Before the exploration of America by Christopher Columbus at the end of the 15th century, there were a lot of Native American tribes who inhabited the country. Each of them had their own language, culture, traditions and religion. Each tribe had its name; most of them had the meaning “people.” Therefore, all those various tribes with their specific features and characteristics formed American nation, known in the history as Indians. It is worth mentioning that people who inhabited America, lived in peace with each other in spite of the difference they had in many aspects of their life, culture and development (Tuck, 1978). When the whites came to the American land, they brought a lot of conflicts, which occurred between the tribes and whites as well as between each other. With the European colonization of the American land, Native American tribes faced a lot of difficulties and changes in their lives. By the end of the 19th century most American tribes lost their freedom, independence, language and territories; those who survived and wanted to preserve their own traditions and the way of life had to move into reservations.
The Iroquois` Historical Account
The Iroquois lived in the north-eastern part of the present United States, in upstate New York and spread up to the Niagara Falls. From the historical records, it is known that they lived in communities in long buildings, which were not only their shelters, but also places for community meetings and worship (Tuck, 1978). Due to historical records, the Iroquois that consisted of the Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora established a constitution and its government to protect their citizens in different matters and conflicts, providing law on their territories (Barrett, 2003). The Iroquois were powerful people who later gained control of the present north-eastern part of the U.S.A. and eastern Canada due to migration and conquest. By 1680, they occupied the territories of Kentucky, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Illinois River, Lake Michigan, southern Ontario and south-western Quebec and finally New England with the Connecticut River and the Hudson River. In spite the fact that the Iroquois made a great impact on history of the United States, their amount in the 17th century was approximately 20,000. Due to various epidemics which were brought from Europe and wars reduced their population almost in a half of its original number. Permanent wars with the French and British moved them back to the original territories (Barrett, 2003).
An efficient political and social organization of the Iroquois attracted the historians and the founding fathers of the U.S.A., such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They invited the Iroquois leaders to take part in the meetings that led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Some of the Iroquois original laws (to serve, resolve and protect disputes) were included to the American Constitution. The Iroquois was one of the most influential Native American tribe and made an important input in the development of those territories, where they were settled. They were rather cultural people who educated their children, had their own traditions and holidays. People cultivated agriculture, gathered forest products like berries and mushrooms, went fishing and hunting. The fact that they lived in long houses was a symbol of their unity.
The Iroquois society is characterised by a rich and varied culture. Women had a great respect in their families and there never was any violence against them. They were responsible for bringing up children, property, dwellings and horses; furthermore, they could choose what kind of work to do in the dwelling. They had equal rights with their men and in case of divorce it was a man who had to leave the house, not a woman.
During the first meeting with the Europeans on their territories most of the Iroquois were rather friendly and helpful. They were acting that way because of their lifestyle and traditions, when all people used to help each other. Colonial wars took place mainly in Canadian territories between the Iroquois and the French. Samuel de Champlain started the war against the Iroquois in 1609 and the battles had been continuing for the next 150 years. Native Americans were fearless fighters who did not save their lives protecting their native land, women and children against the European colonists. The war of 1650 is known in the American-Canadian history as one of the most severe war against French colonists who had a great fear against the Iroquois. It was hard for the French to establish their rules and laws because of the Iroquois severe resistance (Abler, 2007). The year 1650 is known as the year of the famous Iroquois attack due to which they dispersed the Huron`s throughout Ontario and had the intention to destroy Montreal and Quebec City. As a result of that war, the Iroquois returned to their own land. Only by the year 1760, England could establish their law and system as a result of seven years war.
Another war, which is worth mentioning, was in the September, 1680 where 500 Iroquois and 100 of their allies had a battle in the village of Kaskaskia in Illinois. Most of the Illini warriors were armed with bows and tomahawks while the Iroquois were armed with guns (Abler, 2007). The Illini joined a Canadian Army in the present territory of the upper New York State. Many Iroquois villages were burned and destroyed in that war. Some Iroquois live in New York nowadays, others moved to Canada in 1700s.
The arrival of the Europeans destroyed the culture, way of life, traditions and religion of Native Americans. Though, they put a great impact in the further development in different spheres of American life such as economic, political, military, education and etc. The Iroquois and other groups of Native Americans were moved from their territories because of reason of survival. Many of them died because of diseases which the Europeans brought with them. Government policies were held against Native Americans that forced them to live in reservations.
Today the majority of American Indians do not live in reservations like hundred years ago; approximately 80 percent of them live in urban environment and have equal rights with all the other citizens of the United States. It is worth mentioning, that most American Indians have been assimilated into American culture.