Thursday, September 06, 2012

18th Century Research: the Iroquois (Part 1)

Flag of the Iroquois Confederacy
From time to time I write a blog post dealing with a subject I've researched for my 18th century-set novels. I like to do this for the benefit of other writers, or anyone interested in that particular subject, coming along behind me on this research path.

Today I'd like to share my bibliography of titles collected while researching the history of the Iroquois Confederacy, or The Six Nations, particularly the Mohawk and Oneida nations.

The Six Nations are a confederacy of Iroquoian-speaking peoples that once occupied the the western portions of the state of New York from the Hudson River to the Finger Lakes region, though their hunting range, and their influence over other tribes, spread much farther abroad.

Traditional Iroquois longhouse
At a certain period of their history, their primary dwelling was the longhouse. The Iroquois thought of their land symbolically as a giant longhouse running east to west across their territory.

Guarding the eastern door of The Great Longhouse were the Mohawk. Next came the Oneida and after 1722 the Tuscarora. In the center of the Longhouse, as Keepers of the Central Fire, were the Onondaga. Then came the Cayuga and lastly the Seneca guarding the western door.

Sometime before European contact, arguably around the year 1450, these nations united under the Great Law of Peace to form the Haudenosaunee, or The People of the Longhouse.

Due to war, disease, settlement, and broken treaties, the 18th century and the early 19th saw the removal of these nations from most of their traditional land. Many were resettled in Canada. Some in Wisconsin, some in Oklahoma. Some still live in New York.

As part of the research for my debut novel I studied the history of the the Mohawk, or Kanyen'kehake, nation. Their name translates to People of the Flint.

Joseph Brant
Much of this research centered around Joseph Brant, or Thayendenegea, who was educated in an eastern school, rose to prominence among the Mohawk partly due to the influence of Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the northern colonies (and husband of Joseph's sister Molly), and became a war chief for his people who fought with the British during the Revolutionary War.

Titles I found helpful in my research:

~ The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization by Daniel K. Richter
~ Joseph Brant 1740-1807, Man of Two Worlds by Isabel Thompson Kelsay
~ Turtles, Wolves, and Bears, A Mohawk Family History by Barbara J. Sivertsen
~ Kanyen'keha Tewatati (Let’s Speak Mohawk) and One Thousand Useful Mohawk Words by David Kanatawakhon Maracle
~ The Iroquois by Evelyn Wolfson
~ Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief by Jonathan Bolton and Claire Wilson
~ Realm of the Iroquois by The Editors of Time-Life Books
~ The Iroquois in the American Revolution by Barbara Graymont
~ The Tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy by Michael Johnson

I hope they'll prove useful to the knowledge-hungry traveler! 

Come back tomorrow for Part Two: The Oneida

This post, or portions of it, was originally posted at the Colonial Quills blog, by me.

2 comments:

  1. These posts will be fascninating, Lori. I don't think I have ever heard of the concept of that 6 nations being a longhouse. I did know the Mohawk were called guardians of the eastern door, but didn't connect it to the concept of the entire group as one longhouse. Neat!

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    1. I'd like one day to have researched all the nations more in depth. So far it's been the Mohawk and Oneida, mainly. Mohawk for my novel releasing next summer. Oneida for the one I'm writing now, on spec.

      I would have squeed (if that's the right spelling) with delight had I run across a list of titles compiled like this a few years ago when I began my research, so I hope it proves of use to someone else down the line. :)

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