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Related to Iroquois: Iroquois Confederacy



a group of American Indian tribes that inhabited the northeastern part of the present USA and engaged in farming and hunting and, beginning in the 16th century, fur trading. Their ancient social organization is a classic example of the maternal tribal system.

The League of the Iroquois (League of the Six Nations: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora), which played a large role in the 17th and 18th centuries during the colonial wars of the European powers for supremacy in North America, was formed in about 1570. At this time, Iroquois society was a military democracy. By the late 18th century, the league had been defeated by American forces, lands had been expropriated, and the Iroquois had been settled on 16 reservations in the USA and Canada. Most contemporary Iroquois are engaged in agriculture, and some are industrial and construction workers. They are subjected to discrimination and segregation. It is estimated that in 1960 the Iroquois numbered about 35,000 in the USA and about 15,000 in Canada. The Iroquoian languages are related to the Hokan-Siouan language family. Most Iroquois are considered to be Christians, although a considerable number of them actually continue to adhere to the syncretic worship of the powers of nature.


Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem V, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. Moscow, 1953.
Morgan, L. H. Drevnee obshchestvo …. 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1935. (Translated from English.)
Morgan, L. H. League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois. New York, 1922.
Weinman, P. L. A Bibliography of the Iroquoian Literature. Albany, N.Y., 1969.
Fenton, W. “The Iroquois in History.” In North American Indians in Historical Perspective. New York, 1971.


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In the Iroquois tradition, the soul communicates to a person through his or her dreams.



The Iroquois are an indigenous North American people, currently centered in upstate New York. The theory of the “soul-wish-manifesting” dream, which is basically similar to psychoanalytic theory, is the most important dream theory of traditional Iroquois. They believe that human souls have desires that are inborn and concealed and come from the depths of the soul. The soul makes these natural desires known by means of dreams.

For this reason, most Iroquois are careful to note their dreams and to provide the soul with what it has requested during their sleep. They also recognize that a manifest dream might conceal rather than reveal the soul’s true wish. Because the individual cannot always properly interpret dreams, the Iroquois usually rely on a dream specialist.

The Iroquois are aware of the power of unconscious desires expressed in symbolic form by dreams and realize that the frustration of these desires can cause mental and physical illness. In Iroquois dream theory, a dream can reveal not only the wishes of the dreamer but also the desires of supernatural beings. The frustration of these desires may be dangerous, in that they can cause the death of the dreamer or bring disaster to the whole society or even cause the end of the world.

According to the accounts of Jesuit missionaries who reported the theory and practice relative to dreams among the seventeenth-century Iroquois, the dream represented the only divinity of the Iroquois. They submitted to it and followed all its orders. They believed themselves absolutely obliged to execute what their dreams dictated at the earliest possible moment. The Jesuits were frustrated by their inability to discourage this faith in dreams. Quaker missionaries, who reached the Iroquois 130 years later, observed in them the same respect for dreams.

The Iroquois faith in dreams is still alive in the twentieth century, although it has diminished somewhat in strength. Even today, dreams are allowed to control the choice and occasion of curing ceremonies, membership in the secret medicine societies, the selection of friends, and even the degree of confidence in life. At the New Year’s ceremony, Iroquois still ask that their dreams be guessed, and particularly vivid dreams are still brought to specialists for interpretation.


strongest, most feared of eastern confederacies. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 250]
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