Iroquois Stone Carvings

The Iroquois people have inhabited northeastern Canada and the United States for more than 4,000 years. Today they form the Six Nations, which is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada. It is the only reserve in North America that has representatives from all six Iroquois nations living together—the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora. Many Iroquois currently live in the heart of their homeland, New York State, as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada.

Though commonly referred to as Iroquois or Six Nations, they choose to go by the name Haudenosaunee, which means People of the Longhouse. What made them so unique was their form of self-government. Historians estimate that the Iroquois Confederacy started around 1491, which would make it the oldest living participatory democracy on Earth. Their society serves as an outstanding example of political and military organization, a complex lifestyle and an elevated role of women in social government.

In the Iroquois culture, stories are passed down verbally from generation to generation as well as through quality arts and crafts. They have always excelled at sculpting, bead work, basketry and pottery. They create objects out of materials from their immediate environment, including clay, stone, bone and antler. Designs on their soapstone sculptures and pottery are often symbolic in their meaning, reflecting their beliefs and values while conveying a spiritual connection with the land and animals. Each piece carries with it the history and legends of their heritage.