Mohawk: The 3 Things This Native Tribe Was Known For

Further ReadingIroquois Confederacy: The 3 Different Dates For Its Formation

One of the strongest native American tribes of North East America was none other than the Mohawk tribe. Across north east North America the Mohawk were respected and feared for their prowess in battle and intricate trade networks. Here are the 3 main things that the Mohawk tribe was known for.

Generally speaking the Mohawk Tribe of the 15th-18th century was known for 3 things. First, the Mohawk people fielded some of the most respected and feared warriors. Second, the Mohawk tribe was responsible for protecting the eastern side of the Iroquois people. Third, the Mohawk tribe had one of the strongest economies with intricate trade networks.

The traditional name of the Mohawk tribe is Kanienʼkehá꞉ka which translates to “people of the flint.” However, the neighboring tribe of the Mohicans named them Maw Unk Lin or “bear people” after their ferocity in battle. The Dutch would hear this name and westernize it as the modern Mohawk.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 things the Mohawk Tribe was known for.

The Mohawk Tribe Fielded Some Of The Most Respected And Feared Warriors

One of the main things that the Mohawk tribe was known for was fielding some of the most respected and feared warriors in northeastern North America.

We know from 17th century Jesuit Missionaries working within Mohawk land that some of the most feared warriors of the Iroquois came from the Mohawk tribe.

In fact across the Algonquian speaking neighbors surrounding the Mohawk a name would be developed for their tribe called Maw Unk Lin which means “Bear People.”

While historians have debated why the Mohawk received this name the general consensus is that it stems from the Mohawk’s prowess in battle.

We have little evidence for the Mohawk tribe’s ferocity in battle before the 17th century. In 1609 however the Mohawk first encountered Europeans while engaging Samuel De Champlain and the French Huron native tribes.

From here we get reports of body armor worn by the Mohawk chiefs and a massive amount of professional warriors. Further, the report we have of these Mohawk warriors from the French Samuel De Champlain accounts for their massive size, confidence, and intimidating stature.

This warrior spirit would continue into the American Revolution where the Mohawk would field warriors on both sides of the conflict.

As such one of the main things that the Mohawk tribe was known for was having some of the most feared and respected warriors.

The Mohawk Tribe Was Responsible For Protecting The Eastern Iroquois People

One of the main things that the Mohawk tribe was known for was protecting the Iroquois People from their traditional enemies the Algonquian tribes to the east.

It is estimated that for nearly 500 years the Mohawk tribe would be the guardian protectors of the Iroquois people from attacks to the east. Not only was the Mohawk tribe the easternmost tribe, but they also had enemies to the north and east as well.

As such the Mohawk tribe would become militaristic as a response to the proximity of the Algonquian tribes.

In particular there was a long standing rivalry between the Mahican and the Mohawk people as they competed for shared resources from the 14th-17th centuries.

In 1628 the Mohawk would finally secure their eastern border by forcing the Mahican to retreat back across the Hudson river. This gave the Mohawk’s some excess room and also allowed them to dominate trade with the local Dutch.

Unfortunately we as historians don’t have much primary source evidence outside several oral histories for the early Mohawk society. In the 1970’s historians performed oral history research on the men in the Mohawk society to learn of their history. However, since much of the oral history is passed down through the maternal line modern historians don’t have it.

However, we do know that within the Iroquois Confederacy the name for the Mohawk was Kanienʼkehá꞉ka or “Keepers of the Eastern Door.” Which seems to indicate their position within Iroquois society as guardian protectors and defenders.

As such one of the main things that the Mohawk tribes were known for was protecting the Iroquois people from their traditional enemies in the east.

The Mohawk Tribe Had One Of The Strongest Economies With Intricate Trade Networks

One of the main things that the Mohawk tribe was known for was its strong economy and intricate trade network.

Many modern people think that the Iroquois Confederacy was a small group of isolated people who held a small gathering of chiefs. However, this is far from the case.

In many ways the Iroquois Confederacy has substantial trade networks that existed across the America’s. For example, modern historians know that the first instance of corn as an aggregable crop comes from Meso America sometime around 10,000 years ago.

However, the use of corn would eventually spread to the Iroquois people through a series of trade networks. Over thousands of years corn would become the staple of the Iroquois diet.

In the 15th-18th centuries however the Iroquois had substantial trade networks. Of the nations which comprised the confederacy the Mohawk probably had the most substantial trade networks.

We know this because the Mohawk would come to dominate the fur trade with the Dutch in the 17th century after they pushed the Mahican out of the Hudson river.

From this the Mohawk would dominate trade with the Dutch and later English. This would make the Mohawk substantially wealthy during the 17th and 18th centuries during the height of the fur trade.

From this Fur Trade we get the Beaver Wars in which the Mohawk played a main role.

As such one of the main things that the Mohawk tribe was known for was its strong economy with intricate trade networks.


There you have it; an entire article going over the 3 main things the Mohawk tribe was know for.

The Mohawk tribe remains a fascinating subject of discovery. Not only do they have a rich oral history regarding their foundation and role within the Great Peace but at one point they were the superpower in the north eastern Americas.

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