This was reflected in the way people responded to others which I noticed as a child was detached and cautious. At Akwesasne the last epidemic took place in the late 1890's when an outbreak of cholera killed hundreds. I had been reviewing our census data and noted that for most of the 1800's the population of Akwesasne remained fairly constant at just over 3,000. This did not increase at any great rate until after WWI when there was a noticeable increase in the birth rate and a decline in mortality. The current population on the territory is now over 15,000 and will double within the next generation. This rate of recovery is remarkable and has many factors but the most important was the ability of the Mohawk people to finally develop partial immunity from those illnesses which had nearly brought about extinction. Still, there were those familial and personal habits which were peculiar and seen by our non-Native neighbors as anti-social. As an example, our Mohawk ancestors did not embrace each other. They did not like to be touched and had a strong, hostile reaction to those who tried and envelop us. They avoided eye contact, were hesitant to shake hands, coughed away from another person, kept meticulously clean homes and were said to be very shy around strangers. I asked the late Salli Benedict, Akwesasne's most knowledgeable historian, why. She said it was in response to diseases such as smallpox, measles, cholera, typhoid and influenza. The people learned, as a matter of survival, to keep their distance and refrain from contact. Those who did not understand why attributed our behavior as odd and condemned it as such but it was a rationale response to becoming infected. I looked further into how viruses changed the Iroquois. In a Phd dissertation written for Pennsylvania State University in 2008 by Eric E. Jones the son to be doctor of anthropology summarized the research done by scholars who studied the population of the Iroquois from pre-contact to the 19th century. His essay is entitled "Iroquois Population History and Settlement Ecology 1550-1700". His conclusions substantiate the oral traditions of the Mohawks. Dr. Jones based his analysis on the physical remnants of the communal longhouses and the number of families living within each one of these elongated buildings, some of which were over 100 meters in length. He concluded that the Mohawks numbered 8,025 people in their communities in central New York State. He committed those Mohawks who lived along the St. Lawrence River or the Lake Champlain region. Dr. Jones set the entire Iroquois Confederacy population at an apex of 22,000. By the 1660's the Mohawks had lost over 78% of the people and were reduced to 1,140 individuals. Extinction was imminent.
(as of 4:30pm) In response to the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Pandemic, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe continues to...Posted by Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe on Thursday, March 19, 2020
The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict and Executive Director Heather Phillips provide an update to Akwesasne on the recently declared state of emergency, the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) and more.
Posted by Mohawk Council of Akwesasne on Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge. He has served as a Trustee for the National Museum of the American Indian, is a former land claims negotiator for the Mohawk Nation and is the author of numerous books and articles about the Mohawk people. He may be reached via e-mail at: Kanentiio@aol.com or by calling 315-415-7288.
Note: Content copyright © Doug George-Kanentiio
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