Iroquois - Encyclopedia




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IROQUOIS, or Six Nations, a celebrated confederation of North American Indians. The name is that given them by the French. It is suggested that it was formed of two ceremonial words constantly used by the tribesmen, meaning "real adders," with the French addition of ois. The league was originally composed of five tribes or nations, viz. Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Senecas and Cayugas. The confederation probably took place towards the close of the 16th century and in 1722 the Tuscaroras were admitted, the league being then called that of "the Six Nations." At that time their total number was estimated at i i,650, including 2150 warriors. They were unquestionably the most powerful confederation of Indians on the continent. Their home was the central and western parts of New York state. In the American War of Independence they fought on the English side, and in the repeated battles their power was nearly destroyed. They are now to the number of 17,000 or more scattered about on various reservations in New York state, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Canada. The Iroquoian stock, the larger group of kindred tribes, of which the five nations were the most powerful, had their early home in the St Lawrence region. Besides the five nations, the Neutral nation, Huron, Erie, Conestoga, Nottoway, Meherrin, Tuscarora and Cherokee were the most important tribes of the stock. The hostility of the Algonquian tribes seems to have been the cause of the southward migration of the Iroquoian peoples. In 1535 Jacques Cartier found an Iroquoian tribe in possession of the land upon which now stand Montreal and Quebec; but seventy years later it was in the hands of Algonquians.

See L. H. Morgan, League of the Hodeno Swanee or Iroquois (Rochester, N.Y.,1854); Handbook of American Indians (Washington, 1907). Also North American Indians.

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