Mohawk Indians

Tribal Origin: Iroquios confederation

Also known as: Mohowaùuck or ‘they eat things’ or ‘man-eaters.’

Native Name: Kaniengehaga or ‘people of the place of the flint’

Home Territories: New York, Quebec and Ontario

Language: Kanien’keha’ka

Alliances: Ottawa and Potawatomi peoples

Enemies: Numerous tribes, including the Mahicans, Ojibwes, Huron-Wendats, Algonquins, Pennacook, Abnakis, Squakhead, Sokokis and many others.

The Mohawk Indians were known for their brutal tactics in war that gave their enemies cause for great concern. Their religious beliefs demanded the slow cooking and eventual consumption of their enemies in an effort to keep their god apeased.

The Haudenosaunee were made up of five nations: the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Cayuga, the Onondaga, and the Seneca.

Multiple families lived together in wooden homes called longhouses which were built next to rivers and streams. These structures, which were often 100 feet long, were also used to store food and belongings.

The Mohawk Indians created what we now call the “Mohawk” hairstyle in which areas of hair were shaved and tweezed so that only a single row was left at the top.

Mohawk chiefs were always men, but women were the only ones to vote on who the chief would be. The chief was in charge of making all decisions about war as well as trade agreements.

In the 1700s, many Mohawk left New York and withdrew into Southeastern Canada.

Today, the Mohawk population is spread throughout much of New York with some Indians living on reservations and some living in the general population.

The men held typical roles of hunting, trading and fighting. Women were responsible for farming, taking care of their family and all land and property decisions.
The Mohawk were a particularly violent tribe. They commonly fought with the Algonquin, the Wabanaki, Ojibway, and the Mohican bands.

As a means of acknowledging Indian territory and establishing a friendly rapport, the Treaty of Canandaigua was drafted during the Post-Revolutionary war era. It was signed by the Haudenosaunee and the United States in 1794.

The Mohawk were particularly skilled at the art of beadwork and porcupine quill artistry, which is unique to North American Indians.

The sacred art of mask carving, however, is an art form that held special meaning to the Mohawk. Elaborate masks were designed and used solely in religious ceremonies and not often seen by outsiders.

Clothing for men and women in the summer was minimal. Men wore breechcloths with no shirts and women wore a wraparound shirt or tunic with short leggings.

Both sexes wore soft hide moccasins on their feet all year round. Hide shirts or jackets and robes made of animal fur helped keep them warm in the winter.

Like the Iroquois, the Mohawk wore feathered headdresses. Each nation had a different design and was identified by the number and position of the feathers. The Mohawk wore three eagle feathers on the top.

Women often wore beaded tiaras with long hair.

Unlike the men who shaved their heads for war, the women only shaved their head into a “Mohawk” during mourning periods.

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