What was the lifestyle and culture of the Mohawk
The Mohawk tribe were a hunting, fishing and
farming people who travelled extensively along
the Mohawk and Hudson rivers in their elm bark
canoes on hunting, trading and war expeditions.
The warlike Mohawk were feared across the region
due to their brutal tactics and merciless way
they treated captives.
Deganawida and Hiawatha established the
Constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy to
unite the Iroquoian tribes and eliminate the
incessant inter-tribal warfare and end the
custom of cannibalism. The tribes of the
Iroquois Confederacy waged warfare on all of
their neighboring tribes until they had all been
conquered. The Mohawk tribe had the earliest
regular fur trading contacts with Europeans
including the Dutch, Swedish, French and
British. The Mohawk became allied to the British
against the French during the long French and
Indian Wars (1689 - 1763). After the American
Revolution, most of the Mohawk relocated to
Canada, where the vast majority still reside
Facts about the Mohawk Native Indian
This article contains fast, fun facts and
interesting information about the Mohawk Native
American Indian tribe. Find answers to questions
did the Mohawk tribe live, what clothes did they wear
food did they eat? Discover what happened to the
Mohawk tribe with facts about their wars and
What language did the Mohawk tribe speak?
The Mohawk tribe spoke in the Iroquoian
language. The Mohawk called themselves the 'Kanienkahagen',
meaning the "people of the flint" in reference
to a mighty arrow with a powerful flint that
features in their creation story. The name
Mohawk was given by their enemies and derives
from the Algonquian word 'Mohowawog' meaning
"eaters of men", referring to their practice of
ceremonial cannibalism in order to absorb the
strength of their enemies.
tribe and the Iroquois Confederacy
The Mohawk were members of the group of tribes
referred to as the
was founded c1550 by
Hiawatha and consisted of the Mohawk,
Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga and Cayuga tribes. The
aim of the Iroquois Confederacy was to create an
Iroquoian empire by absorbing subservient,
conquered peoples. Adherence to the
Constitution of Iroquois Confederacy
was embodied in the Grand Council attended by 50
Sachems, called Hoyaneh.
The Mohawk tribe were represented by nine Hoyaneh.
Wampum were the traditional, sacred shell
beads of the Iroquois tribes which were used for
recording special events and as currency.
The Conquests of the Iroquois Confederacy and
the Mohawk Tribe
The goals of the Iroquois confederacy were met.
The neighboring tribes of the Great Lakes and
Ohio Valley fought for dominance of the beaver
fur trade, but were conquered by the power and
unity of the Iroquois Confederacy. By 1670 the
Huron, Potawatomi, Fox, Sauk, Neutrals, Kickapoo
Miami, Ottawa, Illinois, Osage, Kansa, Ponca,
Omaha, Erie and Susquehannock had all been
forced to move from their original locations.
Where did the Mohawk tribe live?
The Mohawk are people of the Northeast Woodland Native
American cultural group. The location of their
tribal homelands are shown on the map. The
geography of the region in which they lived
dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Mohawk
The Northeast Woodland region extended mainly across
the New England States, lower Canada, west
to Minnesota, and north of the Ohio River
Land: Lush woodlands, rivers, ocean
Climate: The climate varied according to the
location of the tribe
Animals: The animals included
squirrel, white-tailed deer, raccoon, bears,
beavers, moose, and caribou
Fish and Sea Mammals: Whales, Seal, Fish and shell fish
Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn
(maize), pumpkin, squash, beans and tobacco
Trees: Poplar, birch, elm, maple, oak,
pine, fir trees and spruce
Map showing location of the Northeast or
Woodland Indians Cultural Group
and the Mohawk Tribe
What did the Mohawk tribe live in?
The Mohawk tribe lived in large fortified villages of
winter. The longhouses were built by
the men but owned by the women. During the summer
months the men travelled away on hunting expeditions living
in temporary pyramid or dome-shaped
shelters called wigwams (wetu).
was built with
wooden frames that were covered
with woven mats, sheets of elm bark
and animal skins. Ropes were wrapped around
the wigwam to hold the elm bark in
Picture of the Mohawk leader Thayendanegea
picture at the top of the page depicts
Thayendanegea (1743 – 1807), also known as
Joseph Brant, who was a chief of the Mohawk
tribe. He wears a profusion of Wampum around his
neck. It was painted by the artist Charles Bird
King in 1835, but based on a 1806 portrait by
Ezra Ames. The hair of Thayendanegea (Joseph
Brant) is of interest as it depicts the
traditional hairstyle of the Mohawk tribe. The
Mohawk plucked (not shaved) their hair leaving
short tufts which they then dyed with red ochre
and then braided. The common perception of the
"Mohawk" hairstyle is actually taken from the
What type of Transportation did the Mohawk
use? Elm Bark and Dugout Canoes
The Mohawk tribe and the other nations of
the Iroquois Confederacy primarily used elm bark
for their canoes due to the lack of suitable
birch trees in their lands. They also built
heavier, dugout canoes that were built by the
waterways, used to get to their destinations and
left for future use. Dugout canoes were
far too heavy for portage.
What clothes did the Mohawk wear?
The clothes worn by the early Mohawk people were
simple and made from animal skins or elm bark. The
clothes worn by the men
included long breechclouts, leggings,
cloaks and shoulder to waist length mantles.
These were made from the skins of deer (buckskin) raccoon, beaver, otter
and moose. Mohawk women wore wraparound
skirts, tunics and cloaks. Nearly all
clothes were ornamented with quills or with
painted designs. Moccasins were
made of one piece of animal skin with a high collar that could be left
up or folded down. The ankle moccasins were
greased on the outside for additional
waterproofing. The men wore the hair roach,
or a turban of soft fur during the cold winter
months. The Europeans introduced
trade cloth to the Mohawk tribe who then began
to adopt a more European type of dress.
What food did the Mohawk tribe eat?
The food that the Mohawk tribe ate included the
'three sisters' crops of corn, beans and squash.
These crops were collectively known as 'deohako'
meaning "life supporters". Fish such as salmon
were an important part of their food supply.
Hunters provided meat from deer (venison),
moose, black bear and smaller game like
squirrel, duck, rabbit and wild turkey. The
Mohawk food also included nuts, vegetables,
mushrooms and fruits (blueberries, strawberries
and raspberries). The Mohawk people used food
preservation methods of drying and smoking to
ensure that foods was available through the
winter months. Their food was prepared in
different ways and included soups, cornbread and
What weapons did the Mohawk use?
The weapons used by the Mohawk warriors included
bows and arrows, war clubs, tomahawks, spears
and knives. Enemies of the Mohawk tribe included
the Algonquin, Huron, Pennacook, Lenape, Ojibway
(aka Chippewa) and the Mohican tribes together
with all the other people they conquered.