A reconstruction of an Iroquois longhouse at the Ontario Museum of Archaeology in London, Ontario. Photo: Western Visual Arts

Doug George-Kanentiio: What was life like among the Mohawks in the year 1300?

A recent question came up in the Quora forum asking what life was like in North America in the year 1300. This is my response regarding my ancestors, the Mohawk Iroquois:

Breathing clean air, drinking pure water, great fishing and hunting, plenty of food, no religion, lots of leisure time, wonderful camping and swimming, no jails, no schools, no starvation, no “lords”, no masters, no corrupt popes or predatory priests, no social or economic classes, no pollution, no cops or teargas, no toxic dumps, an abundance of animals, plants and trees, no kings, no castles or churches, a lot of singing, dancing and feasts, no sexism, no child abuse, lots of roaming space, plenty of personal freedoms, no cannons or firearms, no torture chambers, no inquisition or crusades, no alcoholism, no racism, living long lives, taking care of elders, washing kids, making clothing, art making.

A stable democratic government, an alliance of many nations, ongoing trade from the interior to the eastern coast, whale hunting expeditions to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, best fish harvesting in the eastern part of the continent, comfortable clothing, noisy longhouses, lots of kids, many kinds of sports, food simmering in pots, moon watching, crops in the fields, more feasting, wood cutting, home repair, ceremonies every lunar month, hunting in the Adirondacks, politics, art making, star gazing, campfires, gossiping, sharing news, traveling to visit relatives by canoe or trail, practicing the use of the bow and spear, attending weddings, giving birth, scolding, telling bad jokes, entertaining and more singing and eating.

According to the priests who taught at the St. Regis Village School at Akwesasne our ancestors were uncivilized savages and pagans. Perhaps that was not a bad thing at all.


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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