I am one of the Iroquois which is amongst the main tribes of woodland that were mainly separated by virtue of speaking different languages. I stay along the Mohawk River and I am part of the numerous Iroquois tribes who strongly believed that the Iroquoians are in separate nation. Our tribe formed a league which was known as Five Nationsbecause we put emphasis on peace. Our enemies referred to us as Iroquois because they regarded us as poisonous snakes. As a tribe, we called ourselves Haudenosaunee which meant the people of the longhouse (De 5-12).The Iroquois lived in villages and were mainly farmers who stayed near their fields of crops. We only lived and cultivated lands within the periods of10-20 years after the soil proved infertile due to worn out from farming. Although we stayed along the streams, we later moved on to hilltops so that we could protect ourselves from the attacking tribes and even used palisade which had watch towers to spot invaders (De 17-27).
Farm lands were cleared by men and women followed with the actual planting by using tiny wooden spades in creating mounds. We believed that mounds would play major role in protecting the seeds from cold and that the three crops grown could provide both physical and spiritual sustainers of life. We used companion planting method in growing corns. We used to plant three main agricultural crops which included corn, squash and beans which were commonly referred to as “Three Sisters”. We always planted the crops together in a very close distance where some flat topped mounds of soil were created for every cluster of crops. Every mound was almost 30cm high and 50cm wide and numerous corn seeds were collectively planted in the middle of the mounds and rotten fish or even eels were buried together with the seeds to act as fertilizer (De 17-27).
It was interesting to note that the crops mutually benefited from each other such that the maize provided for the beans to climb, beans provided nitrogen for other plants to utilize while squash nicely covered the ground to prevent growth of weeds and retained moisture in the soil. We strongly believed that the mixture of maize and beans provided a great balanced diet. The natural relationship of the three crops was very vital hence requiring us plant them together at ago. During harvest, crops were gathered as women and elderly girls did the part of scrapping the kernels off the corn cobs immediately the corns dried and later stored in the containers made of bark. We made nice soup from the dry corns and make bread with the grounded ones (Kleinberg, Eileen & Vicki 30-35).
Apart from the three crops, we grew sunflowers so that we could use oil from their seeds in cooking, protecting us from the sun or cold after rubbing on our bodies and even in healing cuts. Women could gather fruits at times as men hunted bear, beaver, rabbits or deer using bows and arrows or even trapping the animals in snares. Despite the abundance of food, we ate only one great meal in the late morning using our wooded spoons, bowls or shells. We used deerskin and other animals’ hides and furs to make our clothes which we commonly used both in protection and decoration. We wore our clothes by considering different times of the year such that during the summer, we used loincloths of soft deerskin while during cold weather men dressed in leather leggings and tunics but women skirts and legging. Shells, beads and porcupine quills provided a lovely decoration on the clothes, necklaces and bracelets (Kleinberg, Eileen & Vicki 30-35).
Our customs and beliefs were simply amazing. We believed that there existed numerous spirit forces that were created by a supreme being such as the sky spirit which included moon and sun as well as the earth spirits that comprised of animals and plants. Every Iroquoian believed that their dreams would become true and it was therefore common to see someone cutting him or herself in a harmless way whenever he or she dreamt of being wounded (Kleinberg, Eileen & Vicki 30-35). Furthermore, every village had a distinct longhouse that was used in holding ceremonies. Some of our sacred tradition included false faces or medicine masks with crooked nose to honor the legendary giant that guaranteed protection of the community. There were other several festivals that almost summed up to six per year that we held at different times such as New Year Festival, the Green corn and the harvest of thanksgiving festival (De 27-37).
It is also important to note that tribes were organized into many clans and every clan was headed by the oldest woman who controlled food, chose chiefs and organized for marriages. A clan must have descended from a common female ancestor and the clan members of similar ages called themselves brothers and sisters. A tie to one’s clan was regarded as an important thing even after marriage. A woman was supposed to marry from another clan and remain loyal and close to her clans than even her husband. We loved each other and stayed in peace most of the times.
Kleinberg, S J, Eileen Boris, and Vicki Ruíz. The Practice of U.s. Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2007. Print.
De, Capua S.The Iroquois. New York: Marshall Cavendish/Benchmark Books, 2005. Print.
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