Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655

Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655

Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655

Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois: Accommodating Change, 1500-1655

Synopsis

The early history of the Onondaga Iroquois and their cultural responses to the European invasion are illuminated in this valuable study, "Evolution of the Onondaga Iroquois." Drawing on a wealth of archaeological evidence and historical documents, James W. Bradley traces the origins of the Onondaga, beginning around a.d. 1200. Much attention is devoted to the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, which were marked by the introduction and growing popularity of European trade goods. Bradley shows how the Onondaga creatively used and viewed these exotic objects; such items as axes and kettles were adapted to meet traditional Native needs. During the period shortly after the first encounters with Europeans, the Onondaga successfully adjusted to changes in their world rather than being overwhelmed by them. Their accommodation resulted in such celebrated cross-cultural creations as wampum and the League of the Five Nations.

Excerpt

The Iroquoian people known as the Onondaga, who emerged as the core of the Five Nations Confederacy during the seventeenth century, were like most other native groups in the Northeast the result of a long and localized evolution.

Human occupation in northeastern North America can be traced back at least 10,000 years when small, mobile bands of hunters and foragers began to occupy the lands earlier scoured by glaciers. For the next nine millennia, human populations of many different cultural traditions coexisted in the Northeast, adapting to its gradually changing environment and periodic climatic fluctuations. Each of these cultural traditions was characterized by a particular survival strategy, by which means the essential needs of shelter, subsistence, and security were provided. There was often considerable continuity in survival strategies as one tradition succeeded another; yet improvement of existing technologies or the development of entirely new ones frequently marked the transition. Although the flow was not always smooth or direct, such cultural changes over the millennia were marked by a broad evolutionary pattern, one that pointed in a particular direction. That direction was toward coalescence: an increase in population size, cohesion, and identity.

In the central portion of what is now New York State, this trend became particularly evident around A. D. 1000, or at the beginning of what has been termed the Late Woodland stage. Coalescence was manifest in several ways. One was an increased tendency toward sedentism, or the year-round occupation of a specific site. Growing sedentism correlates with changes in the size and organization of habitation sites,- over time, these became larger and better defined. Another hallmark in this process was an increase in community-based exploitation of locally available food resources, particularly anadromous fish along the major rivers and fresh-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.