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 Confederacy 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.
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.
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.
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 possess special powers when they put on their masks.