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Iroquois Tribe

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Who were the Iroquois?

The Iroquois were a League or Confederacy of tribes in the Northeastern part of America. Originally they were formed by five tribes: the Cayuga, Onondaga, Mohawk, Seneca, and Oneida. Later, in the 1700s, the Tuscarora tribe joined.

Iroquois Six Nations
Six Nations of the Iroquois

The French named them the Iroquois, but they called themselves the Haudenosaunee which means People of the Longhouse. The British called them the Five Nations.

How was the Iroquois League governed?

The Iroquois had a type of representative government. Each tribe in the Iroquois League had its own elected officials called chiefs. These chiefs would attend the Iroquois council where major decisions were made regarding the Five Nations. Each tribe also had its own leaders to make local decisions.

What type of homes did they live in?

The Iroquois lived in longhouses. These were long rectangular buildings made with wood frames and covered with bark. They were sometimes over 100 feet long. They didn't have any windows, just a door at each end and holes in the roof to let smoke from cooking fires out. Many families would live in a single long house. Each family would have its own compartment that could be separated from the others for privacy using a partition made of bark or animal skin.

Drawing of a longhouse

Longhouses were part of a larger village. A village would have several longhouses which would often be surrounded by a fence called a palisade. Outside of the palisade would be the fields where the Iroquois would farm crops.

What did the Iroquois eat?

The Iroquois ate a variety of foods. They grew crops such as corn, beans, and squash. These three main crops were called the "Three Sisters" and were usually grown together. Women generally farmed the fields and cooked the meals. They had a number of ways to prepare corn and the other vegetables they grew.

The men hunted wild game including deer, rabbit, turkey, bear, and beaver. Some meat was eaten fresh and some was dried and stored for later. Hunting animals was not only important for meat, but for other parts of the animal as well. The Iroquois used the skin for making clothing and blankets, the bones for tools, and the tendons for sewing.

What did they wear?

Iroquois clothing was made from tanned deerskin. The men wore leggings and long breechcloths while the women wore long skirts. Both men and women wore deerskin shirts or blouses and soft shoes made of leather called moccasins.

Did they have Mohawk hair styles?

The men of the Iroquois Nation shaved their heads except for a strip down the middle. Even though this is called a Mohawk haircut today, many of the Iroquois tribesmen (not just the Mohawk) cut their hair like this. Girls would wear two braids in their hair until they got married, then they would have a single braid.

Iroquois Flag
Iroquois Flag

Fun Facts about the Iroquois

Take a ten question quiz at the Iroquois Nation questions page.

For more Native American history:

Culture and Overview
Agriculture and Food
Native American Art
American Indian homes and Dwellings
Homes: The Teepee, Longhouse, and Pueblo
Native American Clothing
Roles of Women and Men
Social Structure
Life as a Child
Mythology and Legends
Glossary and Terms

History and Events
Timeline of Native American History
King Philips War
French and Indian War
Battle of Little Bighorn
Trail of Tears
Wounded Knee Massacre
Indian Reservations
Civil Rights

Tribes and Regions
Apache Tribe
Cherokee Tribe
Cheyenne Tribe
Iroquois Indians
Navajo Nation
Nez Perce
Osage Nation
Sioux Nation

Famous Native Americans
Crazy Horse
Chief Joseph
Sitting Bull
Maria Tallchief
Jim Thorpe

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