Iroquois Indians Term Paper

  • Length: 4 pages
  • Subject: Native Americans
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #99002200

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Iroquois Indians

The position of American Indians is peculiar today in view of their position as a protected species today. At the same time, when they were independent they had a distinct identity. We are here to discuss the Iroquois and in certain respects even in earlier times they were very modern in their outlook. Their law and custom allowed members of the tribe to freely express their opinions in political and religious matters. It did not permit others to enter the homes. It permitted the participation in politics by women to a certain extent and distributed wealth in a reasonable manner. The description of the position of Iroquois is not enough, but one has to know that they were then in touch with the leaders of the forces of white Americans led by Benjamin Franklin. This led to a situation where there was a free experiment regarding democracy when the white leaders were still searching for an alternative to the British to rule the country. The position of the Iroquois was very important in America as they were the most powerful of the Indian tribes in eastern North America and occupied an important position between the two powers fighting to occupy the continent -- French in the St. Lawrence Valley and the English on the eastern seaboard. (Forgotten Founders)

There were only about a million Americans from English origin who lived then in the communities spread on the coast and they were totally surrounded by Indians who were spread all along the inland areas. Yet the study of Iroquois and there system of government began only with Lewis Henry Morgan who is known as the father of American anthropology. His first study was of their social organization in "League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee" or Iroquois in 1851. According to him they had a remarkable civil organization and had the highest civil organization among all races of Indian lineage except those in Mexico and Peru. He found that they had federalism similar to the then united British colonies and he had written "The [six] nations sustained nearly the same relation to the [Iroquois] league that the American states bear to the Union. In the former, several oligarchies were contained within one, in the same manner as in the latter; several republics are embraced in one republic." (Forgotten Founders) This league was a very old institution and was placed by the Iroquois through their system of oral history and use of family ancestries as having started between 100 AD and 1400 Ad. The general picture given by the historians of Americans with European origin is around 1450 AD. This was certainly an achievement in those years.

Let us now look at the religious belief of the Iroquois. This is fixed in terms of fables and the origin of the world is now being described. There was an island floating in the sky before the world was created, and the people were the Sky People who lived happily there. There were no changes in the people due to births or deaths and there was also no sadness. Then one day a woman realized that she was going to give birth to twins, and then informed her husband. This irritated her husband, who became very angry. With the great anger, he tore up a tree which existed in the middle of the island to give light to all parts of the island as there was no sun. After the tree was removed, then there was a great hole in the middle of the island. This aroused the curiosity of the woman and she peeked into the hole. This let her see the waters of the earth a great distance below which were then covering the earth. The angry husband chose this moment to push her into the hole and the woman fell through that hole towards the earth. There were already animals in the water and there were birds which were flying around. Two of them noticed the fall of the Sky Woman. They wanted to help her and caught her on their backs in course of her fall. (Iroquois Creation Myth)

This brought her to the other animals, and the animals tried to help her by getting mud from the bottom of the sea. All other animals failed, but a Little Toad finally succeeded to get some mud from the bottom in his beak. This mud was then spread on the back of the Big Turtle and the mud started to grow and grow. This resulted in the formation of North America. The existence of land finally permitted the Woman to step on it. She took some dust and spread it into the air to come out with some stars. After that she created the moon and the Sun. Later on the Sky woman gave birth to the sons which started this entire action. One of them was named as Sapling and the other was named as Flint. Sapling grew up to be kind and of a helping nature, and started creating items to fill up the world, while the brother was a cold hearted individual and gave birth to all harmful items. At the end there was a fight between the two to control the world. This fight went on for a long time and finally the victor was Sapling. Flint did not die as he was a god, and is still somewhere on the back of the Big Turtle. When he gets angry, there are the eruptions from volcanoes. (Iroquois Creation Myth)

This makes it clear that their religion is very different from the modern varieties of religions existing in the world today in the form of different types of monotheisms. Even the fact that they exist today with their religion is a sign that they are offering a lot of resistance to change, and are thus a blocking point for the entire process of globalization that is sweeping the world. Their religion is a form of resistance to domination by the majority through a resistance in the form of culture. This is being tried by the entire group of American Indians through their own institutions of tribal colleges of whom now 33 exist as per the latest figures of 2000. (The Futures of Indigenous Peoples: 9-11 and the Trajectory of Indigenous Survival and Resistance)

These are institutions of higher education at the level of junior colleges and run by the Native American groups. Their difference from the other regular courses is in terms of the courses that they offer to the students in terms of culture, language, craft and customs. The courses in language are an attempt by the society to get new speakers of a language that is no longer in general usage, and that may be looked at as an important part of the functioning of these colleges. Thus one can say that these colleges are methods of preserving the ancient culture of these groups. The results from these colleges reflect only the performance of the concerned American Indians and cannot be compared to the results of other colleges. The performance of the American Indians is not classified as a separate category for school education. (The Life and Writings of Dewitt Clinton)

The Iroquois in the past, before the Anglo-Americans came in touch with them are only through their channels of oral history and tradition. These are not perfect in terms of information. At the same time it is well-known that they were a warlike nation and have led to the total disappearance of the Eries or Erigas who were residents of the south side of Lake Erie and thus giving the lake its name. They have also had great victories over the Andastez and the Chouanon, as also the Huron. They drove out the Huron along with…

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