Early Civilization: An Introduction to Anthropology

By Alexander A. Goldenweiser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE IROQUOIS MATRIARCHATE

The Iroquois speaking tribes of northwestern New York and southeastern Canada, whose original provenience remains somewhat doubtful, occupied at the time of the discovery of America the area of the Great Lakes and some adjoining regions. The tribes particularly under discussion were five in number, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca. To these must be added the Tuscarora, who joined the League of the Iroquois in the beginning of the Eighteenth Century.

As in all Indian tribes, Iroquois men were mighty hunters, while the women engaged in the gathering of wild fruit, berries and barks. First and foremost, however, the Iroquois were agriculturists. Toward the middle of the Sixteenth Century, at the time of the occupation of their territory by Jesuit missionaries, the Iroquois were already found in the possession of considerable skill in agricultural methods. These tribes lived in villages consisting of a limited number of Long Houses built of bark over wooden frames. These houses were of imposing proportions, often harboring as many as one hundred or more individuals. Bark was used by the Iroquois for many other purposes. Their canoes were made of this material as well as dishes, cradles, spoons and articles of ceremonial apparel. Later, wood partly replaced the bark in industry. The Iroquois made good pots and wove mats and other articles out of cornhusk. Bone work was also on a high level.

In the line of art, there was a sharp division between men and women. While men were responsible for all the carving in wood which usually consisted of rather crude, some

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