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Iroquois Nation, Iroquois Tribe


Katsi Cook with her twins, Thomas and Phillip
Ever wonder what a Mohawk Indian woman was like? Well, Kevin and I visited the home of Katsi and Jose in Ithaca, New York and found out. Katsi is a Mohawk Indian and a good friend of my family.

The first night that we stayed, it rained really hard. We sat around Katsi's kitchen table and told stories about what we had been up to since last seeing eachother. The next day, I woke up to the sun shining in through the window.

Over breakfast Katsi told us that she went to Catholic school as a child, but at the age of fifteen, she was adopted by a man called Joe Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell brought Katsi back to her Mohawk roots.

She lived in the longhouse, a Native American wooden building that the Iroquois tribe used to live in. There, she started to learn about the ways of the Mohawk and the Iroquois.

The Iroquois is six different tribes that came together for peace. Led by a female chief, the six tribes formed a nation in Akwesasne, part of what is now New York state. The six tribes were Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Tuscarora. In these different tribes are several different clans (like the Bear Clan, Hawk Clan, and the Wolf Clan). They choose names of animals for their clan names because of the peaceful connection that they have with the animals and the surrounding environment. Katsi herself is part of the Wolf Clan.

Iroquois Powwow, with women leading the way
Three of the most important things that we must know about the Iroquois women are that they are peaceful, thoughtful and very powerful. They were given huge responsibilities like planting, harvesting, and supervising all fieldwork. It is also important to know that the families have the names of the mother, and not the father. This symbolizes their importance. Iroquois women also have the responsibilities of name giving, appointing chiefs of the tribe, and even declaring war.

A clan-mother poster
The biggest responsibility the women had, Katsi tells us, was to continue the cycle of life. The cycle of life includes performing the traditional ceremonies every year, teaching those ceremonies to the youth, saying farewell to the dead, and welcoming the new life to the world.

Both Kevin and I were very impressed by Katsi and the role that women played in Iroquois culture. We were very grateful for her for sharing these things with us.


Please email me at: nick@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Daphne - The mysterious ways of the secretive Publeos
Neda - A ghost town turns into a whirling dervish dance festival
Team - The first inhabitants of North America: A picture of a proud and strong people