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lakes, there were about a half dozen distributed throughout the different cantons of the Five Nations. In the middle of the Seneca country was Canandaigua Lake, and east of it was Seneca Lake; the Cayuga territory contained Cayuga Lake, a sheet of water twenty-eight miles long and from two to four miles wide; the Onondagas owned Skaneateles Lake; the Oneidas controlled the lake named after them; and the Mohawk country rejoiced in numberless lakes, including Lake Champlain and Lake George on its eastern borders. Throughout the whole country, springs were frequent; and the variety in the kinds of waters they gave was great, ranging from the clearest drinking water to the salt springs and the mineral springs for which the region is now famous. All these bodies of water-streams, lakes and springs—formed centers of animal and vegetable life, while as routes for internal travel the rivers and lakes were invaluable.
Climatic conditions were, also, not unpropitious. In this region there was a regular succession of seasons—spring and summer, autumn and winter. The summer was long and warm enough to have encouraged aboriginal maize-culture, while the winters were not so severe as in the region north of the Great Lakes. The rainfall was abundant, and the soil, especially on the riverflats and in other open or cleared spots, was by nature extremely fertile.
The environment of the Iroquois was, therefore, comparatively rich in potential utilities. Animal and vegetable food products were abundant. Moose and deer, bear and beaver, and many other smaller animals furnished a plentiful supply of meat, while the stock of fish was practically inexhaustible. In 1655, we hear of the Salmon River, northeast of Oswego ;-"such is the richness of this stream that it yields at all seasons various kinds of fish. In the spring, as soon as the snows melt, it is full of goldcolored fish; next come carp, and finally the achigen (black bass). ... Then comes the brill, and at the end of May... sturgeon are killed .... All the rest of the year until winter, salmon furnishes food
At Onondaga Lake, says a Jesuit mis
Jes. Rel. XLII, 71; Cf. Jes. Rel., XLIII, 261.
sionary, “ besides the fish caught at different seasons, eels are so abundant in the summer that a man can harpoon as many as one thousand in one night."! Multitudinous also were the birds that in spring flocked to the lakes and ponds of the Iroquois country. Nearly all of them were more or less suitable for food. Among them were cranes, pelicans, wild swans, ducks, geese and turkeys, pigeons, turtle doves, gulls, and loons. Near Seneca Lake, for instance, swans and bustards were abundant all through the winter, while in spring clouds of all sorts of wild fowl arrived from the South. “As to Onondaga Lake,” says the Jesuit chronicler, " turtle doves from all the country around flock thither toward spring, in so great numbers that they are caught in nets."
A glance at the vegetable life of the Iroquois territory shows a correspondingly plentiful food-supply. The cultivated plantsmaize, beans, squashes and melons—the Iroquois had brought with them from the Mississippi Valley. To these bases of subsistence, the nuts, roots, and fruits indigenous to the region formed a welcome adjunct. Nut-bearing trees—the hickory, pignut, butternut, chestnut, walnut and oak—were numerous. The sugar maple also supplied an important article of food in the syrup which was made from its sap. Edible and medicinal roots were also abundant. Among the fruit and berry products were wild raspberries, whortle-berries, strawberries, and cranberries. Wild grapes, sweet enough to be agreeable to the taste, grew in spots, where forest fires had occurred. The may-apple, the crabapple, the paw-paw, and other wild fruits completed the list.S
In fine, the food utilities of the Iroquois country were numerous and valuable. Wild animals, especially deer, were plentiful, as were also many varieties of fish and birds. Cultivated plants, such as maize, beans and squashes flourished; and of nuts, fruits and roots, there was no scarcity.
Products available as raw materials were no less abundant than those useful as food. The skin of the deer, the bear, and the
1 Jes. Rel. XLII, 95.
Jes. Rel. XLII, 95. 3 Loskiel, pp. 68 sq. Jes. Rel. XLIII, 257; XXVIII, 111.
beaver, as well as those of smaller animals, provided all needed articles of clothing and most of the other coverings used by the Iroquois, while bones and sinews furnished material for various implements. Shells of mollusks formed a source of supply for tools and utensils. The Iroquois were also able to draw to a great extent upon the vegetable world for raw materials. The wood and bark of the forest trees offered a suitable and convenient supply of material for their dwellings, and for many of their implements and utensils; thus, ash, elm, fir, spruce, and cedar bark were all available as coverings for the wooden frames of their houses; the wood of the white ash covered with the bark of the red elm made good canoes; and hickory wood was a useful material in the manufacture of snow shoes. From the vegetable kingdom came also several products employed in the textile industry of the aborigines. Wild vines furnished ready-made ropes and cables. The fiber from the inner bark of the slippery elm and other trees, and also of the Dirca palustris or moosewood, a little shrub growing on the hillsides, offered a good material for the manufacture of cords and coarse threads. The wild hemp plant (Apocynum cannabinum) was useful for the same purpose. Among the products of value in the manufacture of textiles were the reeds and cornhusks of which mats and other articles could be woven. Finally, there were several plants whose juices were useful as dyes.
The mineral resources of their environment contained but few utilities for the Iroquois. Because of his ignorance of the art of smelting, copper, which could be hammered out cold, was about the only metal of use to the American Indian; of this, there was very little to be found in New York, while access to the Lake Superior mines was cut off by intervening hostile tribes; hence, before the coming of the Europeans, the Iroquois had no metal instruments.” Stone and clay suitable for pottery existed in considerable quantities in their country. The clay they utilized in the manufacture of their earthenware vessels, and of the local
* Not as good as the birch bark of the Northern Forest, however.
2 Beauchamp, N. Y. St. Mus. Bul., No. 55. “Metallic Instruments of the N. Y. Indians."
horn-stone they made a few of their ruder articles. In general, however, they used stone much less than wood. The reasons are not difficult to conjecture. In the first place, since they had no metal instruments, they would naturally prefer to utilize the softer and more easily worked material; in the second place, supplies of wood were undoubtedly more accessible than stone would be for a relatively sedentary, semi-agricultural people like the Iroquois. Available stone would be hard to find, especially since the village would naturally avoid a stony site. On the other hand, land had to be cleared and wood cut in order to prepare the maize fields and procure fuel. Hence, the material for the manufacture of wooden articles was provided without extra trouble. Everything considered, it is not hard to understand why the Iroquois utilized wood as a raw material, rather than stone.
To sum up;—the home-country of the Iroquois may be described as a forest region, stocked with an abundant supply of wild animals, fish, nuts, fruits, and roots; at the same time, it was a country of temperate climate, well-watered and fertile, with many open spaces suitable for maize-culture; hence it was an environment favorable to the development of a hunting and fishing and semi-agricultural life.
Similar features marked the environment of the cognate tribe of the Hurons. Their territory, the peninsula between Lake Huron and Lakes Erie and Ontario, was somewhat more open and suitable for agriculture than that of the Iroquois, and although the supply of game was scantier ; yet, on the other hand, there was even a greater abundance of fish than among the Iroquois. Hence the Hurons would naturally devote themselves somewhat more to maize-culture and fishing, and less to hunting, than was the case among the Iroquois. In spite of such minor differences, however, the general similiarity between the previous history and the final environment of both Hurons and Iroquois justifies us in regarding them as essentially one people.1
* Jes. Rel. VIII, 115; XV, 153; X, 103; LIV, 151; XIII, n. 17, p. 255.
THE PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITIES OF THE IROQUOIS.
The main productive activities of the Iroquois were nut and fruit gathering, root grubbing, trapping, hunting, fishing, and agriculture. From the earliest days of their life in the Far West, they had depended upon fish and game, and upon the nuts and fruits to be found in their environment; with maize they became acquainted in their journey across the continent; and in the favorable environment of the Eastern Forest, they gained support from all these sources.
The food supply upon which primitive domestic economists chiefly depend was not neglected by the Iroquois. Root-grubbing and nut and fruit gathering were a regular part of their yearly labor. The Senecas, for instance, depended to a considerable extent upon the nut crop. In 1669, writes one of the Jesuit fathers, an abundant harvest caused so great joy among them that “one sees everywhere only games, dances, and feasts."1 Maple sugar making, also, was an important annual event, celebrated with feasting.
These lines of production, however, were distinctly subsidiary to the serious business of hunting and trapping, inasmuch as the Iroquois, for a great part of their subsistence, depended upon the useful animals and birds of their immediate environment, and even far outside of their own boundaries. The chief animals of the chase were the deer and the bear; wild fowl and several varieties of small game, such as otters, martens, hares, and squirrels, were also hunted. The value of the beaver to the Iroquois hunter dates largely from the time of the coming of the Europeans and the beginning of the fur-trade; before that time,
* Jes. Rel. LIV, 97; cf. La Potherie, II, 20; Jes. Rel. LII, 23. * Morgan, “ League” (ed. 1901), II, 251; Lafitau, III, 140.