People of the Longhouse
Keeping the Fire Burning
The traditional life of the
Iroquoian peoples has changed dramatically in the last 400 years
as a result of warfare, disease and the encroachment of
non-Native settlers. These events, as well as urbanization, have
greatly affected the economic basis of today's Iroquoian
societies. However, people have steadfastly maintained key
traditional values, including a strong attachment to the land,
and a social structure based on clans and female lineage.
The "Three Sisters" - corn, beans, and
squash - continue to nurture the spirit and the body, and
still have a central place in the world-view of Iroquoian
peoples. Women continue to play a major role in Iroquoian
Longhouses continue to be a part of Iroquoian life. Although no
longer residential units, they still provide a focus for
ceremonies, celebrations and political debate. Contemporary
longhouses are modern buildings made of steel, brick and lumber,
rather than the traditional poles and bark.
Clan Mothers of Oka ( 5 minutes 56 seconds )
Senior women called Clan Mothers continue to appoint men to
positions of responsibility in traditional councils. Women were
front and centre during the 1990 "Oka Crisis," a confrontation
between Iroquois people from Kanehsatake and the Quebec and
Canadian governments over the issue of land. A key Iroquois
precondition to any negotiations was the free movement of Clan
Mothers between communities and the besieged Iroquois at Oka.
Credits for Clan
Mothers of Oka
© Canadian Museum of Civilization, First Peoples Hall,
Zone 3, Contemporary Epilogues
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"Our instincts kicked in and we said the women have to go to
the front because it's our obligation to do that, to protect the
land, to protect our mother. And I remember looking at the faces
of the SWAT team and they were all scared, they were like young
babies who had never met something so strong, who had never met
a spirit, because we were fighting something without a spirit;
there was no thought to it, they were like robots."