They are known to the French as the Iroquois Confederacy or League, and to the English as the Five Nations comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples. The League is governed by the Grand Council of the Five Nations that is an assembly of Hoyenah (chiefs) or sachems. The Tadodaho, is the chief from the Onondaga people chosen to preside over the Grand Council of the Iroquois League. Relations with other tribes are done under the terms of several as trade and military alliances.
The Iroquois have absorbed many other peoples into their cultures as a result of warfare, adoption of captives, and by offering shelter to displaced nations.
Diplomacy, Trade and Wars
The Two Row Wampum Treaty, also known as the Tawagonshi Agreement or Treaty of 1613, is an agreement made between representatives of the Five Nations of the Iroquois and representatives of the Dutch government in 1613. It declared peaceful coexistence and trade between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers in the area. The factory of Fort Orange-Beverwijck is the main trade center for furs, alcohol, manufactured goods and weapons between the Iroquois and the Dutch of New Netherland.
Beginning in 1609, the Iroquois engaged in a decades-long series of wars, the so-called Beaver Wars, against the French, their Huron allies, and other neighboring tribes. The Iroquois sought to expand their territory and monopolize the fur trade and the trade between European markets and the tribes of the western Great Lakes region. The Iroquois Confederation, led by the dominant Mohawk, mobilized against the largely Algonquian-speaking tribes of the Great Lakes region. The Iroquois were armed by their Dutch and English trading partners; the Algonquian were backed by the French, their chief trading partner.
At various stages of the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois, French and English agreed on commercial and exchange agreements and partially acknowledge the Iroquois monopoly of fur trading in their territory.
The Beaver Wars
During the Beaver Wars, they defeated and assimilated the Huron (1649), Petun (1650), the Neutral Nation (1651), Erie Tribe (1657), and Susquehannock (1680). After the Beaver Wars the Iroquois became dominant in the region and enlarged their territory, realigning the tribal geography of North America. The Iroquois took as prisoners women and children, that were brought back to the Iroquois homelands and adopted into the nations.
During the Wars the Iroquois strengthened their confederacy to work more closely and create an effective central leadership. By the 1660s the five Iroquois nations ceased fighting among themselves. They also easily coordinated military and economic plans among all five nations. In so doing, they increased their power and achieved a level of government more advanced than those of the surrounding tribes' decentralized forms of operating. The Tadodaho was given more powers as the League's spokesman with the Europeans. Trade and military alliances with other tribes gave the Iroquois the authority to represent its members with Europeans, but with no vote or direct representation in the Grand Council.
At the end of the Beaver Wars the Haudenosaunee had more than doubled its territory. However diseases and war had reduced the population and therefore critically curbed a massive occupation of the new territories. The establishment of the North and South New Villages was hampered by this factor and never fulfilled their role of fully securing and integrating the new territories to the Iroquois homeland. Much more successful were the Dutch Iroquois Plantations.
The Iroquois Plantation
At the height of the Beavers Wars in the 1660s and as the Dutch started to switch from fur trade to timber and grain production a change in the Indian policy (i.e. Iroquois) was started. It also allowed a new policy of colonization desperately needed at the growing number of Englishmen to the East and Southwest of the New Netherlands.
The Iroquois sachems were offered patroonships. These native patroon assigned or recognized the land rights of the tribe or clan in perpetuity and the right to appoint or elect local officials. The sachem were given in exchange the duty to pay a small tribute, allow Dutch to settle in the patroonship, allow passage of missionaries and built schools for the natives.
After the Second Esopus War (1663), the lands of the Esopus tribe of the Lenape in the Mohawk and Hudson Valley were sold to French Huguenot refugees and Mohawks allies, or given as patroonships to the later.
The Iroquois had been counterattacked by the French and their Indian allies in New France. Mutual protection and alliances against the French, the Commonwealth and Indian tribes that were rivals of the Iroquois opened years of negotiations with the Dutch.
The North River Treaty
In March 1663 the Iroquois and Dutch West India Company (WIC) envoys meet at Fort Orange to sign the North River Treaty. This was the result of proposal by the WIC. After several month of negotiations both delegations meet to sign the Treaty and exchange gifts. The Treaty defined the relationship between both parties. The Dutch were giving open access to Iroquois lands and establish factorijs (trade posts), forts and schools, and the Iroquois freedom of movement in New Netherlands and New Amsterdam. Exchange of food in case of scarcity and free trade between the two parties. The WIC guaranteed the supply of guns and munitions. Recognition of the titles of the Iroquois plantoonships and Dutch purchases in Iroquois lands. both parties could buy and sell land in their territories. Finally each year at the same date the envoys would meet to exchange gifts, complains and suggestions. Legal issues would also be addressed in these meetings.
Although the treaty was from perfect and many thorny issues would rise in the yearly meetings it provided an effective alliance against the French and gave the Iroquois a free hand and resources to dealt with its tribal neighbours and the specifically the Susquehannock. Thereby engaging in proxy war against threats to New Netherlands.
The economy of the Iroquois is historically based on communal production and combined elements of both horticulture and hunter-gatherer systems. The Iroquois peoples are predominantly agricultural, harvesting the "Three Sisters" (corn, beans, and squash). The Iroquois trade corn and tobacco for the pelts from the tribes to the north and the wampum from the tribes to the east. Fur trade, obtained by trade or hunting, with Europeans allowed the commerce of manufactured goods, weapons, and alcohol. However French-English competition led to an overexploitation and depletion of beavers. The new lands and Iroquois patroonships allowed activities such as agricultural products (corn, beans, barley), fish, timber and cattle to be exploited and bartered for other goods between other tribes or the use of currency with European.