There is no use denying the fact that some peoples who have their unique history can teach us a lot and be rather interesting for investigation. The Haudenosaunee belongs to these peoples. They reside in the lake region and Mohawk Valley of northern New York state in America. The climate of the area where they live is temperate, with four seasons. Mild winter and long and warm summer suggest ideal conditions for growing crops.
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There is a great number of different plants here. “Forests of pine, spruce, hemlock, cedar, ash, elm, maple, oak, chestnut, and hickory clothe the hills and fertile valleys” (Murdock 1934:1). Moreover, there are many animals like “bear, deer, moose, wolf, fox, cougar, lynx, raccoon, otter, porcupine, opossum, beaver, skunk, badger, hare, rabbit, and squirrel” (Murdock 1934:1). which promotes the development of hunting.
That is why it is possible to say that hunting and fishing are the main sources of food for them. Moreover, they gather and eat mushrooms In autumn they collect different nuts and add them to their ration. Additionally, they eat grapes and various eggs. Additionally, they use different tools like bone hooks and bows. However, the main source for their survival is the cultivation of plants. They use primitive wooden hoe with a sharpened tortoises shell. They also use chipped stone tools. Moreover, they carry all things on their backs. Using the burden strap across their forehead they carry different things. It should also be said that they live in large communal houses which are rather long to provide shelter for many people. Besides, the Haudenosaunee do not make clothes, they just use skins of animals.
It should also be mentioned that they have a certain distributional pattern for labor. Representatives of every gender and age group are given a certain task. Men are hunters while women cultivate the land and cook. However, the property is communal and if some family is in need, it will be helped by another one, that is why their society could be called a stratified one.
Their family structure is also interesting. The Haudenosaunee live in families where a husband and wife have the same rights. The husband always goes to live with his wife. The woman is not inferior to man and she can do whatever she wants. In case if a man wants to leave the hose he can take only his things with him, no matter how many children or things the family has. Moreover, they have the maternal line of descent which means that there is a woman who traces the descent according to the female line an all children belong to the family of a woman. Several descents, who have the same animal spirit as their guide, are united in a great kin group.
The laws of the Haudenosaunee forbid marriages within this large group. Moreover, the partners could divorce at any time. If a woman wants it she just tells her husband to leave and a man goes to his mothers house. With this in mind, it is possible to say that men and women are equal in the Haudenosaunee, however, a woman is taken as the head of the descent. This pattern differs from the American one where a man is the head of the family and has great power over women.
Such family structure influences the political life of the Haudenosaunee. There are five political units peculiar for Haudenosaunee. They have their territory and a certain council that represents different kin groups. Thus, being quite autonomous, these political units are united in the League of the Haudenosaunee. The main aim of this council is to protect peace and control the issue of blood revenge. However, five great sachems are responsible for judicial, executive, and legislative authorities.
The institution of sachemship is hereditary and it follows the female line. This privilege is given not only to large kin groups, however, the smaller also has it. Thus, within the household this post is elective and people can choose a sachem. The power of these sachems is limited by the federal council which can depose sachems who are taken as not worthy. Moreover, the matron of the household is also able to replace the sachem after two warnings.
That is why they do not have absolute power. The Council also has the power to proclaim wars and defend the Hodenosaunee if some other people threaten them. Nevertheless, they also perform the duties of the court and judge people who are blamed for some fault.
As a great number of other tribes, the Haudenosaunee believes in the power of spirits which help them in their medicine, religious practices, and rituals, and everyday life. They believe in magic, which is also exercised with the help of spirits. They can cure a sick person both with the help of traditional means, as bleeding and also with the help of magic, especially if the disease is said to appear due to the hostile influence. They create a special ceremony that is said to help a person to get rid of a disease of a curse. Talking about the religion of the Haudenosaunee it is possible to say that it is shamanistic as they believe in spirits that guide people.
Murdock, George. 1934. “The Hodenosaunee”. Our Primitive Contemporaries. New York: MacMillan.