Saturday, 14 February 2009

The World of the Mohawk

Mohawk (Kanienkeh, Kanienkehaka or Kanien’Kahake, meaning "People of the Flint") are an indigenous people of North America originally from the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York to southern Quebec and eastern Ontario. Their current settlements include areas around Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River in Canada. Their traditional homeland stretched southward of the Mohawk River, eastward to the Green Mountains of Vermont, westward to the border with the Oneida Nation traditional homeland territory, and northward to the St Lawrence River. As original members of the Iroquois League, or Haudenosaunee, the Mohawk were known as the "Keepers of the Eastern Door", who guarded the Iroquois Confederation against invasion from that direction. (It was from the westward direction that European settlers first appeared, sailing up the Hudson River to found and inhabit Albany,New York in the early 17th century.)
The name of the Mohawk people in the Mohawk language is Kanien'kehá:ka, and alternately attributed various spellings by early French-settlers and ethnographers including one such spelling as, Canyenkehaka. There are various theories as to why the Mohawk were called the "Mohawk" by Europeans, but the most widely accepted is that the name is from the word for "man-eater" in some Algonquian language (e.g., Narraganset Mohowawog) meaning those who eat meat.
The Dutch referred to the Mohawk as Hawks, or Egils, or Maquasen, or Maquas. To the French they were Agniers, Maquis, or simply Iroquois.
To the Mohawk themselves, they are Kanien'kehá:ka and *"People of the Flint". The use of People of the Flint is associated with their origins in the Mohawk Valley, and their original homeland in New York. There, the Indians used flint deposits to tip Mohawk arrows, and for toolmaking.
In 1614, the Dutch opened a trading post at Fort Nassau,New Netherland near present day Albany,New York. The Dutch initially traded for furs with the local Mahicans. In 1628, the Mohawks defeated the Mahicans who then retreated to Connecticut. The Mohawks gained a near monopoly in the fur trade with the Dutch by not allowing Canadian Indians and other tribes to trade with the Dutch. They also established trading posts at Schenectady and Schoharie further west in the Mohawk Valley.
The Mohawks and the Dutch became allies. Relations were peaceful even during the periods of Kieft's War and the Esopus Wars. Their Dutch trade partners equipped the Mohawks to fight against other nations allied with the French, including the Ojibwes,Huron-Wendats, and Algonquins. The Mohawks made peace with the French in 1645.
During the Pequot War, alliance with the Mohawks was sought by the Algonquian Indians of New England, but they refused and killed the fleeing Pequot sachem Sassacus. In the winter of 1651 the Mohawks attacked to the south and overwhelmed the Atrakwaeronons and took between five and six hundred captives. In 1664, the Pocumtuck of New England killed a Mohawk ambassador, starting a war which resulted in the destruction of the Pocumtuck. The Mohawks also attacked other members of the Pocumtuck confederacy, including the Pennacook, Abnakis,Squakhead, and Sokokis in a war which did not end until 1671.
In 1666, the French attacked the Mohawks and burned all the Mohawk villages and their food supply. One of the conditions of the peace was that the Mohawks accept Jesuit missionaries. Beginning in 1669, the missionaries convinced some Mohawks to relocate to two reservations near Montreal. These Mohawks became known as Caughnawagas and they became allies of the French.
After the fall of New Netherland to the English, the Mohawks in New York became allies of the Kingdom of England. In 1675 during King Philip's War,Metacom sachem of the warring Pokanoket decided to winter with his warriors near Albany. With the encouragement of the English, the Mohawks attacked and killed all but forty out of four hundred Pokanokets. From the 1690s, the Mohawks underwent a period of Christianization acculturation, during which many were baptized with English surnames while others were given complete English names.
During the era of the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years' War), Anglo-Mohawk partnership relations were maintained by men such as Sir William Johnson(for the British Crown),Conrad Weiser (on behalf of the colony of Pennsylvania), and King Hendrick (for the Mohawks). The Albany Congress of 1754 was called in part to repair the damaged diplomatic between the British and Mohawks.
During the second and third quarters of the 18th century, most of the Mohawks in the Province of New York lived along the Mohawk River at Canajoharie, a few lived at Schoharie, while the rest lived about 30 miles downstream at the Ticonderoga Castle also called Fort Hunter. The two settlements were traditionally called the Upper Castle and the Lower Castle. The Lower Castle was almost contiguous with Sir Peter Warren's Warrensbush. Sir William Johnson built his first house on the north bank of the Mohawk River almost opposite Warrensbush.
Because of unsettled conflicts with settlers encroaching into the Mohawk Valley and outstanding treaty obligations to the British Crown, the Mohawks fought against the United States during the American Revolutionary War. With the defeat of the British, most of the Mohawks at the Upper Castle fled to Fort Niagra, while most of those at the Lower Castle fled to Montreal. A few, such as the sachem Little Abraham at Fort Hunter, remained neutral throughout the war. One man,Joseph Louis Cook, supported the Americans and received a commission from the Continental Congress. During this war, Johannes Tekarihoga was the leader of the Mohawks. Johannes Tekarihoga died about 1780. Catherine Crogan, wife of Joseph Brant, named her brother Henry Crogan as the new Tekarihoga.
After the American victory in the war, one prominent Mohawk war chief,Joseph Brant, led a large group of Iroquois out of New York to a new homeland at Six Nations of the Grand River,Ontario. Another Mohawk war chief John Deseronto lead another group of Mohawks to a new homeland on the Bay of Quinte. One large group of Mohawks settled in the vicinity of Montreal, Quebec. From this group descend the Mohawks of Kahnawake,Akwesasne and Kanesatake. One of the most famous Catholic Mohawks was Kateri, who was later beatified.
On November 11, 1794, representatives of the Mohawks (along with the other Iroquois nations) signed the Treaty of Canandaigua with the United States.
Mohawks fought against the United States in the War of 1812. The Mohawk Nation, as part of the Iroquois Confederacy, was recognised for some time by the French government. The Confederacy was a participant in the Congress of Vienna, having been allied with the French during the War of 1812, which was viewed by the French as part of the Napoleonic Wars. However, in 1842 the Confederacy's legal status was overlooked in Lord Durham's report on the reform and organization of the Canadas.
Members of the Mohawk tribe now live in settlements spread throughout New York State and southeastern Canada. Among these are Ganienkeh and Kanatsiohareke in northeast New York, Akwesasne (St.Regis) along the Ontario-New York border,Kanesatake (Oka) and Kahnawake in southern Quebec, and Tyendinaga and Wahta (Gibson) in southern Ontario. Mohawks also form the majority on the mixed Iroquois reserve,Six Nations of the Grand River, in Ontario. There are also Mohawk Orange Lodges in Canada.
Many Mohawk communities have two sets of chiefs, who rule in unison and are in some sense competing governmental rivals. One group are the hereditary chiefs nominated by clan matriachs in the traditional Mohawk fashion; the other is the elected chief and councilors with whom the Canadian and U.S. governments usually prefer to deal exclusively. Since the 1980s, Mohawk politics have been driven by factional disputes over gambling, land claims, traditional government jurisdiction, taxation, and the Indian Act.
Both the elected chiefs and the controversial Warrior Society have encouraged gaming as a means of ensuring tribal self-sufficiency on the various reserves or Indian reservations. Traditional chiefs have tended to oppose gaming on moral grounds and out of fear of corruption and organized crime. Such disputes have also been associated with religious divisions: the traditional chiefs are often associated with the Longhouse tradition, practicing consensus-democratic values, while the Warrior Society has attacked that religion and asserted independence. Meanwhile, the elected chiefs have tended to be associated (though in a much looser and general way) with democratic, legislative and Canadian governmental values.
In the 19th and early 20th century, the Government of Canada imposed English schooling and separated families to place children in English boarding schools. Like other tribes, Mohawks have fluctuated in their native language fluency. Many have left the reserve to join the English Canadian culture, and to work in a greater variety of occupations.
On October 15, 1993, Governor Mario Cuomo entered into the "Tribal-State Compact Between the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and the State of New York." The compact allowed the Tribe to conduct gambling, including games such as baccarat,blackjack,craps and roulette, on the Akwesasne Reservation in Franklin County under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
According to the terms of the 1993 compact, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, the New York state Police and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Gaming Commission were vested with gaming oversight. Law enforcement responsibilities fell under the cognizance of the state police, with some law enforcement matters left to the tribe. As required by IGRA, the compact was approved by the United States department of the Interior before it took effect. There were several extensions and amendments to this compact, but not all of them were approved by the U.S.Department of the Interior.
On June 12, 2003, the New York Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts' rulings that Governor Cuomo exceeded his authority by entering into the compact absent legislative authorization and declared the compact void. On October 19, 2004, Governor George Pataki signed a bill passed by the State Legislature that ratified the compact as being Nunc Pro Tunc, with some additional minor changes.
The Mohawk Nation is currently in pursuit of obtaining approval to own and operate a casino in Sullivan County,New York at Monticello Raceway. The U.S. Department of the Interior has until recently approved of this action and even after obtaining Governor Eliot Spitzer's concurrence subject to the negotiation and approval of either an amendment to the current compact or a new compact has rejected their application to take the land in to trust.
There are currently two pending. The State of New York has expressed similar objections in its responses to take land into trust for other Indian nations and tribes. The other contends that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act violates the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as it is applied in the State of New York and is currently pending in the United District Court for the Western District of New York.
The Mohawks, like many indigenous tribes in the Great Lakes region, sometimes wore a hair style in which all their hair would be cut off except for a narrow strip down the middle of the scalp from the forehead to the nape, that was approximately three finger widths across. This style was only used by warriors going off to war. The Mohawks saw their hair as a connection to the Creator, and therefore grew it long. But when they went to war, they cut all or some of it off, leaving that narrow strip. The women wore their hair long often with traditional Bear Grease or tied back into a single braid. Their heads were often not covered by a covering or hat, often wearing nothing on their heads in winter.
Traditional dress styles of the Kanien'kehá:ka Mohawk peoples consisted of women going topless in summer with a skirt of deerskin. In colder seasons, women wore a full woodland deerskin dress, leather tied underwear, long fashioned hair or a braid and Bear Grease. There was otherwise nothing on their head, except several ear piercings adorned by shell earrings, shell necklaces, and also puckered seam ankle wrap moccasins.
The women also used a layer of smoked and curated peat moss as an insulation absorbency for menses, as well as simple scraps of leather were used. Later menses use consisted of cotton linen pieces where pilgrim settlers and missionaries provided trade and introduced of such items.
The traditional dress styles of the Kanien'kehá:ka Mohawk men consisted solely of a breech cloth of deerskin in summer, deerskin leggings and a full piece deerskin shirt in winter, several shell strand earrings, shell necklaces, long fashioned hair or a three finger width forehead-to-nape hair row which stood approximately three inches from the head and puckered seamed wrap ankle moccasins.
The men would also carry a quill and flint arrow hunting bag as well as arm and knee bands. During the summer, traditional dress styles of the Kanien'kehá:ka Mohawk children consisted of nothing up to the ages of thirteen, the time before they were ready for their warrior or woman passages or rites.
Later dress after European contact combined some cloth pieces such as the males ribbon shirt in addition to the place of the deerskin clothing, and wool trousers and skirts. For a time many Mohawk peoples incorporated a combination of the older styles of dress with newly introduced forms of clothing.
According to author Kanatiiosh in "Hodenasaunee Clothing and & Other Cultural Items" Mohawk as a part of the Hodenasaunee Confederacy: "Traditionally used furs obtained from the woodland, which consisted of elk and deer hides, corn husks, and they also wove plant and tree fibers to produce [the] clothing".
Later Sinew or animal gut was cleaned and prepared as a thread for garments and footwear and was threaded to porcupine quills or sharp leg bones, in order to sew or pierce eyeholes for threading.
Clothing dyes were obtained of various sources such as berries, tree barks, flowers, grasses, water and from smoke, and curated urine was sometimes used to extract difficult dyes because of its acidic tendencies.
Generally a village of Mohawk people wore the same design of clothing applicable to their gender, with individualized color and artwork designs incorporated onto the clothing and moccasins. Durable clothing that was held by older village people and adults was handed down to others in their family sometimes as gifts, honours, or because of outgrowth. Mohawk clothing was sometimes reminiscent of designs from trade with neighbouring First Nation tribes, and was more closely in resemblance to that of other Six Nations confederacy nations however much originality applicable to the Mohawk nation peoples style of dress was often kept as the foundation of the style they wore.
Replicas of seventeenth-century longhouses have been built at landmarks and tourist villages, such as Kanata Village Brantford, Ontario and Awkwasasne's "Tsiionhiakwatha" interpretation village in Quebec, Ontario. Other Mohawk Nation Longhouses are found on the Mohawk territory reserves that hold the Mohawk law recitations, ceremonial rites, and the Mohawk and Handsome Lake religion. These include:
Six Nations First Nation Territory, Ontario holds one Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouse.
Wahta First Nation Territory, Ontario holds one Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouse.
Tyendinaga First Nation Territory, Ontario holds one Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouse.
Awkwasasne First Nation Territory, Quebec holds two Mohawk Ceremonial Community Longhouses.
Kanesatake First Nation Territory, Quebec holds two Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouses.
Kahnawahke First Nation Territory, Quebec holds one Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouse.
Kanienkeh First Nation Territory, New York State holds one Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouse.
Kanatsioharake First Nation Territory, New York State holds one Ceremonial Mohawk Community Longhouse.
These are grouped by broad geographical cluster, with notes on the character of community governance found in each. It's often said New York City has a large Mohawk Indian community, an estimate of 50,000 in the diverse city of 8 million people. The community was founded by the arrival of hired skyscraper construction workers of Mohawk and other Iroquois origin since the 1930s but ceased by the 1970s on special labor contracts to build the Empire State Building and other major skyscrappers. The construction companies felt the Mohawks are "well-skilled", didn't fear heights and brave to work in daring conditions, but the contracts offered lower than average wages and limited labor union membership.
Mohawk Nation wedding ceremonies are conducted by a chief, since the chief holds the sanction to perform the greatest rituals before the Creator. In a marriage, the couple vow their commitment before the Creator. The marrying man and woman then unite in a lifelong relationship, and there is not any custom for divorce. This is not held as a punishment, however; the Mohawk Nation people are a matrilineal society and hold marriage as a great commitment which should be nurtured and respected. Much respect is given to the woman by her husband because the woman is the head of the household.
The traditional marriage ceremony included a day of celebration for the man and woman, a formal oration by the chief of the woman's nation and clan, community dancing and feast, and gifts of respect and honour by community members. Traditionally these gifts were practical which the couple would use in their everyday religious and working lives.
For clothing the man and woman wore white rabbit leathers and furs with personal adornments, usually made by their families, to stand apart from the rest of the community's traditional style of dress during the ceremony. The "Rabbit Dance Song" and other social dance songs were sung by the men, where they used gourd rattles and later cow-horn rattles. In the "Water Drum", other well-wishing couples participated in the dance with the couple. The meal would commence after the ceremony and everyone who participated would eat.
Today the marriage ceremony may follow that of the old tradition or incorporate newer elements, but it is still used by many Mohawk Nation marrying couples. In addition, there are couples who have chosen to marry in the European manner, as well as in the Longhouse manner, with the Longhouse ceremony usually being held first.
The Canadian and U.S. government however, do not consider the Mohawk Marriage Ceremony to be legal and will not certify a marriage license based upon a marriage by a chief. If the ceremony takes place in a chapel conducted by a Justice of the Peace, it can be recognized by the state.
The Tribes. The Abenaki. The homeland of the Abenaki, known to them as Ndakinna, which means "our land", extended across most of northern New England, southern Quebec, and the southern Canadian Maritimes. The Eastern Abenaki's population was concentrated in portions of Maine east of New Hampshire's White Mountains. The other major tribe, the Western Abenaki, lived in the Connecticut River valley in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Missiquoi lived along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain. There were also the Pennacook along the Merrimack River in southern New Hampshire. The maritime Abenaki lived around St.Croix and the Wolastoq ( St.John River ) Valleys near the boundary line between Maine and New Brunswick.
The settlement of New England and frequent wars caused many Abenakis to retreat to Quebec. Two large tribal communities formed near St-Francois-du-Lac and Becancour. These settlements continue to exist to this day. Three reservations also exist in northern Maine, and seven Wolastoqiyk,( Maliseet) reserves are located in New Brunswick and Quebec. Other groups of Abenaki, without reservations, are scattered across northern New Hampshire and Vermont.
The Penawapskewi (Penobscot) have a reservation with 2,000 people on Indian island at Old Town,Maine. The Pestomuhkati (Passamaquoddy) currently number about 2,500 across three different Maine reservations: Pleasant Point, Peter Dana Point, and Indian Township. The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians have close to 600 tribesmembers, whereas there are seven Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) bands in Canada, 470 in Quebec and 2,000 in New Brunswick. Four hundred Wolinak Abenakis live on a reserve near Becancour,Quebec (across the river from trois-Rivieres), and almost 1,500 live at Odanak, only 30 miles to the southwest of Trois-Rivières. The remaining Abenaki people are scattered within Quebec, New Brunswick, and northern New England, living in multi-racial towns and cities. About 2,500 Vermont Abenaki live in Vermont and New Hampshire, chiefly around Lake Champlain.
The Abenaki language is closely related to those of their neighboring Wabanaki tribes such as the Mi'kmaq,olastoqiyk (Maliseet), and pestomuhkati (Passamaquoddy), as well as with other Eastern Algonquian languages.
Dictionaries include Chief Henry Lorne Masta's 1932 Abenaki Legends, Grammar, and Place Names, Odanak, Quebec; and Joseph Aubrey's 1700 French-Abenaki Dictionary, translated into English and reprinted in 1995 by Chief Stephen Laurent (son of Joseph). Fluent speaker Joseph "Elie" Joubert also has language lists of words, available via Alnôbak News, Franklin, MA.
In 1614, Thomas Hunt captured twenty four young people and took them to England. The Abenakis were traditionally allied with the French; one of them, Chief Assacumbuit, was declared a noble under the reign of louis XIV.
Facing annihilation from English attacks and epidemics, they started to emigrate to Quebec around 1669, where two municipalities were given to them. The first was on the Saint Francis River and is nowadays known as the Odank Indian Reservation; the second was founded near Bécancour and is called the Wolinak Indian Reservation.
When their principal town,Norridgewock, was taken, and their missionary, Father sebastian Rale, killed in 1724, many more emigrated to the settlement on the St. Francis River where other refugees from the New England tribes had come to earlier.
Abenakis are not a federally recognized tribe in the United States. In 2006, Vermont officially recognized the Abenaki as a People, but not a Tribe. This is in recognition of the annihilation or assimilation of the Abenaki and subsequent isolation of each small remnant of the greater whole onto reservations during and after the French and Indian War well before the US government began acknowledging the sovereignty of native tribes in the late twentieth century. Facing annihilation, the Abenakis began emigrating to Canada, then under French control, around 1669 where they were granted two seigneuries.
A tribal council was organized in 1976 at Swanton,Vermont, as the Sokoki-St.Francis Band of the Abenaki Nation. Vermont recognition of the council was granted that same year but was later withdrawn for unknown reasons. In 1982, they applied for nation recognition which is still pending.
There are a dozen variations of the name Abenakis, such as Abenaquiois, Abakivis, Quabenakionek, Wabenakies and others. They were described in the Jesuit Relations as not cannibals, and as docile, ingenious, temperate in the use of liquor, and not profane.
All Abenaki tribes lived a lifestyle similar to the Algonquin of southern New England. They cultivated crops for food, locating villages on or near fertile river floodplains. Other less major, but still important, parts of their diet included game and fish from hunting and fishing, and wild plants.
They lived in scattered bands of extended families for most of the year. Each man had different hunting territories inherited through his father. Unlike the Iroquois, the Abenaki were patrilineal. Bands came together during the spring and summer at temporary villages near rivers, or somewhere along the seacoast for planting and fishing. These villages occasionally had to be fortified, depending on the alliances and enemies of other tribes or of Europeans near the village. Abenaki villages were quite small when compared to the Iroquois'; the average number of people was about 100.
Most Abenaki settlements used dome-shaped, bark-covered wigwams for housing, though a few preferred oval-shaped long houses. During the winter, the Abenaki lived in small groups further inland. The homes there were bark-covered wigwams shaped in a way similar to the teepees of the Great Plains Indians.During the winter, the Abnaki lined the inside of their conical wigwams with bear and deer skins for warmth. The Abenaki also built long houses similar to those of the Iroquois.
Before the Abenaki — except the Pennacook and Micmac — had contact with the European world, their population may have numbered as many as 40,000. Around 20,000 would have been Eastern Abenaki, another 10,000 would have been Western Abenaki, and the last 10,000 would have been Maritime Abenaki. Early contacts with European fisherman resulted in two major epidemics that affected Abenaki during the 1500s. The first epidemic was an unknown sickness occurring sometime between 1564 and 1570, and the second one was typhus in 1586. Multiple epidemics arrived a decade prior to the English settlement of Massachusetts in 1620, when three separate sicknesses swept across New England and the Canadian Maritimes. Maine was hit very hard during the year of 1617, with a fatality rate of 75%, and the population of the Eastern Abenaki fell to about 5,000. Fortunately, the Western Abenaki were a more isolated group of people and suffered far less, losing only about half of their original population of 10,000.
The new diseases continued to cause more disaster, starting with smallpoxin 1631, 1633, and 1639. Seven years later, an unknown epidemic struck, with influenza passing through the following year. Smallpox affected the Abenaki again in 1649, and diptheria came through 10 years later. Once again, smallpox struck in 1670, and influenza again in 1675. Smallpox affected the Native Americans again in 1677, 1679, 1687, along with measles, 1691, 1729, 1733, 1755, and finally in 1758.
The Abenaki population continued to decline, but in 1676, they took in thousands of refugees from many southern New England tribes displaced by settlement and King Philip's War. Because of this, descendents of nearly every southern New England Algonquin can be found among the Abenaki people. Another century later, there were fewer than 1,000 Abenaki remaining after the american revolution.
The population has recovered to nearly 12,000 total in the United States and Canada.
The Pennacook
The Pennacook, or Merrimack, tribe were a people that formerly inhabited the Merrimack river Valley of Massachusetts,New Hamphshire, and portions of southern Maine. The name roughly translates (based on Abenaki cognates) as "at the bottom of the hill." The Pennacook, unlike most tribes of Massachusetts, were more closely related to the Abenaki than to the Algonquian tribes such as the Massachusett or Wampanoag. This similarity was both linguistic and cultural, but during the time of early European settlement, the Pennacook were a large confederacy that were politically distinct and at odds with their northern Abenaki neighbours. The Pennacook farmed maize, corn, and squash along fertile river beds, and hunted the wooded, less fertile areas.
One of the first tribes to encounter European colonists, the Pennacook were decimated by introduced diseases, raids by Mohawk, and Micmac.Passaconaway, despite his military advantage over the colonists, decided to make peace with them rather than lose even more lives through warfare.King Phillip's War, however, would make their numbers fall even further. Although Wonalancet, a chief of the Pennacook, tried to maintain neutrality, western bands in Massachusetts did not.
The Pennacook fled north with their former enemies, or west with other tribes, where they were hunted down and killed by English colonists. Those that survived, joined other scattered tribespeople at Schaghticoke, New York. Those that fled northward eventually merged with other displaced New England tribes and Abenaki. Although no longer a distinct tribe, many bands of Abenaki in New Hampshire, Canada, and Vermont have Pennacook blood in their veins.
Hurons and Petuns The Wyandot and Huron are indigenous peoples of North America known in their native language as the Wendat. Modern Wyandots and Hurons emerged in the 17th century from the remnants of two earlier groups, the Huron Confederacy and the Petun, who were located in what is now the Canadian province of Ontario before being decimated by disease and dispersed by war. Wyandots and Hurons today live in various locations in Canada and the United States.
In the early seventeenth century, the people known as Hurons by the French called themselves the Wendat which means "Dwellers of the Peninsula" or "Islanders", because the Wendat homeland was bordered on three sides by the waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe. Early French explorers called them the Huron, either from the French huron ("ruffian", "rustic"), or from hure ("boar's head"), because, according to tradition, French sailors thought that the bristly hairstyle of Wendat men resembled that of a boar.
The Wendat were not a tribe, but a confederacy of four or more tribes with a mutually intelligible language. According to tradition, this Wendat (or Huron) Confederacy was initiated by the Attignawantans ("People of the Bear") and the Attigneenongnahacs ("Cord"), who confederated in the 15th century. They were joined by the Arendarhonons ("People of the Rock") in about 1590, and the Tahontaenrats ("People of the Deer") around 1610. A fifth group, the Ataronchronons ("People of the Marshes" or "Bog"), may not have attained full membership in the confederacy, and may have been a division of the Attignawantan.
The largest Wendat settlement, and capital of the confederacy, was located at Ossossane, near modern-day Elmvale,Ontario. Their traditional territory was known as Wendake.
Closely related to the people of the Huron Confederacy were a group known to the French as the Petuns ("Tobacco People"), who lived further south. The Petun comprised two groups: the Deer and the Wolves.What the Petun called themselves is not known, but considering that they formed the nucleus of the tribe later known as the Wyandot, they too may have called themselves Wendat.
Hurons, like other Iroquoian people, were farmers who supplemented their diet with hunting and fishing. Corn was the mainstay of their diet, which was supplemented primarily by fish, although some venison and other meats were eaten during the hunting seasons. Women did most of the agricultural work, although men helped to clear the fields, which was usually done by slashing and burning. Men did most of the fishing and hunting, and constructed the houses, canoes, and tools. Each family owned a plot of land that they farmed; this land reverted to the common property of the tribe when the family no longer used it.
Hurons lived in villages spanning from one to ten acres (40,000 m²), most of which were fortified in defense against enemy attack. They lived in long houses similar to other Iroquoian cultural groups. The typical village had 900 to 1600 people organized into 30 or 40 longhouses. Villages were moved about every ten years as the soil became less fertile and the nearby forest, which provided firewood, grew thin. Hurons engaged in trade with neighboring tribes, notably for tobacco with the neighboring Petun and Neutral nations.
Tuberculosis was endemic among Hurons, aggravated by the close and smoky living conditions in the long houses. Hurons were on the whole healthy, however; the Jesuits believed that the Huron were "more healthy than we".
The earliest written accounts of the Huron were made by the French, who began exploring North America in the 16th century. News of the newcomers reached the Huron, particularly when Samuel de Champlain explored the saint Lawrence River in the early 1600s, and some Hurons decided to go and meet the Europeans for themselves. Atironta, the principal headman of the Arendarhonon tribe, went to Quebec and made an alliance with the French in 1609.
The total population of the Huron at the time of European contact has been estimated on average at about 20,000 to 40,000 people. From 1634 to 1640, Hurons were devastated by European diseases such as measles and smallpox, and numerous villages and areas were permanently abandoned. About two-thirds of the population died in the epidemics, decreasing the population to about 12,000.
Before the French arrived, the Huron had already been in conflict with the Iroquois to the south. Once the European powers became involved, this conflict intensified significantly. The French allied with the Huron, because they were the most advanced trading nation at the time.The Iroquois tended to ally with the English, who took advantage of their hatred of the Huron and their new French allies. The introduction of European weapons increased the severity of wars, and, by about 1650, the Iroquois had almost completely destroyed the Huron tribes. The Jesuit mission of sainte-Marie among the Hurons, near modern Midland,Ontario, was one focus of Iroquois attacks, and many of the Jesuit missionaries were killed ; the mission was eventually burned on abandonment by the Jesuits, so as to prevent capture in 1649. After relocating and spending the bitter winter of 1649-50 on gahoendoe, some Huron relocated near Quebec City and settled at Wendake,Quebec, becoming the Huron-Wendat Nation.
In the late 17th century, elements of the Huron Confederacy and the Petuns joined together and became known as the "Wyandot" (or "Wyandotte"), which is a variation of Wendat. The western Wyandot eventually re-established themselves in the area of Ohio and southern Michigan. Some Wyandot of the Wyandot Nation of Anderdon still live in Michigan. However, most of the surviving people were displaced through Indian removal in the early 19th century, and today a large population of Wyandot (over 4,000) can be found in eastern Kansas and Oklahoma.
In June 1853 Big Turtle, a chief of the Wyandot tribe, wrote to the Ohio State Journal regarding the current condition of his tribe. The Wyandots received nearly $127,000 in 1845. Big Turtle noted that in the spring of 1850 the tribal chiefs retroceded the granted land to the government. $100,000 of the proceeds was invested in 5% government stock. Removed from Ohio to the Indian Territory, the Wyandot tribe had good libraries along with two thriving Sabbath Schools. They were in the process of organizing a division of the Sons of Temperance and maintained a sizable Temperance Society. Big Turtle commented on the agricultural yield, which produced an annual surplus for market. He said that the Wyandot's general thrift exceeded that of any tribe north of the Arkansas line. The Wyandot nation was contented and happy, and enjoyed better living conditions than formerly in Ohio.
A United States government treaty ceded the Wyandot Nation a small portion of fertile land located in an acute angle of the Missouri River and Kansas River. In addition the government granted thirty-two floating sections which were located on public lands west of the Mississippi River.By 1855 the number of Wyandots had diminished to 600 or 700. On August 14 of that year the Wyandot nation elected a chief, using polls which were located at a lodge about 200 yards from the confluence of the Kansas River and the Missouri River. The Kansas correspondent of the Missouri Republican reported that the judges of the election were three elderly braves, who were trusted by their peers. Some of the floating sections were offered for sale on the same day at a price of $800. A section was composed of 640 acres (2.6 km2). Altogether 20,480 acres (82.9 km2) were sold for $25,600. They were located in Kansas, Nebraska, and unspecified sites. Surveys were not required, with the title becoming complete at the time of location.
An October 1855 article in the New York Times reported that the Wayandots were free and without restrictions placed on other tribes. Their leaders were unanimously Pro Slavery, which meant 900 or 1,000 additional votes in opposition to the Free State movement of Kansas.
The last of the original Wyandot of Ohio was Margaret "Grey Eyes" Solomon, a.k.a. "Mother Solomon". The daughter of Chief John Grey Eyes, she was born in 1816 and departed Ohio in 1843. She had returned to Ohio by 1889 when she was a spectator to the restoration of the Wyandot's "Old Mission Church," a Wyandot Mission Church at Upper Sandusky. She died in Upper Sandusky on August 17, 1890.
In more modern times,in February 1985 the U.S. government agreed to pay descendants of the Wyandot Indians $5.5 million. The decision settled a 143-year-old treaty which forced the tribe to sell their Ohio homes for less than fair value in 1842. A spokesman for the Bureau of Indian affairs said that the government would pay $1,600 each, in July 1985, to 3,600 people in Kansas and Oklahoma who could prove they are Wyandot descendants. A program founded in the 1940s to address grievances filed by various Native American tribes allocated $800 million to rectify promises broken by settlers who invaded their territories. The Wyandot settlement was based on an 1830 Federal law which required Native Americans to move west of the Mississippi River. Originally the Wyandots were paid .75 cents per acre for land that was worth $1.50 an acre.
In 1999, representatives of the far-flung Wyandot bands of Quebec, Kansas, Oklahoma and Michigan gathered at their historic homeland in Midland, Ontario, and formally re-established the Wendat Confederacy.
Each modern Wyandot community is a self-governing band:
Huron-Wendat Nation just outside Quebec City called Wendake, with some 3,000 members
Wyandot Nation of Anderdon in Michigan, with headquarters in Trenton,Michigan and perhaps 800 members
Wyandot Nation of Kansas, with headquarters in Kansas City,Kansas, with perhaps 400 members
Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma in Wyandotte,Oklahoma, with between 3,000 and 4,000
The Kansas and Oklahoma groups have fought legal battles over the Huron Indian Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas for over 100 years, and continue to do so in the 21st century. The local Wyandots wish to preserve the 400 plus grave cemetery, while the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma wants to use the land to establish commercial gambling.
The approximately 3,000 Wyandots in Quebec are primarily Catholic and speak French as a first language. There are now efforts to promote the use and study of the Wyandot language. For many decades, a leading source of income for the Wyandots of Quebec has been selling pottery and other locally produced crafts