Huntingand gathering food is an essential ingredient to life. Without food it is impossible tosustain life. If you can’t obtainfood, it is also impossible to stay alive. Therefore, having hunting skills is essential to life. The Iroquois tribe and Inuit tribe wereboth great hunters. They didn’tonly hunt, but were able to grow and gather food too. With there different climates, they both had many obstaclesto overcome such as weather and terrain. The Inuit had to be able to find food in sub zero conditions while theIroquois had season changes that affected what kind of food sources they hadavailable to them. The Inuitpeople and Iroquois people had similar hunting techniques and also had theirown individual methods of getting the necessary food to survive. Both tribes had lots of spiritualityinvolved in their hunting and the animals that they hunted for. The Inuit people and Iroquoispeople were great hunters of animals and excellent gatherers and growers offood.
Theword “Inuit” means “people”. TheInuit are most commonly found in the Arctic region of the world. Their primary location in the Arctic isin West Alaska, North Alaska, Arctic Canada including Labrador, and Greenland(Condon 270). When the 1990 U.S.Census was conducted, it showed that there was 44,392 Inuit’s living inAlaska. It is estimated that thereare around 25,000 Inuit’s occupying Canada with an additional estimated amountof 46,000 in Greenland (Condon 270). Inuit people speak using the language group of Eskimo-Aleut.
Inuitpeople are believed to be descendants directly from the Thule whalehunters. Thule whale hunters livedin Alaska and moved into the northern and arctic region of Canada and Greenlandat about the time of the end of the first millennium c.e (Condon 380). The Thule move into Canada andGreenland also happened at roughly the same time as the Medieval Warming Period(Condon 380).
Thereare two main branches in the Eskimo family. The first are the Inuit and the other one is the Yupik. Inuit people and Yupik people can bedifferentiated easily, though, because they use different languages and theyhave separate cultures. Also, the Yupik are neighbors to the South of the Inuit. Yupik people are found in southwesternAlaska, southern Alaska, St. Lawrence Island, and Siberia (Condon 270).
Likemost other Indians, the Inuit people were highly spiritual and hadrituals. Many of their religiouspractices involved the connection between human life and their surroundinganimals and the animal spirit world (Condon 272). If someone fell ill, the Inuit people often said it happenedbecause that person broke a taboo. The Inuit people believed that the Northern Lights were sacred. They often looked into the lights totry and find family members or friends dancing in the next life after they havedied and moved on to the spirit world.
Likeother Indians, Inuit people have rights of passage. There is a right of passage for both the males and thefemales that happen at or around the age of puberty. For males, a traditional feast is held when a boy has killedhis first seal or caribou. Itmarks the start of his manhood. For the females, girls get married when they are going through puberty.
Inuitpeople can still be found in the Arctic areas that they inhabited hundreds ofyear previously. Richard Condonstates in American Indians, “theInuit of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland now live in centralized villages andtowns that are supported by schools, medical facilities, government offices,retail stores, and other social amenities” (382). The Inuit people have made organizations to help share theirviews with other Inuit and their local government. For instance, The Inuit Circumpolar Conference came to be in1977 for a couple reasons (Condon 382). The Conference was established to help bring the Inuitand Yupik people together to talk about important issues ranging from social topolitical concerns to environmental and economic issues. Kinship was the basis of Inuit socialorganization and still is today. Though they have modernized their ways, they still often share the foodthey gather and hunt with each other. They have moved onto modern hunting and fishingmethods that much of the rest of the world uses now such as guns, snowmobiles,all terrain vehicles, and boats with motors (Condon 382). Even though their way of living hasdrastically improved since the past, their people are still plagued by social issuessuch as alcohol and drug problems, unemployment, and suicide (Condon 382).
Theword “Iroquois” refers to all of the tribes that speak a type of dialect fromthe Iroquoian language group. Those tribes include the Saint Lawrence, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga,Oneida, Seneca, Tuscarora, Huron, Erie, Honniasonts, and Susquehannock, but notall of those tribes are part of the confederacy. The Iroquois people are not just one tribe. There is a confederacy between six ofthe tribes that speak an Iroquoian dialect including the Cayuga, Mohawk,Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, and after the year 1722 it included the Tuscarora aswell (Schiffman 385).
TheIroquoian culture is primarily located in the Northeast, but there are someIroquoian confederacy culture areas in other spots including the southernplains and on the west coast of the United States. Overall, the United States population of Iroquois peoplefrom the 1990 census was 49,038. Experts estimate that there are around 35,000 also living inCanada. The top five states, inthe 1990 U.S. census, with the largest Iroquois population are New York with18,531, Wisconsin with 7,423, California with 3,208, Michigan with 2,080, andfinally Oklahoma with 1,830 (Schiffman 385).
TheIroquois Confederacy was more than likely founded sometime between 1400 and1600, with experts narrowing it down to sometime between 1550 and 1600(Schiffman 386). The exact yearand date are unknown, though. Thereasoning behind the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy was to put an end tothe non-stop fighting and warfare between Iroquoian speaking tribes of theNortheast. The intentions of theConfederacy were to bring the tribes together as one and create peace amongsteach other. Another reason of theConfederacy was to gain more power. A bunch of separate tribes don’t have as much warfare power as one largegroup does.
TheIroquoian people did an excellent job at forming the IroquoianConfederacy. It worked outextremely well, and accomplished everything that they wanted it toaccomplish. In fact, it worked outso well that colonial delegates wanted to use their technique. In the year 1749, Ben Franklin traveledto Albany, New York to speak with Iroquoian people and learn their ways ofholding assemblies to discuss import matters (Schiffman 387). Franklin thought that if these“savages” could do it, how much better could English settlers pull it off? The very first inter-colonial conferencewas held in 1754 in Albany, New York, based off the Iroquoian meetings(Schiffman 387). Iroquoiandelegates attended the inter-colonial conference too.
Iroquoianpeople had three main values that were essential to living as an Iroquois. In IroquoisLanguage Family by Glenn Schiffman, he states, “…all actions of individualswere based on personal decisions, and group action required consensus. Second, Everybody shared; generosityand charity were paramount. Third,no one was separate from the web of life. Humankind was not outside nature and the earth and the woodlands couldbe neither owned nor exploited” (385). Living by these values, Iroquois people could live in peace. When decisions needed to be made thataffected more than just one person, they came together and decided on whatwould be best for the whole, and not the individual.
Religionhad a huge impact on how the Iroquoian people lived. Their religion was organized very well. In Iroquoian religious culture, theyhad three men and three women in priesthood (Schiffman 387). Their job was to overlook the keepingof faith amongst fellow tribe members.
Inuit people were outstandinghunters and fishers. They neededto be because there is not much vegetation to gather and eat since they eitherlive close to or in the Arctic Circle. They hunted animals on both the land and on the sea. In the summer months, the Inuit wouldmainly hunt land animals and fish and during the winter months they mostlyhunted animals in the ocean. Through out the winter, the Inuit people would either move along thecoast in search of animals to hunt or if the ocean was frozen over, they wouldhead out onto the ice in groups to find animals.
Spirituality was held highlyamongst the Inuit people. Theirspirituality was carried over to their hunting practices as well. The Inuit people had a strongconnection to the animal spirit world. Most Inuit were firm believers that animals were never caught by thehunters themselves, but rather gave themselves up to the person hunting them. But the animals wouldn’t givethemselves up to any hunter; they would only give themselves up to the hunterthat followed all of the necessary hunting rituals, kept their huntingequipment in excellent condition, and also held a respectful attitude towardsany animals that they were hunting (Condon 272). There are also many ceremonies and practices that hunterspartook in after they caught an animal. One ceremony that was practiced often in the Central Arctic was to givea drink of fresh water to a seal that was caught (Condon 382). Some of the ceremonies were more elaboratethan others depending on what region the Inuit people were from and what kindof animal surrendered themselves to the hunters. In the whaling communities of Northern Alaska, they wouldgreet and thank the whale for giving itself up. At the end of the whaling season, they held a traditionalceremony called the Nalukatok celebration, which means blanket toss (Condon382).
Living in an Arctic region is noeasy task. The Inuit people neededto stay warm not only so they could hunt and gather food, but also to simplystay alive. They had manydifferent ways of adapting to cold weather from the types of clothing, theirshelter, their diet, and how their bodies changed over time. Inuit people made lots of articles ofclothing to keep themselves warm such as tailored fur parkas, mitts, andboots. These pieces of clothingwere the bare essentials of staying warm and survival since most of the Inuitpeople live in subzero weather conditions north of the Arctic Circle. Another important part of staying warmwas having a place of shelter out of the wind and freezing temperatures. The Inuit people of the Central Arcticregion built shelters called snow houses (Condon 273). These snow houses did an excellent jobof protecting the people inside of them as well as trapping their body heat(Condon 273). Third, Inuitpeople had a different diet that aided them to adapt to and survive in thebitter cold. Their diet consistedof lots of fat and protein (Condon 273). This diet helped to increase the basal metabolic rate, which in turn ledto the Inuit people able to stay out in colder weather for much longer timeframes. Last, people of Inuitdescent have been proven scientifically to have fewer sweat glands on theirbody (Condon 273). This physicalaspect of the Inuit stopped them from too much perspiration, which would gettheir clothes wet and cold. Because of this, they were able to stay warmer and drier for longerperiods of time without needing to change their clothes. Overall, the Inuit people relied onmany different things in order to stay warm and dry while out searching forgame to hunt.
Thediet of the Inuit was mainly meat because a meat diet is “effective inkeeping the body warm, making the body strong, keeping the body fit, and evenmaking that body healthy”(Searless). Some of the most hunted animals in an Inuit diet were seals, walrus,bowhead whale, caribou, and fish. The Intuits’ thought there diet was superior to western diets and thattheirs gave them more energy and strength. Seal blood was also considered an essential part of theirdiet. When they drank it, theythought it would replace the nutrients they needed that they didn’t necessarilyget from their mostly meat diet and they thought it rejuvenated their bloodsupply in their on body (Borré).
Sealmeat is generally the most important and largest part of an Inuit persons diet(Searless). The type of seal thatthe Inuit hunted varied by season. There were many different kinds that they hunted including the harbor,harp, and bearded seals, though the ringed seal was hunted during all seasons(Bennett). In order to live,seals need to breathe and during the winter months when the water freezes overis when it was easiest to hunt seals. The seals would use their claws to scratch holes through the ice to geta breathe of fresh air and the Inuit people would set up indicators that toldthem when a seal was coming to surface (Searless). When the seal surfaced, the Inuit would then kill them withtheir harpoon (Searless).
Walrus’were a dangerous animal to hunt and one Inuit couldn’t take on the task alone(Bennett). There needed to be atleast two of them in order to take down a walrus. In Uqalurait: An OralHistory of Nunavut by John Bennett, an Inuit tribe member explains the huntingof a Walrus as “When a walrus was sighted, the two hunters would run to getclose to it and at the short distance it is necessary to stop when the walrus’shead was submerged…the walrus would hear you approach. [They] then tried to getin front of the walrus and it was harpooned while its head was submerged. In the meantime, the other person woulddrive the harpoon into the ice through the harpoon loop to secure it”.
Anotherimportant animal that the Inuit hunted was the bowhead whale. Since the bowhead whale is one of thelargest animals on the planet, just one of them would provide food to acommunity for up to a year from it’s blubber, meat, and skin (Bennett). Just like the seal and walrus, Inuitpeople hunted the whale with harpoons. Some times the hunters would harpoon a whale and then trail it whileother times they would harpoon the whale and wait for it to come to shore. According to John Bennett, when theydidn’t trail the whale, they would “wait patiently for the winds, currents, andspirits to aid him in bringing the whale to shore” (Bennett).
TheInuit people for a majority of the year hunted caribou. There are small herds or groups ofcaribou roaming the tundra for most of the year, but two times during the yearthe caribou get in large herds and travel across the region in migration(Bennett). When the caribou are inthe large herds, this is when the Inuit try to capture as many as theycan. Often, the Inuit people wouldset up camp a few miles in front of the caribou because of the animal’sexceptional sense of smell (Bennett). The Inuit didn’t want to risk getting smelled and losing the opportunityof food, clothing, and all the other possibilities of what a caribou brings anInuit community. Once the cariboubecame close, the Inuit would take down the caribou. They had a couple different methods of achieving this. They could spear the caribou or forcethe caribou into a river so it would be easier to capture (Bennett).
Fishingwas a way Inuit people could get food during any season. Some of the more common types of fishthat Inuit people would eat are Arctic Cod and Sculpin. Inuit people would catch these fishwith a certain technique called jigging (Bennett). Jigging is when the person who is hunting the fish would cuta big hole in the ice over frozen lakes, rivers, or even the ocean. They would then use a fishing lure inthe hole and a spear. Mostfishermen would use a hook on the end of their line to catch the fish, but notthe Inuit. They would put a fakefish on their line and jiggle their fake fish around, which would attract thereal fish. Then they would spearall the fish that came close to their baitfish (Bennett).
Unlikethe Inuit people, the Iroquois did not hunt as much. The Iroquois people based most of their meals off of whatthey farmed with some hunting, fishing, and gathering mixed into their diets.
The men were the hunters andbrought the food back and the women were responsible for storing the food andmaking the meals. Boys were ableto join the men on hunts once they brought back their first deer without anyhelp from an elder male tribe member. When the men would leave on their hunting expeditions, they would traveldown rivers or across lakes in either dug out or birch bark canoes (IroquoisCulture).
The main animal the Iroquois huntedwas the deer, but that wasn’t the only animal they hunted. Iroquois also hunted the turkey in thearea as well as different species of birds that had migratory paths over theircamps. During the winter, theywould go after muskrat and beavers. The beavers and muskrats provided more than just meat to the tribe. They were able to skin them and usetheir furs to make clothing too.
Bows and arrows with flint or bonetips were the Iroquois’ primary hunting tool as well as spears for close upencounters (Iroquois Culture). Thebone or flint tips could be carved into sharp points that easily couldpenetrate animals for a quick kill. Another common hunting tool for the Iroquois was the blowgun (IroquoisCulture). This tool was used onsmall to medium sized game animals (Iroquois Culture). The blowguns were made from swamp alderthat they hallowed out so the arrow could be shot through it. The blowguns were about six feet longand around one inch thick with a half-inch thick bore (Iroquois Culture). They would load the arrow in to thearea that they would blow from the back so the arrow could be shot out thefront. The arrows that they usedwere two and a half feet long (Iroquois Culture). Trapping was another method of hunting that they woulddo. The trap they made the mostwas the snare trap to capture small animals walking on the forest floor. To make a snare trap, the Iroquoiswould find a fairly young tree that was supple enough to be bent over. When the tree was bent over, they wouldtie the top of it to its roots, which created a loop. Then once an animal stepped into the loop, the snare wouldtighten around the animal’s hind legs and hold them up in the air unable toescape. Another trap that they constructedwas a bear trap and is much larger than a snare trap. The bear trap was used to capture bears, which it is namedafter. A bear trap was a large boxmade out of wood logs. TheIroquois would place meat in the trap to allure them in. Once the bear stepped into the trap,the logs would collapse on top of the bear and then they would kill the bearwith their spears.
Iroquois people didn’t only eat themeat of the animals they killed. They had lots of respect for the animals they killed and used every partof the animal for different things and didn’t let any of it go to waste. The bones and antlers of deer and othersimilar animals were used to make different sorts of carvings. The fur or pelts of animals were usedto make clothing, blankets, among many other items. The furs and pelts were also sometimes sold or traded toEuropeans for other goods or a financial profit that they could spend on otherthings (Rickter 76). The Iroquoisalso used the furs and pelts of animals to disguise themselves while theyhunted. They would wear the fursof deer for example to sneak up on a herd of deer and then shoot them withtheir bow and arrow. Iroquois evenused the lower jaw of deer as a tool to scrape corn off of the cobs (Parker53). The fact that the Iroquoisused every part of the animal shows just how much spirituality was involved intheir hunting and how much respect they had towards the animals that theyhunted. The animals the Iroquoishunted were an important part of their culture.
Fishing was another good source offood for the Iroquois people. Theynot only were able to fish in the summer, but during the long and cold winterstoo. Iroquoian people oftenset up their camps by large rivers so they would have an easy source for foodall year round. The most commontypes of fish that the Iroquois caught were salmon, trout, bass, perch, andwhitefish (Bial). Throughout thewarmer months, the Iroquois would put their nets into the moving water to trapand catch the fish. When thewinter months came and the rivers were frozen over with ice, they would createfishing holes in the ice and then net and trap the fish through the holes(Bial).
The Iroquois had three main cropsthat they grew which included corn, squash, and beans. These three crops were called the threesisters (Bial). The three sisterswere supposedly gifts from their creator. Iroquoian people grew these crops together to make the most of what theymade. The corn was planted andgrew up; the beans were planted at the base of the corn and then slowly workedtheir way up the stalks of the corn, while the squash grew at the base of thestalks of corn and beans. Thesquash helped keep the ground moist and weed free with their large leafs. With these three crops workingtogether, the soil could be farmed for many seasons and even lasting up to 10years (Bial). Once the soil ranout of nutrients and was no longer able to yield good crops, they would migrateto a new location and start everything over on a new patch of fertileland. Because crops could only begrown in the summer months, the Iroquois would grow more than they neededduring the summer. They would saveand store the extra through the winter months and eat it when in need offood. Their storing methods weresuperb and were able to keep food from rotting and edible for two to threeyears from the time it was put into storage (Bial).
Iroquoian people didn’t only gettheir food from hunting and farming. They were excellent gatherers of what the land provided them. Gathering was often the job of thewomen and children. During thesummer months the women and children would gather wild roots, greens, lots ofdifferent kinds of berries, and many types of nuts as well (Bial). Once the snow melted during the springmonths, they would tap maple trees for maple syrup and they would also gathersacred herbs for medicine (Bial).
Foodis necessary for all life to continue. The Iroquois and the Inuit tribes were skilled hunters, gatherers, andfarmers. They were able to master theirhunting methods with only tools of the land. Both tribes were able to use all parts of the animals theyhunted to not only provide them with food, but clothing and other tools too. Whether it was giant whales in theocean or the deer in the forest, both the Inuit people and Iroquois people hadmany methods to capture their game and keep living and thriving off of theland.
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