People of the Flint
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|Mike Tarbell, Mohawk
Some time ago, Cecilia Tarbell told her son Mike that he was born three hundred years too late. That is because his creative passions are focused on understanding his ancestors of long ago. The basis of his understanding is an ongoing personal research project into the material culture of pre-contact Iroquois people, designed around careful replication of everyday tools such as bows, arrows, knives, warclubs, spears, and atlatls. In replicating these tools, Mr. Tarbell also engages in speculative consideration about the thoughts of the makers of the original tools. He draws on oral and written sources for this, as well as his own experience in making a specific item. Since 1992 he has been working at the Iroquois Indian Museum as Educator, where thousands of children come each year to hear him speak about the tools of the hunt. He hopes through his research and his art to keep the natural world alive.
The Mohawk (Kanienkehaka), meaning the People of the Flint, are one of the five founding nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy. The Mohawks inhabited part of what is now known as the Mohawk Valley in New York State. Traditional Mohawk homelands extended north to the St. Lawrence River, east to Mahican territory, west to Oneida territory and south to Lenape territory.
Mohawk Nation was located to the east of the other Iroquois Nations,
it was referred to as the
“Keepers of the Eastern Door.”
They were responsible for guarding the Iroquois Confederacy
from threats from the east. In the 1600s, Jesuit missionaries
persuaded many Mohawks to move to the Catholic "Station" which
was located along the St. Lawrence River in Canada.
which was located along the St. Lawrence River in Canada.
The Haudenosaunee decided to remain neutral during the American Revolutionary War. Eventually, however, the Mohawks decided to fight with the British against the American colonists. After the Americans defeated the British many Mohawks were forced to flee from their ancestral homelands. Most Mohawks from the Upper Castle (located in the present day town of Danube, NY) fled to Fort Niagara. Most Mohawks from the Lower Castle (located near Fort Hunter, NY) fled to Montreal. Joseph Brant led a large group of Iroquois to Ontario, Canada to settle in what is now referred to as “Six Nations of the Grand River” or ”Six Nations” or “Ohsweken.” John Deseronto led another group of Mohawks to the Bay of Quinte. That became known as “Tyendinaga”. Another large group of Mohawks moved to an area located not far from Montreal, Quebec in Canada. From there, some Mohawks later relocated to Kahnawake, Ahkwesahsne and Kahnesatake. A few Mohawks remained in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys.
Mohawk Gustoweh (three feathers pointing up) There can be variations in the height of the feathers depending on the maker. In this particular Gustoweh, the feather hanging from the brim is decorative.
There are 8 Mohawk communities in the United States and Canada shown in blue on the map below:
Ø AKWESASNE or AHKWASAHSNE (ST. REGIS RESERVATION):Located 10 mi. east of Massena, NY and just south of Cornwall, Ontario. (Ahkwesahsne straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York State.)
Ø Kanatsiohareke: along Route 5, 7 miles west of Fonda, NY.
Ø KANASATAKE or KANEHSATAKE: at Oka on the Ottawa River, Located about 20 mi. northwest of Montreal.