Peace Keepers of the Northeast Research Proposal

Pages: 7 (2241 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans

Peace Keepers of the Northeast: The Iroquois Indians

The Iroquois Indians were a large group of various indian tribes who resided along side the Genesee River, the Mohawk River, and the Lake Ontario regions in New York around 1600. Iroquois is a French word used to mean "a large family." It is not solely one tribe or group of Indians, yet it was a vast series of various tribes, all of who shared a similar culture and language. Five large Iroquois tribes joined together to form a confederacy which was called the League of Five Nations. The five tribes who formed this confederation were the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Cayuga, and the Seneca. Later the addition of the Tuscarora tribe made it the League of Six Nations. No one knows exactly when this league was formed, but it is known that the league was formed to promote peace and unity throughout the Iroquois tribes. When they formed this confederacy, they dug a hole in the ground and filled it with war time weapons. Then a tree of peace was planted in the hole. This tree symbolized that the allies would no longer life a hand against the Iroquois Indian tribes and that peace would prevail. In addition, the League of Six Nations also strived to set down principles by which the tribes would live. They wanted to assure the spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being of every member of the Iroquois Indians.

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The Indians of the Iroquois tribes had a very unique culture and way of living. Generally, they lived in longhouses. The longhouses were huge houses that usually were about 400 feet in length, 20 to 25 feet wide, and about 30 feet high. As many as 20 to 30 families could live in a single longhouse. They were made of ropelike grass and tree bark which was strengthened by animal skin. It was a very sturdy type of house, but since it was made of tree bark, then they were very susceptible to fire. There were usually smoke holes built into the roof of the longhouse so that the Indian women could cook and the smoke would have an escape route. These huge houses were generally built in such a way that if they did catch on fire, the wind would carry the fire throughout the house and not endanger other surrounding houses.

Research Proposal on Peace Keepers of the Northeast Assignment

The division of labor among the Iroquois tribes was very different from the Cherokee tribes and other tribes throughout the United States. In most Iroquois tribes, the women had a lot of power. They were the ones who generally did all of the work. The cooked, they cleaned, the maintained the longhouse, and the attended to the children; while the men were only required to go off hunting to bring home the food. It was considered a great shame and embarrassment if a man had to cook his own food because he had no mother, wife, sister or other woman to take care of him. In many of these cases, the man would simply die or commit suicide because he would starve himself to death because he could not cook. Therefore, the men of the Iroquois tribes strongly depended on women for their entire existence. In general, the women were very overworked and the men were very underworked; but this way of life worked perfectly for the many families residing in the large longhouse.

The Iroquois and Cherokee Indians were very similar in many ways especially in regards to division of labor among families. Both Indian cultures believed that it was the man's responsibility to go out and hunt and bring home the kill while the women cooked, cleaned and maintained the house, and raised the children. Cherokee women were also the primary decision makers of family; just as they were with the Iroquois tribes. However, unlike the Iroquois, the men of the Cherokee tribe also made decisions regarding politics, religion, and family matters. In the Iroquois cultures, the division of labor amongst the genders was very distinct. However, in the Cherokee tribe, the men took more part in the role of the family. The men and women of the Cherokee tribes also did more things together such as playing music, artwork, and storytelling.

The fur trade was also a very big situation that was faced by the Iroquois tribes. During the seventeenth century, the need for fur was in high demand. The English people wanted the fur to make hats, blankets, and other articles of clothing. So, the men of the various Iroquois tribes were hunt and trap beaver for their fur. They would then trade it with the English, Dutch, and French people in return for things such as cooking pots, beads, guns, ammunition, and other tools and utensils made out of metal. The arrival of the European communities changed the way the Iroquois people did things and this had a huge effect on the well-established Indian cultures of the Iroquois nations.

The fur trade changed the entire lifestyle of the Iroquois people of both League nations and non-League nations. Before the arrival of the European people, most of the women from the Iroquois tribes did things by hand. The cooked over an open fire, they used sticks, rocks, and other hand made tools for cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the longhouse. However, with the fur trade and the arrival of the Europeans, these women began to use metal tools for cooking such as metal pots, pans, and utensils. This made cooking more easy and convenient; thus freeing up more time for the women to do other things (and become more independent than they already were before the European people). In addition, the men of the Iroquois tribes also started staying away from the longhouse for longer periods of time because they would spend all their time trapping beaver or trading them at the trading post. While at the trading post, the European people introduced the Iroquois men to alcohol. This created a situation where the men not only stayed away from the longhouse for a longer period of time, but when they did arrive home, they usually arrived drunk or hung over. With such an altered mental state from the alcohol, the men started to take control over the women. They started beating them more often and not allowing them to make all of the decisions as they once did before the arrival of the European people.

For a short while, the fur trade was something positive for both the League Indians and the non-League Indians. Both League nations and non-league nations took part in the fur trades with the European people. It helped improved their way of life by giving them some unique tools that made cooking and cleaning more efficient. However, it quickly became something negative. The beaver population began to decline as more and more trapping took place. Soon the fur became scarce and there was not as much to trade. As a result, the Indians did not have the metal tools that they had become so accustomed to using. They were once again doing things the old way and they did not like this. It causes more animosity in the family. The final result of the great fur trade was poverty. Many Iroquois people were forced to find other methods of survival because there was no longer any fur for trade. The fur was like money and without "money" there was no food or utensils of every day life. Many Indians died as a result of the declining fur trade. So, not only did the fur trade greatly change the way of life for the Iroquois Indians for the better, it also changed their way of life for the worse.

As the American Revolution started taking place, the Iroquois Indians attempted to remain neutral. However, they were pulled into the war as their land and territories were invaded. They were angered and mainly supported the British, except for one tribe, the Oneida, who tended to support the ally. Nevertheless, the end result was the same for all Iroquois Indians. It did not matter if they fought for or against the American people. Their land and lives were completely destroyed as a result of the fur trade first, followed by the American Revolution War. The American people created treaties after the war ended that forced the Indians off of their land and placed them on smaller reservations throughout New York. During this time of demoralization, the Indians turned to the Ghost Dance of the Plains for help. The Ghost Dance of the Plains was a religious movement that attempted to revitalize a broken culture. It was a massive reaction to the Indian's being forced to give into American Government authority. It was literally a dance performed in a circle by the Indians as they chanted. The Ghost Dance claimed that there would be a great apocalypse and it would wipe out the entire Earth, including all of the white people. This… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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