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The Iroquois men hunted deer and other game. Boys  were allowed to join the men in hunting after they had killed a deer by themselves. Farming determined the way the Indians lived. The Iroquois moved to new locations when their large fields no longer produced a good crop of beans, corn, and squash. They called beans, squash, and corn "The Three Sisters". The women  tended the crops. One favorite food of the Iroquois was corn cakes. It was made by patting corn into round cakes then baking it.


The Conferacy was made up of six groups: Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. They called themselves Iroquois. They were big rivals with the Algonquians. White men called this group the League of Six Nations.


The Iroquois Indians held six big festivals each year. Each festival lasted several days. During these festivals music was made by shaking rattles and beating drums. Rattles were made from gourds and turtle shells. The festivals included the New Year Festival in the winter, the Maple Festival in spring, the Corn Planting Festival, the Strawberry Festival, the Green Corn Festival, and the Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving. The festivals were held to give thanks to the good spirits for health, clothes, food, and happiness.

Women held a powerful position in the Iroquois tribe. They owned longhouses, controlled the land, and chose the chief. Children belonged to their mother's clan. When a man married, he lived with his wife's clan.

False Society Masks

iroquoismask.gif (28408 bytes) An injured or ill Iroquois Indian would sometimes ask the False Face Society to drive away the spirit of the illness or injury. The False Face Society wore masks carved from wood. After a new member joined the False Face Society he had to make his own mask.

To make the mask the Iroquois walked through the woods until he found a tree whose spirit talked to him. After talking to the tree, the Indian built a fire. He sprinkled tobacco, then stripped bark from the tree. Next the Indian outlined a face and cut out the section to the tree he had outlined. Then the Iroquois went into a secluded shelter to carve the mask. The mask was polished then decorated with hair, feathers, etc.

Bowl Game

bowlgame2.jpg (19509 bytes) The Iroquois Indians played the Sacred Bowl Game during the last day of the "Ceremonial of Midwinter" which marked the end of the year. The wooden bowl was decorated with four clan symbols - the bear, wolf, turtle, and deer. To play the game a player placed the six nuts which were colored on one side inside the bowl and hit the bowl against the ground. If five of the six pits turned up the same color, the player scored and took another turn. The first player to reach 10 points wins the game.

Tools and Weapons

The men made canoes, houses, and tools.

Snowshoes made winter hunting easier for the Iroquois. They traveled up to 50 miles a day wearing the snowshoes in deep snow. The Iroquois also wore snowshoes in ritual dances.


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Sometimes the Indians wore corn husks masks or painted their faces to frighten away the evil spirits. The False Face Society was a group of medicine men who wore frightening masks made of wood. They were thought to posses special powers when they put on their masks.

The following is an e-mail sent to us by John Fadden on 12/28/02 regarding Iroquois masks :

Policy Statement On Medicine Masks

    The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee, the Six Nations Iroquois
Confederacy, issues the following policy statement regarding all medicine
masks of the Haudenosaunee.

Medicine Societies
    Within the Haudenosaunee there are various medicine societies that have
the sacred duty to maintain the use and strength of special medicines, both
for individual and community welfare.  A medicine society is comprised of
Haudenosaunee who have partaken of the medicine and are thereby bound to the
protection and perpetuation of the special medicines.  Such medicines are
essential to the spiritual and emotional well-being of the Haudenosaunee
communities.  The medicine societies are a united group of individuals who
must uphold and preserve the rituals that guard and protect the people, and
the future generations.
    Among these medicine societies are those that utilize the wooden masks
or corn husk masks that represent the shred power of the original medicine
beings.  Although there are variations of their images, all the masks have
power and an intended purpose that is solely for the members of the
respective medicine societies.  Interference with the sacred duties of the
religious freedom of the Haudenosaunee does great harm to the welfare of the
Haudenosaunee communities.

Status Of The Masks
    All wooden and corn husks masks of the Haudenosaunee are sacred
regardless of size or age.  By their very nature masks are empowered the
moment they are made.  The image of the mask is sacred and is only to be
used for its intended purpose.  Masks do not have to be put through any
ceremony or have tobacco attached to them in order to become useful or
powerful.  Masks should not be made unless they are to be used by members of
the medicine society according to established tradition.

Sale Of Masks
    There are no masks that can be made for commercial purposes.
Individuals who make masks for sale or sell masks to non-Indians violate the intended
use of the masks and such individuals must cease these activities as they do
great harm to the Haudenosaunee.  The commercialization of medicine masks is
an exploitation of Haudenosaunee culture.

Authority Over The Medicine Masks
    Each Haudenosaunee reservation has a medicine mask society that has
authority over the use of masks for individual and community needs.  Each
society is charged with the protection of their sacred masks and to assure
their proper use.  The Grand Council of Chiefs has authority over all
medicine societies and shall appoint individual leaders or medicine
societies as necessary.
    However, no individual can speak or make decisions for medicine
societies or displacement of medicine masks.  No institution has authority
over medicine masks, as they are the sole responsibility of the medicine
societies and the Grand Council of Chiefs.
Exhibition Of Medicine Masks
    The public exhibition of all medicine masks is forbidden.   Medicine
masks are not intended for everyone to see and such exhibition does not
recognize the sacred duties and special functions of the masks.
    The exhibition of masks by museums does not serve to enlighten the
public regarding the culture of the Haudenosaunee as such exhibition
violates the intended purpose of the mask and contributes to the desecration
of the sacred image.
    In addition, information regarding medicine societies is not meant for
general distribution.  The non-Indian public does not have a right to
examine, interpret nor
 present the beliefs, functions and duties of the secret medicine societies
of the Haudenosaunee.  The Sovereign responsibility of the Haudenosaunee
over their spiritual duties must be respected by the removal of all medicine
masks from exhibitions and from access to non-Indians.
    Reproductions, castings, photographs or illustrations of medicine masks
should not be used in exhibitions, as the image of the medicine masks is
sacred and is not to be used in these fashions.  To subject the image of the
medicine masks to ridicule or misrepresentation is a violation of the sacred
functions of the masks.
    The Council of Chiefs find that there is no proper way to explain,
interpret, or present the significance of the medicine masks and therefore
asks that no attempt be made by museums to do other than to explain the
wishes of the Haudenosaunee in this matter.

Return Of Medicine Masks
    All Haudenosaunee medicine masks currently possessed by non-Indians,
including museums, art galleries, historical societies, universities,
commercial enterprises, foreign governments, and individuals, should be
returned to the Grand Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, who will
assure their proper use and protection for future generations.
    There is no legal, moral or ethical way in which a medicine mask can be
obtained or possessed by a non-Indian individual or an institution in that
in order for medicine masks to be removed from the society it would require
the sanction of the Grand Council of Chiefs.  This sanction has never been
    We ask all people to cooperate in the restoration of masks and other
sacred objects to the proper caretakers among the Haudenosaunee.  It is only
through these actions will the traditional culture remain strong and peace
to be restored to our communities.


                        Grand Council of Chiefs

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