Iroquois, Or Six Nations, a confederation of Indians formerly occupying central New York, and exercising controlling influence over all surrounding tribes. They consisted when first known to the French of five nations: the Ag-megue (called Maquas or Mohawks by their Algonquin neighbors), the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. Lakes or rivers bearing these names still mark the places of their residence. As a league they called themselves Ho-denosaunee or Hotinonsionni, meaning " they form a cabin." Of this cabin the fire was in the centre at Onondaga, and the Mohawk was the door. Each tribe had its name as a collection of individuals, and a symbolical name as a body corporate; thus the Mohawk tribe was the She Bear. According to their own tradition, they resided on the St. Lawrence as far down as Gaspe, but were driven back south of Lake Ontario by the Algonquin tribes. From this it may be inferred that those found by Cartier at Montreal in 1534 were really Iroquois. Soon afterward the Susquehannas, a kindred tribe, nearly exterminated the Mohawks. When Champlain began to settle Canada he found the Iroquois at war with all the Canada Indians, from the Hurons on Lake Huron to the Micmacs in the gulf of St. Lawrence. In May, 1609, Champlain with some Hurons and Montagnais defeated an Iroquois force on Lake Champlain. In 1615 he joined the Hurons in an expedition against a town not far from Onondaga. But the Iroquois made a firm peace with the Dutch, and, obtaining firearms, invaded Canada in 1621. They also made war on the Mohegans, and killed the Dutch commander at Albany, who had joined their enemies.
When the French recovered Canada in 1632 they found the Iroquois dominant. In 1639 they destroyed a town of the Dinondadies; in 1642 they cut off all communication between the Hurons and the French, defeated a large party, and captured a Jesuit missionary. They made peace in 1645, but renewed the war in 1646, killing Father Jogues and Piskaret, a great Montagnais chief. They then beset the French and their allies with large forces, compelling the Hurons to abandon some towns. Others were taken by storm in 1648-'9, and numbers of the Hurons perished with their missionaries. One whole division of the Hurons submitted and were incorporated among the Senecas. The Iroquois then subdued the Dinondadies and the Neutral nation. In 1651 they nearly annihilated the Attikamegues and besieged Three Rivers, killing the French governor of the town. They then absorbed many of the fugitive Hurons who had taken refuge with the French; but being pressed by the Eries and Susquehannas, they made peace with the French, who began a settlement at Onondaga in 1655. They also renewed their alliance with the Dutch. While French missionaries were laboring to convert them, they crushed the Eries, Tiogas, and other tribes, and carried their operations from the Abenakis on the east to the Illinois on the west and the Susquehannas on the south.
They soon made war on the French and defied New England. Garakonthie, the Onondaga chief, restored peace with the French in 1665, although the Mohawks and Oneidas kept up the war till 1666, when the French twice invaded the Mohawk country. Then for a time French missions were renewed in their country. They subdued the Susquehannas in 1675 after a long war, and attacked the Shawnees and Mohegans. The English as masters of New York began to use the Iroquois to carry out their designs; they sent them against the Illinois, Miamis, and Ottawas, in order to subdue those tribes and control the fur trade. The French under De la Barre and Denonville invaded the Iroquois cantons in 1684 and 1687. Though peace was made in 1688, the Iroquois the next year attacked and destroyed Lachine in Canada, killing 200, which led the French to retaliate by destroying Schenectady in 1690. The Iroquois took part in English operations against Canada in 1690 and 1691, but the French in 1693 and 1696 ravaged the Mohawk and Onondaga territory. This war was very destructive to the league, which lost 1,500 out of 2,800 fighting men, and became averse to further hostilities.
Their next operations were against southern tribes, the Conoys, Tuteloes, Choc-taws, and Oatawbas; but they took in the kindred Tuscaroras as a sixth nation, though without sachems. The French gave up all claim to the Iroquois in 1713, gathering their converts in villages on the St. Lawrence, where they still exist at Oaughnawaga, Lake of the Two Mountains, and St. Regis. In the wars between England and France, which deprived the latter of Canada, the Iroquois were generally neutral, although, influenced by Sir William Johnson, they joined in the campaign against Dieskau, in which the Mohawks lost their chief Hen-drick, and also served against Niagara. Alarmed at the progress made by the English, the Iroquois joined Pontiac and slaughtered many of them at Beaver Creek, Venango, Fort Pitt, and on the Niagara. Johnson finally renewed treaties with them in 1764 and 1766, and in 1768 by the treaty of Fort Stanwix obtained, for £10,460 7s. 3d, a grant of all lands not within a line which whites were not to pass, running from the mouth of the Tennessee to the Delaware. English authority being now supreme, vigorous attempts were made to convert them to Christianity, the previous efforts having met with little success. The Episcopal church made an enduring conquest in the Mohawk tribe.
Yet the Iroquois were not all peaceful. A part of the western Iroquois were in arms in 1774, and fought against the whites at the battle of Point Pleasant, one of the fiercest in border history. "When the American revolution began, the Iroquois led by the Johnsons adhered to the crown, while the French Iroquois in Canada inclined to the cause of the United States. Led by Brant, the Iroquois defeated several parties of troops and massacred the people at Wyoming and Cherry Valley. Col. Butler retaliated by destroying Unadilla and Oghkwaga, and Gen. Sullivan in 1779 ravaged their western cantons; but Brant in turn scourged the frontiers and punished the Oneidas, who were friendly to the Americans. The close of the war left the Iroquois at the mercy of the exasperated Americans, and nearly all emigrated except the Oneidas and Tuscaroras, settling on Grand river, Canada. By the treaty of Fort Stanwix, Oct 23, 1784, the United States confirmed the Oneidas and Tuscaroras in their lands, and guaranteed to the other tribes the lands in their actual possession, on their ceding to the general government all W. of a line beginning on Lake Ontario at the mouth of Oyonwayea creek, running S. to the mouth of Buffalo creek, and thence to the N. line of Pennsylvania, which it followed W. and S. to the Ohio. This was confirmed by the treaties of 1789, 1790, and 1794. New York in 1785 and 1788 purchased the lands of the Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas, and Cayugas, except a reservation for each.
The Mohawks had removed to Canada; the Cayugas broke up in 1795, some joining the Senecas, some going to Canada, and some to the west. In 1826 and 1839 all the Seneca land except the Tonawanda reservation was sold, it is asserted, by persons holding no power in the tribe. In 1840,430 Oneidas and 500 Senecas emigrated to Canada. In 1820 some Oneidas settled at Green bay, where they purchased lands. A party of several tribes was lured beyond the Missouri in 1846, but nearly all perished. Some Senecas who had joined the Shawnees were more fortunate. The war of 1812 arrayed the English and American Iroquois against each other; but they have since been at peace. - While the league subsisted, each tribe was divided into families, those of the Bear, Wolf, and Tortoise in all the tribes, and others in some only. Each family had certain sachemships hereditary in the female line. These sachems formed the ruling body of the league, Onondaga being the central point or council fire, and the Atotarho or Sagochienda-guete, the head Onondaga sachem, being the chief of the league. No one could marry in his own tribe; the children belonged to the mother's tribe. Their cosmogony was that of the Hurons, and they worshipped Agreskoi by offerings of flesh, tobacco, and human sacrifice.
They honored genii or spirits, especially those of maize, pumpkins, and beans. After the labors of the French missionaries, God, under the name Niio (Dieu) or Hawenniio (He is the master), seems to have been the object of worship among the so-called pagan party. They interred the dead temporarily, and every tenth year collected all the remains in one long grave lined with furs, adding kettles, arms, etc. Prisoners were either adopted or tortured and put to death at the stake. The men wore a breech cloth, the women a short petticoat, and both wore moc-casons, leggins, and in colder weather a fur mantle. The nouses were of bark laid over an arched arbor-like frame. In their greatest prosperity they numbered not more than 15,-000, and they are now, according to the official American and Canadian reports of 1873, 13,660, distributed as follows: 7,034 in Canada, viz., 759 Mohawks on Quinte bay, 2,992 of the Six Nations on Grand river, 633 Oneidas on the Thames, 1,491 Caughnawagas at Sault St. Louis, 911 at St. Regis, and about 250 at the lake of the Two Mountains; 6,626 in the United States, viz., 5,141 Senecas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Cayugas, Tuscaroras, and St. Regis in New York, 1,279 Oneidas at Green bay, and 206 Senecas in the Quapaw agency.
The most eminent men of the nation were Garakon-thie, the friend of the French, Dekanisora, Ta-werahe, Kryn or the Great Mohawk, Hendrick, Cornplanter, Farmer's Brother, Brant, Red Jacket, Ganeodiyo, the prophet and reformer of the heathen band, Dr. Wilson, Col. Ely S. Parker, who served on Grant's staff and became commissioner of Indian affairs, and Cusick, a Tuscarora, who wrote a curious account of early Iroquois traditional history. The missions of various bodies have made most of the Iroquois Christians; the Mohawks and Oneidas are Episcopalians; the villages near Montreal are Catholics; Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists have also made converts. The language of the tribes was first reduced to grammatical form by the Jesuit Bruyas, who also made a dictionary of the "Radical Words of the Mohawk Language" (New York, 1862); an Onondaga dictionary by an unknown French author was printed in New York in 1860; and a sketch of Iroquois grammar by the Rev. Mr. Cuoq in his Etudes philologiques sur quelques langues sauvages (Montreal, 1866). A very full grammar and dictionary by the Rev. Mr. Marcoux remains unpublished. "The Book of Common Prayer " has been several times printed in Mohawk, and prayer books and devotional treatises in the Caughnawaga dialect; and some portions of the Bible in Mohawk and Seneca. - The special works on the tribe are Cusick's "Sketches of Ancient History of the Six Nations " (Tuscarora, 1826); Colden's " History of the Five Nations" (NewYork, 1727; reprinted, 1866; London, 1747,1755); Morgan's "League of the Iroquois" (Rochester, 1851); Schoolcraft's " Notes on the Iroquois " (New York, 1846); "The Iroquois, or the Bright Side of Indian Character," by Minnie Myrtle (Anna C. Johnson) (New York, 1855); Stone's "Life of Brant" (2 vols. 8vo, 1838, 1864) and "Life of Red Jacket" (1841, 1866); and Williams, "Life of Tehoraguanegen, alias Thomas Williams" (1859).