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ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS



A DISSERTATION

Presented to the Faculty of Bryn Mawr College
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



SARA HENRY STITES



1904



PBE86 OF

Tmi niw E«» PaumM cottrun

LANCASTER, PA.



I905



In Eich&npe.



T



CONTENTS.

INTRODUCTION.

Sketch of the Economic Systems of the North American Indians.

The Arctic, the Barren, the Forest, the Plain, and the Desert-Oasis
Environments; — the domestic economy characteristic of the
Barren and Arctic Environments, the village economy charac-
teristic of the Western Forest Environment, the republican
clan economy characteristic of the Plain Environment, the
communal clan economy characteristic of the Desert-Oasis
Environment i

The economic systems of the Eastern Forest Environment "



PART I.

Economic Antecedents of Iroquois Culture.

CHAPTER I. — The Environment of the Iroquois.

The transitional state of Iroquois culture 13

Location and previous history 13

Nature of environment in seventeenth century 14

A geographic unity 14

Topography 15

Hydrography 15

Climate 16

Potential utilities : — Food products — animal and vegetable ; Raw

materials — animal, vegetable, and mineral 16

The Hurons, a related tribe living in a similar environment 19

CHAPTER II. — The Productive Activities of the Iroquois.

Manner of production: — root grubbing, and fruit and nut gathering;

hunting and trapping ; fishing ; agriculture 20

Relative importance of these different activities : — the growing ten-
dency of the Iroquois to depend for subsistence upon agricul-
ture 23

Manufactures 26

iii



iv ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS.

CHAPTER III.— The Organization of Producers.

The sexual division of labor 2 7

The organization of producers 3°

Instances of the existence of the domestic economy 3°

The clan economy characteristic of the Iroquois 3 1

The women's agricultural clan 3 1

The men's clan, primarily an organization of warriors and secondarily

a hunting body 3 2

Relative influence of the two clans upon the life of the community as

a whole ; the prominence of the women's clan 38

Tribal organization 39

Confederate organization 4°

The servile class of producers — captives and effeminate men 41

The position of the medicine men in production 42

CHAPTER IV.— The Wealth of the Iroquois.

The concrete economic concept of wealth 44

Primary production goods :

For general use — the knife and axe 44

For hunting — the bow and arrow, traps and snares, the dog 46

For fishing — the harpoon, the net, the weir 48

For agriculture — the wooden rake, the digging stick, the hoe 49

Secondary production goods :

For the preparation of food — the weighted drill and spindle-whorl, 5°

cooking and eating utensils of earthenware, wood, and bark. ... 53
For the making of clothing — scrapers, bone awls, and needles, etc.
Means of transportation — bretelles and burden straps, snow-shoes

and sleds, canoes 54

Consumption goods :
Articles of food —

Maize preparations the staple of village life 57

Meat and fish the principal articles of food during the hunt

and the fishing expedition 5^

Beverages 5§

Stored surplus 5^

Clothings and furnishings, — textiles and articles of skin 60

Armor 61

Shelter, — stationary dwellings of wood and bark 61

The village and its fortifications 64

The abstract economic concept of wealth; the Iroquois use of wam-



pum



66



The prestige value of wampum 67



CONTENTS. V

CHAPTER V.— The Distribution of Wealth.

The confederacy 69

The tribe 69

The men's clan 7°

The women's clan 7 r

Inheritance 7 2

The influence of the clan principle of distribution upon the consump-
tion group 73

The place of the individual in the distributive system 74

The medicine men — a class above the clan and exacting tribute 76

The captives — a class below the clan and rendering tribute 78

CHAPTER VI.— Exchange.

A system of barter between tribes 79

Trade carried on to a great extent by the men's clans as such 80

Means of effecting exchange ; — present giving 81

The use of wampum as a medium of exchange 82



PART II.

Sociological Consequents.

CHAPTER I.— The Family.

The two forms of the family in general 85

The paternal family, the one form of organization known to the do-
mestic and village economy 85

The paternal family, the unit of consumption in the republican clan

economies 86

The maternal family characteristic of the society dominated by the

communal clan 86

The origin of the maternal form of the family to be sought in the
transitional economy in which the women's clan monopolized

the agricultural surplus 87

Example in primitive Semitic life 87

The maternal family in the Iroquois village 87

Influence of the men's clan 88

Obligations of "he marriage contract 88

The advantages on the side of the wife 89

The elevated position of the wife in the Iroquois family 9°

Parental and filial relationships 9 2

The reappearance of the paternal family during the hunting season... 93



VI ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS.

CHAPTER II. — State and Government.

Unsatisfactoriness of the kinship theory of Iroquois society 9<

The economic basis of Iroquois political institutions 9*

The political life of the Iroquois sedentary community; — the gentile
government representative of both clans, and more particularly

of the women's clan; — the functions of the gentile government. 97

The village or tribal government ioi

The council of the Elders 103

The functions of the tribal council iof

The nature of Iroquois laws, — custom-made rules of conduct, the in-
violability of which was guaranteed by the council 107

The chiefs the executive agents of the council 107

The representative nature of the government shown by the fact that

public opinion was the only sanction of the laws io£

Incorrigibility punished by exclusion from the organization na

Treason punished by death 1 1 1

The confederate government, a council composed of gentile chiefs... 112
The system of voting in the council of the confederacy a proof of the

economic basis of the government 113

The general council of the confederacy 1 14

The functions of the council of the confederacy 114

The executive machinery of the confederacy 115

The government of the men's clan on the hunt and on the war-path.. 115

The Iroquois aristocracy "7

The disfranchised class 118

The share in sovereignty possessed by the medicine men 120

CHAPTER III.— Religion.

The economic foundation of all primitive religions 121

Fetishism the result of the domestic economy 121

The religion characteristic of hunters and herders 122

The religion characteristic of the agricultural community 123

When economic life is in a transitional state, religious development

is found to correspond I2 5

Deities of the Iroquois 126

Traces of fetishism in Iroquois religion I2 6

Polytheism the dominant characteristic of their religion 127

Deification of various animal types of importance to the hunter 127

Deification of certain species of plants of importance to agriculture.. 12S
Predominance of animal worship resulting from religious conserva-
tism 120

Deification of natural phenomena influencing economic life : — the Sky,

the Sun, etc 12c



CONTENTS. Vll

Ceremonials connected with hunting deities 135

Ceremonials connected with agricultural deities 137

Organization of worshipers corresponding to organization of pro-
ducers 138

The beginnings of a Priesthood 139

Secret societies 139

The medicine men a separate religious class 140

CHAPTER IV.— Morals.

Virtues — the qualities likely to insure success in economic life 144

CHAPTER V.— General Culture.

Economic conditions explain the characteristic features of the general

culture of the Iroquois *47

Their fine physical development *47

The extent of their astronomical knowledge 148

The extent of their knowledge of medicine 148

Their knowledge of agriculture methods 149

The Iroquois calendar I 5°

Development of system of communication and record keeping 151

Tact, conversational ability, etc r 55

Esthetic taste ! 55



INTRODUCTION.

The investigations carried on under Professor Keasbey's direc-
tion by students of the seminar during- the past few years have
led to the formulation of certain general conclusions in regard to
the development of primitive societies.

An economy, according to Professor Keasbey, may be defined
as " a system of activities whereby the potential utilities inherent
in the environment are through utilization converted into actual
utilities." 1 The motives making for utilization are everywhere
the same ; nevertheless, since the potential utilities of one en-
vironment differ from those of another, processes of utilization
must differ accordingly. Starting from this principle, it has been
found convenient to plot off the surface of the earth into a series
of typical environments ; c. g. the jungle, the arctic, the barren,
the forest, the plain, the desert oasis, the river valley, etc. The
nature of the potential utilities characteristic of each of these
environments seems in every case to determine the process of
utilization and hence the economic life of the inhabitants. Every-
where similar conditions seem to result in similar forms of utiliza-
tion. Between the economic activities and the social institutions
of mankind there is also perceptible a relation of cause and effect.
Everywhere like systems of utilization give rise to like familial,
political, and ecclesiastical institutions.

The work assigned me has been confined chiefly to the primitive
societies of North America. The results gained from an in-
tensive study of Iroquois life, I shall present in this monograph.

In order to make plain the significance of Iroquois institutions
it will be advisable, in a general way, to relate their environment
with the other environments of North America, and their manner
of life with the manners of life of other Indian tribes. At the

1,1 A Classification of Economics." Reprint from Proc. Am. Philos.
Soc, Vol. XLI, No. 169, page 1.

1 1



2 ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS.

beginning of the sixteenth century, North America, exclusive
of Mexico, included several more or less distinct cultural areas,
which may be enumerated in the following order: first, the Arctic
Environment, extending all the way across the northern-most
zone of the continent, its southern boundary being the indefinite
line marking the transition from the frigid to the cold temperate
zone; second, the Barren Environment, stretching from the Rocky
Mountains on the east to the Pacific coast ranges on the west,
and from the Columbia River on the north to the Colorado River
valley on the south ; third, the Forest Environment, including the
eastern portion of the continent from the Atlantic to the western
edge of the forest belt, and also the narrow region lying along
the Pacific coast west of the Coast Ranges ; fourth, the Plain En-
vironment, extending from the edge of the forest belt to the Rocky
Mountains ; and fifth, the Desert-Oasis Environment, stretching
from the Colorado River southward to the Gulf and into Mexico.
Each of these environments possessed certain characteristic fea-
tures which determined the manner of life of the early inhabitants.

In the sterile and ice-bound environment of the Arctic area,
the basis of subsistence was fish, whales, and seals. Even this
food supply was often scanty and difficult to obtain. In general,
the conditions under which man carried on the struggle for exist-
ence were extremely hard, and allowed very little opportunity for
progress.

• The western slope of the Rocky Mountains and the great plain
adjoining well deserved the epithet " barren." This region, cut
off by the coast ranges from the moist breezes of the Pacific and
by the Rocky Mountains from the Atlantic winds, was an arid and
sterile desert with little or no vegetation and but a scanty supply
of fish and small game. Thus the Barren, like the Arctic En-
vironment, offered little encouragement to primitive progress.

The eastern forest region rejoiced in a mild climate and a
plentiful rainfall. Before the European settlement the whole dis-
trict was covered by a forest of varying density, the trees growing
thickest in the temperate and warm temperate parts of the east
and south, and becoming fewer in the north toward Hudson's
Bay, and in the west throughout the park-like region in the



INTRODUCTION. 3

vicinity of the Mississippi. The whole section was stocked with
fish and game. From the Great Lakes southward, the climate
was warm and the soil fertile enough to encourage more or less
cultivation of maize in the river valleys and open spaces and clear-
ings in the woods. Generally speaking, it was an environment
conducing to a hunting and fishing life, with a growing depend-
ence upon maize culture toward the south.

The western forest environment, stretching from the Columbia
River valley down along the Pacific coast, was characterized by an
equable oceanic climate and by an abundant flora and fauna. It
was especially rich in fish, small game, nuts, roots, etc. The main
difference between the western and the eastern forest environ-
ment is to be found in the fact that in the latter the main supply
was game, while in the former fish took the chief place.

The Great Plain, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky
Mountains, though traversed by several large river systems tribu-
tary to the Mississippi, was a comparatively arid region with but
a scanty rainfall. Hence there was but little vegetation. Never-
theless, this section of the continent was originally well stocked
with game. Over its vast extent great herds of buffalo ranged,
subsisting on the long succulent grass with which the prairie was
covered, and migrating from north to south, and back again, ac-
cording to the seasons. Before the Discovery the Prairie was
not inhabited, except by occasional bands of buffalo hunters on
expeditions from their villages on the Mississippi and its great
western tributaries. The introduction of the horse gave a decided
impetus to buffalo hunting as a means of livelihood. After this
event the great stock of the Sioux pushed farther and farther into
the wilderness, and developed more and more perfectly the econ-
omy in social life typical of nomadic plain-dwelling people the
world over.

The region south of the barren plateau, between the Colorado
River valley and the Gulf of Mexico, has been called the desert-
oasis environment. Here "the sterile highland was deeply gashed
by swift-flowing rivers, which found their sources in the Rocky
Mountains and emptied into the Gulf of California on the one
hand, and into the Gulf of Mexico on the other. In the deep



4 ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS.

river valleys were rich alluvial deposits which, with the help of
irrigation, could be, and were, cultivated. Hence the aboriginal
inhabitants of the region were gathered in small isolated agricul-
tural communities, depending for subsistence chiefly upon maize
culture.

The environmental conditions of each of the areas just de-
scribed required in every case the adoption by the primitive in-
habitants of an economic system suitable to their surroundings.
Their economy in turn determined the nature of their social insti-
tutions. In fact, the forms of the family, of the state, and of
religion among any given people, are, according to the hypothesis,
to be regarded as sociological consequents of certain economic
antecedents : in other words, they are the outcome of the peculiar
systems of production, consumption, and distribution that have
proved most advantageous in a given environment. In the bar-
ren environment of the great western desert, marked by extremes
of temperature and poverty of flora and fauna, the food-quest
consisted primarily of root grubbing and acorn gathering, with
some fishing, and hunting of small animals. The means of pro-
duction consisted of such inventions as were needed to procure
food ; as, for instance, the bow and arrow, the digging stick, and
the basket for carrying roots and nuts. The production group in
this case was the family ; the wife gathering roots and nuts and
bringing up the children, while the husband obtained what fish
and game he could find and acted as defender of the group.
Anything less than this mere sexual association of labor was
impossible, if the species was to be preserved. Anything more
extensive in the line of cooperation was likewise made impossible
by the scantiness of the food supply, and the consequent necessity
of dispersion in the smallest possible groups. " The Mountain
Snakes," says Schoolcraft, " exist in small detached bodies and
single families, and change their locations so widely that they
seem to have no particular claim to any portion.'' 1 Similar cir-
cumstances as regards scarcity of food resulted in a similar man-
ner of life during a large part of the year among the Esquimaux
of the Arctic region. We are told that " The Esquimaux live in

1 Schoolcraft, " Hist. Ind. Tribes," I, 224.



INTRODUCTION. 5

the most perfect state of independence of each other, — the youth,
as soon as he is able to build a kaiak and to support himself, no
longer observes any family ties, but goes where his fancy takes
him." Obviously, therefore, the consumption and distribution
group must also have been represented by the family : of ex-
change, there was no question.

From the point of view of politics, also, among the Esquimaux,
as among the Indians of the Great Desert, the family was at once
the largest and the smallest group. Mere congregation of these
units might occur at certain seasons in spots where acorns or
fish were plentiful. At the most, however, only a loose tem-
porary organization resulted. The family remained the social
unit and wandered off again when it pleased, a complete political
and production group. Within the family, husband and wife
associated their labor in producing the surplus ; nevertheless, the
female, isolated from others of her own sex, was entirely de-
pendent upon the male for defense and hence for access to the
source of supply. The man, then, may be said to have controlled
the social surplus ; hence sovereignty belonged to him, and he
wielded unlimited authority over the little group of which he
was the head : in other words, the rule of the husband and father
was the only government known to these domestic economists.
The religion and morals of this stage of culture were of the
simplest description. Their religion was the lowest form of
Fetishism — abject fear of disutilities and reverence of utilities.

A stage above the domestic economists of the Arctic region and
the Great Desert stood the village economists of the western forest.
True, the latter had made no distinct advance in methods of pro-
duction nor in political organization ; yet from the economic posi-
tion which they occupied, some progress in these respects became
possible. On the northwest coast, the periodical ascent of the rivers
by the salmon at the spawning season afforded the aborigines an
abundant and regular food supply. Families, therefore, did not
need to separate as they increased in numbers ; on the contrary,
large gentile groups remained together, settled near the good
fishing places, while their means of production tended to become
preeminently a stock of implements and inventions of especial use



6 ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS.

in fishing". As a consequence, to the acquisitive goods of the
domestic economy were added a new set of commodities ; never-
theless there was no material advance in the methods of produc-
tion. Though the abundance of the food supply rendered possible
the congregation of large numbers of families, the nature of the
supply called for no great amount of cooperation among producers.
In the construction and defense of the fish-weir there was indeed
some combination, but this was of the loosest kind. In the main,
the family continued to be the unit, of production and consump-
tion — the husband attending to the catching of the fish, and the
women of the family looking after the other productive activities. 1
The family support was further augmented by slave labor, now
made possible by the abundance of the food supply, and also by
the fact that the fishing implements supplied to the captive slave
could not be used as weapons to attack the master. The fact that
slave labor was practicable also caused some slight differences in
distribution as between different families. Hence occurred a
faint manifestation of the phenomenon of prestige value. Some
families were richer than others lii slaves, and hence in stores of
food, blankets, etc. Furthermore, the more slaves a man had,
the more wives he could own, since the surplus product of the
slaves' labor could be used to support these women. Slaves there-
fore came to be regarded as a sort of standard of value, in terms
of which a man's wealth was sometimes estimated.

The introduction of the village economy wrought little essential
change in the constitution of the state. The village was, in the
main, only a congregation of many domestic economies. There
might be, of course, some temporary military organization for
purposes of defense ; undoubtedly, too, some general influence was
constantly exerted by one or two of the older and richer men, for
the purpose of keeping peace and order among the different fam-
ilies : nevertheless, the political and governmental system differed
but little from that of domestic economists. Each family or gens
in the village continued to form a separate political and govern-
mental unit, in which the father or patriarch was the sovereign
power.

'Keasbey, "Inst, of Society," Internet, Mo., I, 383, 386.



INTRODUCTION. 7

So far but one really fundamental type of economy has ap-
peared. This is the " domestic " system, adapted to regions
where the nature of the food-supply makes cooperation not advan-
tageous. Even the village economy was a mere aggregation of
domestic economies. Yet a distinction must be made between
the village and the domestic systems, because in the former the
occasional appearance of a new principle is noticeable. The man-
agement of the weir in the salmon fishing season and the defense
of their collective riparian rights caused at certain seasons the
formation of an organization among the men of the different
families. This temporary union of the men of the village into a
band, each member of which cooperated with all the rest in order
to carry out certain definite purposes, was the clan : hence, for the
time being, the family as a productive and political unit disap-
peared, and the clan took its place.

Where the cooperative method of production had through force
of environmental circumstances reached a fuller development and
become comparatively permanent, the general character of village
life was correspondingly altered. The settlement was no longer
a mere aggregation of families each economically and politically
independent of the others. On the contrary, its chief productive
activities were carried on by an association of cooperating indi-
viduals, bound together not merely by family affection, but by the
ties of economic interest. In order to keep up the population,
the family remained in existence, but it had no economic function
beyond that of consumption. As a productive association, it had
become merged in the clan ; and political sovereignty passed from
the individual fathers of families to the clan as a whole. The lat-
ter now controlled the access to the source of supply, and conse-
quently had absolute power over such of the inhabitants of the
village as were without the limits of the clan, and were dependent
upon it for support or defense. Government, therefore, was rep-
resentative only of the clan. In the establishment of this clan
principle is to be found the origin of organized society. " The
clan," says Professor Keasbey, " is neither a confederacy of
domestic units nor an aggregation of individuals, but an organiza-
tion in the full force of the term — it is a corporation, an economic



8 ECONOMICS OF THE IROQUOIS.

body politic, whose constituent members are not so much severally


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