The Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee, are a historically powerful and important northeast Native American confederacy. They were known during the colonial years to the French as the "Iroquois League" and later as the "Iroquois Confederacy", and to the English as the "Five Nations" (before 1722) and later as the "Six Nations", comprising the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations.
The Iroquois peoples have absorbed many others into their cultures by adoption and by offering shelter to displaced nations. They have the concept of "Orenda", meaning "spiritual force", which historically meant the adoption of other peoples, including war captives, to replace the loss of spiritual force by death. In 2010, more than 45,000 enrolled Six Nations people lived in Canada, and about 80,000 in the United States.
The Iroquois lived in New York along the St. Lawrence River. They were farmers, growing corn, beans, and squash, but also hunted and trapped native animals.
Iroquois villages, which were permanent and moved every 20 years or so when the soil had been exhausted, consisted of longhouses that could each hold 30-60 people. These settlements were usually built near streams and surrounded with palisades and watchtowers for protection.
When Europeans entered their territory, the Iroquois traded furs with them. Around 1650, epidemics of new diseases greatly reduced the Iroquois population. By the time the Revolutionary War began, however, the Iroquois had regained their numbers through the absorption of other tribes and their own military conquests.
All but two of the Confederacy's tribes sided with the British during the war, which proved costly. The colonists defeated the Iroquois still loyal to the British in 1779. In the early 1800s, the Iroquois began selling their land, and by 1838, they were forced onto reservations.