The Iroquois Nation
The Iroquois Nation
The Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee, were a league of five (later six) nations of North America. Once a nation of fierce warriors who expanded their territories from the area of present day New York and Canada to the Ohio River valley, they now primarily resided in New York, and parts of Canada. The Iroquois nation was an egalitarian society, rich with spiritual and political customs, and where both sexes were viewed equal.
Unlike their Algonquin neighbors, the Iroquois were a matrilineal society; their descent was traced back through their mothers. Another difference between the Iroquois and their neighbors was their reliance on ...view middle of the document...
The eldest woman in each community would be the most influential and responsible for making decisions (Nowak & Laird, 2010, Sect. 4.5, Para. 8).
The role and view of women in the Iroquois nation started to change after contact was made with the European Colonist. Sir William Johnson, British Indian Superintendant, refused to let the Iroquois women participate in council. Iroquois gave into his demands but only on their terms. (MacLeitch, 2011cited by Harper, 2012, P. 703, Para. 1). This was just the beginning of diminishing the status of women in the Iroquois culture.
Winona Wheeler, an Aboriginal woman and Acting Dean of Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in Saskatchewan, Canada stated that “…Women were not dependant on men; their roles were very much in balance with men.” Warren Goulding (2002) observed that the roles of women were diminished, and even demonized by church leaders (Cited by James, 2003 P. 64).
James goes on to say that the Eurocentric idealology that all non-white and non-western races, and women are inferior not only eroded indigenous rights, but made things very difficult for the Native American women because she was looked down upon because of both her race and her gender (James, 2003, P. 64).
The Iroquois produced three primary crops corn, beans, and squash (Nowak & Laird, 2010, Sect. 4.2, Para. 26). They used a slash and burn method for preparing the soil for planting. First the land was cleared of trees and undergrowth, and then the land is burned just before the rainy season (Nowak & Laird, 2010, Sect. 4.2, Para8). Labor was divided between the men and women. An elder woman, the matron of the tribe, acted as an organizer to make sure everyone worked together ensuring the success of the crops. The men’s primary responsibility was to clear the land and burn it to prepare the soil for planting, while the women were responsible for planting weeding and harvesting the crops (Nowak & Laird, 2010, Sect. 4.2, Para. 26). At the time of their first contact with the European colonist the Iroquois women were responsible for 65 percent of all the tribe’s products (Johansen, 1999 cited by Nowak & Laird, 2010, Sect. 4.2, Para. 26).
The traditional economy for the Iroquois was based on reciprocity (MacLeitch, 2011, Cited by Harper, 2012, P. 703, Para. 2). Tools, furs, crops, or other items would be gifted to other tribes or clans with the understanding that the other clan would return the gift with an item of the same or greater value (Nowak & Laird, 2010, Sect. 4.2, Para. 15).
The arrival of the European colonist meant that the Iroquois would have to adapt their practices in order to continue to thrive while living alongside with the white man. The Iroquois adapted and diversified their economy in response to challenges presented by their new neighbors, by renting land to the colonist, marketing new products and even hiring out labor. However, the changes they made in order to adapt to the new...