Free Custom «Joseph Brant's Influence on the Mohawk Tribe» Essay Sample

Free Custom «Joseph Brant's Influence on the Mohawk Tribe» Essay Sample


The history of the Mohawk tribe is replete with the heroic exploits of Joseph Brant, one of the most prominent pioneer leaders of the tribe. Any historical documentation of the Mohawk is incomplete without the mention of the contribution by Joseph Brant. Loosely referred by many scholars as the “spokesman” of the Mohawk tribe, the significance of Brant in defining the history of the Mohawk people cannot be overemphasized. This paper will offer a consummate discourse on the significance of Brant in defining the history of the Mohawk people. Specifically, this dissertation will focus on highlighting the positive influence that Brant had on the tribe. This work will also give an elaborate analysis of the life and times of Brant in relation to the evolution of the Mohawk tribe. This work will equally relate the social concepts in the history of the Mohawk tribe as seen through Brant to the contemporary issues

I. The Mohawk Tribe: A Brief History

A. Location

The Mohawk people belong to the Iroquoian speaking social construct that consists of the indigenous inhabitants of North America. According to historical records, the Mohawk people initially inhabited the Mohawk valley within the present day New York, Southern Quebec Cityarea, and the areas surrounding Ontario City (Eastern parts to be precise). As explored by historian Wood, the Mohawk initially occupied the areas that stretched along the river Mohawk and to the Eastern section of the Green mountains of Vermont. This was their traditional homeland, and it is said that this area bordered the Oneida nation on the Western border.


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The Mohawk religious disposition is inclined towards “Animism.” Their significance in the historicity of America has been noted as “definitive” of the North American origin and preservation. Their role as “Keepers of the Eastern door” within their territorial frontiers has been christened as a key significance for the survival of the Iroquois speakers. The designation “keepers of the Eastern door” was due to their important role of defending the confederacy of the Iroquois speaking tribes by those tribes that inhabited the New England area together with those tribes within the lower New York section. According to Historical documentation, the Mohawk tribe currently occupies the areas around Lake Ontario in Canada and the lower sections of the St. Lawrence River in New York.

Described as one of the most “progressive” tribes of their time, the Mohawk tribe was considered as talented toolmakers in the confederacy. Their significance in the development of the trade routes in the confederacy is evident in their industry in commercial activities in the confederacy. After the revolutionary war where they fought alongside the British the Mohawk tribes were forced by the Americans to give up their territorial occupations, after which they moved to Canada where it is said that they were compensated by the crown to areas that are currently occupied. It is during this migration out of the confederacy that Joseph Brant led out a very huge group of the Mohawk tribe towards Ontario City. Another group was moved to Bay of Quinte by another prominent chief, John Deseronto. In 1794 though, the Mohawk tribe that remained in the US signed a treaty with the American government in dubbed as “Treaty of Canandaigua’, which effectively allowed the tribe to possess land within that area.

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As mentioned earlier, the tribe is currently widespread within Canada and some portions of the United States in several smaller communities. Within the Northern frontiers of New York, there are two major communities named Ganienkeh and Kana’tsioharèke. Within the areas surrounding Southern Ontario, three major communities of Mohawk are established. These communities include Kenhtè:ke, Ohswé:ken, and Wáhta. Within the areas that border the St. Lawrence River, the tribes that predominantly occupy the area include Kahnawà:ke and Ahkwesásne tribes.

B. Customs and Practices


The Mohawk tribe was a relatively extended tribe. They lived in villages where they practiced their farming and trading activities. The emphasis on the extended family ties contributed to the nature of the design of their houses. As recorded by the Historian Berleth, they resided in longhouses built of wood frame structures. The tribe was considered one of the best indigenous groupings, with excellent sense of artisanship owing to the manner, in which they constructed their houses. To provide warmth, their building structures were covered in barks and sheets of elm bark. Due to their large families, scholars assert that one family house could be as long as over one hundred feet. In some cases, an entire clan could live in a single house. Usually, the clan could accommodate up to eighty individuals. This means that the long houses constructed by the Mohawk tribe could house up to eighty individuals.

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Hunting and Agriculture

The tribe devoted much time to hunting as a commercial activity. Mohawk tribe was known to be ardent toolmakers, which excelled in warfare and hunting activities. Any hunting session was a reserve for men. It is only the men who were allowed to handle weapons in the society. This explains why such activities as hunting and events as war were restricted to the male gender. The women were to prepare the meals made from the animals that were hunted down by the men. The most dominant wildlife that the Mohawk men hunted down involved such animals as deer and elk. These provided supplementary diet for the otherwise predominantly vegetarian diet. In addition, the Mohawk men were engaged in fishing expeditions, especially during the cold seasons when hunting wild animals was hectic. The fact that the tribe lived along riverbanks provided the men with the opportunity to pursue their fishing activities.

In contrast, all agricultural activities were handled by the women. The women were involved in maintaining all the production from the land. They would gather seeds in readiness for the farming season. However, the men had a little role of assisting in major activities such as ploughing, after which the women would further their farming activities. Corn, beans, peas, and squash were some of the most dominant crops that the Indian women planted in their farms. In addition, the women were involved in the collection and gathering of herbs together with berries for food. Traditionally, the group relied heavily on cornbread and soup cooked on specially designed stone hearths.

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Gender Roles/Family Life

The Mohawk tribe was predominantly hunters and farmers. Hunting was a role reserved for the males in the society while the women were involved in the farming activities of the tribe. As reflected in the government of the tribe, these roles were never interchangeable since the community observed strict gender responsibility issues. The women were equally engaged in such activities as the organization of the family in terms of caring for the children and cooking for the family. This was based on the fact that the women were usually confined to areas within the vicinity of their homesteads. The women were equally tasked with the all-significant role of passing discipline to the children through morally accepted values.

The men were equally tasked with the warfare activities of the tribe. Women were not allowed in many kinds of warfare other than the facilitation of food for the men and taking care of the injured during the warfare activities. All trading and other commercial activities were reserved for men. Mostly, the traditional Mohawk tribe relied heavily on several aspects of barter trade as their means of exchange. This is not to say that the tribe was not engaged in monetary trade where money was used as a medium of exchange for products. The men would negotiate for trade terms and transport the trading items to the market where the actual trading activity would occur.

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The Mohawk tribes were subdivided into sub units called clans. These clans were headed by the women who organized their activities and solved disputes that would arise within these clans. Conversely, the larger collection of clans was equally headed by Mohawk chiefs whose roles were to organize for trade activities with other societies and make military decisions for the tribe. The position of chieftaincy was reserved for men only. At the great council of the Iroquois group, only men were allowed to take part. Incidentally, it was the role of the women to vote in the representatives to the Iroquois council.

Although the women played a significantly dominant role in cultural issues such as storytelling, the men were equally involved. Art, painting and music were shared across the two gender divides meaning that they all partook in the transmission of cultural values to their children. Traditional medicine and treatment were equally shared across the two genders.

Religious Practices

The Mohawk tribe had a deeper sense of religion. They laid emphasis on practicing religious rites. They belonged to Animism religious disposition. The Mohawk tribe did not have any deity beliefs in humanity or a super human belief; they tended to subscribe to animism as an anthropological religious indentation. The majority of the animals were worshipped as their gods.

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The tribe was considered as “very fierce” in their fighting skills. Their superior knowledge of weaponry was considered excellent, especially in warfare. The Tribe was an outstanding one in the American revolutionary war. Led by Brant, the Mohawk tribe engaged the American colonists who fought against the Great Britain for independence. It is said that the stability of the confederacy was highly attributed to the tact by the tribe. They employed the use of extremely powerful war tools including spears and swords to defend their territories.

II. Introduction to Joseph Brant

As mentioned earlier in the prologue of this work, Joseph Brant played a critical role in defining the history of the Mohawk tribe. Considered as the leader of the tribe, Brant’s contribution to the evolution of the Mohawk tribe and its survival is critical in the historical understanding of the morphology of the Mohawk tribe. In this section of the paper, the work will dwell on the background of the subject and highlight the educational and philosophical subscription that defines his personality.

Family Background

The rich legacy of Joseph Brant began in earnest after his birth in the 17th Century in Ohio County near the Cuyahoga River. Historian theorists have admitted that the birth of the leader in the area happened due to the intermittent travel times that the tribe would pursue during the hunting session. The name Thayendanegea was assigned to him symbolically meaning “two sticks that have been bound together for the sake of enhancing their strength.” Whether the name was a premonition of his leadership abilities or not is debatable. Joseph’s father and mother were considered ardent Christians whose fidelity to the church has never been brought into question. Historical documentation reveals that the father passed on soon after the burial of Joseph.

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The death of the father is said to have initiated the mother’s movement back to New York from Ohio, after which they settled in a small village called Canajoharie along the Riverbanks of the Mohawk River. Joseph had a sibling, a girl called Molly. Ten years after his birth, Joseph’s mother, Margaret was engaged in another marriage to Brant, a widower with very strong ties to the British. The second husband called Brant was relatively wealthy, and this is documented to have uplifted the life value of the young son together with the mom in terms of their economic fending.

Ideology and Education (Goals)

Brant’s growth was under the “protection” of the then British Indian superintendent until he began his schooling at the Moor’s charity school at the age of 19 years. He later converted into Anglican Church in the same institution and resorted to work as an interpreter after quitting his studies. It is said that Brant developed his ideological concepts during his education. In dropping Animism, Brant accepted the existence of a supreme deity whose presence was only “felt” and himself unseen. This was in deep contrast to the native beliefs where they worshipped animals and plants. In 1774, after he became the secretary to Guy Jonhson, the Secretary of the Indian affairs, it is said that Brant had a moment of the formative sessions of his ideological dispositions. His radicalism has been explored by many Historians who think that he pursued extremist ideologies; nonetheless, he used his influence to raid American positions as he fought alongside the Britons.

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III. Brant’s Acculturation

Home Life

The Humility of Brant’s family background was disrupted after the mother remarried into the new family. His prestigious educational background was quite critical in the acculturation of the young mind. Brant’s exposure is attributed to his near excellent educational background and the connections he had to the British officials, especially the British superintendent of Indian affairs in New York, Sir William Johnson. His home life was “silent”, with no major extraordinary events.

Religion and Missionary Work 

Later in 1764, Brant voluntarily left the missionary and proceeded to help in the translation of several religious documents into his native language, Mohawk. The outbreak of the American revolutionary war saw the influence of Brant increase tremendously. He enlisted his help of the Iroquois through his influence to join the war and fight on the side of the Britons. 

Government Loyalty 

Brant proceeded to England and pledged his unwavering support during the American Revolution war. However, the majority of the Iroquois were skeptical about taking sides in the war and wanted to remain neutral. Many historians have attributed his actions to disloyalty to the American government. Again, this disposition depends on the philosophical divide that one takes. However, it is documented that Brant ended up having plenty of war volunteers who were willing to fight for the cause of the Britons against the Americans themselves. Brant got quite a number of American natives whom he recruited to fight for the cause of the British.

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Establishing Alliances

Brant’s strategic approach to the war saw him build critical alliances across the confederacy divide. His argument was that the American victory would mean that the natives of the American society would be destroyed. This appeal saw several alliances being established by Brant. His alliance with the crown of course saw him fight in the sides of the British during the revolution war. His act of enlisting the help of American volunteers in the fight against their own government is an indication of a strategic alliance. Brant’s negotiations and consensus building for the benefit of his community has been highlighted by several historical scholars. In 1785, he did make a travel to England to “indemnify” the Mohawks for their losses during the war, a negotiation he successfully pursued. Evidently, the leader had much penchant for strategic alliances for the benefit of the Mohawk tribe.

a) Intertribal Unity 

There are various arguments on whether Brant’s role in establishing intertribal unity was achieved. His decision to support the Britons against the Americans has been christened as more of a rebellion since the Mohawk tribe wanted to remain neutral in the war. Nevertheless, the leader has been praised for his numerous scenes where his desire to unify the tribe was realized. At the end of the American revolutionary war, the leader made several negotiations that were serious aspects of unity depending on how one views these negotiations. He tried to negotiate a reservation on the Grand River within Upper Canada. He was interested in uniting his people in the area. He was equally successful in the indemnification of the losses that the community underwent during the war. His attempts to aid in the translation of religious works into Mohawk were also considered factors of unity that brought the tribes of Mohawk together.

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b) Britain 

Scholars unanimously agree that the strategic alliance that Brant made with Britain indeed benefitted his people. The compensation that the British made to the people after the war and the successful negotiations for land in the Grand Upper Canada was considered some of the successful issues that the relationship with the Britons brought forth. His association with the Britons equally helped in the translation of several religious literatures into the local language. This is not to mention the Briton civilization that the leader brought forth with the white men to help change his society.

IV. Brant’s Involvement in the Iroquois Confederation

French and Indian War

French and Indian war refers to the conflict that was fought between the colonies of British America and New France. During the war, the Native American armies were engaged in the war. This was considered a precursor to the revolution, in which Brant helped taking part in. There was a considerable ideological acculturation during this warfare. Many Historians admit that the French and Indian war had profound effects on the ideological tilt of Joseph Brant. His decision to join the British side, for instance, shaped the ideas of the American Revolution war.

American Revolution 

The historical relevance is highlighted in the American Revolution as noted by Lighthall. The evolution of the history of the Iroquois people has been heavily defined by their participation in the American Revolution. At the center of the war, there is the role of Brant in defining the course of the Mohawk tribe within America and Canada is significant. The importance of the war in defining the migratory patterns of the Mohawk tribe cannot be gainsaid. Incidentally, Brant has played a central role in defining the course of Mohawk tribe during the war.

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