The Iroquois Confederacy: How The Revolutionary War Broke A Centuries-Old Alliance

The original Iroquois Confederacy, called the Five Nations, was an arrangement between the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Onondaga tribes. By all accounts, it was a perfect outfit. Individual tribes retained their traditions and cultures but could rely on other tribes in times of war, dispute, hunting and celebration. However, the Revolutionary War broke this centuries-old alliance, effectively ending the Iroquois dominance in the New World. Let's see how it happened.

Iroquois Strong

The Iroquois Confederacy was based in what is now New York. It is unclear when it was formed, but by the time European settlers appeared, it was already a well-established institution. It was no coincidence that it lasted so long: the alliance allowed various tribes to maintain control of their territories and hunting grounds without worrying about disputes with other tribes.

White Man's Arrival

When European settlers first arrived in the New World and encountered the Iroquois people, they noted the strength of the alliance and considered it "unbreakable". The Iroquois also noted something about white people---their guns.

Power Of Guns

Before the arrival of Europeans, the Iroquois hunted and fought with bow and arrow or an axe, so when they started trading with white settlers for their guns, it was a real game-changer. First, the guns had shock value. The loud, unexpected sound of gunfire terrified and stunned his enemies. Guns were also more effective in both hunting and warfare. The Iroquois soon developed an insatiable craving for firepower.

Trading Fur for Guns

To feed their newfound addiction, the Iroquois tried to trade whatever they could with the Europeans. Most of the commodities they had to trade---corn, baskets, pearls---didn't interest the settlers, but one commodity did: fur. As a result, the Iroquois changed their traditional ways, with a new focus towards getting that fur.

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