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Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Mohawks for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Mohawk language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Mohawk pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages. Photographs are the property of the sources we have credited.
Iroquois wampum belt
|Yes, the Mohawk Indian tribe was one of the original members of the Iroquois Confederation, or Kanonsionni in their own language ("people of the longhouse.") The other member nations were the the Seneca tribe, the Oneida tribe, the Cayuga tribe, and the Onondaga tribe. Later a sixth tribe, the Tuscaroras, joined the confederacy. Today these long-term allies refer to themselves as the Haudenosaunee or Six Nations.|
|Here is the homepage of the Mohawk Tribe of Kahnawake, where you can find information about the Mohawk lifestyle past and present.|
|They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Mohawk children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But Mohawk children did have toys and games. Mohawk girls liked to play with cornhusk dolls, and boys played a game where they tried to throw a dart through a moving hoop. Lacrosse was also a popular sport among Mohawk boys as it was among adult men. Like many Native Americans, Mohawk mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with pictures of cradleboards and other American Indian baby carriers.|
Iroquois longhouse sketch
|The Mohawk people lived in villages of longhouses, which were large wood-frame buildings covered with sheets of elm bark. One Mohawk house could be a hundred feet long, and an entire clan lived in it--up to 60 people! Here are some pictures of longhouses like the ones Mohawk Indians used, and a drawing of what a long house looked like on the inside. Today, longhouses are only used for ceremonial purposes. The Mohawks live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.|
Mohawk traditional clothing
Mohawk Indian moccasins
Mohawk men wore breechcloths with leggings. Mohawk women wore wraparound skirts with shorter leggings.
Men did not originally wear shirts in Mohawk culture, but women often wore a
poncho-like tunic called an overdress.
Mohawk Indians usually wore moccasins on their feet.
In colonial times, the Mohawks adapted European costume like cloth shirts and blouses, decorating
them with beadwork and ribbon applique. Here is a photograph of a traditional Mohawk skirt. Here is a webpage
about traditional Iroquois dress, and some photographs
and links about Native American Indian clothes in general.
The Mohawks didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Mohawk men wore traditional Iroquois headdresses, which are feathered caps with a different insignia for each tribe. (The Mohawk headdress has three eagle feathers on top.) Mohawk women sometimes wore special beaded tiaras. In times of war, Mohawk men shaved their heads except for a scalplock or a crest down the center of their head. This style is often called a Mohawk haircut because of them (though warriors in several other tribes also wore their hair this way.) Sometimes they augmented this haircut with splayed feathers or a roach headdress made of brightly dyed porcupine and deer hair. Here are some pictures of these different kinds of Indian headdress. Mohawk women only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Otherwise they wore their hair long and loose or plaited into a long braid. Men sometimes decorated their faces and bodies with Native tattoo art, but Mohawk women generally didn't paint or tattoo themselves.
Today, some Mohawk people still wear moccasins or a beaded shirt, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.
|Yes, there were two types of Mohawk canoes. A canoe made from elm bark was light and fast. A dugout canoe, made from hollowed-out logs, was long and could carry many people. Here is a website with pictures of different Mohawk canoe types. Over land, the Mohawks used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) During the winter the Mohawks used sleds and laced snowshoes to travel through the snow.|
|The Mohawk Indians were farming people. Mohawk women planted crops of corn, beans, and squash and harvested wild berries and herbs. Mohawk men hunted for deer and elk and fished in the rivers. Traditional Mohawk foods included cornbread, soups, and stews, which they cooked on stone hearths. Here is a website with more information about Native farming.|
Iroquois war club
Mohawk hunters used bows and arrows. Mohawk fishermen used spears and fishing poles.
In war, Mohawk men used their bows and arrows or fought with clubs, spears and shields.
Here is a website with pictures and information about the Iroquois war club
and other traditional weapons.
Other important tools used by the Mohawks included stone adzes (hand axes for woodworking), flint knives for skinning animals, and wooden hoes for farming. The Mohawks and other Iroquois were skilled woodworkers, steaming wood so that it could be bent to make curved tools. Some Iroquois artisans still make lacrosse sticks this way today.
|The Mohawk and other Iroquois tribes were known for their tribal masks, which are considered such a sacred art form that outsiders are still not permitted to view many of these masks. Iroquois beadwork and the more demanding quillwork are more common Mohawk crafts. The Mohawks also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.|
Iroquois water drum
|The two most important Mohawk instruments are drums and flutes. Mohawk drums were often filled with water to give them a distinctive sound different from the drums of other tribes. Most Mohawk music is very rhythmic and consists mostly of drumming and lively singing. Flutes were used to woo women in the Mohawk tribe. A young Mohawk man would play beautiful flute music outside his girlfriend's longhouse at night to show her he was thinking about her.|
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