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The Iroquois were an aggressive tribe that frequently raided rival tribes and expanded their territories by invading the lands of other tribes. The Huron, Erie, and Susquehannock tribes were among those nearly wiped out by Iroquois raids. Iroquois boys developed their military skills at an early age by practicing with bows, arrows, spears, and clubs. As teenagers, they participated in raids against hostile Indians, or, against White settlers. Military bravery often resulted in great prestige and made men eligible to become war chiefs. Iroquois prisoners were often made to "run the gauntlet," in which they had to run between two rows of Iroquois warriors lashing them with thorny sticks and branches. Those who made it through were often incorporated into the village; those that did not were sometimes tortured to death.
Iroquois Role in American Wars
In some cases, the powerful Iroquois were called upon by the British, French, or Americans to help them in war. Iroquois forces joined the British in the defeat of the French in the French and Indian War (1755-1763). During the American Revolution, most of the Iroquois sided with the British, but the Oneida and Tuscarora sided with the Americans, causing the first major rift in the Iroquois Confederacy. Later in the Revolution, American forces sent by George Washington invaded Iroquois territory in upstate New York and torched their crops and villages. After the revolution, the U.S. government forcefully took much of the Iroquois land.
Today, many in the Iroquois community live on reservations in upstate New York, Canada, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.