What kind of clothes did Iroquois wear

The Indians of North America - The Iroquois







In the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and a little across the St. Lawrence River in Canada lived one of the most famous tribes of the eastern woodland - the Iroquois.

The word "Iroquois" is of French origin (Iroquois, Irocois, Yroquois, Yrocois etc.) and is used for a group of tribes that united in the famous Iroquois League. They include the Onondagas, Oneidas, Senecas, Cayugas, and Mohawks. The core area in which they lived was in the east of the Great Lakes and on the St. Lawrence River. They had driven the tribes out of this area. These now lived in an area that surrounded that of the Iroquois. The Algonkins called the Iroquois Nadowa (also: Nottoway) which means "real snake". The Iroquois called themselves "Ongwanonsiouni", which translates as "We from the long house". Other tribes belonging to the Iroquois language family are the Hurons, the Conestoga, the Tuscarora and the Cherokee. At this point only the tribes of the League and the Tuscarora (later part of the League) will be discussed.

The Iroquois had appropriated a fertile area and practiced agriculture. In addition to 15 types of corn, they also grew squash and no fewer than 60 types of beans. Sunflowers, herbs, wild plants and the sugar of the maple tree were also part of their diet. The men cleared the land and the women did the rest of the field work. The women brought in the harvest. Meanwhile the men went hunting and fishing in dammed streams or with nets. In an Iroquois village, the houses were built closely together and surrounded by palisades reinforced with wooden spikes that offered perfect protection against attackers without firearms. The houses as well as the harvest belonged to the women.

There were two types of houses: One house had a round roof and the other, a so-called "long house", had a gable roof (pointed roof). A long house was up to thirty meters long and four to five families of a clan lived in it. Both house types consisted of a pile frame and were covered with elm bark. In the middle of such a house there was a fireplace for each family, over which there was a smoke outlet. There was a room to the right and left of each fire.

In the area where the Iroquois lived there was little birch bark, so they had to make their canoes from elm bark. The boats were clumsy and heavy.

The artistic products were not as fine as those of the southeast, but they were more varied. They wove sashes made by a special weave. Wamping belts were worn by the Iroquois ambassadors as a distinguishing mark. Belts or strips of various lengths and various arrangements served as simple documents. Manufactured chains were used to remember legends, historical events and contracts.

Men's clothing in winter consisted of shafts for the legs, a scarf around the loin, short skirts and shirts made of suede and moccasins. In the summer the shirt and the shafts were omitted. The women wore skirts and shafts in summer and long dresses in winter.

Religion was very important to the Iroquois, as it was a part of every moment of their lives. There were divine beings like the Lord of Life, from whom all good things came, and his brother, author of all evil, who found themselves in constant battle.

The Iroquois consisted of three essential parts, namely the body, the soul and his spiritual being (spirit) or his spirit (ghost). If an Iroquois died, the soul entered the so-called afterlife, which for Christians is heaven. His spirit roamed near the burial place and took part in the existence of the living. Campaigns could be accompanied by a large army of dead. Feasts were held with the Iroquois in winter. Here the world of the dead and the living was united and the spirits took part in the eating, dancing and playing.

Orenda - a spiritual being - was the spiritual power that pervaded all things and was spiritual and divine power that connected all elements of the world with one another. Through dreams a man could experience Orenda and receive the strength he needed for daily life and for sacred things. If a man received a lot of Orenda through powerful dreams, he could become a shaman and received the authority to heal the sick. Just as important as the shaman were the men who dealt with false faces. False faces were terrible faces without bodies that could be met in the forest and infected with serious diseases. The False Face Society members broke the spell in a ceremony where they wore wooden masks. Shamans had magical powers and priests had to undergo training. The Iroquois had both priests and shamans.

The great New Year festival in the month of Diagona, the second full moon, in late January or early February, was the most important festival of the Iroquois at all. Winter died and the time approached when the Lord of Life brought spring again, and secondly, he prevented the arrival of his wicked brother. To help the Lord of Life, the ritual lasted days. In the beginning all old fires were put out and new ones kindled. There were many cleansing customs, numerous prayers, and it was shown how in the beginning of the world the Lord of Life and the forces of evil struggled for spring, green growth, and all good things. The Lord of Good won. During the festive season people talked about their dreams to anyone who wanted them in public. There were trained men who analyzed the dreams and gave information on how to behave according to the dream. In the course of the ceremonies, the matrons, the clan mothers - the heads of the longhouses, gave men new names when he earned it. There were ritual dances, dances for pleasure and games. What was interesting about this festival was that it took place in the middle of winter.

Among the Iroquois women held a higher position than the whites have given them until recently. The fields, the harvest, the houses were theirs. The parentage always referred to the mother. One child belonged to his mother's clan. The animal symbol was placed above the door of each house. When men married, they moved in with their wives. If the marriage broke up, the man returned to his mother, but the children stayed with the mother.

The Iroquois were split in half. One half consisted of the turtle clan and all the other clans that bore the names of four-legged animals, with the exception of the deer. The other half consisted of the deer clan and the clans named after birds.

Members of one half always married members of the other. The clans also helped each other, as with the burial of the dead.

Each clan was divided into family trees, the members of which descended from a common ancestor. An elderly woman was the head of the family tree - the matron. The family tree consisted of an extended family - the so-called Ohwachira. From family trees where the chief - also known as sachem - came from, the clan was noble and still is today. If a sachem died, a successor was chosen by the matron of the family tree. The matron discussed the choice with other women in the nave and then with the women of the clan. The election was discussed in detail and the women mostly gave their consent to the matron. When the time of mourning for a deceased sachem was over, a big festival was held and the new sachem was installed. As a sign of his dignity, the new sachem was given deer antlers and withdrew from the war business. It also got the name and the Orenda of its predecessor and became its continuation. A sachem was warned three times for failing. If this did not help, the matron would remove the sachem's antlers and ask the council to dismiss it, which was seldom refused. The matron made suggestions to the council, but did not rule, but had great influence over the men who governed and gave their orders.

The Iroquois treatment of prisoners was very cruel and clearly shows southern influence. Young men were preferred, but women and children were also caught. Efforts were made to take as many prisoners as possible. The prisoners were forcibly driven into the village and those who could no longer keep up were killed. In the village, the residents formed two rows - similar to the gauntlet run by the Prussians - and let the prisoners run through. They were beaten with sticks with all their might. The prisoners were then distributed to the women who had previously complained about a relative. The captured children were taken into the tribe, while women and old men were kept like slaves. The matrons decided whether a man should die or stay alive. A man who stayed alive was integrated into the tribe and the former tribe didn't even blame him. Those who were to die were tortured to death in the most cruel way, not to enjoy the torture, but for religious reasons. The condemned man was sacrificed to Areskoi, to the spirit of war and hunting - perhaps also to the sun. If there was no male prisoner, a woman was sacrificed. Respect was shown to the victim. The custom to sacrifice a person and to entertain him before the sacrifice comes from the south - more precisely from Mexico. However, it is incomprehensible why the Iroquois carried out such torture.

Torture of the Iroquois was their custom and Algonquians and whites were sacrificed. This torture was practiced by the Algonquians out of revenge if they could catch an Iroquois. The Iroquois were very feared and hated. Their bad reputation was later carried over to all Indians.

The Iroquois tribes were in constant disputes 500 years ago, which prevented them from forming leagues or alliances. However, it did happen that two or more tribes allied, but such an association was always short-lived. That this was so, is certainly due to the blood revenge. If a man was killed, a man of the tribe who killed him even if it was accidentally killed would have to die. When the Iroquois were out to attack a neighboring village, their village was invaded and razed to the ground by Algonquin tribes in their absence.








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