The Iroquois are usually depicted wearing loincloths, moccasins, and a Mohawk hairstyle. The Iroquois were made up of a federation of tribes who spoke the same language. The federation included the Mohawks, Cayugas, Oneidas, Onondagas, Tuscaroras, and the Senecas. It was called the Six Nations. Hiawatha is credited with bringing together the first five nations. She did this by going from tribe to tribe in a canoe. At each stop she preached the importance of unity. The Iroquois inhabited what we now know as the Lake Ontario region of Canada, and upstate New York. Archaeologists believe that they were descendents of the ancient Owasco culture.
The Iroquois lived in long houses that were made of elm bark. These long houses were communal, usually crowded with both dogs and people, and contained as many as 20 families in each one. Eye witnesses tell us that they were up to a hundred feet long and usually pretty smelly. The bad smell was largely attributed to the fact that there was little ventilation. The Iroquois maintained fires in the longhouses for both warmth as well as for preparing meals. However, there were only small holes in the roof. As a result, the houses were almost always very smokey.
The Iroquois were excellent hunters and trappers. Almost all of their clothing was made from animals that they caught. They especially liked to wear beaver pelts, deerskin, and bear fur. The Iroquois also farmed, and the three principle crops that they grew were corn, beans, and squash. They also harvested wild crops such as maple syrup and strawberries.
Military skills were taught to Iroquois boys at a very early age. They practiced with war clubs, knives, and bow and arrow until they were teenagers and deemed ready to go on their first raid. The Iroquois warriors were amazing in battle. They defeated tribe after tribe. By the mid-1600's the Iroquois were trading with the British and the Dutch. At the time, beaver hats were the rage in Europe. Eagerly, the Iroquois expanded their territory in a quest for furs to satisfy the European demand.
The Iroquois became so powerful that they prevented the French from expanding into the United States from Canada. The Iroquois fought many skirmishes with the French, and usually fought along side of the British. The Iroquois helped the British defeated the French at Lake George in 1755. This became one of the most important battles to be fought during the French and Indian Wars. Then when the British began to steal and occupy the Iroquois land more fighting erupted. Seneca Iroquois led by Chief Pontiac fought against the British in the Rebellion of 1763. However, the Iroquois split during the American Revolution from 1775 to 1783. The Oneidas and the Tuscaroras sided with the American rebels and the rest of the Iroquois sided with the British. The tribes that sided with the British attacked American settlements relentlessly. Soon after becoming commander-in-chief, General George Washington sent the United States Army after the Iroquois. They were under the command of generals John Sullivan and James Clinton. Eventually, they defeated the Iroquois by burning their houses and by destroying their crops.