moved north into New France along Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. They attacked and blockaded Montreal. Typically a raid on an isolated farm or settlement consisted of a war party moving swiftly and silently through the woods, swooping down suddenly and without warning. In many cases, prisoners, especially women and children, were brought back to the Iroquois homelands and were adopted into the nations.
The Iroquois attacked the Neutral Nation in 1650. By the end of 1651, they had completely driven the tribe from traditional territory, killing or assimilating thousands. At the time, the Neutrals inhabited a territory ranging from the present-day Niagara Peninsula, westward to the Grand River valley.
In 1654 the Iroquois attacked the Erie, but with less success. The war between the Erie and the Iroquois lasted for two years. By 1656 the Iroquois had almost completely destroyed the Erie confederacy, whose members refused to flee to the west. The Erie territory was located on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie and was estimated to have 12,000 members in 1650. Greatly outnumbered by the tribes they had subdued, the Iroquois had been able to achieve their victories through the use of firearms purchased from the Dutch.
With the tribes to the north and west destroyed, the Iroquois turned their attention southward to the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock. 1660 marked the zenith of Iroquois military power, and they were able to use that to their advantage in the decades to follow. The Susquehannock had become allied with the English in the Maryland colony in 1661. The English had grown fearful of the Iroquois and hoped an alliance with Susquehannock would help block the northern tribes' advance on the English colonies. In 1663 the Iroquois sent an army of 800 warriors into the Susquehannock territory. They repulsed the army, but the invasion prompted the colony of Maryland to declare war on the Iroquois.
By supplying Susquehannock forts with artillery, the English in Maryland changed the balance of power away from the Iroquois. The Susquehannock took the upper hand and began to invade Iroquois territory, where they caused significant damage. This warfare continued intermittently for 11 years. In 1674 the English in Maryland changed their Indian Policy and negotiated peace with the Iroquois. They terminated their alliance with the Susquehannock. In 1675 the militias of Virginia and Maryland captured and executed the chiefs of the Susquehannock, whose growing power they feared. The Iroquois made quick work of the rest of the nation. They drove the warriors from traditional territory and absorbed the survivors in 1677.
During the course of this conflict, in 1670 the Iroquois also drove the Siouan-speaking Mannahoac tribe out of the northern Virginia Piedmont region. The Iroquois claimed the land by right of conquest as a hunting ground. The English acknowledged this claim in 1674 and again in 1684. They acquired the land from the Iroquois by a 1722 treaty.
The Iroquois continued to control the countryside of New France, raiding to the edges of the walled settlements of Quebec and Montreal. In May 1660 an Iroquois force of 160 warriors attacked Montreal and captured 17 colonists. The following year, an attack by 250 warriors yielded ten captives. In 1661 and 1662 the Iroquois made several raids against the Abenakis, who were allied with the French. The French Crown ordered a change to the governing of Canada. They put together a small military force made up of Frenchmen, Huron, and Algonquin to counter the Iroquois raids. When the militia ventured into the countryside, they were attacked by the Iroquois. Only 29 of the French survived and escaped. Five were captured and tortured to death by the Iroquois in retaliation. Despite their victory, the Iroquois also suffered a significant number of casualties. Their leaders began to consider negotiating for peace with the French.
The tide of war in New France began to turn in the mid-1660s with the arrival of a small contingent of regular troops from France, the brown-uniformed Carignan-Salières Regiment—the first group of uniformed professional soldiers to enter present-day Canada. A change in administration led the New France government to authorize direct sale of arms and other military support to their Native allies. In 1664, the Dutch allies of the Iroquois lost control of the New Netherland colony to the English. In the immediate years after the Dutch defeat, European support waned for the Iroquois.
In January 1666, the French invaded the Iroquois homeland in present-day New York. The first invasion force, of 400 or 500 men, was led by Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle. His men were greatly outnumbered by the Iroquois and were forced to withdraw before any significant action could take place. Although the invasion was abortive, they took Chief Canaqueese prisoner.
The second invasion force was led by the aristocrat Alexandre de Prouville, the "Marquis de Tracy" and viceroy of New France. From his base in Quebec City, as Lieutenant General of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, he initiated a campaign against the Mohawks. The invasion force of about 1300 men moved out in the fall of 1666. Upon arriving at the Mohawk villages and finding them deserted, they destroyed the villages and their crops. Prouville de Tracy seized all the Mohawk lands in the name of the king of France, and forced the Mohawks to accept the Roman Catholic faith and to adopt the French language as taught by the Jesuit missionaries. With their immediate European support cut off, the Iroquois sued for peace, to which France agreed.
Once peace was achieved with the French, the Iroquois returned to their westward conquest in their continued attempt to take control of all the land between the Algonquins and the French. As a result of Iroquois expansion and war with the Anishinaabeg Confederacy (see also, Council of Three Fires), eastern Nations such as the Lakota were pushed across the Mississippi onto the Great Plains. There in the early 18th century, they adopted the horse culture and nomadic lifestyle for which they later became well known. Other refugees flooded the Great Lakes area, resulting in a conflict with existing nations in the region. In the Ohio Country the Shawnee and Miami tribes were the dominant tribes. The Iroquois quickly overran Shawnee holdings in central Ohio forcing them to flee into Miami territory. The Miami were a powerful tribe and brought together a confederacy of their neighboring allies, including the Pottawatomie and the Illini confederation who inhabited modern Michigan and Illinois. The majority of the fighting was between the Anishininaabeg Confederacy and the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Iroquois improved on their warfare as they continued to attack even farther from their home. War parties often traveled by canoes at night. They would sink their canoes and fill them with rocks to hold them on the river bottom. After going through the woods to a target, at the appointed time, they would quickly burst from the wood to cause the greatest panic among their enemy. After the attack, the Iroquois could return quickly to their boats and leave before any significant resistance could be put together. The lack of firearms caused the Algonquin tribes the greatest disadvantage. Despite their larger numbers, they were not centralized enough to mount a united defense and were unable to withstand the Iroquois. Several tribes ultimately moved west beyond the Mississippi River, leaving much of the Ohio Valley, southern Michigan, and southern Ontario depopulated. Several large Anishinaabe military forces, numbering in the thousands, remained to the north of Lakes Huron and Superior. They later were decisive in rolling back the Iroquois advance. From west of the Mississippi, displaced groups continued to arm war parties and attempt to retake their homelands.
Beginning in the 1670s, the French began to explore and settle the Ohio and Illinois Country from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. There they discovered the Algonquin tribes of that region were locked in warfare with the Iroquois. The French established the post of Tassinong to trade with the western tribes. The Iroquois destroyed it to retain control of the fur trade with the Europeans.
During a raid into the Illinois Country in 1689, the Iroquois captured numerous prisoners and destroyed a sizable Miami settlement. The Miami asked for aid from others in the Anishinaabeg Confederacy, and a large force gathered to track down the Iroquois. Using their new firearms, the Confederacy laid an ambush near modern South Bend, Indiana. They attacked and destroyed most of the Iroquois army. Although a large part of the region was left depopulated, the Iroquois were unable to establish a permanent presence. Their own tribe lacked the manpower to colonize the large area. After their setbacks and the local tribes' gaining firearms, the Iroquois' brief control over the region was lost. Many of the former inhabitants of the territory began to return.
As the English began to move into the former Dutch territory of upper New York State, they began to form close ties with the Iroquois. They sought to use them as a buffer and force to hinder French colonial expansion. They soon began to supply the Iroquois with firearms much as the Dutch had and encouraged them to disrupt French interests.
At the same time, Governor of New France Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, tried to revive the western fur-trade. His efforts competed with those of the Iroquois to control the traffic and they started attacking the French again. The war lasted ten years and was as bloody as the first.
In 1681 René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle negotiated a treaty with the Miami and Illinois tribes. The same year France lifted the ban on the sale of firearms to the native tribes. Colonists quickly armed the Algonquin tribes, evening the odds between the Iroquois and their enemies.
With the renewal of hostilities, the local militia of New France was stiffened after 1683 by a small force of regular French navy troops, the Compagnies Franches de la Marine. The latter were to constitute the longest-serving unit of French regular troops in New France. Over the years, the men identified with the colony. The officer corps became completely Canadian. Essentially, these forces can be considered as Canada's first standing professional armed force. Officers' commissions, both in the militia and in the Compagnie Franches, became coveted amongst the upper class of the colony. The militia together with members of the Compagnie Franches, dressed for woodland travel similarly to their Algonquin Indian allies, and grew to specialize in the swift and mobile brand of warfare termed la petite guerre. It was characterized by long expeditions through the forests and quick raids on enemy encampments —the same kind of warfare practiced by the Iroquois and other Natives.
In June 1687, Pierre de Troyes commanded a company under Governor Denonville for his attack against the Seneca. This attack resulted in the destruction of Ganondagan, the Seneca's largest village.
In September 1687, the French used 3,000 militia and regulars to attack the Iroquois in a punitive raid on their territory. They proceeded down the Richelieu River and marched through Iroquois territory, but did not find many warriors. They burned their villages and stored crops, destroying an estimated 1.2 million bushels of corn. Many Iroquois died from starvation during the following winter.
In 1687, Denonville set out with a well-organized force to Fort Frontenac, where they met with the 50 hereditary sachems of the Iroquois Confederacy from their Onondaga council fire. These 50 chiefs constituted the entire decision-making strata of the Iroquois. They had been lulled into meeting under a flag of truce. Denonville seized, chained, and shipped the 50 Iroquois chiefs to Marseilles, France, to be used as galley slaves. He then ravaged the land of the Seneca. Before he returned to New France, he travelled down the shore of Lake Ontario and created Fort Denonville at the site where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. This site was previously used by La Salle for a fort named Fort Conti from 1678 to 1679, and was later used for Fort Niagara, which still exists to this day.
The destruction of the Seneca land infuriated the Iroquois Confederacy. This, coupled with the dishonourable loss of their sachems, demanded they set out to terrorize New France as never before. Denonville's regulars were dissolved and dispersed to towns across the land, attempting to protect New France's homes and families. Forts were abandoned. The Iroquois destroyed farmsteads and whole families were slaughtered or captured. On August 4, 1689, Lachine, a small town adjacent to Montreal, was burned to the ground. Fifteen hundred Iroquois warriors had been harassing Montreal defences for many months prior. Denonville was finally exhausted and defeated. His tenure was followed by the return of Frontenac, who replaced Denonville as governor for the next nine years (1689–1698). Frontenac had been arranging a new plan of attack to mollify the effects of the Iroquois in North America and realized the true danger the imprisonment of the sachems created. He located the 13 surviving leaders, and they returned with him to New France in October 1698.
During King William's War (1689–1697), the French created raiding parties with native allies to attack English colonial settlements, as the English had used the Iroquois against the French. Some of the most notable of the French-sponsored raids in 1690 were the Schenectady massacre in the Province of New York; Salmon Falls, New Hampshire; and Falmouth Neck (present-day Portland, Maine). The French and their allies killed settlers in the raids and carried some back to Canada. Settlers in New England raised money to redeem their captives, but some were adopted into the Native tribes. The French government generally did not intervene when the Natives kept the captives. Throughout the 1690s the French and their allies also continued to raid deep into Iroquois, destroying Mohawk villages in 1692, and later raiding Seneca, Oneida, and Onondaga villages. The English and Iroquois banded together for operations aimed at New France, but these were largely ineffectual. The most successful incursion resulted in the 1691 Battle of La Prairie. Because France claimed dominion over the Iroquois, the French offensive was not halted by the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick that brought peace between France and England, and ended overt English participation in the conflict.
Finally in 1698, the Iroquois began to see the English as becoming a greater threat than the French. The English had begun colonizing Pennsylvania in 1681. The continued colonial growth there began to encroach on the southern border of the Iroquois territory. The French policy began to change towards the Iroquois. After nearly 50 years of warfare, they began to believe that it would be impossible to ever destroy them. They decided that befriending the Iroquois would be the easiest way to ensure their monopoly on the northern fur trade and help stop English expansion. As soon as the English heard of the treaty they immediately set about to prevent it from being agreed to. It would result in the loss of Albany's monopoly on the fur trade with the Iroquois and, without their protection, the northern flank of the English colonies would be open to French attack. Despite English interference the treaty was agreed to.
The peace treaty, Great Peace of Montreal was signed in 1701 in Montreal by 39 Indian chiefs and the French. In the treaty, the Iroquois agreed to stop marauding and to allow refugees from the Great Lakes to return east. The Shawnee eventually regained control of the Ohio Country and the lower Allegheny River. The Miami tribe returned to take control of modern Indiana and north-west Ohio. The Pottawatomie went to Michigan, and the Illinois tribe to Illinois. With the Dutch long removed from North America, the English had become just as powerful as the French. The Iroquois came to see that they held the balance of power between the two European powers and they used that position to their benefit for the decades to come. Their society began to quickly change as the tribes began to focus on building up a strong nation, improving their farming technology, and educating their population. The peace was lasting and it would not be until the 1720s that their territory would again be threatened by the Europeans.
Also in 1701, the Iroquois nominally gave the English much of the disputed territory north of the Ohio in the Nanfan Treaty, although this transfer was not recognised by the French, who were the strongest actual presence there at the time. In that treaty, the Iroquois leadership claimed to have conquered this "Beaver Hunting Ground" 80 years previously, or in ca. 1621.
The Illinois Country's former inhabitants returned shortly after the war ended; the Miami, Potowatomie, Sauk, and Fox tribes became dominant in the region. The Ohio Country, which was nearer to the core of Iroquois territory, remained depopulated for longer, as the Iroquois controlled it by right of conquest as a hunting ground. The Lenape settled along the Allegheny River beginning in the 1720s. It was not until the 1740s and 1750s that the Shawnee began to return to the southern and central areas of the region, and the Miami began to resettle the western portions.
Through various European treaties, the English control over the Iroquois and their territory had been recognized before the war had ended. The English exaggerated the extent of Iroquois control in the west as a means to dispute French control of the Illinois and Ohio country. In 1768 several colonies officially purchased the "Iroquois claim" to the Ohio and Illinois Country. The colonies created the Indiana Land Company to hold the claim to all of the Northwest. It maintained a claim to the region using the Iroquois right of conquest until the company was dissolved by the United States Supreme Court in 1798.
Because a large part of the conflict between the native tribes took place far beyond the frontier and in locations that had yet to have European contact, the full extent and impact of the war is unknown. Most knowledge of the western parts of the conflict comes through accounts of French explorers and the tribes they encountered during the early years of exploration. Even the effects in the eastern regions are not fully known, as large parts of the region remained unexplored. The resident tribes did not have direct contact with Europeans, so no accounts were passed on about the wars.
The Beaver Wars joined the Powhatan wars of 1610–14, 1622–32 and 1644–46 in Virginia, the Pequot War of 1637 in Connecticut, the Dutch-Indian War of 1643 along the Hudson River and King Philip's War in a list of ongoing uprisings and conflicts between various Native American tribes and the French, Dutch, and English colonial settlements of Canada, New York, and New England.
Native American tribes would continue to be embroiled in conflicts involving England, France, and their colonists during the ensuing French and Indian Wars.
Onan'dowa'ga, English, Other Iroquoian Dialects
Longhouse, Handsome Lake, Kai'hwi'io, Kanoh'hon'io, Kahni'kwi'io, other Christian denominations
Onondaga Nation, Oneida Nation, Tuscarora Nation, Mohawk Nation, Cayuga Nation, other Iroquoian peoples, Wyandot (Huron) Nation, Neutral Nation, Erie Nation, Lenape Nation, Shawnee Nation, Mingo Nation
The Seneca are a group of indigenous people native to North America. They were the nation located farthest to the west within the Six Nations or Iroquois League in New York before the American Revolution. While exact population figures are unknown, approximately 15,000 to 25,000 Seneca live in Canada, near Brantford, Ontario, at the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation. They are descendants of Seneca who resettled there, as they had been allies of the British during the American Revolution. Nearly 30,000 Seneca live in the United States, on and off reservations around Buffalo, New York and in Oklahoma.
The Seneca nation's own name (autonym) is Onöndowága, meaning "People of the Great Hill." It is identical to the endonym used by the Onondaga people. With the formation of the Haudenosaunee, they settled and lived as the farthest west of all the nations within the league. They were referred to as the keepers of the Western Door. Other nations called them Seneca after their principal village of Osininka.][ Since "Osininka" sounds like the Anishinaabe word Asinikaa(n), meaning "Those at the Place Full of Stones", this gave rise to further confusion. Non-Haudenosaunee nations confused the Seneca nation's name with that of the Oneida nation's endonym Onyota'a:ka, meaning "People of the Standing Stone."
The similarity to the name of the Roman statesman Seneca is entirely coincidental.
The Seneca traditionally lived in what is now New York between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake. The dating of an oral tradition mentioning a solar eclipse yields 1142AD as the year for the Seneca joining the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee). Some recent archaeological evidence indicates their territory eventually extended to the Allegheny River in present-day northwestern Pennsylvania, particularly after the Iroquois destroyed both the Wenrohronon and Erie nations, who were native to the area. The Seneca were by far the most populous of the Haudenosaunee Nations, numbering "about four thousand souls" by the seventeenth century.
Seneca villages were located as far east as current-day Schuyler County, south into current Tioga and Chemung counties, north and east into Tompkins and Cayuga counties, and west into the Genesee River valley. The villages were the homes and headquarters of the Seneca. While the Seneca maintained substantial permanent settlements and raised agricultural crops in the vicinity of their villages, they also hunted widely through extensive areas. They prosecuted far-reaching military campaigns. The villages, where hunting and military campaigns were planned and executed, indicate clear aboriginal presence and hegemony in these areas.
The Seneca had two branches; the western and the eastern. Each branch distinct, they were individually incorporated and recognized by the Iroquois Confederacy Council. The western Seneca lived predominately in and around the Genesee River, gradually moving west and southwest along the Erie and Niagara rivers, then south along the Allegheny River into Pennsylvania. The eastern Seneca lived predominantly south of Seneca Lake in and around current-day Corning. They moved south and east into Pennsylvania and the western Catskill area.
The west and north were under constant attack from their powerful Iroquoian brethren, the Huron.][ To the South, the Iroquoian-speaking tribes of the Andaste (Conestoga and Susquehannock) threatened constant warfare. The Algonkian tribes of the Mohicans blocked access to the Hudson River in the east and northeast. In the southeast, the Algonkian tribes of the Delaware (Delaware, Minnisink and Esopus) threatened war from eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Lower Hudson.
The Seneca used the Genesee and Allegheny rivers, as well as the Great Indian War and Trading Path (the Seneca Trail), to travel from southern Lake Ontario into Pennsylvania and Ohio (Merrill, Arch. Land of the Senecas; Empire State Books, 1949, p 18-25). The eastern Seneca had territory just north of the intersection of the Chemung, Susquehanna, Tioga and Delaware rivers, which converged in Tioga. The rivers provided passage deep into all parts of eastern and western Pennsylvania, as well as east and northeast into the Delaware Water Gap and the western Catskills. Even though they had different branches they all wore the same headdress. Like the other Haudensaunees, they wore hats(basically) with dried cornhusks on top. The Senecas had one feather sticking up strait. (Map 4 -Folts, James D. “The Westward Migration of the Munsee Indians in the Eighteenth Century", The Challenge: An Algonquian Peoples Seminar. Albany: New York State Bulletin No. 506, 2005. Pp 32)
Traditionally, the Seneca Nation's economy was based on hunting and gathering activities, fishing and the cultivation of corn, beans, and squash. These vegetables were the staple of the Haudenosaunee diet and were called "the three sisters". Seneca women generally grew and harvested varieties of the three sisters, as well as gathered medicinal plants, roots, berries, nuts, and fruit. Seneca women held sole ownership of all the land and the homes, thus the women also tended to any domesticated animals such as dogs and turkeys.][ Women were in charge of the kinship groups called clans. The woman in charge of a clan was called the "clan mother". Despite the prominent position of women in Iroquois society, their influence on the diplomacy of the nation was limited. If the "clan mothers" did not agree with any major decisions made by the chiefs, they could eventually depose them.][
Seneca men were generally in charge of locating and developing the town sites, including clearing the forest for the production of fields. Seneca men also spent a great deal of time hunting and fishing. This activity took them away from the towns or villages to well-known and productive hunting and fishing grounds for extended amounts of time. These hunting and fishing locations were altered and well maintained and not simply left to grow as "wild" lands. Seneca men maintained the traditional title of War Sachems within the Haudenosaunee. A Seneca war sachem was in charge of gathering the warriors of the Haudenosaunee and leading them into battle.
Seneca people lived in villages and towns. Archaeological excavations indicate that some of these villages were surrounded by palisades because of warfare.][ These towns were relocated every ten to twenty years][ as soil, game and other resources were depleted. During the nineteenth century, many Seneca adopted customs of their immediate American neighbors][ by building log cabins, practicing Christianity and participating in the local agricultural economy.][
During the colonial period, they became involved in the fur trade, first with the Dutch and then with the British.][ This served to increase hostility with other native groups, especially their traditional enemy, the Huron,][ an Iroquoian tribe in New France near Lake Simcoe.][
In 1609 the French allied with the Huron and set out to destroy the Iroquois. The Iroquois-Huron war raged until approximately 1650. The Confederacy, however, grew in power and determined to unify all Iroquois-speaking people while vanquishing all enemies. By the winter of 1648 the Confederacy, led by the Seneca, fought deep into Canada and surrounded the capital of Huronia. Weakened by population losses due to smallpox epidemics as well as warfare, the Huron unconditionally surrendered. They pledged allegiance to the Seneca as their protector. The Seneca subjugated the Huron survivors and sent them to assimilate in the Seneca homelands. (Parker at pp 36–52; Merrill at pp. 78–83.)
Led by the Seneca, the Confederacy began a near 35-year period of conquest over surrounding tribes following the defeat of its most powerful enemy, the Huron. In 1650 the Seneca attacked and defeated the Neutrals to their west. In 1653 the Seneca attacked and defeated the Erie to their southwest. Both tribes were subjugated to the Seneca and relocated to the Seneca homeland. The Seneca then inhabited the vanquished tribe’s traditional territories in western New York. (Parker at pp 36–52; Merrill at pp. 78–83.)
In 1675 the Seneca defeated the Andaste/Susquehannock to the south and south east. The Confederacy’s hegemony extended along the frontier from Canada to Ohio, deep into Pennsylvania, along the Mohawk Valley and into the lower Hudson in the east. They sought peace with the New England Mohegan. Within the Confederacy, Seneca power and presence extended from Canada to Pittsburgh, east to Lackawanna and into the land of the Minnisink on the New York /New Jersey border. (Parker at pp 36–52; Merrill at pp. 78–83.)
The Seneca tried to curtail the encroachment of white settlers. This increased tensions and conflict with the French to the north and west, and the English and Dutch to the south and east. As buffers, the Confederacy resettled conquered tribes between them and the European settlers, with the greatest concentration of resettlements on the lower Susquehanna. (Folts at pp. 33–38).
In 1685, King Louis XIV of France sent Marquis de Denonville to govern New France in Quebec. Denonville set out to destroy the Seneca Nation and in 1687 landed a French armada at Irondequoit Bay. Denonville struck straight into the seat of Seneca power and destroyed many of its villages. Fleeing before the attack, the Seneca moved further west, east and south down the Susquehanna River. Although great damage was done to the Seneca home land, the Seneca’s military might was not appreciably weakened. The Confederacy and the Seneca moved into an alliance with the British in the east. (Houghton at 244).
In and around 1600, the area currently comprising Sullivan, Ulster and Orange counties of New York was home to the Lenape Indians. The Lenape nation was Algonkian-speaking and made up of the Delaware, Minnisink and Esopus tribes. These tribes would later become known as the Munsees. (Folts at pp 32) The Munsees inhabited large tracts of land from the middle Hudson into the Delaware Water Gap, and into north east Pennsylvania and North West New Jersey. The Esopus inhabited the Mid-Hudson valley (Sullivan and Ulster counties). The Minnisink inhabited North West New Jersey. The Delaware inhabited the southern Susquehanna and Delaware water gaps. The Minnisink-Esopus trail, today’s Route 209, helped tie this world together.
To the west of the Delaware nation was the Iroquoian-speaking Andaste/Susquehannock. To the east of the Delaware Nation lay the encroaching peoples of the Dutch New Netherland. From Manhattan, up through the Hudson, the settlers were interested in trading furs with the Susquehannock in and around current Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As early as 1626, the Susquehannock were struggling to get past the Delaware to trade with the Dutch in Manhattan. In 1634 war broke out between the Delaware and the Susquehannock, and by 1638 the defeated Delaware became tributaries to the Susquehanna.
The Confederacy to the north was growing in strength and numbers, and the Seneca, as the most numerous and adventurous, began to travel extensively. Eastern Senecas traveled down the Chemung River to the Susquehanna River. At Tioga the Seneca had access to every corner of Munsee country. Seneca warriors traveled the Forbidden Path south to Tioga to the Great Warrior Path to Scranton and then east over the Minnisink Path through the Lorde’s valley to Minnisink. The Delaware river path went straight south through the ancient Indian towns of Cookhouse, Cochecton and Minnisink where it became the Minsi Path. (Map 5 Paul A. W. Wallace, Indian Paths of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pa: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1965)).
Utilizing these ancient highways, the Seneca exerted influence in what is today Ulster and Sullivan Counties from the Dutch Period of the Colonies history onward. Historical evidence demonstrating Seneca Indian presence in the Lower Catskills includes:
In 1657 and 1658 the Seneca visited as diplomats, Dutch Colonial officials in New Amsterdam (Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan and Berthonl Fernow, Eds., Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York (Albany: Weed, Parsons, 1881) [hereafter NYCD], 13:184
In 1659 and 1660 the Seneca interceded in the First Esopus War, which raged between the Dutch and Esopus at current-day Kingston. The Seneca chief urged Stuyvesant to end the bloodshed and “return the captured Esopus savages.”(NYCD 13:114,121,124,177-178, 184; See also The Senecas and the First Esopus War. NYCD, 13: 184-185.) In 1663 after the Second Esopus War, Minnisink chief reported that the Seneca threatened to attack him (NYCD, 13:361.)
In 1675, after a decade of warfare between the Iroquois (mainly the Mohawk and Oneida) and the Andaste/Susquehannock, the Seneca finally succeeded in vanquishing their last remaining great enemy.(Parker at pp 49) Survivors were colonized in settlements along the Susquehanna river and were assimilated into the Seneca and Cayuga tribes (Folts at pp 31–47).
In 1694, Captain Arent Schuyler, in an official report, described the Minnisink chiefs as being fearful of being attacked by the Seneca because of not paying wampum tribute to these Iroquois. (NYCD, 4:98-99 Seneca Power Over the Minnisink Indians)
Around 1700 the upper Delaware watershed of New York and Pennsylvania became home of the Minnisink Indians moving north and northwest from New Jersey, and of Esopus Indians moving west from the Mid-Hudson valley.(Folts at pp 34)
By 1712 the Esopus Indians were reported to have to the east Pepacton branch of the Delaware River, on the western slopes of the Catskill Mountains. (Folts at pp 34)
From 1720 to the 1750s the Seneca resettled and assimilated the Munsee into the Confederacy and the Nation. (Folts at pp 34)
In 1756 the Confederacy directed the Munsee to settle in a new town on the Chemung called Assinisink, at present day Corning, located in Seneca territory. The Seneca received some of the Munsees’ war prisoners as part of the negotiations. (Folts at pp 34)
At a peace conference in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1758, the Seneca chief Tagashata demonstrated control over affairs of the belligerent Munsee and Minnisink by requiring them to conclude a peace with the colonists and “take the hatchet out of your heads, and bury it under ground, where it shall always rest and never be taken up again,” A large delegation of Iroquois attended this meeting and demonstrated that the Munsee were now under the protection of the tribe. (Herbert C. Kraft, The Lenape: Archaeology, History and Ethnography (Newark, N.J.:New Jersey Historical Society, 1986), p. 230.)
In 1759, colonial records indicate that in order to have diplomatic success with the Munsees, negotiators had to speak with the Seneca. (Robert S. Grumet, “The Minnisink Settlements: Native American Identity and Society in the Munsee Heartland, 1650-1778.” In: the People of Minnisink, David Orr and Douglas Campana, Eds. (Philadelphia: National Park Service, 1991), p. 236. (Grumet cites the Colonial Records of Pennsylvania, 8: 416)) By the end of the eighteenth century, the Munsee’s who had previously migrated to the upper Susquehanna region were living in Seneca communities.
Despite the French military campaigns, Seneca power remained far reaching at the beginning of the 18th century. Gradually, the Seneca began to ally themselves with the British and Dutch against France’s ambitions in the new world. By 1760 during the Seven Years War, the British, with the help of the Seneca, captured Fort Niagara from the French. The Seneca experienced relative peace from 1760 to 1775. When war finally broke out between the British and the colonists, the Seneca attempted to remain neutral. Neutrality was futile. While routing the British at Fort Stanwix, the colonists killed many Seneca onlookers. (Merrill at pp 90–97.)
In 1778, Seneca fought on the side of the British in the revolutionary war and participated in well planned raids prosecuted by Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant on Woodstock and Warwarsing. These raids, including the Cherry Valley massacre and Battle of Minisink, were carefully planned raids on a trail laid out “from the Susquehanna to the Delaware Valley and over the Pine Hill to the Esopus Country.”
During the American Revolutionary War, some Senecas sided with the British and Loyalists. As a result of several massacres they inflicted against American towns, in 1779 they were attacked by United States forces as part of the Sullivan Expedition. To neutralize the Confederacy, General Washington sent an expedition of 3000 to 5000 men under the command of General John Sullivan up the waterways and paths used by the Seneca. Sullivan's Expedition marched up the Susquehanna to Elmira, pushing the Seneca to Fort Niagara; despite a costly manoeuvre that led the whole of the army straight into a swamp, which they forded nearly twenty times before arriving at Cathrine’s town, from this point on, with the league undeniably dissolved, the nation settled in new villages along Buffalo Creek, Tonawanda Creek, and Cattaraugus Creek in western New York. These settlements eventually became the nation’s reservations after the Revolutionary War as part of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1784. (Merrill at pp 90–97.)
On July 8, 1788, the Seneca (along with some Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga tribes) sold rights to land east of the Genesee River in New York to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts.
On November 11, 1794, the Seneca (along with the other Haudenosaunee nations) signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States, agreeing to peaceful relations. On September 15, 1797 at the Treaty of Big Tree, the Seneca sold their lands west of the Genesee River, retaining ten reservations for themselves. The sale opened up the rest of Western New York for settlement by European Americans. On January 15, 1838, the US and some Seneca leaders signed the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, by which the Seneca were to relocate to a tract of land west of the state of Missouri, but most refused to go. The majority of the Seneca in New York formed a modern elected government, the Seneca Nation of Indians, in 1848. The Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians split off, choosing to keep a traditional form of tribal government. Both tribes are federally recognized in the United States.
While it is not known exactly how many Seneca there are, approximately ten thousand Seneca live near Lake Erie.][
About 7,800 people are citizens of the Seneca Nation of Indians.][ These enrolled members live or work on five reservations in New York: the Allegany (which contains the city of Salamanca); the Cattaraugus near Gowanda, New York; the Buffalo Creek Territory located in downtown Buffalo, NY; the Niagara Falls Territory located in Niagara Falls, New York; and the Oil Springs Reservation, near Cuba, New York. Few Seneca reside at the Oil Springs, Buffalo Creek, or Niagara Territories due to the small amount of land at each. The last two territories are held and used specifically for gaming casinos.
Another 1,200 or more people are citizens of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians and live on the Tonawanda Reservation near Akron, New York.][ Other Seneca are members of the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma who live near Miami, Oklahoma.
Some 10,000 to 25,000 Seneca are citizens of Six Nations and reside on the Grand River Territory near Brantford, Ontario, Canada.][ They are descendants of Seneca who migrated to Canada after the American Revolution, where they were given land as allies of the British government.
Other enrolled members of the Seneca Nation live throughout the United States.
Begun in 1960, construction of the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River forced the relocation of approximately 600 Seneca from 10,000 acres (40 km2) of land which they had occupied under the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. They were relocated to Salamanca, New York, near the northern shore of the Allegheny Reservoir, which covers land flooded by the dam. The Seneca did not want to relocate and appealed to the courts and President John F. Kennedy to halt construction. The Seneca lost their court case, and in 1961, citing the immediate need for flood control, Kennedy denied their request. This additional violation of the Seneca’s rights, as well as those of many other Indian Nations, was memorized in the sixties by one of the most famous songs of the folksinger Peter La Farge, titled "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow". It was also sung by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash (Peter La Farge own recording can be heard on “As Long As The Grass Shall Grow - Peter La Farge Sings Of The Indians” - Folkways FN 2532, 1963)
In 1990 the Seneca Settlement Act resolved a long-running land dispute between the Seneca and the State of New York. The dispute centered around 99–year leases granted by the Seneca in 1890 for lands now in the city of Salamanca and nearby villages. The settlement cropped up again in the early 2000s, as issues arose over use of settlement lands for casino gaming operations.
On August 25, 1993, the Seneca filed suit in United States District Court to begin an action to reclaim land allegedly taken from it by New York without having gained required approval of the treaty by the United States government. The lands consisted of Grand Island and several smaller islands in the Niagara River. In November 1993, the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians moved to join the claim as a plaintiff; it was granted standing as a plaintiff.
In 1998, the United States intervened in the lawsuits on behalf of the plaintiffs in the claim. This was to allow the claim to proceed against New York in light of its assertion of its immunity from suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. After extensive negotiations and pre-trial procedures, all parties to the claim moved for judgment as a matter of law.
By decision and order dated June 21, 2002, the trial court held that the Seneca ceded the subject lands to Great Britain in the 1764 treaties of peace after the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War). Thus the disputed lands were not owned by the Seneca at the time of the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. The court found that the state of New York's "purchase" of the lands from the Seneca in 1815 was intended to avoid conflict with them, but the state already owned it by virtue of Great Britain's defeat in the Revolution.
The Seneca appealed this decision. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the trial court's decision on September 9, 2004. The Senecas then sought review of this decision by the US Supreme Court. On June 5, 2006, the Court declined to hear the case.
On April 18, 2007, the Seneca Nation laid claim to a stretch of Interstate 90 that crosses the Cattaraugus Reservation. They revoked their 1954 agreement that had granted the Interstate Highway System and New York State Thruway Authority permission to build the highway through the territory. The move was a direct shot at New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's attempts to collect taxes from businesses on Seneca territory.
The Seneca had previously brought suit against the state on the same basis. That was decided in favor of the state based on its assertion of sovereign immunity. In Magistrate Heckman's "Report and Recommendation", it was noted that the State of New York asserted its immunity from suit against both counts of the complaint. One count was the Seneca Tribe's challenge regarding the state's acquisition of Grand Island and other smaller islands in the Niagara River, and the second count challenged the state's thruway easement.
The United States was permitted to intervene on behalf of the Seneca Nation and the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians. The United States was directed to file an amended complaint that "clearly states the relief sought by the United States in this action." In this amended complaint, the United States did not seek any relief on behalf of the Seneca Nation relative to the thruway easement. By not seeking such relief in its amended complaint, the United States permitted the action relative to the thruway easement to be subject to dismissal based on New York's immunity from suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the US Constitution.][ On May 4, 2007, the Seneca Nation threatened to revoke its agreement of easement for Interstate 86.][
The Senecas have a diversified economy that relies on construction, communications, recreation, tourism, retail sales, and have recently become involved in the gaming industry.
Several large construction companies are located on the Cattaraugus and Allegany Territories. There are also many smaller construction companies that are owned and operated by Seneca people. A considerable number of Seneca men work in some facet of the construction industry.
Recreation is one component of Seneca enterprises. The Highbanks Campground plays host to several thousand visitors every summer, as people take in the scenic vistas and enjoy the Allegheny Reservoir. Several thousand fishing licenses are sold each year to non-Seneca fishermen. Many of these customers are tourists to the region. Tourism in the area often comes as a direct result of several major highways adjacent to or on the Seneca Nation Territories that provide ready accessibility to local, regional and national traffic. Many tourists visit the region during the autumn for the fall foliage.
A substantial portion of the Seneca economy revolves around retail sales. From sports apparel to candles to artwork to traditional crafts, the wide range of products for sale on Seneca Nation Territories reflect the diverse interest of Seneca Nation citizens.
The price advantage of the Senecas' ability to sell tax-free gasoline and cigarettes has created a boom in their economy, including many service stations along the state highways that run through the reservations as well as many internet cigarette stores. This, however, has raised the ire of competing business interests and the state government. Non-Indian service stations cannot compete with Seneca prices because of New York's high cigarette and gasoline taxes. The state of New York believes that the tribe's sales of cigarettes by Internet are illegal. It also believes that the state has the authority to tax non-Indians who patronize Seneca businesses, a principle which the Senecas reject.
Seneca President Barry Snyder has defended the price advantage as an issue of sovereignty. Secondly, he has cited the Treaty of Canandaigua and Treaty of Buffalo Creek as the basis of Senecas' exemption from collecting taxes on cigarettes to pay the state. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Third Department rejected this conclusion. In that decision the court held that the provisions of the treaty regarding taxation was only with regard to property taxes. The New York Court of Appeals on December 1, 1994 affirmed the lower court's decision.
The Senecas have refused to extend these benefits and price advantages to non-Indians, in their own words "has little sympathy for outsiders" who desire to do so, and have actively prosecuted non-Indians who have attempted to claim the price advantages Indians receive; one well-known case involved that of Little Valley businessman Lloyd Long, who operated two Uni-Marts on the reservation under the ownership of a Seneca woman, but was arrested by federal authorities at the behest of the Seneca Nation and eventually ordered to pay over one million dollars in restitution and serve five years on probation.
In 1997, New York State attempted to enforce taxation of Indian gasoline and cigarettes. The attempt was thwarted after numerous Senecas protested by setting fire to tires and cutting off traffic to Interstate 90 and New York State Route 17 (the future Interstate 86).
Former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer attempted to cut off the Seneca Tribe's internet cigarette sales. His office attempted to negotiate deals directly with credit card companies and delivery services to reject handling cigarette purchases by consumers. Another attempt at collecting taxes on gasoline and cigarettes sold to non-Indians was set to begin March 1, 2006; but it was tabled, much to the chagrin of Spitzer and the state legislature, by the State Department of Taxation and Finance.
Shortly after March 1, 2006, other parties began proceedings to compel the State of New York to enforce its tax laws on sales to non-Indians on Indian land. Seneca County, New York began a proceeding which was dismissed. Similarly, the New York State Association of Convenience Stores began a proceeding, which was also dismissed. Based on the dismissal of these proceedings, Daniel Warren, a member and officer of Upstate Citizens for Equality, moved to vacate the judgment dismissing his 2002 state court action. The latter was dismissed because the court ruled that he had lack of standing.
Governor David Paterson included $62 million of revenue in his budget from the proposed collection of these taxes. He signed a new law requiring that manufacturers and wholesalers swear under penalty of perjury that they are not selling untaxed cigarettes.
In response to this, the Senecas announced plans to collect a toll from all who travel the length of I-90 that goes through their reservation. In 2007 the Senecas rescinded the agreement that permitted construction of the thruway and its attendant easement through their reservation. Some commentators have contended that this agreement was not necessary or moot because the United States was already granted free right of passage across the Senecas' land in the Treaty of Canandaigua.
A law that would bar any tax-exempt organization in New York from receiving tax-free cigarettes went into effect June 21, 2011. The Seneca nation has repeatedly appealed the decision, continuing to do so as of June 2011, but has yet to overturn the law. The state has only enforced the law on cigarette brands produced by non-Indian companies (including all major national brands), having left brands that are entirely tribally produced and sold (which, being mostly lower-end and lower-cost brands, have always made up the bulk of Seneca cigarette sales) out of its jurisdiction for the time being.
With the US Supreme Court decision ruling that Native Americans could establish gaming on reservations, the Seneca Nation began to develop its gambling industry during the late 1980s. It began, as states and other tribes did, with bingo.
In 2002, the Seneca Nation of Indians signed a Gaming Compact with the State of New York to cooperate in the establishment of three class III gambling facilities (casinos). It established the Seneca Gaming Corporation to manage its operations. Currently the Seneca Nation of Indians owns and operates two casinos: one in Niagara Falls, New York called Seneca Niagara and the other in Salamanca called Seneca Allegany.
Construction began on a third, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino, in downtown Buffalo. In 2007 the Seneca opened a temporary casino on its land in Buffalo after federal approval, to satisfy its agreement with the state. Some citizens have opposed all Indian gambling, but especially the Buffalo location. Additional controversy has been engendered because there were questions about whether the Seneca-controlled land met other status criteria for gambling.
Some civic groups, including a "broad coalition of Buffalo's political, business, and cultural leaders", have opposed the Seneca Nation's establishment of a casino in Buffalo. They believe the operations will adversely affect the economic and social environment of the already struggling city. Opponents include the Upstate Citizens for Equality and Citizens for a Better Buffalo, who recently won a lawsuit challenging the legality of the proposed casino in Buffalo, because of the status of the land. On July 8, 2008, United States District Judge William M. Skretny issued a decision holding that the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino is not on gaming-eligible lands. The National Indian Gaming Commission is reviewing proposed Seneca regulations and weighing its appeal options.
The Seneca were given five days to respond or to face fines and a forced shutdown. They have indicated they refuse to comply with the commission's order and will appeal.
Given the declining economic situation, in summer 2008 the Seneca halted construction on the new casino in Buffalo. In December 2008 they laid off 210 employees from the three casinos.
The nation has established an official broadcasting arm, "Seneca Broadcasting," for the purposes of applying for and purchasing radio station licenses. The company currently owns one commercial FM radio station (broadcasting at 105.9 MHz) licensed to the village of Little Valley, which the company purchased from Randy Michaels in early 2009. That station, known as WGWE, signed on February 1, 2010 from studios in the city of Salamanca with a classic hits format operated by former WPIG disc jockey Mike "Smitty" Smith. An earlier application, for a noncommercial FM station at 89.3 in Irving, New York, ran into mutual exclusivity problems with out-of-town religious broadcasters.
Many Seneca people are employed in the local economy of the region as professionals, including; lawyers, professors, physicians, police officers, teachers, social workers, nurses, and managers][.
The Treaty of Lancaster was a treaty concluded between the Six Nations (Iroquois) and the colonies of Virginia and Maryland. Negotiations began at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on June 25, and ended on July 4, 1744.
The negotiations were conducted in the old courthouse, which stood in the center of Lancaster at the time. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, built in 1874 to commemorate the U.S. Civil War, now stands on the site of the Treaty in Penn Square.
Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood had arranged the Treaty of Albany with the Six Nations in 1722. It renewed the Covenant Chain and agreed to recognize the Blue Ridge Mountains as the demarcation between the Virginia Colony and the Iroquois.
Colonial governments were unable to prevent white settlers from moving beyond the Blue Ridge and into the Shenandoah Valley in the 1730s. When the Iroquois objected, they were told that the agreed demarcation was to prevent their trespassing east of the Blue Ridge, but not to prevent the English from expanding west of them. In 1743 the Iroquois skirmished with some Valley settlers. The Iroquois were on the verge of declaring total war on the Virginia Colony when Governor Gooch paid them the sum of 100 pounds sterling for any settled land in the Valley which they claimed. The following year at the Treaty of Lancaster, the Iroquois sold all their remaining claim to the Shenandoah Valley for 200 pounds in gold. At the same time, it was an attempt to make peace between the Iroquois and the southern Catawba.
Even so, a difference in interpretation remained. The Virginians believed that the Iroquois had relinquished to the Crown any claim they had on all the lands within the 1609 Chartered boundaries of Virginia. They considered these to extend to the Pacific, or at least up to the Ohio River. The Iroquois understood that they had ceded only their lands up to the Ohio watershed; in other words, only the Shenandoah Valley east of the Allegheny Mountains.
This difference was partly resolved at the 1752 Treaty of Logstown, where the Iroquois recognised English rights southeast of the Ohio. Nevertheless, the Cherokee, Shawnee and other nations continued to claim by possession large portions of the area beyond the Allegheny Ridge. At the 1758 Treaty of Easton with the Shawnee ending "Braddock's War" (a portion of the French and Indian Wars), the colonies agreed to settle no further west of the Alleghenies (the Eastern Divide). The Royal Proclamation of 1763 confirmed this territory as Indian land.
By the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, the Iroquois finally sold all their remaining claims between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. The Shawnee relinquished their claim on that area only following their defeat in Dunmore's War in 1774. The Cherokee also ceded their claims in this region (encompassing most of present-day Kentucky and part of West Virginia) in the Treaty of Hard Labour (1768), the Treaty of Lochaber (1770), and the Henderson Purchase (1775).
Gayanashagowa or the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee) Six Nations (Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, the Seneca and Tuscarora) is the oral constitution whereby the Iroquois Confederacy was bound together. The law was written on wampum belts, conceived by Deganwidah, known as The Great Peacemaker, and his spokesman Hiawatha. The original five member nations ratified this constitution near present-day Victor, New York, with the sixth nation (the Tuscarora) being added in ca. 1720.
Historians once thought the Iroquois Confederacy started in the 16th century, but a more recent estimate dates the confederacy and its constitution to between 1090 and 1150 AD. These estimates were based on the records of the confederacy leadership and astronomical dating related to a total solar eclipse that coincided with the founding of the Confederacy.
The laws were first recorded and transmitted not in written language, but by means of wampum symbols that conveyed meaning. In a later era it was translated into English. The Great Law of Peace is divided into 117 articles. The united Iroquois nations are symbolized by an Eastern White Pine tree, called the Tree of Peace. Each nation or tribe plays a delineated role in the conduct of government.
Historians, including Donald Grinde of the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, have claimed that the democratic ideals of the Gayanashagowa provided a significant inspiration to Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and other framers of the United States Constitution. Franklin circulated copies of the proceedings of the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster among his fellow colonists; at the close of this document, the Iroquois leaders offer to impart instruction in their democratic methods of government to the English. John Rutledge of South Carolina, delegate to the Constitutional Convention, is said to have read lengthy tracts of Iroquoian law to the other framers, beginning with the words "We, the people, to form a union, to establish peace, equity, and order..." In October 1988, the U.S. Congress passed Concurrent Resolution 331 to recognize the influence of the Iroquois Constitution upon the American Constitution and Bill of Rights.
. Iroquois historian Elizabeth Tooker has pointed to several differences between the two forms of government, notably that all decisions were made by a consensus of male chiefs who gained their position through a combination of blood descent and selection by female relatives, that representation on the basis of the number of clans in the group rather than the size or population of the clans, that the topics discussed were decided by a single tribe. Tooker concluded there is little resemblance between the two documents or reason to believe the Iroquois had a meaningful influence on the American Constitution, and that it is unclear how much impact Canasatego's statement at Lancaster actually had on the representatives of the colonies. Stanford University historian Jack N. Rakove argued against Iroquoian influence, pointing to lack of evidence in U.S. constitutional debate records, and examples of European antecedents for democratic institutions.
Journalist Charles C. Mann has noted other differences between The Great Law of Peace and the original U.S. Constitution, including the original Constitution's denial of suffrage to women, and rule of majority as opposed to consensus.
The Covenant Chain was a series of alliances and treaties developed during the seventeenth century, primarily between the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) and the British colonies of North America, with other Indian tribes added. First developed in the New York area at a time of violence and social instability for the colonies and Native Americans, the English and Iroquois councils and subsequent treaties were based on supporting peace and stability to preserve trade. They addressed issues of colonial settlement, and tried to suppress violence between the colonists and Indian tribes, as well as among the tribes, from New England to the Colony of Virginia.
The Covenant Chain is embodied in the Two Row Wampum of the Iroquois. It was based in agreements negotiated between Dutch settlers in New Netherland (present-day New York) and the Five Nations of the Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee early in the 17th century. Their emphasis was on trade with the Native Americans. As the historian Bernard Bailyn has noted, all the colonies, Dutch and English, were first established to create profits.
Through the Beaver Wars in the seventeenth century, the Iroquois conquered other tribes and territories for new hunting grounds and to take captives to add to their populations depleted from warfare and new European infectious diseases. The tribes in New England suffered even more depletion. The Iroquois expanded their influence, conquering or displacing other tribes from Maritime Canada west to the Mississippi Valley, and from the Canadian Shield south to the Ohio Valley.
When the English took over New Netherland in 1664 and established the Province of New York, they renewed these agreements. Conflicts erupted in New England in King Philip's War in 1675, "the most destructive war" in seventeenth-century North America, in which more than 600 colonists and 3,000 Indians died. Nearly at the same time was Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia. Both resulted in widespread suffering and loss among Native Americans and colonists.
Because of the standing relationship with the Iroquois and the extensive influence of the Haudenosaunee, in August 1675, New York's Governor Sir Edmund Andros asked them for help in ending regional conflicts of the time in New England and the Chesapeake. He worked with the Onondaga leader Daniel Karakontie.
The term "Covenant Chain" was derived from the metaphor of a silver chain holding the English sailing ship to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Tree of Peace in the Onondaga Nation. A three-link silver chain was made to symbolize their first agreement. The links represent "Peace, Friendship and Respect" between the Haudenosaunee and the Crown. It was also the first written treaty to use such phrases as
They negotiated the signing of several treaties that expanded the number of tribes and colonies involved:
Many of the Susquehannock migrated north into western New York, re-settling with the Seneca and Onondaga of the Iroquois.
The treaties marked a new era in colonial history, in which the Chesapeake had nearly eighty years of peace. New York and the Haudenosaunee became the focus of English Indian policy. In the mid-eighteenth century, Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Department and based in central New York, had great influence and was knighted for his service. Through the early decades of the eighteenth century, New England continued to have conflicts with New France and its Abenaki allies, leading to years of raiding by both sides and ransoming of captives.
In these agreements, the colonies agreed to hold negotiations generally at Albany, New York, under the auspices of the New York governor, as the covenant had first been established there. As a result, according to the historian Daniel Richter, "Iroquois and New Yorkers played dominant but seldom dictatorial roles" in the maintenance of these treaties.
At a council meeting in 1684, Virginia Governor Lord Effingham used the phrase "covenant chain" to describe these agreements. The metaphor was continued by a Seneca speaker, who said: "Let the Chaine be Kept Cleane and bright as Silver that the great tree that is can not break it a peeces if it should fall upon itt."
Later colonial administrators assumed that these treaties granted the English sovereign control over the Iroquois and other tribes involved in the chain. The Iroquois did not agree with this and believed themselves at least to be equals. In a Covenant Chain council that took place in 1692, the Iroquois leaders asserted:
The Covenant Chain continued until 1753, when the Mohawk, claiming to have been cheated out of lands rightfully theirs in New York, declared that the chain was broken.
Howard Zinn, in his "A People's History of the United States" discusses the taking of the Mohawk land:
The Albany Congress was called to help repair the chain. Colonial delegates failed to work together to improve the diplomatic relationship with the Iroquois, a serious shortcoming on the eve of the French and Indian War. As a result, the British government took the responsibility of Native American diplomacy out of the hands of the colonies and established the British Indian Department in 1755.
In a 1755 council with the Iroquois, William Johnson, Superintendent of the Northern Department based in central New York, renewed and restated the chain. He called their agreement the "Covenant Chain of love and friendship", saying that the chain has been attached to the immovable mountains and that every year the British would meet with the Iroquois to "strengthen and brighten" the chain. He developed great influence among the Iroquois and was later knighted for his contributions to development in the Northeast.
Bailyn believes that Britain's victory in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) led it to reduce the central role of native peoples in fostering stability in North America and its treating them as sovereign partners. The balance was destroyed and another phase began.
In June 2010, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain renewed the Covenant Chain Treaties by presenting 8 silver hand bells each to Band Chiefs from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and Six Nations of the Grand River in commemoration of 300 years of the Covenant Chain. The bells were inscribed "300 Years" + "of Peace and Friendship" (which was a common term often used throughout history when the Chain was renewed). This marks the most modern renewal of the Covenant Chain Treaties between the Haudenosaunee and the Crown of Canada and provides a legal basis recognition of Haudenosaunee sovereignty and international trade between the 2 nations.
Native Americans are the indigenous peoples within the boundaries of the present-day United States, including those in Alaska and Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes and ethnic groups, many of which survive as intact political communities. The terms used to refer to Native Americans have been controversial. According to a 1995 U.S. Census Bureau set of home interviews, most of the respondents with an expressed preference refer to themselves as "American Indians" or simply "Indians"; this term has been adopted by major newspapers and some academic groups, but does not traditionally include Native Hawaiians or certain Alaskan Natives, such as Aleut, Yup'ik, or Inuit peoples.
Since the end of the 15th century, the migration of Europeans to the Americas has led to centuries of conflict and adjustment between Old and New World societies. Many Native Americans lived as hunter-gatherer societies and told their histories by oral traditions; Europeans therefore created almost all of the surviving historical record concerning the conflict. Americas
Gayanashagowa or the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee) Six Nations (Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, the Seneca and Tuscarora) is the oral constitution whereby the Iroquois Confederacy was bound together. The law was written on wampum belts, conceived by Deganawidah, known as The Great Peacemaker, and his spokesman Hiawatha. The original five member nations ratified this constitution near present-day Victor, New York, with the sixth nation (the Tuscarora) being added in ca. 1720.
Historians once thought the Iroquois Confederacy started in the 16th century, but a more recent estimate dates the confederacy and its constitution to between 1090 and 1150 AD. These estimates were based on the records of the confederacy leadership and astronomical dating related to a total solar eclipse that coincided with the founding of the Confederacy.
Articles of the Constitution
Bill of Rights Constitution
The economy of the Iroquois (also known as Haudenosaunee) historically was based on communal production and combined elements of both horticulture and hunter-gatherer systems. The tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy and other Northern Iroquoian-speaking peoples, including the Huron, had their traditional territory in what is now New York State and the southern areas bordering the Great Lakes.
The Iroquois Confederacy was composed of Five Nations: Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca, who had created an alliance long before European contact. The Tuscarora were added as a sixth nation in the early eighteenth century after they migrated from North Carolina. The Huron peoples, located mostly in what is now Canada, were also Iroquioan-speaking and shared some culture, but were never part of the Iroquois.
The Beaver Wars — also known as the Iroquois Wars or the French and Iroquois Wars — encompass a series of conflicts fought in the mid-17th century in eastern North America.
Encouraged and armed by their Dutch and English trading partners, the Iroquois sought to expand their territory and monopolize the fur trade and the trade between European markets and the tribes of the western Great Lakes region. The conflict pitted the nations of the Iroquois Confederation, led by the dominant Mohawk, against the French-backed and largely Algonquian-speaking tribes of the Great Lakes region.
The history of North America is the study of the past, particularly the written record, oral histories, and traditions, passed down from generation to generation on the continent in the Earth's northern hemisphere and (chiefly) western hemisphere.
First Nations Politics