The Seneca Restoration, 1715-1754: An Iroquois Local Political Economy

The Seneca Restoration, 1715-1754: An Iroquois Local Political Economy

The Seneca Restoration, 1715-1754: An Iroquois Local Political Economy

The Seneca Restoration, 1715-1754: An Iroquois Local Political Economy


"Elegantly demolishes the prevailing scholarly view that Seneca culture suffered gradual decline during the eighteenth century. Jordan has combined archaeology and history to provide us with a new and compelling picture of the Seneca."--William Engelbrecht, Buffalo State College

"Jordan's archaeological approach to eighteenth-century Native American settlement patterns is original and creative. It sets a promising new standard for interdisciplinary investigations of the potential complexity underlying domestic and settlement choices."--Martha L. Sempowski, Rochester Museum and Science Center and Seneca Archaeology Research Project

The Iroquois confederacy, one of the most influential Native American polities encountered by early European settlers, is commonly perceived as having plunged into steep decline in the late seventeenth century due to colonial encroachment into the Great Lakes region. Kurt Jordan challenges long-standing interpretations that depict the Iroquois as defeated, colonized peoples by demonstrating that an important nation of that confederacy, the Senecas, maintained an impressive political and economic autonomy and resisted colonialism with a high degree of success.

Following the 1700-1701 treaties with the English, French, and western Indian groups that ended the Twenty Years' War, the Seneca commitment to neutrality was tested by western Indian attacks on their territory. French and English agents were frequent visitors to Seneca country, encouraging factional competition. This period also witnessed the opening of Iroquois territory to western Indian groups who wanted to trade with the English at Albany, and the formation of alliances between Senecas and western groups that made transit across Seneca territory possible. In the midst of these pressures, the Seneca maintained an impressive level of political and economic autonomy with a high degree of success.

Using historical and archaeological analysis, Kurt A. Jordan interrogates the concept of colonialism by demonstrating that the Seneca Iroquois (a member of the Six Nations Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, confederacy) were entangled with, but not dominated by, Europeans during the first half of the eighteenth century. Even two hundred years after their initial engagement with Europeans, Senecas were extremely selective . . .


This volume addresses a significant problem in the historical anthropology of Six Nations Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee) peoples, namely the scholarly interpretation of eighteenth-century Iroquois society. in this book I argue that anthropologists’ and historians’ interpretations of this period have relied excessively on models and rhetoric that foreground crisis and decline, and that these interpretations have been based more on mistaken assumptions than on sustained engagement with documentary and archaeological sources. Detailed examination of locally specific evidence—involving the collection of new archaeological data and a fresh look at documentary sources and museum collections—provides an account of eighteenth-century Iroquois society far different from depictions found in the existing literature. in particular, this work uses data from the 1715–1754 Seneca Townley-Read site near present-day Geneva, New York, to assert that Iroquois construction of dispersed communities during this time was an opportunistic innovation with a myriad of economic and ecological benefits; that the house forms used by Iroquois peoples in 1715–1754 exhibited much less European “influence” than scholars usually assert; and that the fur trade economy of western Iroquois nations remained viable at least through the mid-eighteenth century.

That there is a deficit in scholarly treatment of the Iroquois may come as a surprise to some, since Six Nations peoples have received continuous attention from anthropologists and historians since budding ethnologist Lewis Henry Morgan chose them as the subject of his research in the 1840s. Morgan’s League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois (1962 [1851]) was one of the earliest systematic modern attempts to describe another culture. While Morgan’s subsequent work (for example, 1965 [1881], 1985 [1877] . . .

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