Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1754 Iroquois sachem

Subjectsachem war chief
Culture: Iroquois & allied Indians
Setting: French & Indian Wars / Pontiac's War / American Revolution, Great Lakes/Ohio Valley 1702-1784

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

*Sheppard ed. 2006 p60-61
"The commercial trade between the Ohio American Indians and French and British agents and traders during the 18th century was of a different nature to previous trading.  It degenerated into competition for Indian alliances by means of gifts.  ... Once the Indians had become accustomed to the white man's goods, they could not live without them.  ...  The French gradually regained the upper hand in the Indian trade during the first half of the 18th century, and they were in control of the Ohio area in 1754.
"The eastern Woodland Indians, especially the Canadian Iroquois and Abenakis, were among the most steadfast allies of the French in Canada.  Their villages were often close to the French settlements and they served with the Canadian militia.  Most of the western Woodland tribes -- OttawaOjibwaPotawatomi, and Shawnee -- were also allies of the French.  The Hurons who had finally settled in the Ohio Valley following the dispersal of their confederacy by the Iroquois in the mid-17th century were known as the Wyandot.  Allied with the Ottawa, they were the 'eldest children' of Onontio, the governor-general of New France, and the cornerstone of the French alliance with the Great Lakes Algonkians.  Although their relations with the French were tempestuous for many years, when war broke out in the Ohio Valley, the Wyandot sided with the French, and with the other French allies went east to fight in the French campaigns in northern New York."

* Ferguson/Whitehead eds. 1999 p172-173 (Thomas S.Abler, "Beavers and muskets: Iroquois military fortunes in the face of European colonization" p151-174)
"Iroquois warfare in the colonial era was not simply the blind continuation of hostilities that existed prior to European entry onto the continent, but the presence of European traders and trade goods was central to wars in the historic era.  Wars were fought to gain access to points of trade, to pirate trade goods or beaver pelts from other groups, and to secure access to beaver-hunting grounds.  In addition, it became important to deny one's enemies access to the trade, for European arms had become a vital part of war.  Once tied to the trade, Indians were subject to pressures to serve major trading partners as 'ethnic soldiers' in European imperial wars.
    "Epidemic diseases from Europe were also a factor in this warfare.  A clear goal of Iroquoian war and diplomacy was to incorporate sufficient numbers of captives and refugees to counterbalance losses to disease.  Depopulation probably also reduced stability in the region, since groups were made more vulnerable when subjected to a military blow.  Well-armed Iroquois warriors had the impact they did because they were making war on peoples who had recently lost major portions of their population.
    "In all of these actions the Iroquois functioned not as a unitary state but as a tribal society (in the sense of Sahlins 1961).  Seldom, if ever, did fighting men from all segments of the confederacy contribute to the pursuit of a common military goal.  The student of Iroquois history would do well to use the term Iroquois as seldom as possible.
    "The lack of intertribal unity continued to be demonstrated in the latter portion of the colonial era, when segments of the Iroquois fought for Britain or for France, depending upon the strength of trade links.  In the American Revolution, too, Iroquois warriors fought for each side."


* Paterek 1994 p56
"For everyday wear the Iroquois man wore a tanned leather breechclout with rather short ends hanging down in front and back.  For ceremonial wear, he donned a kilt, knee-length, that was held in place with a belt.  Leggings were different; somewhat loose, they were sewed up the front, often with an embroidered strip covering the seam.  A curve at the bottom from front to back left an opening over the instep.  They were gartered above or below the knee and were rarely fringed.  These leggings were so long they practially dragged on the ground.  A simple tunic for wear in cooler weather was made of two pieces of tanned buckskin fastened at the shoulders, mid-thigh-length, ending at the bottom with a fringe."

* Hofsinde 1965 p34
"The early Iroquois costumes worn for war ceremonies were ornamented with quill and moose-hair embroidery.  When the white man made trade beads available, the old designs were copied in beadwork.  Floral designs were worked on shirt cuffs, bags, and on the toes and cuffs of moccasins.  Beadwork done on leggings and breechclouts was worked in single lines of graceful curved motifs, usually in white or pale-blue beads.  These designs were especially widespread after 1537 [SIC], when the Iroquois obtained red and dark-blue broadcloth from the English and French."


* Hamilton 1980 p7
"There were three kinds of guns to be found on the Colonial frontier: (1) military guns furnished the troops stationed at forts and outposts; (2) guns of superior quality brought in by officers, explorers, traders, gentlemen adventurers and as presents from the King to Native leaders; and (3) there were trade guns."

* Ferguson/Whitehead eds. 1999 p173 (Thomas S.Abler, "Beavers and muskets: Iroquois military fortunes in the face of European colonization" p151-174)
"Armed with Dutch and English weapons, the Iroquois warriors made vast territorial gains in beaver-hunting lands.  Once their enemies became equally well armed some of these lands were lost, but by no means all.  The Iroquois controlled far more territory in the latter part of the eighteenth century than they had at the beginning of the seventeenth.  This territory was conquered using muskets obtained for beaver pelts; it was conquered to increase the supply of beaver pelts; and it was defended with Iroquois lives to maintain that supply of beaver."

* Where two worlds meet 1982 p103
"Indian consumers demanded the highest quality of merchandise.  To satisfy them, merchants and manufacturers searched for better goods and better ways to make them.  European technology benefited from developing new solutions to the Indians' problems.
    "One solution was this gun.  Indian hunting methods required lightweight, dependable guns that would stand up to extreme cold.  They had to be simple to load and inexpensive.  After a century of improvement, British manufacturers arrived at the perfect combination of features.  They called it the Northwest gun.  
    "The short barrel of the Northwest gun made it easy to carry in canoes and through the woods.  With a wide trigger guard, the gun could be fired while wearing mittens.  It had a smooth bore and a distinctive serpent side plate.  Its flintlock mechanism was so dependable and easy to repair that Indians preferred it to the percussion rifle well into the 1860s."

Clubs (Ball Headed, Gunstock, Sword, Tomahawk)

* Taylor 2001 p29-30
"References to 'tomahawk', as against 'club' or 'hatchet', in the discussion of the spontoon blade raises several points with regard to the nomenclature used to describe North American Indian striking weapons.  The word tomahawk was originally applied to a group of striking weapons which were commonly and anciently used by both the Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes of eastern North America.  Early colonists mention the word from this region -- with slight variations -- as 'tomahack' or 'tommahick', whilst the Mahican referred to such weapons as 'tumnahecan'.  The wooden ballheaded club at this time was also referred to as a 'tomahawk' and it clearly impressed white observers with its effectiveness; as an offensive striking weapon, one recorded that it was heavy enough 'to knock men's brains out.'"


* McNab 2010 p24
"By the eighteenth century, the Eastern Native Americans were increasingly using metal daggers as weapons of war.  Prior to the arrival of the colonists, Indian blades were made largely of bone or rock, the latter 'pressure-flaked' with the edge of an antler to form a rudimentary but dangerous blade.  Some copper blades were manufactured, but with the arrival of the settlers the Indians began to purchase far more durable iron blades.  A particularly popular style of knife was the 'beaver tail' blade that, as its name suggests, had a broad double-edged blade tapering to an efficient point.  The Indians developed gaudy sheaths to go with their blades, often encompassing hilt as well as blade, possibly suggesting that the knives were used more for utility and hunting than as a rapid-response weapon in combat.  The Indians also made their own knives by sharpening up pieces of scrap metal and wrapping the 'tang' (handle) with strips of hide to form a basic hilt."


* Bancroft-Hunt 1995 p26 caption
"Although many tribes of the Woodlands used small white and purple shells, known as wampum, in making sashes ..., it is from the Iroquois that they are best known.  Wampum often served a specific function as a record of an agreement or treaty between rival groups or factions, and in this sense had a purpose which was as rigidly defined as any written treaty made between Indian tribes and the Colonial powers or the later Americans."

* Paterek 1994 p56
"Wampum belts were ceremonial objects; the Iroquois seem not to have used wampum beads for decoration as was the case with other Northeastern tribes.  The two varieties of wampum held special significance for the Iroquois; the white represented peace and good will, and the purple typified war, disaster, or death."

* Where two worlds meet 1982 p99 f215
"When Europeans discovered that beads carved from conch and clam shells (wampum) were prized by inland tribes, they began to make the white-and-purple beads for sale. Even easier to make were glass imitations."

Body Art

* Paterek 1994 p57
"Facial paint for war was a black rectangle or three stripes on each cheek.  When first encountered, the Iroquois men sported spectacular tattooing of double-curve motifs, geometric designs, or clan crests." 


* Paterek 1994 p56-57
"Necklaces and bracelets were of bear's teeth and claws; bird bones, beaks, and claws; or beads of shell or carved bone.  Gorgets of freshwater-clam shells hung on the breast.  Earrings were of shell, polished stone, or clusters of beads."