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The Iroquois
People of the
Mr. Davison
Flag of the Iroquois
People of Turtle Island
Early Inhabitants of Western New
Several cultures lived in Western NY
Clovis people (10,000 B.C.)
Lamokas (3,500 – 2,500 B.C.)
Hopewell Indians (300 A.D.) – mound
Wenros and Neutrals
Iroquoian people (next 1,000 years)
What’s in a Name
Iroquois means “real adder” – a kind of
snake. Name given as a backhanded
compliment by their rivals the
Iroquois – name given by the French
Six Nations – name given by the British
Hau de no sau nee – meaning people
building a long house – sometimes
translated as people of the long house
League of the Five Nations
 Seneca
 Cayuga
 Onondaga
 Oneida
 Mohawk
Remember the Tribes:
 S – Seneca – people of the Great Hill
 C – Cayuga – people of the Great Swamp or
the Great Pipe
 O – Onondaga – people of the Hills
 O – Oneida – People of the Standing Stone
 M – Mohawk – People of the Flint
 T – Tuscarora – shirt wearing people – added
to the confederacy later
Iroquoian Life
Great Abundance
Survived on fish, game, cultivated food
Large population, perhaps greater than
present day population of WNY
Most natives lived south of present day
Routs 5 & 20 (Broadway) – offered
families protection away from warpaths
along the Great Lakes
The Five Nations & Their Position
in the Iroquois Confederacy
Seneca – the Elder Brother and Keepers
of the Western Door
Cayuga – Younger Brother
Onondaga – Fire Keepers – the council
Oneida – Younger Brother
Mohawk – Elder Brother and Keepers of
the Eastern Door
Where Would You Live?
Village surrounded by oval
shaped stockade (20 ft. tall
Farm fields surrounds village
Inside stockade, rows of
The Iroquois Village
Longhouse Village
Image From:
Bridgeman Art
London/New York,
Iroquois Shelter
 Iroquois Homes were called
 Longhouses were built in groups
or villages for protection.
 Made of logs- covered with elm
 Curved roof made of saplings
 No windows
 Fire holes in roof to let out
smoke from cooking fires
 15 - 20 feet tall, 20 feet wide and
50 – 150 feet long
Picture of the Longhouse
Inside the Longhouse
Center aisle from one end to the other
Near doors- food storage barrels and stacks
of firewood
On the sides of the aisle, compartments
13 feet by 16 feet (half of your classroom)
Wooden platforms for sleeping and storage
Fire shared with family across the aisle
Each family has their own clothing,
blankets, tools and cooking utensils
Inside the longhouse contd.
Family Structure
 Fireside Family: your parents, brothers and sisters
– Matriarchal structure
 Longhouse Family:
– oldest woman in the longhouse is the head of family and
everyone in the longhouse is related to her
– You always belong to your mother’s longhouse family
 Clan Family:
two or more longhouse families make up a clan
You belong to your mother’s clan
Clans named after animals (wolf, bear, turtle)
Head of clan was the oldest most respected woman
Iroquoian Food
 Lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts and
different kinds of meat and fish
 Women grew corn, beans and
squash (The Three Sisters) in
fields surrounding village
 Hunters brought home deer, bear,
beaver, rabbit, and wild turkey
 Iroquois men and boys were
skilled fishermen
 You’d eat breakfast together with
your family, but other meals on
your own-mother would have a
pot cooking all day
The three Sisters
Iroquoian Economy
 The Iroquois – money
is called wampum
when trading with
white men.
 They have very little
money – barter
 They go great
distances to trade with
other tribes.
Iroquois Economy
Wampum belts were used
as a form of
communication between
Indian tribes. Wampum
belts would be made into
pictures showing the
reason it was made. All
Indian messengers carry
wampum when going to
other tribes.
Hiawatha Wampum Belt
Iroquoian Clothing
 Deerskins that the women tanned, cut and
sewed by hand
 Women: long skirts decorated with beads,
porcupine quills dyed red, blue or yellow
(sometimes leggings under their skirts), vest or
blouse on top
 Men: kilt-like skirts over leggings and vests or
blouses made of decorated deerskins
 Everyone wore moccasins-made of one piece
of deerskin sewn together with a deer-bone
needle and using sinew from the deer for
Iroquois Clothing
 Women prepared the hides by
removing the hair and flesh with
stone scrapers. Men in the winter
wore robes or cloaks made from
bear, deer, buffalos, or beaver
 Women soaked the hides in
dilution of boiled deer brain to
soften them.
 Men's summer clothing were
made from buckskin and men's
winter outfits were leggings,
breechclouts, kilts, and moccasins.
Image of Traditional Dress from:
What about work?
 Work was a part of everyday life
 Every job was respected
 Work depended on the season:
– Spring: peel bark for longhouses and canoes, tap trees
for syrup, pick strawberries, and fish
– When the ground was ready, you would plant seeds for
all the vegetables
– Late summer and fall: harvest crops and prepare them
for storage
– Fall: begin hunting
– Winter: make and repair clothing, tools, bowls, baskets
and instruments
Who did which jobs?
 Men:
– made tools for hunting, sports equipment and
musical instruments
– Made wampum and carved bowls, cups, pipes
– Cleared farmland
– Hunted for animals
 Women
– Made clay pots, baskets, cradleboards, clothing
and moccasins
– Farmed the fields
– Cooked the food
Woven Baskets
You would not go any formal school
You learned by watching adults do their
You learned history when the elders told
stories at the festivals and during the long
winter months
You also learned from your own
Iroquoian Games
 Everyone loved sports and games
 Games were played at festivals and
 Sometimes one village or clan
challenged another
 Lacrosse (called “the ball game”) was
the most popular
 Running was also an important sport
 Snow-snake was popular in the winter
Iroquois Games
The Bowl Game is played by putting peach pits in a bowl
and two teams take turns thumping the bowl to make the
object fly upward.
The Snow Snake game is played by throwing a spear into
the snow. The of the game is to see how far the spears could
be thrown across the snow.
The Double Ball Game is played with buckskin bags filled
with sand, then connecting the buckskin bags with a cord you
try to throw it three feet in the air.
Shinny is played with a flattened buckskin ball, then each
player had a long stick and tried to hit the flattened
buckskin ball.
What if you got sick?
Iroquois believed that you could get sick
from bad food or water or air or by
catching someone else’s disease
They also believed that you could become
sick because of witchcraft of bad people or
by the work of evil spirits
There were different kinds of healers to
treat you depending on your illness
False Face Society
 A medicine society like the False Face Society would
try to heal you by performing special rituals.
– You never paid the healers. You just gave them
sacred tobacco or kinds of food they liked
– If you were cured, you became a member of the
society and helped to treat others
 If you broke an arm or leg, then you were treated by a
– The Iroquois were excellent surgeons who not only
set broken bones, but also understood the
importance of cleanliness
 If you had a cold or snakebite, you were probably
treated by an herbalist who would use plants to heal
False Face Masks
Some Religious Beliefs
The Iroquois believed the Creator, or Great
Spirit made the world
Almost all natural things were under the
care of spirits (there were spirits of the
wind, rain, trees)
Keepers of the Faith were in charge of
religious festivals (these were ordinary
people with special responsibilities- they
would organize the festivals and perform
some of the rituals)
Religious ceremonies could last for hours
Iroquois Government: The Oldest
Living Participatory Government
on Earth
Before the League existed the Five nations were always at war
with one another. Village fought village Nation fought nation
It was called the time of “great sorrow and terror”
Deganawidah (the Peacemaker) brought the message that by
ending war among themselves, the nations would be strong and
the people would be safe.
The story tells that the people uprooted the tallest pine tree and
threw all their weapons of war into the hole and then replanted
this Great Tree of Peace. Now the Five Nations live in a Great
Longhouse, keeping its own fire, but living in peace under one
The Iroquois Government
 Each nation had its own government
 Each nation sent chiefs to League council
meetings (chiefs could not be warriors)
 Council met once a year to discuss anything that
concerned all the nations
 Everyone had to agree to all decisions (votes
must be unanimous)
 If they did all agree then the chief conducting the
meeting cloud say the League could now “speak
with one voice” If someone disagreed, they
would discuss it again until they came to an
Iroquois Art
“False-face” mask, made from wood
carved from a tree. Photo from:
Charles Gatewood/Art Resource, NY
Dream catchers made of willow
and sinew are for children and
there not meant to last.
Eventually the willow dries out
and the tension of the sinew
collapses the dream catcher.
Iroquois Transportation
Most movement by the Iroquois
was done on foot. Messages were
sent by runners.
Iroquois used canoes, dogs carts,
and cradle boards to carry
They built their transportation
with wood, birch bark, elm
bark, shag bark, hickory,white
ash, and cedar.