War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience

TitleWar and Culture: The Iroquois Experience
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRichter, Daniel K.
Book TitleTrade, Land, Power: The Struggle for Eastern North America
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Most Europeans in the early modern era ignored their own countrymen's capacity for bloodlust and attributed the supposedly unique bellicosity of the Iroquois to their irreligion and uncivilized condition. Still, in ways quite unfamiliar and largely unfathomable to Europeans, warfare was vitally important in the cultures of the seventeenth-century Iroquois and their neighbors. For generations of Euro-Americans, the significance that Indians attached to warfare seemed to substantiate images of bloodthirsty savages who waged war for mere sport. Only in recent decades have ethnohistorians discarded such shibboleths; almost necessarily, however, given the weight of past prejudice, their work has stressed similarities between Indian and European warfare. Thus neither commonplace stereotypes nor scholarly efforts to combat them have left much room for serious consideration of the possibility that the nonstate societies of aboriginal North America may have waged war for different - but no less rational and no more savage - purposes than did the nation-states of Europe. This chapter explores that possibility through an analysis of the changing role of warfare in Iroquois culture during the first century after European contact.

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