mohawk headdress

The Mohawk people, are traditionally called Kanien’kehake meaning People of the Flint. They were given the name Mohawk by the English derived from the Algonquian word Mohowauuck which translated means man-eater. The Mohawk hold the position of Elder Brother within the Grand Council. Like most nations they hunted, were farmers and were excellent trappers. They were also well known for their fierce attacks on warring nations. The Mohawk are made up of three clans, the turtle, the bear and the wolf.

At the time of confederation the five nations, the Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga and Oneida all held territory stretching from east to west in New York State. A common misconception is that the Mohawk who were at the far east of this territory were known as the Keepers of the Eastern Door within the confederacy. This name was never formally applied but was used and became common in European interpretations of the behaviors and actions of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Upon European contact the Mohawk made many great allies among the English. Young Joseph Brant was very close to Sir William Johnson, an English trader who later adopted him when Johnson married Brant’s sister. Because of these and other such allies the Mohawk sided with the English and helped them conquer the colonial French during their fight to control North America in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The French attempted to persuade the Haudenosaunee to move up to Canada near Montreal by sending Jesuit Missionaries to preach among the nations. Some Mohawk traveled to Canada at the persuasion of the missionaries and settled in what is now Kahnawa:ke Reserve in Quebec.

During the American Revolution the Confederacy was divided with most of the Mohawk siding with the British. Prior to the revolution many Mohawk people sold or leased their lands and eventually decided to leave their traditional territory. Led by Joseph Brant many Six Nations members moved to Canada where a large area of land known as the Grand River Tract, an area where they already had hunting and fishing rights, was secured for them by the British Crown.

Today the Mohawk people are spread out in eight different communities including: Akwesasne/St. Regis (Quebec, Ontario & New York State), Ganienke (New York State), Kanesatake (Quebec), Kahnawake (Quebec), Tyendinaga (Ontario), Wahta/Gibson (Ontario), Kanatsiohareke (New York State), and Six Nations (Ontario).