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Iroquois Lesson for Kids: Daily Life & Culture

Instructor: Elizabeth Diehl

Elizabeth has taught in various capacities for 5 years, at both the elementary level and with secondary students. She has a bachelors in History from UCCS and a masters in Special Education from Regis University.

Have you ever imagined growing up in a community from the past? What was it like to live with the Haudenosaunee before settlers came? Let's find out today!

Who Are the Iroquois?

The Iroquois are a native American people group who lived in the northeastern United States and Canada before European settlers came to North America. Iroquois is a broad word that describes six unique tribes who spoke similar languages and worked together in the Iroquois Confederacy. Today they prefer to use the term Haudenosaunee, which means 'people of the longhouse', instead of Iroquois.

Where Did They Live?

A longhouse was very important to everyday life.

If you were a child in the Haudenosaunee confederacy, you would sleep with your siblings, cousins and other family members in the longhouse. Longhouses were just that - long houses where people lived together. There could be around 60 people in a longhouse!

Longhouses were made of long wooden poles and covered with bark. There was a door at each long end. A place for a fire would be in the middle of the room, and people would sleep along the sides. Over the doorways, an animal skin would be hung to keep out the cold.

Longhouses were the Haudenosaunee's homes, but also represented much more. When the original five nations met to form the Iroquois Confederacy, they imagined themselves as all under the same roof, or all in one longhouse together. They made efforts to work together to so that everyone would benefit from each decision.

What Did They Eat and Make?

There were three very important crops for the Iroquois: beans, corn and squash. The Haudenosaunee hunted for rabbits, fish and deer. They knew where to find berries, nuts and wild greens to eat, too.

After harvest, the Haudenosaunee tried to use every part of the animals they killed and the plants they grew. Cornstalks made baskets, sleeping mats, and even baby dolls for the children. Deer hide made clothes, blankets and moccasins. Even the antlers were used as tools!

What Did the Children Do?

Girls would be expected to help the women by doing chores around the longhouse, and helping with the crops. Boys would have learned how to hunt and fish from their fathers. Both boys and girls would have learned how to find wild plants to eat, or to use as medicine. They would have also learned stories and legends that were important to their clan and tribe.

What Did They Believe?

The concept of giving thanks is very important to the Haudenosaunee. Traditionally, Haudenosaunee would say words of thanks at the start and end of each day, as well as at each meeting and celebration. When they hunted and killed an animal, they would thank the animal's spirit for giving itself to the people.

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