Kinship of Iroquois
Kinship of Iroquois
Long before European settlers began arriving on North American soil, in the area currently known as upstate New York lived the native American tribe named the Iroquois or as they call themselves today, the Haudenosaunee, which translates to mean – people of the longhouse. “The Iroquois enjoy a rich and varied culture that is more of a melting pot” (Borade, 2010). Often they where know to incorporate captives in order to replace those lost during war. The Iroquois were a horticulture tribe.

Men cleared and burned the forest while women planted, weeded, and harvested the crops, primarily “The Three Sisters” – corn, beans, and squash. Cultivation was done cooperatively among the matrilineally related women of the longhouse. An older woman would act as labor organizer, ensuring that everyone worked together for success. (Nowak and Laird, 2010)

Women of the Iroquois enjoyed equal status among the men in their society. “Women are in charge of property, agricultural land holding including dwelling and horses” (Borade, 2010). The men are the primary hunters but the women were responsible for cultivating the land. This makes for the balance between the sexes where all involved are equally needed and responsible for supporting their community.

All societies have a family system or kinship that binds them together. Understanding of the Iroquois system can be somewhat difficult since their model is vastly different from how we think of families in our own society.

The system has both classificatory and descriptive terms. In addition to gender and generation, Iroquois kinship also distinguishes between parental siblings of opposite sexes. Parental siblings of the samesex are considered blood relatives (i.e., Parents). However, parental siblings of differingsex are labeled as “Aunt” or “Uncle” as the situation necessitates. Thus, ones mothers sister is also called mother, and ones fathers brother is also called father; however, ones mothers brother is called uncle, and ones fathers sister is called aunt. Children of the parental generation (that is, children of parental sibling of the same sex) are considered siblings (parallel cousin). The children of an Aunt or Uncle are not siblings; they are considered instead cousins (cross cousin specifically). (Haviland, 2002)

As you can see, each family consist of many more members then we are traditionally accustom. “The principle is this: each Iroquois belonged to the longhouse family into which he or she was born, which was the mothers longhouse family. Longhouse family membership lasted throughout ones life” (Hertzber, 2010). Longhouse family refers to the extended family, which they consider to be the same unit. Typically, the head of each longhouse family is the eldest women. “Were you an Iroquois child, your longhouse family would include your brothers and sisters; your mother, her brothers and sisters, and the children of her sisters; your maternal grandmother, her brothers and sisters, and the children of her sisters and so on” (Hertzber, 2010). This makes for

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European Settlers And Family System. (May 31, 2021). Retrieved from