Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Encyclopedia Homepage
Search all Volumes
Disclaimer and Usage
© Copyright 2003

Table of Contents Search All Entries Home

MOHAWK

The onetime "keepers of the eastern door" of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Greater Mohawk Nation presently inhabits reserves in Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and a reservation in northern New York State. Additionally, some Mohawk descendants are among the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. The ancestral homeland of the Mohawk was eastern New York's middle Mohawk River valley, and their hunting grounds extended from the Adirondack Mountains south to the East Branch of the Susquehanna River. Prior to 1666 the Mohawk located their principal villages along the south bank of the Mohawk River and arranged them by clan, with the Turtles in the east, the Bears in the center, and the Wolves to the west. Each clan held three of nine chieftainships in the Iroquois League. Mohawk longhouses sheltered families linked through females, as their society was both matrilineal and matrilocal. The Mohawk language is Iroquoian.

The American Revolution (1775-83) and its outcome geographically split the Mohawk tribe. Those of the lower Mohawk valley fled toward Montreal in 1777 and relocated to Ontario's Tyendinega Reserve in 1784. In 1783 the lands of the St. Regis Mohawk were divided by the newly drawn United States-Canada boundary, and in winter and spring 1784-85 Joseph Brant led the upper Mohawk to the Six Nations Reserve near present Brantford, Ontario. In 1797 the Mohawk relinquished all claim to lands within New York State. Some Mohawk subsequently settled in Ohio among "the Seneca of Sandusky," a mingling of Erie, Conestoga, and other Iroquoian bands and tribal remnants. In 1832 the Seneca of Sandusky removed to the Indian Territory (present Ottawa and Delaware counties in Oklahoma). In 1837 fifty Mohawk were reported on the Seneca Reservation, which was allotted beginning in 1888.

Mohawk are known for their high-steel construction industry work. Traditionally, they were agriculturalists. Their black-ash-splint and sweetgrass baskets are popular craft items. Mohawk called themselves the Kanyenkehaka, "People of the Flint Place." The Dutch and English called them Mohawks ("man eaters"), a term acquired from southern New England tribes.

SEE ALSO: AMERICAN INDIANS, INDIAN TERRITORY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: William N. Fenton and Elisabeth Tooker, "Mohawk," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978). Dean R. Snow, "Mohawk," in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

Pamela Koenig

© Oklahoma Historical Society

Return to top


Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site