Member of an American Indian people, part of the Iroquois confederation, who originally inhabited the Mohawk Valley, New York. Their language belongs to the Macro-Siouan group. The Mohawk were maize farmers and hunters, whose traditional aggression towards neighbouring Algonquian peoples was heightened by involvement with the Dutch fur trade in the 17th century, and the acquisition of guns. After fighting with the British during the American Revolution, many Mohawk moved to Canada. They now live on reservations in Ontario, Québec, and New York State, as well as among the general population, and number about 10,000 (1990).
The Mohawk are divided into three clans: the Turtle, Wolf, and Bear, each headed by a clan mother. Traditionally, they lived in villages of barrel-roofed longhouses, up to 60 m/200 ft long and covered with sheets of bark. The women cultivated maize (corn) which the men supplemented through hunting and fishing. Wampum beads were strung into belts, and used as money or to record events. False face masks, made from wood and corn husks, were used in religious ceremonies and were considered to be filled with sacred power the moment they were made. Contact with Europeans led to a rapid decline in Mohawk numbers. During the American Revolution they fought with the British against the Americans under the leadership of Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. After the war, Brant, and many of his followers, settled on a reservation in Brantford, Ontario. In 1990 the Mohawk south of Montréal mounted a blockade in a dispute over land with the government of Québec province.
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