Iroquois Allant a la Decouverte, Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur, ca. 1797.

Intrinsic Ferocity vs. Military Strategy: The Historiography of Iroquoian Warfare in the Seventeenth Century

Danielle Mead Skjelver University of North Dakota

the Susquehannock War. dissent has been the norm. the trend has been toward a view of Indians as hapless and noble victims of the inexorable. In the mid-nineteenth century. and dishonest rapacity of white civilization. and that a middle road is the best path to understanding Iroquoian military success and motives. the IroquoisOjibwa War. discussions of these traits were . the Iroquois participated in a great number of military actions. has long been a source of polarizing debate. but rather the historiography of the reasons for Iroquois success in this period. This paper will demonstrate that all of these interpretations of Iroquoian success bring something of value to the academic table. from a belief in the inevitable triumph of European civilization over the darkness of the wilderness. while writers of the late nineteenth century discussed Indian nations as separate groups possessing varied traits. From this perspective emerged a view of Indians as people with agency. and people who played a major role in Native-European relations. and King William's War. Even so. Woven through all of the above discussions. one sees several major shifts in the overall historiography of Native history in toto. While the intrinsic ferocity of the Iroquois would have to wait a few generations for its rebuttal. or People of the Longhouse. Among the larger conflicts were the continuation of conflicts with the Huron from the pre-contact period. Beginning in 1609 with their response to Champlain's attack and continuing throughout the seventeenth century. as opposed to the Huronic Iroquois. that there existed something different in an imagined pure Iroquois gene pool that allowed them to hold sway wherever they went. one explanation was that Iroquoian success in war had its roots in the famous Iroquois League. King Philip's War. are unique in that their position as English allies in the colonial period has afforded them an arguably celebrated place in Native American historiography. which are also known as the Iroquois Wars or the French-Iroquois Wars. Second. cruel. This paper will examine the historiography of explanations for Iroquois success in seventeenth century warfare.1 The study of the Haudenosaunee Iroquois. Later scholars have argued for a more complex explanation that included most of these factors. people who affected America's formative history. The conflicts themselves are not the focal point of this paper. First. The Haudenosaunee Iroquois. the seeds for contention were sown in the form of an argument that the Iroquois possessed an innate ferocity. within this largely celebratory discussion of the Iroquois. The discussion of warfare has been particularly charged. the Beaver Wars. In this same period. a new argument emerged in the early twentieth century: the effects of disease on their enemies.

and military encounters."3 Morgan saw the League as an organization with authority that . has for many scholars transformed into a view of the frontier as a place of frequent contact and cooperation. as coming from many diverse cultures and possessing institutions and skills of value to the Europeans whose suzerainty in North America was by no means a foregone conclusion. Most scholars accept the idea of Iroquoian military superiority among Native peoples. Fourth. There are. Cayuga. offered an interesting theory. Morgan argued that it was League of the Hodenosaunee or the League of the Longhouse that accounted for Iroquoian success. and Mohawk at the "eastern door. most scholars in the nineteenth century and in much of the twentieth century did not see variation in Indian nations at all. the view of the frontier as the line between civilization and savagery." the Onondaga. however. the League has its own historiography replete with much disagreement including whether or not it was a model for the United States Constitution and on the period of its founding. Anthropologists are largely responsible for dispelling this myth. the historiography of Native Americans has moved from a linear view of history as marching inexorably toward a kind of progress.2 rooted in ethnocentric ignorance and often racist pseudoscience. Later. scholars are now arriving at a view of Native Americans as human beings with agency. between light and darkness.2 The longhouse. Confining the discussion now to those who accept the notion of Iroquoian military might. there had long stood a view that Indian culture and technology were static in the pre-contact period. a symbol of clan life became a metaphor for a greater symbolic clan comprising the Five Iroquois nations of the Seneca at the "western door. food supplies. Finally. League of the Ho-Dé-No-Sau-Nee or Iroquois. ethnologists. successfully illustrating that long before the arrival of Europeans. Indians were supposedly a homogenous group where plains Indians were little different from eastern woodland Indians. and they too will have their say in this paper. Third. to a more relativistic view of cultures. the 1851 work of Lewis Henry Morgan. there have in the latter part of the twentieth century emerged many notable attempts to discuss North American History from the Native American perspective. Fifth. anthropologists. Through the efforts of archaeologists. and historians. Richter's 1992 dating of the League's founding in the late fifteenth century. through the influence of anthropologists. Most scholars also agree that the Iroquois' early access to firearms played a major role in their success in the early contact period. Oneida. Native Americans innovated as they responded and adapted to changing environments.1 Dates have ranged within a century on either side of Daniel K. Today. those who disagree.

6 For Morgan. Samuel George Morton. their sagacity in the administration of the League."4 The League was formed to stop the mourning-wars which were wreaking havoc on Iroquoian nations. Most historians place some level of importance on the League in the Iroquois' success. reasoning force behind the superior numbers the Iroquois achieved when they fielded their warriors. All of these options. It produced the Iroquois Empire and served as a calm."8 To support this view. For Morgan. against the devastations of war. prominent alike for the wisdom of their civil institutions. the Great League of Peace might better have been described as a Great League for War. for nearly two centuries. adoption. the Iroquois flourished in independence. Discussing Iroquois and Huron cranial capacity. and fallen into the condition of dependent nations. and capable of self-protection. they stood.5 Ongoing mourningwars decimated whole villages. tortured. adopted them into their homes. Daniel Richter explained the mourning war as the avenue by which clan members restored the spiritual power believed lost at the death of clan members. death.3 could field hundreds of warriors from its federated tribes. and their courage in its defense. Arguing that Iroquoian success came from an inborn. enslaved. long after the New England and Virginia races had surrendered their jurisdictions.7 The next influential work to address the Iroquois in some depth was Francis Parkman's 1867 France and England in North America. Parkman cited the work of American professor of Anatomy. and the still more fatal encroachments of a restless and advancing border population. the blighting influence of foreign intercourse. Richter went so far as to say. Parkman's footnote reads as follows: . torture. native ferocity. While Richter would take great exception with much of Morgan's romanticization and mythologizing of the Iroquois. and/or killed them or. with an unshaken front. Under their federal system. the League represented evidence of civilization among the noble savage: In the drama of European colonization. Parkman was a believer in Anthropometrics and attributed Iroquoian success to biological qualities. In mourning-war people of affiliated clans took captives. This intra-Iroquois peace then channeled those war-like aspects of Iroquois society outward to neighboring peoples. this League not only gave the Iroquois their independence and unparalleled position among Native peoples. and it was out of chronic warfare that the Great League developed to ensure peace among the Iroquois people. conversely. Parkman argued for the "superiority of this stock. he agreed that the League was instrumental in Iroquois success in war. and they now stand forth in our Indian history. "As the violence spiraled in what historians have labeled the Beaver Wars. and servitude could restore the lost spiritual power.

to the region of the animal propensities. brutal. that superiority was questionable because it only rendered the Iroquois more prone to animal propensities. This work was a compilation of pseudoscientific studies declaring various attributes to be inherent to Indians in general. Parkman thus saw the civilizing of Indians as an impossibility. and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States. other words. "The difference in volume is chiefly confined to the occipital and basal portions. American Slavery was still alive when these scholars composed their work.It is remarkable that the internal capacity of the skulls of the barbarous American tribes is greater than that of either the Mexicans or the Peruvians." . I find that they give an average internal capacity of eighty-eight cubic inches. "a racist of the venomous type who did not hesitate to falsify his source materials to make them support his Social Darwinian preconceptions. Parkman's was among the most widely accepted theories for generations. Now discredited both scientifically and morally in the wake of the Holocaust. which illustrated the damage such pseudoscience can do. He was a believer in Manifest Destiny and viewed Native Americans as obstacles in the march toward progress. devoting an entire essay to criticism of Parkman and calling him. It bears noting that twentieth century scholar Francis Jennings was probably Parkman's most vociferous critic. and uncivilizable character of the wild tribes.13 . it is argued."10 J. half-closed eye seems to mark the ferocious passions that are dormant within." ."11 This is the climate in which both Morgan and Parkman wrote of the Iroquois. His pseudoscience seemed to suggest that the Iroquois were biologically superior to Meso. which is within two inches of the Caucasian mean.S. . is the motive in which this work originated. .12 The 1904 preface to the second edition of Morgan's work on the Iroquois attempted to rebut the prevailing view of Indians as barbarous savages in the way of progress: To encourage a kinder feeling towards the Indian founded upon a truer knowledge of his civil and domestic institutions. "The Indian has a low. bushy brow. 195. and of his capabilities for future elevation.Morton.See J. the ferocious. sleepy.S. Phillips.9 Thus. which was prepared by Act of Congress under the direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. beneath which a dull. and their theories reflect one of the prevailing views of the period: Indians and all other races were the inferior to Europeans. and hence. Admeasurements of Crania of the Principal Groups of Indians in the United States.and South American Indians. For instance. Parkman offers the Iroquois a back-handed compliment. These were the roots of Social Darwinism.4 "On comparing five Iroquois heads. Crania Americana. Phillips' work referenced above in Parkman's footnote appears in Henry Schoolcraft's 1852 Information Respecting the History. which would soon appear as a theory in America.

disease was of far greater importance to Iroquois success than any military advantage. the Huron population halved.15 Here. between 1616 and 1635.000 and 18. Robert Popham's 1950 estimate appeared in Gary A.000.5 Here the linear philosophy of Morgan's history was evident. George T.000 respectively within Huronia. Popham based his figures on archaeological evidence and an expanded area of Huron settlement beyond Huronia proper as between 45. Warrick's 2008 A Population History of the Huron-Petun.000. it does matter whether the figure was half or eighty percent. for people are not mere numbers. Karl H. sympathetic advocacy. Paul Le Jeune. For Morgan and Parkman. A. Iroquoian racial purity was an impossible concept. especially as they relate to death rates from epidemics.000. but these numbers are important. If 10. it is clear that he too sought the "future elevation" of Indians. 500-1650. Schlesier argued that in 1640.000 and 40. Returning to Parkman's theory for a moment. Europeans encountered Indians at an unacceptably primitive point on the linear trajectory of progress. the concept of a pure race of exceptionally ferocious North Americans would not have held water. Conrad Heidenreich and Bruce Trigger argued for numbers of 21.16 These men all lived among the Huron for at least brief periods. the historiography of the Huron population bears noting because the size of the original population impacts Schlesier's argument. the devastation was apocalyptic. Haggling over numbers may seem fruitless. In 1643.000. the effect is tragic.14 A rather different school of thought was that. Hunt would make this very observation in 1940. And yet. even if Social Darwinism had not been debunked. Taking the example of the Huron. at least in the case of the Haudenosaunee Iroquois dispersal of the Huron.D. If the population was 50. Gabriel Sagard similarly arrived at a number between 30. inevitably scholars would have noticed that because the Iroquois were among the most liberal in adopting individuals from other nations.000 and 50.000. and Jean de Brébeuf estimated a total population of about 30. Samuel de Champlain. and the beginning population was 20.18 While a number of historians continue to accept 30. and thus historians had accepted French estimates at least until 1950. Whether half or eighty percent of the population perished. the Jesuit Relations recorded: .000.17 In 1971 and 1976 respectively. the issue is far from settled.000 Huron survived the epidemics up to 1640.000 as the best estimate. French Jesuit Gabriel Lalement observed that the Huron and Petun numbered only about 12. Even in Morgan's admiring.

Others went with the Jesuits to Lorette. and the Mohawk. He acknowledged that the Iroquois attacked the Huron in the Beaver wars.6 . far more than Iroquois attacks.25 Rather. He argued that between 1635 and 1641. the "disastrous division of the Huron. The effect was so great.. the Iroquois themselves were beset by disease. Schlesier argued that many of the military conflicts of this period simply did not happen. the Iroqouois were in no condition to waste any of their remaining manpower toward Tadoussac or even the Ottawa.20 In fact. but he saw the Iroquois as reluctantly drawn into conflict by French policy.'"23 Schlesier's argument was not so simple as to see only disease as a cause of Huron demise. the numbers so horrifically reduced that a reduction of half seems unlikely to produce the results noted in the Jesuit Relations.19 It would seem from this observation that a higher original population would be accurate.24 And he played down Iroquois military attacks."22 Schlesier argued contrary to many scholars that the Iroquois were not responsible for pushing Indians westward into what would become Wisconsin.27 Those Huron opposed to the Jesuits particularly and to the French generally subsumed themselves into Seneca. It was. now has not more than thirty or forty. While no one has disputed . and thus credits disease and resulting hunger with the devastation of the Huron and the western nations the Iroquois supposedly destroyed.where eight years ago one could see eighty or hundred cabins. the period when the Iroquois were supposedly most active in crushing the Huron. dispersed the Huron. the smallpox had reached the Winneago of Green Bay where 'the rotting corpses caused great mortality.. a Captain. disease that caused Native peoples to flee west... which meant that the Huron could not traverse through Iroquoia to access Dutch and English trade."21 He rejected those scholars who believed. Some Huron with the Petun together formed the Wyandot or Wendat people.. "After the smallpox. They could not bury the dead. Schlesier's argument was that disease and French meddling.26 Schlesier claimed that what other scholars call the Iroquois Campaign of 1649 amounted to only "two short Iroquois strikes in 1649. barely five or six can now be seen. arguing that the Iroquois attacks on only "two of seventeen Huron towns in 1649" were not responsible for the Huron demise." not a sustained effort.." finding instead that. "These wars have sprung only from the imagination of scholars. rather. "Already in 1644." triggered by the French demand that allied Indians could not enter into treaties. from Lake Huron to Tadoussac. combined with disease to wipe out the Huron. "Iroquois power lay over the whole land. who then had eight hundred warriors under his command. Onondaga. carrying disease with them.

a great campaign in which armies start at different sites. This scholarly exploration of oral history had been going on for some twenty years. Eid's sources for his argument illustrate an overall shift in the historiography of Native America. and chase the foe down several rivers connecting numerous lakes. a great campaign in which Algonquian-speaking Indians combine in great numbers to crush their common enemy. Rather than claiming that epidemic was the cause. Drawing on the work of nineteenth century Ojibwa writers like George Copway and Peter Jones who recorded the oral traditions of their own people. While the eminent anthropologist Bruce Trigger was not one to dismiss oral tradition. and that together they caused the dispersal of the Huron. Chippewa. Eid argued successfully that discussions of supposed Iroquois military success in the west have long neglected the other side of the story. clear the enemy from those bodies of water. In his 1979 paper.28 Rather. Eid seemed to accept the dismissal of Ojibwa accounts by traditional historians."31 Eid also saw those Huron who had merged with Algonquian peoples as playing a major role in this campaign. for strategy employed. Ottawa.29 Eid lays out what he calls the Ojibwa Thesis. Eid found that historians have largely dismissed the Huron whom the Iroquois dispersed. Eid's argument that. for importance of the consequences following from the war. which comes from the writings of. even he did not explore the Huron involvement in the Ojibwa-Iroquois War. The loser. and Huron oral traditions. militarily speaking. Eid finds a description of: a great campaign mobilizing thousands of warriors on both sides."30 He argued that the Ojibwa Thesis was important because it undermined the image of the. and they have not explored the potential Huron role in the later Algonquian trouncing of the Iroquois. But he wondered at the disregard Ojibwa oral tradition has received from modern scholars. or that Iroquois attacks were the cause. "ruthless and eminently successful Iroquois war machine. the Five Nations. the primary cause remains disputed. For numbers participating. Eid was following the practice of ethnohistorians and anthropologists who had been taking oral tradition far more seriously than did historians.7 that the Huron dispersed after 1649. there's absolutely no other Indian military campaign like it. Eid's sources are Ojibwa. "The Ojibwa-Iroquois War: The War the Five Nations Did Not Win." Eid proposed that Iroquois and Ojibwa did not wage this war using stereotypical small Indian war parties of "skulking" warriors. move along the Great Lakes waterway. never fully recovers. "Ojibwa/Chippewa/Ottawa (Anishinabe) tribal stock. it might be wiser to acknowledge that both of these phenomenon had tremendous negative impact on the Huron. Writing in 1979. Along a similar line of thinking to Schlesier's was Leroy V.32 . the Iroquois were not as successful as historians have believed. that French meddling that involved a reluctant Iroquois was the case.

" of six English colonies and roughly double that number of Native nations. "Iroquois historiography suffers from a 'structural amnesia' in regard to the Iroquois-Algonquian war.33 Eid and other scholars who have not dismissed oral sources in their study of the Iroquois through their enemies have found great consistency in the oral traditions written down in the nineteenth century."40 He described the Chain as a "bicultural confederation. And he blamed Morgan for perpetuating this myth. not to be confused with the League. from the Chain's inception in 1677." among the writings of both English and French observers. neither of which saw the promised English assistance.34 Eid also found references to a "severe Iroquois defeat in the northern wilderness in the late 1680s.8 Eid argued that this war was a major factor in the weakened state of the Iroquois at the end of the seventeenth century.36 What has been in dispute is whether or not these two events were sufficient to produce an eclipse of Iroquois power at the end of the seventeenth century or whether a number of Iroquois defeats missing from the record might explain such an eclipse. In his 1984 The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744.35 It has not been in dispute that as the eighteenth century dawned. Francis Jennings argued that the "myth" of the Iroquois Empire had its origins in a misconception of the Iroquois Covenant Chain. ethnohistorians have seemed best equipped to do this. Francis Jennings too saw Iroquois military prowess as more legend than reality. the Iroquois were suffering from a devastating final Beaver War and King William's War. also writing in the 1970s.37 Eid claimed that. The historiography of the Iroquois.39 For Jennings."38 The work of these scholars is important not just for the light it sheds on a growing discussion but because it demonstrated that oral tradition has merit. Eid was not alone in his view. although more and more scholars are following the lead of ethnohistorians in using a broad array of sources. Donald B. it was dependent primarily on Europeans. . Rogers. the Iroquois Empire was an English construct allowing them to justify claims to land that did not truly belong to the Iroquois: "the British donated an empire to the Iroquois in order to claim it for themselves. has demonstrated the need for sustained effort in this field. not on Iroquoians. Smith and Edward S. particularly in the area of warfare. 41 Jennings saw it as more of an economic and political association than any kind of empire.42 In Jennings' view. Thus far. employed Ojibwa oral tradition in their discussion of the conflict.

Jennings rejected Turner's theory that the frontier was.9 Jennings argued against the prevailing view that the Iroquois adapted well militarily to European challenges. He saw European colonization as invasion. The Invasion of America: Indians. Malone stated. Acknowledging that Indians never killed on the scale of Europeans. Patrick Malone argued that northeastern Indians were shocked by what he described as "total warfare. While that the Iroquois made calculated military. "Wars between Indians had become bloodier as the weapons and attitudes of the Europeans influenced the native culture. Jennings exposed the English use of the Iroquois as a military buffer against the French.46 While scholars have largely agreed that the English used the Iroquois. He saw the Covenant Chain as hollow and leaving the Iroquois virtually alone. debilitating.48 He argued as have many scholars that Indians adopted European tactics and that they adopted some aspects of total warfare. and political moves to position themselves to participate in European trade. Many of the scholars who have found the Iroquois to be militarily powerful have also not seen them as doomed from the start. Jennings saw the Iroquois as exploited in the hands of the English. "The great victories of the Iroquois took place only in the west."45 Rather. many have also seen the Iroquois as using the English as well as adopting their tactics. against opponents lacking effective European support. After that. Colonialism. and were confined to the brief span of 1649 to 1655." while others have found direct assault and something akin to European field warfare. inconclusive conflict. He did not see the Dutch as having the same power to exploit the Iroquois. he emphasized that conflict and separation did not characterize IroquoisEuropean relations as much as cooperation and frequent contact did.44 Jennings discussed a reduction by half in the Iroquoian population from their warring against the French on behalf of the English. Jennings' work marked a point at which Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier thesis was losing sway.47 In 1991. Some scholars have embraced the notion of the "skulking way of war. economic."43 Jennings was part of a cohort of scholars who viewed Indians as victims doomed from the start. and the Cant of Conquest. Rather. which he discussed thoroughly in the first book in his three part series." meaning the total annihilation of a place and its population as witnessed by Mohegan and Narragansett warriors at the Pequot Fort in 1637. "the meeting point between savagery and civilization. and compared the Iroquois relationship to the English as that of "vassals" to lords. the Iroquois had nothing but exhausting. In the broader overarching themes of Indian historiography."49 .

isolated in terms of space.10 Scholars have largely agreed that the early Iroquois access to firearms gave them an advantage. Trigger devoted considerable space in his 1987 work. While descriptions of forces moving as a whole seem a touch exaggerated. but there was no method of communicating from one village to the other the need for reinforcements.56 .51 Of tremendous interest is the new role of military history in the historiography of Iroquoian warfare. Otterbein are among the many scholars who have adopted the approaches of military historians and ethnohistorians to understand Iroquoian methods of fighting. but even there. Craig S. Furthermore.." and that the Iroquoian army acted cooperatively. Keener and Otterbein have found that no one in the field has made a detailed attempt to understand the methods of warfare among these nations. Not only were Huron villages isolated in terms of space. Citing the most thorough and respected of modern scholarship on the Huron and Haudenosaunee Iroquois. they found the tactical analysis lacking. Otterbein found Iroquois military success in this particular campaign arising through superior Iroquoian military sophistication and inferior defense methods among the Huron: .. and military practices.54 In battle-by-battle accounts." giving it a much more strategic feel that terms like "skirmish" or "attack" that have been more common.. These scholars bemoaned the lack of attention paid to the specifics of Iroquoian military tactics. He described the Iroquois attacks on Huronia as "the Iroquois Campaign of 1649.52 Countering Schlesier's argument that disease did most of the damage and that there were only two small battles between the Haudenosaunee Iroquois and the Huron in 1649 was Keith Otterbein's 1979 case study of this conflict. Otterbein successfully demonstrated that that the "Iroquois had one army and the Huron had many armies. the manner in which the Iroquois were able to use their forces was militarily more sophisticated. to warfare.50 Malone discussed the Native impact of European warfare in their adoption of the skulking way of war.the Huron were vulnerable because they had isolated villages. If they had been able to concentrate their forces and thereby take advantage of a tactical error made by the Iroquois. They acknowledged that Bruce G. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of The Huron People to 1660. Otterbein analyzed maneuvers and tactics.53 Using maps and analysis of maneuvers in three battles and the Iroquoian retreat. they might have been able to defeat the Iroquois both in 1649 and in subsequent wars. the Hurons made the serious error of committing their warriors piecemeal to battle.55 Otterbein's was a completely different approach offering a much more thorough study of Iroquoian warfare than other historians had offered. communications. Keener and Keith F. But perhaps most importantly.

warfare acted as a selective process upon offensive strategies and assault tactics used against fortification during the late prehistoric and early historic periods.. Keener." that still exists even in academia. This was quite possibly accurate. Where Otterbein relied primarily on European observations. and upon closer examination. their success beyond this campaign. and then to follow this up with an attack upon a second village. organized. Certainly the pre-contact existence of the League would attest to that possibility. "that through the process of trial and error. Otterbein argued. Keener's 1999 work argued for a precontact superiority of military sophistication among the Iroquois of the League.000 warriors for a surprise attack upon one village.. "Tactically. direct assaults on fortified enemy positions were also used in the seventeenth century. the ability to concentrate their entire force of 1. Bruce ..and superior tactics at critical times during the 17th century. meets every 'principle of war' identified by great generals and military analysts."59 While not discrediting the role ambush tactics played in Iroquoian warfare. He explained. Relying especially archaeological evidence.. At a glance. Keener contested the stereotype of the "skulking Indian" firing "from cover of ambush only when he greatly outnumbers an enemy. and while the work of Malone and many others who have argued that Natives adopted European tactics has been persuasive."58 Treating Huron and Haudenosaunee Iroquois warfare as tactical. Most important to the historiography is the manner in which Otterbein analyzes these battles. one finds that that is precisely what it was.a strategic position between the western fur supply and the eastern market. boiled down to three things: "access to guns and ammunition. Iroquois forces indeed operated in small parties of five to twenty but also in forces of hundreds.. Keener employed ethnohistorical methods in his research.61 Keener argued that in the pre-contact period. this study appears identical to any conventional study of warfare. as planned and not as mere unbridled ferocity. the sophistication of Iroquoian tactics probably predated European contact. Keener asserted that large.11 Otterbein's overall theory of Iroquoian success in the seventeenth century."57 It is interesting that Otterbein did not credit the adoption of European tactics with Iroquoian sophistication.60 Rather. leaving behind only a garrison to secure the first village captured. Combined experience among the Five Nations would have been an asset in creating the success the Iroquois enjoyed in the seventeenth century..62 Keener has not been alone in arguing that large forces played a role in Iroquoian warfare in the pre-contact period. Otterbein brought fuller understanding to Native warfare as a whole and to the success of the Iroquois in this campaign in particular. This was equally true of Craig S.

lay in his contesting of the stereotypical skulking warrior. "made of thicker pieces of wood. the Iroquois reintroduced the hand-held shields they had abandoned. particularly among the Huron where they were common. One of the most important arguments Keener made was part of another overarching shift in the historiography of Native America: that Native culture and technology were not static before the arrival of Europeans.69 His larger contribution to the historiography of Iroquoian warfare. capable of withstanding musket fire.70 This illustrated how narrow academic understanding of Iroquoian assault tactics has been."66 For the purpose of approaching a fortification." that several warriors would carry. Forty to fifty foot high double and triple walled fortifications in rectangular and trapezoidal shapes with bastions for keeping watch and for firing on enemies had appeared by the 1640s.63 Archaeological and written evidence demonstrates that the Iroquois of the League and the Huron had shifted from traditional circular palisades to European style fortifications. the Iroquois constructed movable barriers or walls and protective shields (called mantlets) to defend warriors on the approach to the outer wall."67 Jesuits described the movable barriers as a. providing cover for those behind them in the assault on the fortification. Keener demonstrated that fully fourteen percent of attacks on enemies were direct assaults.12 Trigger argued of the Huron that at times battle lines were drawn in an open field where something not entirely alien to European ideas of warfare occurred. however. While muskets had rendered traditional native wooden armor obsolete.65 "In the 1650s. These fortifications also contained stores of water for extinguishing fires from flaming arrows. Siege warfare which had existed in the pre-contact period continued. "mobile counter-palisade. but what was most interesting in Keener's work and what was most contrary to the prevailing view of a skulking style of warfare was the direct assault.68 Keener observed clear changes in Iroquoian assault tactics between 1640 and 1700. These shields were. arguing that the pre-contact trial-and-error method of honing approaches to warfare continued to serve the Iroquois well as they encountered new methods of defense and assault.64 Keener argued that in attacking these large fortifications. . the Iroquois developed new forms of wood-construction protection that would allow direct assault. Iroquoian forces adapted precontact tactics to meet the new challenge of European style fortifications.

There have been a number of interpretations. Allen W. Though space is running out. In the historiography of the Iroquois. Merrill have been working since the late 1980s to bring the history of Indian slave trading and the experience of Indian slaves into the history of American slavery.73 The importance of ethnohistory to advances in Iroquois history can not be overstated. her work appears here if only in its influence on Bruce Trigger who followed closely in her footsteps and with whom he co-authored a 1967 ethnohistory of the Huron.13 As did those arguing for a pre-contact Iroquoian prowess. neither hiding nor sensationalizing those aspects of Iroquoian warfare that modern readers might find shocking. While Axtell's work was not directly related to the Iroquois. anthropologists. This willingness was further intensified by the increasing imperialist rivalry with France after 1680. giving equal access to the western fur supply and the eastern market."71 Trelease offered a more complex set of factors explaining Iroquois success: It was pure chance which put them athwart one of the few passes in the Appalachian mountain chain. The Iroquois' superior political organization enabled them to use this strength more effectively. and the stronger they became the more willing the English were to propitiate them with additional armaments. a word on these emotionally charged facets of war is in order. Slavery has not so much been denied in the historiography as ignored or treated with minimal attention disproportionate to its significance as a motivating factor in waging war. scholarly debate of a detached nature has occurred in the most hotly contested areas in the field of Iroquoian warfare cannibalism. Lawrence. when the Iroquois emerged as useful auxiliaries."72 Trelease's argument was for complexity. and slavery. Cannibalism and . It is regrettable that her work finds no representation in this paper due to an oversight not noticed until the last moment. Trelease stated in 1962. including that the Iroquois were not really that successful at all and that they were dependent first on the Dutch and then on the English.74 Neal Salisbury and James H. torture. ethnohistorians. Elizabeth Tooker has indeed done extensive work specifically on the Iroquois. It is largely because of ethnohistorians and anthropologists that serious. he has been a pioneer and vocal advocate in the field of ethnohistory. "the Iroquois seem to have had an impressive list of enemies before the Dutch arrived on the Hudson or the French on the St. it seems that ethnohistorians have been most likely to speak with a candid respect. However. This in turn conferred an economic power and strategic importance which enabled them to acquire more and better armaments than most of their Indian rivals. It seems that a complex set of factors is the best argument but one that is still embraced by surprisingly few historians. Two scholars whose work this paper does not address are James Axtell and Elizabeth Tooker.

and have prompted denials that cannibalism happened at all and a projection of the origin of scalping onto Europeans. the Indians "lived in peace and had no wars nor fighting. Arens ignored archaeological evidence.75 Arens rejected cannibalism as anything but an aberration in human history and certainly in North America. "It was practiced first in New England on the . "part of the contemporary Native political movement's attempt to sanitize (remove all blemishes . archaeological and written evidence are sufficient evidence to support the existence of the practice among the Iroquois.. With regard to the debate about scalping. However.. In his 1979 work. Cornplanter. W."76 Abler argues that. However.78 She explained that. as Cornplanter told it." said Cornplanter. former or contemporary anthropophagists have multiplied with the advance of civilization and fieldwork in formerly unstudied culture areas. each tried to involved the Iroquois. The obvious preference runs in the direction of transforming those suspected of being cannibals into confirmed ritual endocannibals and then. however. Axtell and Sturtevant traced the projection of the origin of scalping onto Europeans to an 1820 vision experienced by the Allegany Seneca chief.blemishes as perceived in the light of 20th century North American Indian values) from the aboriginal past. Both have been a source of embarrassment to Native and sympathetic white communities alike. he rejected Arens' sweeping dismissal of cannibalism. examining only written observations of Europeans. "the white man taught Indians" to scalp." But then "the French came over. and these two nations began to fight among themselves. In a thoughtful essay from the following year. have prompted strident debate. Arens asserted: Neither the producers nor the consumers of ideas are attracted by the possibility of diminishing the number of cannibals or incidence of cannibalism. into gustatory exocannibals on a grand scale. "offered to furnish us with instruments of every kind and sharp knives to take the skins off their [enemies'] heads." followed closely by the English. He argued rather that such denials found strength in. He flatly rejected the practice among the Iroquois. by 1879 Susette La Flesch of the Omaha stated. though not specific to the practice among Iroquois."77 While this was not an explicit blaming of the French. in the twentieth century. "The French.14 scalping.Only the fleeting quality of the documentation remains constant. Not content to wage their own battles. James Axtell and William C. taken together. was that before the whites came. Thomas Abler agreed that some of the evidence used to argued for the existence of Iroquoian cannibalism was weak.. Axtell and Sturtevant paraphrased his vision: The reason. Sturtevant offered a thorough discussion in 1980. In the deft hands and fertile imaginations of anthropologists. The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy.

many presentday Indians have been made to feel ashamed of these ancestral practices to the point that they deny they ever existed. Axtell and Sturtevant offered a great wealth of archaeological evidence from prehistoric sites to indicate that scalping occurred in North America long before Europeans arrived. They are customs which.. However.hanging. In his discussion of the challenges inherent in combating stereotypes of the noble savage or the bloodthirsty savage. while "the Indian languages of the East contain many specialized expressions referring to the scalp. "European soldiers were guilty of countless barbarities in peace and war."83 And certainly white men adopted the practice of scalping. was archaeological. Yet surely to ignore or distort important aspects of aboriginal Indian life to make it more acceptable to European tastes is to fail in the understanding of Indian history.. Trigger had the following to say: Features attractive to white tastes are emphasized."79 Axtell and Sturtevant offered linguistic evidence to illustrate that scalping had not "precise and economical words" in European languages. Under the influence of white culture.. Axtell and Sturtevant were following in the footsteps of Trigger. and the victim of scalping. and all the corollaries that are derived from these stereotypes are products of European imagination and wishful thinking. the noble savage. These scholars have in some ways given historians permission to move away from what Keener called "a unilinear evolution" of humanity to a more complex understanding of aboriginal histories. when carefully examined.82 As did Trigger. and drawing and quartering. One can scarcely overstate the influence of anthropologists and enthnohistorians on the historiography of Native Americans generally and the Iroquois specifically. the torture of prisoners.15 Penobscot. The bloodthirsty savage. Some of these words were recorded quite early by European observers such as Gabriel Sagard. torture and cannibalism have been merely one part of complex societies. beheading.84 Axtell and Sturtevant further acknowledged that in the hands of Parkman and his like. Axtell and Sturtevant went out of their way to acknowledge that. while others. torture and cannibalism supported tropes of barbaric savages.85 For example.81 The purpose of Axtell and Sturtevant's discussion was not to disparage Native Americans. disemboweling.. That a single Native nation could sustain a two volume history has given rise to many histories on specific nations. however. No longer confined to . and the abandonment of the elderly and ailing members of a band were all customs practised by various groups of aboriginal Canadians. rather that delineations of real people. Trigger's writing of a two volume history of the Huron alone has affected the field as a whole. Polygamy. the act of scalping. prove not to have been irrational or immoral in terms of the context in which they occurred. which are less attractive or even repugnant to them are either glossed over or suppressed. in the hands of modern ethnohistorians and anthropologists.. scalping."80 Their strongest evidence for pre-contact scalping in North America.

and tactical sophistication. cosmo. population numbers. From the racist interpretations on a unilinear trajectory of history to the ethnohistory of the last forty years of the twentieth century. geographic movement. This movement encouraged Americans to see Indians differently but in some ways may have reinforced the notion of Indians as hapless victims. suicide. death. While the barbarous savage has slipped into memory for most academic historians. . Most modern scholars now view Indian cultures as diverse. agriculture. law. witchcraft. Because of their position as allies to the English. it became apparent that Indians had not been solely victims but that they had had agency too. methods of healing. They no longer represent savage obstacles to civilization but a different kind of civilization. women's issues. religion. and even class structure. the impact of early acquisition of firearms.and ethnogenesis. particularly in the colonial period. Native Americans had an enormous impact on Europeans. marriage. Whole monographs and papers now address questions of empire. These shifts represent changes in American society as a whole. Iroquoian military success has prompted explanations from pseudoscience to the effectiveness of the League. divorce. their historiography has been in many ways positive. ritual. As scholars have explored the wealth of more and more kinds of sources. one can observe major shifts in thinking. the noble and homogenous savage still appears in textbooks where s/he is painted with a homogenous brush. child rearing. Because of their position as allies to the Dutch and English.16 broad overviews surveying a whole people. taboo. social value of conformity. Americans moved toward the Civil Rights movement. crime and punishment. warfare. Indeed. slavery. It is a remarkable testament to the work of Bruce Trigger and other anthropologists and ethnohistorians that Native nations are now receiving some of the focused attention necessary to understand these widely diverse peoples of North America. captivity. As scholars have begun to question the veracity of a phenomenal Iroquois war machine. law. diplomacy. not homogenous. Throughout the historiography. From the pseudoscientific racism of the ante-bellum and even early twentieth century United States. a wide array of monographs and papers have emerged to discuss a whole range of topics related to Native History. the understanding of pre-contact and historic era Native history has grown exponentially. the effects of disease as well as Ojibwa claims of their ignored victories over the Iroquois have figured into the discussion. many documents have survived to offer scholars rich sources about the Iroquois. In part through the American Indian Movement. Indians are human beings with agency instead of hapless victims.

Richter. 381. 13 14 12 11 10 Morgan. William Fenton. 141." The William and Mary Quarterly.W. 2nd ed. no. OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Richter. George T. 141. Karl H. 323. 1609-1653. Allen W. Brown. 1985). 225. University of North Carolina Press. (New York: Dodd. no. 1976). Schlesier. Mead. France and England in North America: A Series of Historical Narratives. The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press). xliii. Information Respecting the History. vol. 3 (Jul. Hunt. (New York: W. no. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1998). Grambo & Company. 83. 158. The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744. 1996): 588-604. A." Ethnohistory 23. 2 (Spring." Ethnohistory 35. Philip A. The League of the Ho-Dé-No-Sau-Nee or Iroquois. 4 (Autumn. 42. 1962): 32. "Francis Parkman: A Brahmin among Untouchables. 50. Henry R. 16 17 15 Ibid." The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 49. no. 1867). Per Act of Congress of March 30 . 9 Ibid. Daniel K. Trelease. Levy. Schoolcraft. 32-38. The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization (Chapel Hill. The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy. This edition contained two volumes in one. A Population History of the Huron-Petun. (Norman. 2 (Philadelphia: Lippincott. no. vol. The Ordeal of the Longhouse." The William and Mary Quarterly 53. 2 (Boston: Little... 82. 1984).. 1904). 305-328.17                                                                                                                 1   Elizabeth Tooker. Lewis Henry Morgan. Francis Jennings. Warrick. 3 (July. 1 (Jun.D. "The Iroquois and the Western Fur Trade: A Problem in Interpretation. ix. 31. "Exemplars of Taking Liberties: The Iroquois Influence Thesis and the Problem of Evidence. Gary A.. 1992). 1852). 7 8 Ibid. and Co. 4 5 6 3 2 Richter. "The United States Constitution and the Iroquois League. and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared Under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Francis Jennings.. The Ordeal of the Longhouse. and Company. Condition. 107. "Epidemics and Indian Middlemen: Rethinking the Wars of the Iroquois. 2008). 500-1650. Francis Parkman. 18 Ibid. 3-4. Norton. Ibid..19. . 1988): 305-336.

viii.. The Ordeal of the Longhouse. Ibid. . 297.. Jennings. Eid. Ibid. 1920).. xviii." Ethnohistory 26.. Ibid. 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 Ibid. Ibid. 143. 308.. 131-142.. Ibid.. 1979): 298.. Ibid. 142.. No. Ibid. Ibid.. Ibid. Frederick Jackson Turner. The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire. 194. Ambiguous Iroquois Empire. 189. Ibid. 11.. The Frontier in American History (New York: Henry Holt and Company. 143. Eid.. Ibid.. 312. 112. 59. "The Ojibwa-Iroquois War: The War the Five Nations Did Not Win. 307. 316. Ibid.18                                                                                                                 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Schliesier. 3. Ibid. 136. Ibid. 309. Ibid. Richter.. 141. 46 Jennings. Ibid. Ibid.. Ibid. 306. Ibid. Leroy V. Ibid. 4 (Autumn. 315.

Trelease. Ibid. Richter. 48 49 50 51 52 47 Ibid. (Autumn. The Huron: Farmers of the North (New York: Holt.. Ibid. 150. 1979): 141-142.. The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics Among the New England Indians (Lanham: MD: Madison Books." Ethnohistory 46. 799. The Ordeal of the Longhouse. 79-80. Ibid. Ibid. no. 1999): 777-778. Otterbein. 72 Ibid. 6. 4. 149-150. Ibid. Ibid. no. Ibid. 2 (Spring. Craig S. Ibid... 1 (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press. Ibid.. 792. 70. Trigger. 54.. Iroquois: A Case Study in Inter-Tribal Warfare. "An Ethnohistorical Analysis of Iroquois Assault Tactics Used against Fortified Settlements of the Northeast in the Seventeenth Century.19                                                                                                                 Patrick Malone... Malone. 146. vol. 791. 1969). Trigger. Rinehart. Ibid. 80. 51. "Huron vs.. 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 Keener. 787. Ibid. Ibid. Bruce G.. 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 Otterbein. 778. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of The Huron People to 1660." Ethnohistory 26. Keener. 777. Ibid. Ibid. 150.. 100. 786. 1987). . Ibid. 62. 778. 1991). 141. and Winton.. Keener. Keith F. Bruce G.

no.. 467. no. The Children of Aataentsic.. 10. 1979). no. Neal Salisbury. Abler. Keener. Trigger. "The Indians' Old World: Native Americans and the Coming of Europeans. An Ethnohistory of the Huron Indians from 1615-1649 (Washington. 463-464.C." Ethnohistory 27. 1." The William and Mary Quarterly 53. 1980): 310. "Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American Indians. 4 (Autumn. or Who Invented Scalping?" The William and Mary Quarterly 37. Merrell.   . D. 110. Trigger. 1980): 451. 779. 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 77 76 75 74 73 Ibid.20                                                                                                                 Elizabeth Tooker and Bruce G.. "The Unkindest Cut. Ibid. Ibid. W. 3 (Jul. The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy (New York: Oxford University Press. Ibid.." The William and Mary Quarterly 46.: Huronia Historical Development Council and the Smithsonian Institute. 1967). vol. James H. Sturtevant. Thomas S. Axtell and Sturtevant. 463. no. 471. Ibid.. James Axtell and William C. 165.. 1996): 457. 3 (July. "Iroquois Cannibalism: Fact Not Fiction. Arens. 452. 1 (Jan. 1989): 101-104..

org/stable/481363 (accessed 22 Nov. Norman. or Who Invented Scalping?" The William and Mary Quarterly 37. 3 (July. 2010). 2010). Eid. 3 (July. no. "An Ethnohistorical Analysis of Iroquois Assault Tactics Used against Fortified Settlements of the Northeast in the Seventeenth Century. http://www." Ethnohistory Merrell. James Mochoruk . (accessed 22 Nov. "Iroquois Cannibalism: Fact Not Fiction.. The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with English Colonies from Its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744. 1984. "The Unkindest Cut." The William and Mary Quarterly 53. e+Man-Eating+Myth&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=OvcJTbsDoGdlgfl54yIAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCYQ6 AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed 12 Dec. 1999): 777-807. http://books. New York: Oxford University 2010).org/stable/1918930 (accessed 22 Nov. The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics Among the New England Indians.jstor. 1996): 588-604. "Francis Parkman: A Brahmin among Untouchables. http://www.. http://www. 3 (Jul. 1980): 309-316. Thomas S. Patrick." The William and Mary Quarterly 42. Craig S.. The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations. no. Mead. no. Axtell. http://www. "Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians and American (accessed 22 Nov. and Company. (accessed 22 Nov. http://www. 1979. 2nd ed.. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. The League of the Ho-Dé-No-Sau-Nee or Iroquois. no. Malone. 2010). 1985): 305-328. Fenton. Sturtevant. http://www. W. Leroy V.. Lewis Henry.jstor.." Ethnohistory 46.jstor.. James and William C.jstor. No. Norton. 2010). William. Francis." Ethnohistory 27. Philip A. Levy.. Jennings. Jennings. 2010). Francis. 1998. 4. 4 (Autumn." The William and Mary Quarterly 46. "Exemplars of Taking Liberties: The Iroquois Influence Thesis and the Problem of Evidence. 4 (Autumn.jstor. Morgan. no. New York: (accessed 1 Dec.21 BIBLIOGRAPHY Abler. The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy. Keener. James H. 1 (Jan. 1989): 94-119.W. George T.jstor.. 2010). 1991. (Autumn. OK: University of Oklahoma Press. Arens.. 2010). 1979): 297-324. Lanham: MD: Madison Books. 1904. New York: W. 1980): Skjelver HIST 593 Dr. Hunt. no. The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois (accessed 22 Nov. "The Ojibwa-Iroquois War: The War the Five Nations Did Not Win.

Tooker. and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared Under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. and Winton. http://www. Allen W. 1976): 129-145. Trigger... 3 (Jul. Brown. Schoolcraft. 1 (Jun. 22 Nov. 1969. Per Act of Congress of March 30 .C. 1867.+Per+Act+of+Congress+o f+March+30.:Huronia Historical Development Council and the Smithsonian Institute. Keith F. Gary (accessed 22 Nov.+and+Prospe cts+of+the+Indian+Tribes+of+the+United+States:+Collected+and+Prepared+Un (accessed 1 choolcraft+1852+Information+Respecting+the+History. Chapel Hill. 1609-1653. 2 Boston: Little. 2 (Spring. (accessed 1 Dec.jstor.. Information Respecting the History. 2010).. Bruce G. http://www. http://www. Condition. Francis. France and England in North America: A Series of Historical Narratives. D. Richter. vol. "Huron vs.jstor. http://www." Ethnohistory 26. The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. (accessed 10 Dec. 1852. and Co. Frederick Jackson." The William and Mary Quarterly 53.jstor." The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 49. no. 2010). 2010).org/stable/482139 (accessed. "The Indians' Old World: Native Americans and the Coming of Europeans. http://www. Trelease. Warrick. Otterbein. Tooker. 1962): 32-51. "The Iroquois and the Western Fur Trade: A Problem in Interpretation. A.. no. 2010). Karl H. Philadelphia: Lippincott.&hl=en&ei=owQJTeSSMs2Qnwf98uwu&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct =result&resnum=1&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed 10 Dec. Washington. "Epidemics and Indian Middlemen: Rethinking the Wars of the Iroquois. A Population History of the Huron-Petun. Elizabeth and Bruce G. Trigger. Salisbury. 1996): 435-458. Parkman.. ------. University of North Carolina Press.jstor. 2010). New York: Skjelver HIST 593 Dr..jstor. The Huron: Farmers of the North.+Condition. New York: Holt. Henry (accessed 22 Nov. 1988): 1920. New York: Henry Holt and Company. http://www. 4 (Autumn. 2 (Spring. Schlesier. 1979): 141-152. 500-1650. Iroquois: A Case Study in Inter-Tribal Warfare. "The United States Constitution and the Iroquois League. 1967. no.. 1987. no. The Frontier in American History. James Mochoruk . 2010)..." Ethnohistory 23. Vol.D. Neal. 1992. Turner. http://books. Grambo & Company. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press..archive. 2010). 2. Rinehart. Daniel K. 2010). An Ethnohistory of the Huron Indians from 1615-1649.22 0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed 10 Dec." Ethnohistory 35. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of The Huron People to 1660.

23 Cambridge University Press. James Mochoruk . 2008. Skjelver HIST 593 Dr.

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