Travel guides to colonial america

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Teaching American History 2

For Participants in the Summer Institute, 2007

Colonial Communities and Institutions

Grade 5
Description of the Travel Guide

In groups, teachers in the Summer Institute will produce Travel Guides to various regions of Colonial America. These travel guides will serve as resources/models for 5th grade students, who will in turn do their own research and create their own guides. Each Travel Guide will focus on one of these geographical areas (from HSS standard 5.1): the Great Plains, the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast /Atlantic Coast, the Mississippi Corridor, and the Desert Southwest. The Travel Guides will contain descriptions of the communities that developed and changed over a period of approximately 300 (1500 to the early 1800s) in each region.
Travel Guide Chapters

  • There are three chapters in each regional Travel Guide. The chapters focus on these chronological eras in the region (approximately; may change slightly from group to group):

Chapter 1: 1500s

Chapter 2: 1600s

Chapter 3: 1700s

  • Each chapter describes:

a. the various cultural groups that lived in that area during the target time period (HSS 5.1, 5.2, 5.3)

b. the environment and resources of the area, as well as the political, cultural, social, and economic institutions that evolved and changed over the time period (HSS 5.1, 5.3, 5.4) as new people arrived and the communities grew.

Culminating Activity:
In addition to completing the Travel Guide (written component),

each group will present a travelogue about their region, including a multi-part diorama (visual component) and a series of 3 narratives (oral component).

Lesson Plan for


Northeastern Woodlands in the 1500s


Elizabeth Harmuth, Denise Koons, Bianca Hill, Maureen McCullough

Teaching American History 2

Summer Institute 2007
I. Lesson objective:

Students will create their own travel guides and travelogues, demonstrating that they understand the economic, social, cultural, environmental and political factors that influenced the people living in various regions of North America during the colonial era, and the ways communities changed and evolved over that time period. Students will be working in groups to complete individual tasks, share out with their peers, and to create a final product together.

II. Standards addressed
a. History/Social Studies: 5.1, 5.2.4, 5.3, 5.4

b. English/Language Arts: R 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.5; W 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.3; LC 1.0; LS 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, S 2.1, 2.2

III. Instructional Activities
a. Into
1. Introduce geography: Using a map of North America, point out areas that were claimed by various European powers. Show the location of the specific region and community they will be studying.

2. If you have a class timeline, show where the focus time period is located and mark it on the timeline.

3. Show film clip or pictures showing the type of environment in the region. Have the students say what environmental features and resources they see in the film or pictures; write their responses on chart paper.

4. Ask students to talk to a partner about these questions: "What would be good about living in this place? What would be bad?" Discuss their responses.

5. Continue to set the stage and build interest by letting them know generally what they will be learning about: explain a little about the community, the overall political situation in the region during the time period, some intriguing questions and facts, etc. If you wish, do a KWL chart.

6. Explain the final project: show them a completed Travel Guide as a model, give a short narration as an example of their oral presentations, and explain the diorama project. It would be good to show them a completed diorama as an example, or a slide of one.

7. Introduce vocabulary: some or all of the underlined words in all the Information Sheets (see Resources.) Post them on your focus wall along with pictures, synonyms, antonyms and/or regalia. Continue to refer to these words throughout the lesson. Below is one technique you can use to teach the academic vocabulary.

Have students use a vocabulary square in order to learn new vocabulary terms. A sample sheet is attached to the end of this lesson plan. On this sheet students are asked to complete four tasks. The first task is to identify the root of the word, part of speech, and use the word in a sentence, in the second box they will write any variations of the word they find, in the third box they will draw a picture or logo to represent the term, and in the fourth they will define the term. Students can use a dictionary (book or online reference) to locate this information.

b. Through

1. Students will work in 5 groups to research one of these themes: economy, environment, culture, society or politics in the focus region during the focus century. Form groups and pass out the rubric, the note-taking guides and e-sheets to each one. You might give them each a two-pocket folder to keep everything in.

2. Differentiation: below is one strategy you can use to adapt your lesson for EL, Special Populations, or Challenge students, or those with different learning modalities (kinesthetic, musical, visual, mechanical, etc.)

Have students create a 3-D Northeastern Woodlands Development Unit adapted from Professor Jolly’s Great Plains development unit. Please see the TAH2 website link to “Shared Lesson Plans and Strategies,” Number 1. Evolution of the Great Plains Cultures & Environments by Professor Jolly

3. Allow students time to research their particular theme. They can use websites, books, primary documents and pictures supplied by the teacher. They should record information they find on their e-sheets using the websites specified, and/or on their note-taking guides. Teacher should help students skim and scan books for information, using District/School approved methods and techniques for accessing expository text.

4. After they have had time to do their own research, teacher may choose to give each group, or certain groups, a copy of the teacher-made Information Sheet on the group's theme. They can use it to add to, correct, and/or edit their information for accuracy (NOT to copy the information!).

5. Student groups use the information in their note guides and e-sheets to write their “chapters” of the Travel Guide on the theme they researched. These will be similar in format and content to the teacher-made Information Sheets. Here you can refer to the lesson in the Houghton Mifflin 5th grade Language Arts text for a "Research Report," found in the Reading/Writing Workshop for Theme 5, "One Land, Many Trails."

6. Students prepare short oral reports/narratives based on their research. Here you can refer to the lesson for an "Oral Report" found in Selection 3 of Theme 5 in the 5th grade H.M. Language Arts text.

7. Student groups create multi-part dioramas illustrating the ways in which the environment, economy, society, culture or politics changed and evolved during the time period. They may draw, or create replicas of, images and artifacts.

8. Each group's final product will have three parts: (1) and (2), the diorama and oral presentation (“Travelogue”), and (3) the written "Travel Guide" itself.
c. Beyond

1. ASSESSMENT: All of the student groups present their Travelogues to the rest of the class at the same time in a gallery-walk format. One or two students from each group remain at the diorama and give the oral report on their theme; members of the other groups are assigned to listen to them. At a signal from the teacher, students switch so all have a chance to give the report and see all the dioramas. Students who are listening use the Student Evaluation Rubric to assess their peers' presentations.

2. Teachers can use rubrics in the adopted Language Arts text to score the written Travel Guide.

3. After the groups have presented, and everything is scored, all of the "chapters" can be stapled together to make a class book, "Travel Guide to......"

4. Students can find out what is happening in their geographic region today by searching newspapers, the web, magazines, etc. for information about current people, or environmental/economic/societal/political issues. Create an interactive bulletin board with information that students bring in.

5. Is there an important environmental issue faced by the region today that your students can investigate? Can you link that to the 5th grade science standards?

IV. Resources

Below is a list of all the texts, research books, websites, magazine articles, pictures, videos, posters, artifacts, etc. that are useful for this lesson.

American Indian Resource Directory -
Bol, Dr. Marsha C. American Indians and the Natural World 1998
Carnegie Museum of Natural History 1998 south east west/iroquois/index.htm
De-Ka-Nah-Wi-Da & Hiawatha. Retrieved 6-24-07.
Graymont, B. The Iroquois. Chelsea House Publishers: USA. 1988.
Hanks, C. & Ferguson, J. Iroquois Arts.

www.iroquoismuseum/gift.htm. Retrieved 6-22-07.
Iroquois. World Culture Encyclopedia. expressive-culture.htm. Retrieved 6-22-07.
Josephy, Alvin M. Jr. 500 Nations an Illustrated History of North American Indians Alfred A Knopf Inc. New York 1994
Kalman, Bobbie. Life in a Longhouse Village. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001.
Mann, Charles. 1491 New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York. Vintage Books.2006.
Maxwell, James A. Readers Digest Fascinating Indian Heritage. Pleasantville, New York. Readers Digest Assoc. 1978
Reader’s Digest. America’s Fascinating Indian Heritage The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1978
Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. The Iroquois: A First Americans Book. New York, NY: Holiday House. 1995.
Sultzman, L. Iroquois History. Retrieved 6-22-07.
Welker, Glenn. Indigenous Peoples’ Literature. 9 Sept. 1998
Wolfson, Evelyn. The Iroquois People of the Northeast. Brookfield, CT. Millbrook Press. 1992.

V. Attachments

1. Student rubric

2. Student e-sheets

3. Teacher-made information sheets on these themes

a. Culture & the Haudenosaunee Creation Story

b. Politics

c. Society

d. Environment

e. Economy

4. Vocabulary Square
Student Name: ________________

Which group are you evaluating?

___ politics ___ environment

___ economy ___ society ___ culture
As you look at this group's diorama and listen to them talk, answer these questions:
1. What did you learn from the group's oral presentation?
2. What questions do you have after hearing the oral presentation?
3. Does the diorama show how the community changed because of the influence of the group's theme?
Yes_____ No______
5. What things in the diorama show the changes?

6. What is missing from the diorama, or what questions do you have about it?

Group Members: Elizabeth Harmuth

Bianca Hill

Maureen McCullough

Denise Koons

Period: NE 1500s

Date: Wednesday June 27, 2007

Haudenosaunee Environment: 1500s

State Standard: Grade 5 HSS 5.1

Task One: There were two type of forest habitats found in the Northeast in the 1500’s. One of these was a temperate deciduous forest. Go to and answer the following questions about these habitats.
1. What is the average temperature and precipitation (rainfall) in a temperate deciduous forest?
2. Describe the soil in a deciduous forest and name three deciduous trees.
3. Look at the pictures of animals found in a deciduous forest and list three that might have been used as a source of food or clothing for the Haudenosaunee.
Task Two: Another type of forest environment would be a coniferous forest. Go to and find the following information.
1. What two types of coniferous forests are there?
2. Name three evergreen conifer trees found in boreal forests.
3. Name five animals you might find in a coniferous forest.
Task Three: A third type of habitat that was important to the Haudenosaunee people were riparian zones. Go to and answer the following question.
1. What is a riparian zone?
2. What does riparian vegetation provide?
3. What kinds of animals need riparian zones to survive?

Group Members: Elizabeth Harmuth

Bianca Hill

Maureen McCullough

Denise Koons

Period: NE 1500s

Date: Wednesday June 27, 2007

Haudenosaunee "IROQUOIS"

Society: 1500s

State Standard: 5.1 Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River.

Task One: The beginnings of the Iroquois people and their Nation are told through a story, look at the following website:

1. Name the original five great tribes? Where were they living?

2. Read the story of the Five Nations. How does the legend explain their beginning and their connection to the earth?

3. The Iroquois society's survival depended on many things does the legend reflect that? Explain

Task Two: Men and women were considered equals, with very different elements and very different responsibilities, and each was necessary to make life complete. Also, the plants and animals played an important role in their lives. Go to:

1. Click on The Three Sisters at the bottom.

What were the Three Sisters? Who granted these gifts to the Iroquois?

2. Click <then click on In the Forest.

What were the roles of the Iroquois men and how did they play an important part of the Iroquois' survival?
3. The Iroquois people organized themselves according to the model of the animal world.

Explain what a clan is and the connection to the animal world?

4. Think about a clan animal for you and your family.

You can illustrate your clan animal on paper using colored pencil or paint. OR create the animal with other materials, such as clay.

On a 3x5 card explain your clan animal's connection to you and your family.

Task Three: Children were taught about their culture from their parents and grandparents. The girls would learn skills with their mothers, while the boys had a little more independence to learn hunting and survival skills on their own or with other boys.

Refer to the information sheet on Iroquois Society to answer the following questions.

1. What important role may a young Iroquois girl have when she becomes adult?

2. Why were the Iroquois boys often learning on their own? Do you think the boys learned more this way? Why or why not?

3. When a boy reached his teens, what event took place and who played a role in this event? Why would this time be so important for an Iroquois boy?

Group Members: Elizabeth Harmuth

Bianca Hill

Maureen McCullough

Denise Koons

Period: NE 1500s

Date: Wednesday June 27, 2007

Haudenosaunee Culture: 1500s

State Standard: Grade 5 HSS 5.1

Task One: The Haudenosaunee did not have a set, ritualized religion. Look at to answer the following questions:
1. Did the Haudenosaunee believe in a creator? If so, who was this?
2. How did the Haudenosaunee honor their creator?

Task Two: The Haudenosaunee had a variety of arts. Look at to answer the following:
1. What were two types of art practiced?
2. Who produces the art?

Task Three: The Haudenosaunee had a False Face ceremony. Look at to answer the following:
1. Why was the False Face ceremony used?
2. How were the False Face masks carved?
Group Members: Elizabeth Harmuth

Bianca Hill

Maureen McCullough

Denise Koons

Period: NE 1500s

Date: Wednesday June 27, 2007

Politics and the Haudenosaunee: 1500s

State Standard: Grade 5 HSS 5.1

Task One: Politics is an important part of every culture. Many times the politics are multi-layered. To answer the following information, go to: www.
1. How is the community governed?
2. Who is in charge?
3. Who makes the decisions for the community?
Task Two: Sometimes the rules of the community are written down, or passed down orally. Sometimes the rules are numerous and complicated; other times they are short and simple. To answer the following, go to:
1. What were the three most important rules in the Haudenosaunee’s Great Law of Peace?

Task Three: Leaders of a community are often honored in death. To answer the following, go to:
1. Why are the all the previous sachem’s names recited?
2. How many basic rituals are there in the Condolence ritual?
3. How many wampum strings are used?

Group Members: Elizabeth Harmuth

Bianca Hill

Maureen McCullough

Denise Koons

Period: NE 1500s

Date: Wednesday June 27, 2007

Haudenosaunee Economy: 1500s

State Standard: Grade 5 HSS 5.1

Task One: Resources

Go to this website to answer the following questions:
1. What resources are available in this region?
2. How did men and women in Haudenosaunee society use these resources?
3. How were the primary duties of men and women in Haudenosaunee society divided?

Task Two: How do people “make a living?”

Go to this website to answer the following question:
1. How did cooperative and collective organization help Haudenosaunee communities?
Task Three: Trade

Go to these two websites to answer the following questions:
1. Please describe how present-giving exchange works. Who participates in this exchange?
2. In your own words, please explain why you think trade within the Haudenosaunee Confederation was unnecessary.
3. What types of goods did Haudenosaunee men trade with other nations and what did they receive in exchange?
Information Sheets

The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederation in the 1500s


Elizabeth Harmuth

Bianca Hill

Denise Koons

Maureen McCallough

Teaching American History 2

Summer Institute 2007

Haudenosaunee “Iroquois” Culture in the 1500s
The Haudenosaunee were a matrilineal society. A person was born into her/his mother’s clan, and inherited the family and clan affiliation of her/his mother. Women owned all property and determined kinship. Each clan had a bird or animal as its name and symbol. Some of the clans were Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Snipe, Heron, Beaver, Deer, Eel, and Hawk. In charge of each clan were Clan Mothers. The Haudenosaunee were part of the Five Nations Confederacy (Kanonghsionni – Extended Lodge); all of the participating tribes were seen as one family.

The Haudenosaunee used visual art for many purposes. Clan symbols were carved or painted on gables of longhouses. Images on trees, grave posts, and war posts also recorded exploits in visual symbols. Tattoos and body painting were another common expression of visual art.

For many Haudenosaunee, carving in stone or sculpting in clay was a large part of the culture. Haudenosaunee carved wood flasks used in medicine rituals, but also carved everyday items such as antler decorative combs. Rarely did they create sculptures; rather their skills and artistic inspirations led them to decorate functional objects with carved images such as a bird on a spoon or face on a war club. Another art form was the False Face Mask. Used in the curing ceremonies of the False Face Societies, the masks were made of maple, white pine, basswood, and poplar. False Face Masks were first carved in a living tree, and then cut free, painted, and decorated. The masks represented spirits who reveal themselves to the mask maker in a prayer and tobacco-burning ritual performed before the mask was carved.

The religious world of the Haudenosaunee included numerous spirits, the most important of which was Great Spirit, who was responsible for the creation of human beings, the plants and animals, and the forces of good in nature. The Haudenosaunee believed that Great Spirit indirectly guided the lives of ordinary people. Other important spirits were Thunderer and the Three Sisters (maize, beans, and squash). Opposing the Great Spirit and the other forces of good were Evil Spirit and other lesser spirits responsible for disease and other misfortune. In the Haudenosaunee view, ordinary humans could not communicate directly with Great Spirit, but could indirectly do so by burning tobacco, which carried their prayers to the lesser spirits of good. The Haudenosaunee regarded dreams as important supernatural signs, and serious attention was given to interpreting dreams. It was believed that dreams expressed the desire of the soul, and as a result the fulfillment of a dream was of vital importance to the individual.

Religious ceremonies were tribal affairs. The six major ceremonies were the Maple, Planting, Strawberry, Green Maize, Harvest, and Mid-Winter or New Year's festivals. The first five in this series involved public confessions followed by group ceremonies which included speeches by the keepers of the faith, tobacco offerings, and prayer. The New Year's festival was usually held in early February and was marked by dream interpretations and the sacrifice of a white dog offered to purge the people of evil.

Illness and disease were attributed to supernatural causes. Curing ceremonies consisted of group shamanistic practices directed toward appeasing the responsible Supernatural agents. One of the curing groups was the False Face Society. These societies were found in each village and, except for a female keeper of the false faces who protected the ritual paraphernalia, consisted only of male members who had dreamed of participation in False Face ceremonies. Ceremonies not only unified the community in a common purpose and way of life but taught correct behavior and the origin of things.

The Haudenosaunee enjoyed a variety of games when their work was done. One of their favorite games was lacrosse. The Mohawk called the game teh hon tsi kwaks eks. The Onondaga called the game guh jee gwah ai.  The Oneida called the game ga lahs.  Players with rackets attempted to catch and throw a ball into a goal set at the end of large fields. In the winter the game was played on the ice. Occasionally the game was huge, with teams of several nations competing against each other.
Haudenosaunee Creation Story

Before our world came into being, human beings lived in the SkyWorld. Below the SkyWorld was a dark watery world with birds and animals swimming around. In the SkyWorld was the Celestial Tree from which all kinds of fruits and flowers grew. Today, the Shad tree is known as the Celestial Tree because it is the first flowering tree in the northeast in the springtime.

The wife of the Chief of the SkyWorld was called Skywoman. One night, Skywoman who was expecting a baby, had a dream in which the Celestial Tree was uprooted. When she told her husband the dream he realized that it was a very powerful message and that the people of the SkyWorld needed to do everything they could to make it come to pass.

Many of the young men in the SkyWorld tried with all their might to uproot the tree, but failed. Finally the Chief of the SkyWorld wrapped his arms around the tree and with one great effort he uprooted it. This left a great hole in the crust of the SkyWorld. Skywoman leaned over to look into the hole, lost her balance and fell into the hole. As she slipped she was able to grasp a handful of seeds from the branches of the Celestial Tree.

As Skywoman fell, the birds and animals in the water below saw her and decided that she would need help so that she would not be harmed. Geese flew up and caught her between their wings and began to lower her down toward the water. The animals saw that Skywoman was not like them and would not be able to survive in the water.

Each of the animals dove into the water trying to bring up earth from the bottom for Skywoman to land on. Many animals tried and failed. When it seemed like all had tried and failed, tiny muskrat vowed to bring up earth or die trying. She went down, deep, deep, deep, until she was almost unconscious, but was able to reach out with one small paw and grasped some earth before floating back to the top. When muskrat appeared with the Earth, the Great Turtle said it could be placed on his back. When the tiny bit of Earth was placed on Turtle's back, it began to grow larger and larger until it became the whole world.

The geese gently set Skywoman on the earth and she opened her hands to let the seeds fall on the soil. From the seeds grew the trees and grass and life on Earth had begun.

In time, Skywoman gave birth to a daughter, Tekawerahkwa, who grew to be a lovely young woman. A powerful being called West Wind fell in love with Tekawerahkwa and took her as his bride. In time she became pregnant with twins sons. Tekawerahkwa's sons were very different; one (Bad Mind) had skin as hard as flint and was argumentative and the other (Good Mind) was soft skinned and patient. Flint was impatient to be born and decided to use his sharp flint-like head to cut his way out of his mother's body. While his gentle brother was being born the natural way, Bad Mind was forcing his way through his mother's armpit which killed her. When Skywoman saw the lifeless body of her beautiful daughter she was terribly angry. She asked her grandsons who had done this awful thing and Bad Mind lied and placed the blame on his good brother, Good Mind. Skywoman believed him and banished Good Mind. Fortunately, Grandfather was watching Good Mind and came to his aid. Grandfather taught Good Mind all he needed to know about surviving on the earth and set him to work making the land beautiful.

Skywoman placed the head of her daughter in the night sky where she became Grandmother Moon and was given power over the waters. From her body grew our Three Sisters, corn, beans, and squash.

Good Mind made all the beauty on our earth - he created the rivers , the mountains, the trees. He taught the birds to sing and the water animals to dance. He made rainbows and soft rains.  Bad Mind watched his brother creating beauty and was envious. He set out to create the opposite of all the good his brother had made. He put dangerous rapids in the rivers, created destructive hurricanes and powerful tornadoes. When Good Mind planted medicinal plants, Bad Mind planted poisonous roots and deadly berries.

One day, while Good Mind was away creating more things of beauty, Bad Mind stole all the animals and hid them in a big cave. When Good Mind returned to find that all of his creatures were gone he was very sad. A tiny mouse told him what his brother had done, so Good Mind went to the cave and caused the mountain to shake until it split so that the animals could emerge. Good Mind was very angry with his brother and they fought. Bad Mind used an arrow and Good Mind used a deer antler as weapons. When Good Mind struck Bad Mind with the deer antler it caused flint chips to fall from his body. Their battle raged for many days and finally Good Mind won. He banished Bad Mind to live in caves beneath the earth where he waits to return to the surface.

De-Ka-Nah-Wi-Da & Hiawatha. Retrieved 6-24-07.
Graymont, B. The Iroquois. Chelsea House Publishers: USA. 1988.
Hanks, C. & Ferguson, J. Iroquois Arts.

www.iroquoismuseum/gift.htm. Retrieved 6-22-07.
Iroquois. World Culture Encyclopedia. expressive-culture.htm. Retrieved 6-22-07.
Sultzman, L. Iroquois History. Retrieved 6-22-07.

Politics and the Haudenosaunee in the 1500s

Each clan was headed by a woman who appointed a clan sachem. The sachem was always male. Each clan was led by a sachem, who could be removed by a Clan Mother if he misbehaved or did not follow the direction of the Clan Mother. Clan sachems met together to make governmental decisions for the entire village. All sachems had to agree on a matter before it could be put into practice.

Interaction between the tribes had deteriorated into constant war. A Huron, Deganawida, (Two River Currents Flowing Together) received a vision from the Great Spirit that all Haudenosaunee needed to live in peace with each other. Deganwida traveled to the Northeastern tribes to spread his vision of peace. The creation of the League of Peace ended the warfare between the tribes. Unfortunately, Deganawida's "Great Peace" extended only to the Haudenosaunee, not other tribes. The League's most important law was the Kainerekowa, the Great Law of Peace, which stated Haudenosaunee should not kill each other. The council was composed of 50 male sachems. Each tribe's representation was set at a specific number: Onondaga 14; Cayuga 10; Oneida 9; Mohawk 9; and Seneca 8. Nominated by the tribal clan mothers (who had almost complete power in their selection), Haudenosaunee sachemships were usually held for life, although they could be removed for misconduct or incompetence. The emblem of their office was the deer antler head dress. All Haudenosaunee were expected to follow the Great Law of Peace.

A funeral rite known as the Condolence was performed when a sachem died. After a sachem dies, the Condolence ritual was done with all members of the League present. All past sachems were recited during the ceremony. By reciting all the names of the sachems that have died, the Haudenosaunees believed that the leadership of their nation would always remain intact.


Graymont, Barbara. The Iroquois. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers. 1988.

Kalman, Bobbie. Life in a Longhouse Village. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001.
Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. The Iroquois: A First Americans Book. New York, NY: Holiday House. 1995.
Wolfson, Evelyn. The Iroquois: People of the Northeast. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press. 1992.

Haudenosaunee “Iroquois” Society in the 1500s
The five nations of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois- the Mohawks, Oneidas,

Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas lived side by side in parallel bands of territory running north and south in the valleys and along the lakes of what is now upper New York state.

The tribes were divided into clans that served as extended families, with clan membership passing from mother to child. In each nation, the women of every clan selected the most respected woman among them to be the clan mother. The clan mother chooses the male chief to represent their clan. The men most trusted by their people for wisdom, integrity and fairness were given this responsibility.

The clans lived in large bark-covered longhouses with round roofs. A longhouse could extend up to two hundred feet in length and twenty five feet in width. The longhouse could shelter ten or twelve families through a harsh winter. Each family had their own private space and a fire that they shared with others.

Every person, man and women had a responsibility. Men were the hunters and warriors, providers and protectors of the community. Bravery and fortitude were highly respected qualities among the Iroquois. A young male would leave home to marry and go to live in the longhouse of his wife. He had to marry a young woman outside of his clan who had no blood relationship with his own mother. Women owned the houses, gathered food, cooked, made baskets and clothing and cared for the children. But the most important of the woman’s responsibilities was to have children and assure the future of the tribe. Because the father was frequently away the mother was the primary source of wisdom, affection and comfort.

Iroquois children, from about their eighth year, became increasingly aware of his or her duties. A girl did light chores in the longhouse or went with older women to work in the fields. A boy was free to wander off into the woods for days, usually with a group of friends, learning survival and hunting skills. When a boy would reach his teen years, he would return to the woods in the company of elder man of the tribe. The boy would test his survival skills and strength. During this time he would retell his dreams in great detail so that the elder could identify his “guardian spirit”. Soon he would become a young man of the tribe.

Spiritual life was a strong and important part of the Iroquois society. Both men and women could be priests who directed religious ceremonies. Like many Indians, the Iroquois believed the spirits of all humans were joined to those of objects and forces of nature. A human’s own inner spiritual power, called orenda fought the powers of evil that could harm them.

Welker, Glenn. Indigenous Peoples’ Literature. 9 Sept. 1998

American Indian Resource Directory -
Bol, Dr. Marsha C. American Indians and the Natural World 1998

Carnegie Museum of Natural History 1998 south east west/iroquois/index.htm
Josephy, Alvin M. Jr. 500 Nations an Illustrated History of North American Indians Alfred A Knopf Inc. New York 1994
Reader’s Digest. America’s Fascinating Indian Heritage The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. 1978

Haudenosaunee “Iroquois” Environment in the 1500’s
If you were to travel to the northeastern coast of the United States in the 1500’s you might be surprised to find a landscape that was open and park-like. You might wonder why the forest seemed so neat and orderly. You might be interested to find fields of crops growing throughout the region. You might be astounded at the amount of clean water sources you would find and at the abundance of wildlife.

If you traveled by ship to this coast you would arrive to see large areas of cleared of forest for the planting of crops on the most fertile land. Look closer and you would see fields of maize, beans, squash, tobacco and sunflowers. You would notice that narrow patches of grass that help delineate the owners separate the fields. It might seem strange but there would also be plots of land that are empty. These plots would have been used too much and would be resting for a few growing seasons.

As you continue to explore you would discover a dense but passable hardwood forest. You might even notice a well-worn path into the forest and choose to follow it. If you did, you would see many types of deciduous trees; elm, chicory, birch, and oak, just to name a few. In the trees you would see birds darting about. Look closely at the roots and you might find the evidence of rabbits and woodchucks, and near the stream you might even find a beavers’ dam with fish teeming in the pool formed by the dam. If you felt brave you might continue along the path, which would lead you to fishing villages. If you were not so brave you might return to the ship.

When you get back to the ship it is possible that you would stumble on shells near the shore. This is evidence of the shellfish that have been enjoyed by the people who inhabit this region. Before you board the ship, you might turn and look at the mountains in the distance. These are covered with conifers and you would almost see the wildlife moving through the trees. If you had continued on the path you might have gone deep into these mountains in search of the bears, deer, moose, and other animals that dwell there.

You would need to extend your visit to a year’s time to notice that there are four distinct seasons in this part of the world. You would discover that winters are harsh, springs are mild, summers are warm, and that falls are colorful and cool owing to the deciduous trees in the forest. You would learn that this is an environment that is full of resources to help you survive and prosper if you learn to manage them properly as the current inhabitants had managed them.

Mann, Charles. 1491 New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York. Vintage Books.2006.

Maxwell, James A. Readers Digest Fascinating Indian Heritage. Pleasantville, New York. Readers Digest Assoc. 1978
Wolfson, Evelyn. The Iroquois People of the Northeast. Brookfield, CT. Millbrook Press. 1992.

Haudenosaunee Economy in the 1500s
The eastern woodlands of North America during the 1500s were filled with many natural resources. Haudenosaunee lands were abundant with trees, plants, and the animals that lived in them. The land had many rivers and lakes as well as fertile soil, the perfect environment for fishing, hunting, and farming. The Haudenosaunee people honored the land and did not waste the local resources around their longhouse settlements. When local resources ran low, usually after 10-15 years the entire village would have to move to a new area and start over.

Haudenosaunee society was communal, people owned property together and worked together to meet the needs of the community. Many jobs were done cooperatively and people were expected to demonstrate a strong work ethic. Men and women had different jobs in their society but they helped each other with many tasks. Cooperation in all aspects of food production and distribution made hunger, poverty, and famine extremely rare.

Haudenosaunee men were responsible for hunting, trading, and fighting. They were also skilled craftsmen and used the forest resources to make many products for the community. Men used young elm, cedar, or birch trees for construction of the village longhouses and the palisade walls that surrounded and protected the settlements. They also carved wooden bowls, ladles, and spoons that the village members used for cooking and eating and they crafted the drums, flutes, and masks used for important religious ceremonies. Men built lightweight canoes out of birch bark and wood and waterproofed the canoes using spruce gum and charcoal. These canoes were used for hunting, travel, and trade.

Men were in charge of hunting, trapping, and fishing in order to provide some of the food for the tribe and were trained to defend and protect their villages from other nations and animals. The men made many different types of weapons and tools such as spears, bows, arrows, nets, lures, and fishing hooks out of wood, stones, and animal parts. The primary animals they hunted were deer, elk, moose, bear, beaver, geese, ducks, and pigeons. Much of the meat was preserved to be used during the winter months.

Women played an equally important role in Haudenosaunee society. They tended to the household duties, gathered food from the environment, and were skilled agriculturalists, growing much of the food that would sustain the entire community during the winter months.

Although men were responsible for clearing fields surrounding Haudenosaunee villages for agriculture, the women were in charge of farming sunflowers, melons, tobacco, and the sacred three sisters crops (corn, beans, squash). They sowed the seeds, tended the crops, and were in charge of the harvest. Women were skilled farmers. They planted crops using a particular method that made it easier to hoe the weeds and harvest as well as ensure that not all of the crops would need to be harvested at the same time. They first planted corn seeds in small hills, when the young corn plants came up the women would plant beans and squash around the stalks so that the new vines would wrap around the corn as the plants grew.

Women were also skilled craftspeople and wove baskets and mats from corn husks, wood strips, and local grasses. They also made pots and bowls from clay and made trays, boxes, and barrels from tree bark used for storing food. Women used these vessels to help gather and store the seeds, nuts, milkweed, mustard greens, dandelions, skunk cabbage, mushrooms, wild fruits, maple sap, and herbs they collected from the woods and meadows surrounding their settlements.

The cooperative and communal system of distributing goods made trade within the Haudenosaunee Confederation unnecessary. Present-giving was a more common and important mode of exchange among nations in the Confederation. Present-giving exchange would begin when one clan would give another tribe or clan a present with the expectation that they would receive some sort of needed resource in return. This system of exchange was highly respected even though there were no formal agreements governing it.

Trade with other Native American nations provided one of the few opportunities for individual work in Haudenosaunee society. If a man discovered a new trading route he was able to control all the trading done along that route in the future however, it was common for a clan to work cooperatively to control these routes. Men traded surplus goods produced in the community like corn, tobacco, clay pipes and canoes for fur pelts from northern tribes and other items they could not easily produce themselves like wampum beads from the east. Wampum beads, an important part of Haudenosaunee culture, were produced by coastal Native American tribes of Long Island and were traded or paid as tributes to Haudenosaunee nations to show acceptance of their superior power.

During the 1500s Haudenosaunee nations began to acquire French trade goods through warfare with enemy nations of the St. Lawrence River region for many years before French traders came to Haudenosaunee territory. Through these wars Haudenosaunee nations acquired metal goods such as axes which were very useful in the Northeastern woodland regions. Beginning in the 1530’s beaver trade began between the Haudenosaunee and the French and in a short period of time other European nations joined in. The Haudenosaunee traded with Europeans for things like broad and calico cloth. This trade increased in the 1600s.


Graymont, Barbara. The Iroquois. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers. 1988.

Kalman, Bobbie. Life in a Longhouse Village. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2001.
Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. The Iroquois: A First Americans Book. New York, NY: Holiday House. 1995.
Wolfson, Evelyn. The Iroquois: People of the Northeast. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press. 1992.
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