Iroquois Indian Tribe Lesson Plan

“..Simply put, the Iroquois were the most important Native group in North American history…It was the Iroquois political system, however, that made them unique, and because of it, they dominated the first 200-years of colonial history in both Canada and the United States. Strangely enough, there were never that many of them, and the enemies they defeated in war were often twice their size.

Although much has been made of their Dutch firearms, the Iroquois prevailed because of their unity, sense of purpose, and superior political organization. Since the Iroquois League was formed prior to any contact, it owed nothing to European influence. Proper credit is seldom given, but the reverse was actually true. Rather than learning political sophistication from Europeans, Europeans learned from the Iroquois, and the League, with its elaborate system of checks, balances, and supreme law, almost certainly influenced the American Articles of Confederation and Constitution…”-Iroquois History– (Lee Sultzman)

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

1. In the above statement, we learn that, “… the Iroquois prevailed because of their unity, sense of purpose, and superior political organization…”

Think about the political system in your country, and discuss the ways that it is similar or different to that of the Iroquois.

2. Why do you think proper credit was never given to the Iroquois for their ideas about how to run an organized government?

The Iroquois A Brief History

The Iroquois were comprised of several tribal groups. This Included the Mohawk, the Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca. The Iroquois were also known as the Confederate Indians, and the Five Nations. The original location of the Iroquois was in upstate New York, between the Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls. By 1680, through conquests and migration, the Iroquois had gained control of most of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada.

The exact date of the founding of the Iroquois Nation is not clear. The general consensus places the union in approximately 1570. What is definite is that the Iroquois were established before European contact. The Iroquois union was made to maintain peace among the five tribes. Prior to the union,there were constant wars and revenge killings. It is said that a holy man named Deganawida ( known as the Peacemaker) from the Huron tribe went to Hiawatha, a Mohawk war chief,and convinced Hiawatha that there should be peace among the Iroquois. With a lot of effort, eventually, they were able to convince the other Iroquois to join together in a league. The following is an interesting excerpt by Lee Sultzman pertaining to this union:

…Legend tells that Deganawida blotted out the sun to convince the reluctant. A solar eclipse visible in upstate New York occurred in 1451 suggesting another possible date for these events. The formation of the League ended the warfare between its members bringing the Iroquois a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. It also brought political unity and military power, and unfortunately, Deganawida’s “Great Peace” extended only to the Iroquois themselves. For outsiders it was a military alliance and the “Great War” against any people with whom the Iroquois had a dispute, and during the first 130 years of the League’s existence, there were very few tribes who managed to avoid a dispute with the Iroquois…

The Iroquois continued to fight and conquer other tribes. There were battles fought that involved enemy tribes (any tribe that opposed them), the French, the Dutch and the British. What was constant was the powerful unity of the Iroquois. Interestingly, there were those tribes who refused to be dominated by the league, regardless of their power.

…The League’s actual power to speak for some tribes was far from absolute. No amount of threat and intimidation could force the Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, Catawba, or Choctaw to submit to the League’s authority, and Iroquois attempts to enforce their will often led to warfare…

The American Revolution took place from 1775-1783. This war forced the British to seek alliance with several of the tribes, including the Mohawks to help fight the Americans. Both the British and the Americans sought the support of the Iroquois, however, the league chose to remain neutral. Unfortunately the neutrality did not last:

…The League listened respectfully to both arguments, but although they recognized the new United States in 1776, their decision was to remain neutral. .. If the League had been able to remain neutral, it probably would have survived the war. However, this was not to be…

…The “Great Peace” ended in 1777, and the Iroquois League was destroyed two years later. The Caughnawaga and the other members of the Seven Nations of Canada also intended to remain neutral in the beginning but were drawn into the war during which its members fought on both sides…

…Their decision to side with the British during the Revolutionary War was a disaster for the Iroquois. The American invasion of their homeland in 1779 drove many of the Iroquois into southern Ontario where they have remained. With large Iroquois communities already located along the upper St. Lawrence in Quebec at the time, roughly half of the Iroquois population has since lived in Canada.

In the United States, much of the Iroquois homeland was surrendered to New York land speculators in a series of treaties following the Revolutionary War. Despite this, most Seneca, Tuscarora, and Onondaga avoided removal during the 1830s and have remained in New York. There are also sizable groups of Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Caughnawaga still in the state.

Iroquois Today

Today, the Iroquois are located in seventeen different communities in New York State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Ontario, and Quebec. The Iroquois work in construction (predominantly high steel), as educators, and in their nation’s government. There are a very large number of unemployed Iroquois, and many receive welfare. There are elementary schools, but many students attend high schools and colleges off of the reservation. On many of the reservations, Iroquois are building health and cultural centers, museums, and centers for recreation and sports.

Exercise 1 Vocabulary Practice

Directions: The following vocabulary words (in bold) are from the reading selection. Find and highlight each of the following words in the paragraphs then infer the meanings from the context. Highlight any additional words that you aren’t familiar with and do the same with those. Check your answers with your group members, and then refer to your dictionary or thesaurus to confirm your guesses.

1. The Iroquois were comprised of several tribal groups.

2. By 1680, through conquests and migration, the Iroquois had gained control of most of the northeastern United States…

3. The general consensus places the union in approximately 1570.

4. A holy man named Deganawida ( known as the Peacemaker) from the Huron tribe went to Hiawatha, a Mohawk war chief,and convinced Hiawatha that there should be peace among the Iroquois

5. The formation of the League ended the warfare between its members…

6. Bringing the Iroquois a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity.

7.  War was declared against any people with whom the Iroquois had a dispute.

8. Interestingly, there were those tribes who refused to be dominated by the league.

9. The  Iroquois attempts to enforce their will often led to warfare.

10.  In spite of this, the league chose to remain neutral.

11. There was the American invasion of their homeland.

12. In the United States, much of the Iroquois homeland was surrendered to New York land speculators in a series of treaties.

13. The Iroquois worked in construction (predominantly high steel).

Exercise 2 Questions for Discussion and Comprehension

For the following questions from the reading  mark them either T (True)  or F (False) if they are False make the correction.

The Iroquois were comprised of several tribal groups.

This did not Included the Mohawk, the Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca.

The original location of the Iroquois was Florida.

The Iroquois were established before European contact.

The Iroquois never fought with other tribes, they were friends with all people.

What was constant was the powerful unity of the Iroquois.

The British  Revolution took place from 1775-1783.

Today, the Iroquois are located in  Quebec.

The Iroquois work in predominantly  government jobs.

On many of the reservations, Iroquois are building health and cultural centers, museums, and centers for recreation and sports.

Exercise 3 Research Activities

Directions: Choose a person or an event from the following list for research and prepare a presentation for class or for group discussion.

1. Hiawatha

2. The American Revolution

Exercise 4 Writing Activities

Write an essay in which you express your opinion on the events leading up to the Iroquois union. What were the pros and cons of the League?

Write an essay in which you discuss the events or reasons that led to the downfall of the Iroquois Nation.

Sources:

Iroquois History-(Lee Sultzman)

The Iroquois Today

An Iroquois Myth:Why The Owl Has Big Eyes

One day the Everything-Maker was busy creating various animals. He was working on Rabbit, and Rabbit was saying: “I want nice long legs and long ears like a deer, and sharp fangs and claws like a panther.” “I do them the way they want to be; I give them what they ask for ,” said the Everything-Maker. He was working on Rabbit’s hind legs, making them long the way Rabbit had ordered.
Owl, still unformed, was sitting on a tree nearby and waiting for his turn. He was saying, “Whoo, whoo, I want a nice long beak like Eagle’s, and a nice long neck like Swan’s, and beautiful red feathers like Cardinal’s, and a nice crown of plumes like Heron’s. I want you to make me into the most beautiful, the fastest, the most wonderful of all the birds.”
The Everything-Maker said, “Be quiet. Turn around and look in another direction. Even better, close your eyes. Don’t you know that no one is allowed to watch me work?” The Everything-Maker was just then making Rabbit’s ears very long, the way Rabbit wanted them. Owl refused to do what the Everything-Maker said. “Whoo, whoo,” he replied, “nobody can forbid me to watch. Nobody can order me to close my eyes. I like watching you, and watch I will.”
Then the Everything-Maker became angry. He grabbed Owl, pulling him down from his branch, stuffing his head deep into his body, shaking him until his eyes grew big with fright, pulling at his ears until they were sticking up at both sides of his head.
“There,” said the Everything-Maker “that’ll teach you. Now you won’t be able to crane your neck to watch things you shouldn’t watch. Now you have big ears to listen when someone tells you what not to do. Now you have big eyes-but not so big that you can watch me, because you’ll be awake only at night, and I work by day. This is your punishment.” So Owl flew off, shouting: “Whoo, whoo, whoo.”
Now Rabbit had been so terrified by the Everything-Maker’s anger, even though it was not directed at him, that he ran off half done. This is why today Rabbit’s legs are long, and he has to hop about instead of walking and running. Also, because he took fright then, Rabbit has remained afraid of most everything, and he never got the claws and fangs he asked for in order to defend himself. Had he not run away then, Rabbit would have been an altogether different animal.
As for Owl, he remained as the Everything-Maker had shaped him in anger. With big eyes, a short neck, and ears sticking up on the sides of his head. On top of everything, he has to sleep during the day and come out only at night.

Exercise 1.  Part I.  Vocabulary (Inference)

Directions: The following sentences contain words (in bold) from the preceding story. Complete the phrases by using your own words to replace the vocabulary word. Use your dictionary to check your answers.
Review them together.
1. Many Native Americans spent their time creating objects such as woven baskets, beaded clothing, etc., which today are considered to be very valuable items of art.
creating means___
2. Some Native art work found from long ago was not completed or was still in an unformed stage.
unformed means___
3. The heron has long legs and beautiful feathers.
a heron is ___
4. In some Native American ceremonies the men forbid the women to attend.
forbid means___
5. The Indians made bows and arrows to defend themselves against the wild animals.
defend means____
Part II. Directions: Now use the same words to create sentences of your own.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Exercise 2. Writing Activity

Directions: Read following sentences which are from the story. Then rewrite each sentence replacing the characters with ones of your own.
Example:
He was working on Rabbit, and Rabbit was saying, “I want nice long legs and long ears like a deer, and sharp fangs and claws like a panther.
Re- write:
He was working on Turtle, and Turtle was saying, “I want nice long ears like a deer, and sharp fangs and claws like a panther.”
Sentences
1. Owl, still unformed, was sitting on a tree nearby…
2. The Everything-Maker was just then making Rabbit’s ears very long, the way Rabbit wanted them.
3. He grabbed Owl, pulling him down from his branch, stuffing his head deep into his body.
4. He was working on Rabbit’s hind legs, making them long, the way Rabbit had ordered.

Exercise 3. Reading Comprehension (Inference)

Directions: Answer the following sentences taken from the story by writing either T (True),  F (False) or NC (Not Clear) if the idea was not directly mentioned in the story.
1. __The Everything-Maker was a female.
2. __When the story begins, Rabbit is being formed.
3. __Rabbit wanted sharp teeth like Beaver’s.
4. __Owl was unformed with the exception of his mouth.
5. __Before working on Rabbit, the Everything-Maker made Panther.
6. __Owl wanted a neck like a giraffe’s.
7. __When the Everything-Maker became angry with Owl, he purposely made him ugly.
8. __The Everything-Maker also made the birds.
9. __The reason Rabbit has long legs today is because he ran away before he was finished.

Exercise 4. Just For Fun!

Directions: In the story, you get a description of what rabbit and owl looked like. Try to imagine what the Everything-Maker looks like, and draw a picture.

Teachers Guide and Answer Key

Note To Teachers:
The goal of this material is to raise students’ awareness of the American Indian people living in the United States today, and to encourage learners to view Native Indians as an integral part of American society. My hope is that students will see the native people of this country as workers, students, professionals, parents, and leaders of their communities.
Activities:
The construction of the exercises makes the reading material more of a communicative activity, and helps students to better understand the content. There are various pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading tasks for each reading selection. Although the majority of the exercises are suggested for group work, especially during class, students can complete the activities independently as homework assignments. At the following class meeting, their responses can be used as the basis for group discussions. The research activities can also be completed individually or as collaborative group projects. I offer some suggestions for some of the activities throughout the lessons.
Language Skills
The target skills for the lessons are primarily reading and speaking, however, tasks for writing, and research activities are also included. These exercises are intended for ESL students, but everyone can use them. Although the reading level is high-intermediate to advanced, teachers can modify the material as needed for their level of learners.
The Teachers’ guide offers suggestions for how to use this material.  Please feel free to email and let me know if there is anything more I can offer.

Answers
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
Students’ choice.

Exercise 1 Vocabulary Practice

comprised [comprise] -verb. consist of; be made up of : the country comprises twenty states.
conquests- noun. the subjugation and assumption of control of a place or people by use of military force : the conquest of the Aztecs by the Spanish.

migration noun.  [migrate- verb. ] of an animal, typically a bird or fish move from one region or habitat to another, esp. regularly according to the seasons : as autumn arrives, the birds migrate south.

consensus  – noun. [usu. in sing. ]a general agreement : a consensus of opinion among judges.

convinced -verb. cause (someone) to believe firmly in the truth of something : you couldn’t convince him that a floppy disk was as good as a manuscript.

League- noun. a collection of people, countries, or groups that combine for a particular purpose, typically mutual protection or cooperation : the League of Nations.

unprecedented – adjective. never done or known before : the government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence.

prosperity- noun. the state of being prosperous : a long period of prosperity.
(prosperous adjective. successful in material terms; flourishing financially : prosperous middle-class professionals.)

dispute – noun. a disagreement, argument, or debate : a territorial dispute between the two countries.
dominated [dominate]- verb. have a commanding influence on; exercise control over : the company dominates the market for operating system software.

enforce – verb  compel observance of or compliance with (a law, rule, or obligation). there is no outside agency to enforce cooperation between the players.

neutral -adjective. not helping or supporting either of two opposing sides, esp. countries at war; impartial : during the Second World War Portugal was neutral.

invasion -noun. an instance of invading a country or region with an armed force : the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia | in 1546 England had to be defended from invasion.
(invade verb. to  enter (a country or region) so as to subjugate or occupy or to control the people)
surrendered-verb. to cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority : over 140 rebels surrendered to the authorities.

speculators- noun. people hoping to invest in stocks, property, or other ventures in the hope to gain, with minimal loss or risk.
treaties [treaty] noun ( pl. -ties) a formally concluded and ratified agreement between countries.
construction -noun. the building of something, typically a large structure : there was a skyscraper under construction.
predominantly- adverb. mainly; for the most part : it is predominantly a coastal bird.

Exercise 2 Questions for Discussion and Comprehension
For the following questions from the reading  students are to mark them either T (True)  or F (False).  If the answer was false, students are to find the correct answer in the reading.
The Iroquois were comprised of several tribal groups. T
This did not Included the Mohawk, the Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, and Seneca. F  correction: These tribes were included
The original location of the Iroquois was Florida. F
correction: The original location of the Iroquois was in upstate New York, between the Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls.
The Iroquois were established before European contact.  T
The Iroquois never fought with other tribes, they were friends with all people. F
correction: The Iroquois continued to fight and conquer other tribes.
What was constant was the powerful unity of the Iroquois. T
The British  Revolution took place from 1775-1783. F
correction: The American Revolution took place from 1775-1783.
Today, the Iroquois are located in  Quebec. F
correction: Today, the Iroquois are located in seventeen different communities in New York State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Ontario, and Quebec.
The Iroquois work in predominantly  government jobs.  F
correction: The Iroquois work in construction (predominantly high steel), as educators, and in their nation’s government. There are a very large number of unemployed Iroquois, and many receive welfare.
On many of the reservations, Iroquois are building health and cultural centers, museums, and centers for recreation and sports. T

Exercise 3 Research Activities

Students’ choice.

Exercise 4 Writing Activities

Students’ choice.

Why The Owl Has Big Eyes

Exercise 1.  Part I.  Vocabulary (Inference)
Creating [create]- verb. to bring (something) into existence : he created a thirty-acre lake |
Unformed- adjective.without a definite form or shape : she packed the unformed butter into the mold.
Heron-noun. a large fish-eating wading bird with long legs, a long S-shaped neck, and a long pointed bill.
forbid -verb.refuse (someone or something) entry to a place or area : all cars are forbidden.

defend-verb. to resist an attack made on (someone or something); protect from harm or danger : we shall defend our country, whatever the cost.
Exercise 2. Writing Activity
Students’ choice.

Exercise 3. Reading Comprehension (Inference)
1. __The Everything-Maker was a female. F (it states: “He” was working on Rabbit’s hind legs…)
2. __When the story begins, Rabbit is being formed. T
3. __Rabbit wanted sharp teeth like Beaver’s. F
4. __Owl was unformed with the exception of his mouth. F
5. __Before working on Rabbit, the Everything-Maker made Panther. NC
6. __Owl wanted a neck like a giraffe’s. F
7. __When the Everything-Maker became angry with Owl, he purposely made him ugly.  NC
8. __The Everything-Maker also made the birds. NC
9. __The reason Rabbit has long legs today is because he ran away before he was finished. T
Exercise 4. Just For Fun!
Students’ choice.