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1.2.1 Expansion

In “Reflections in Bullough’s Pond”, historian Diana Muir argues that the pre-contact Iroquois were an imperialist, expansionist culture whose use of the corn/beans/squash agricultural complex enabled them to support a large population that made war against other Algonquian peoples. Muir uses archaeological data to argue that the Iroquois expansion onto Algonquian lands was checked by the Algonquian adoption of agriculture. This enabled them to support their own populations large enough to include a body of warriors to defend against the threat of Iroquois conquest.

The Iroquois may be the Kwedech described in the oral legends of the Micmac nation of Eastern Canada. These legends relate that the Micmac in the late pre-contact period had gradually driven their enemies, the Kwedech, westward across New Brunswick, and finally out of the Lower St. Lawrence River region. The Micmac named the last-conquered land “Gespedeg” or “lost land,” leading to the French word “Gaspé.” The “Kwedech” are generally considered to have been Iroquois, specifically the Mohawk; their expulsion from Gaspé by the Micmac has been estimated as occurring ca. 1535-1600. Around 1535, Jacques Cartier reported Iroquoian groups on Gaspé and along the St. Lawrence River, and Samuel de Champlain found Algonquian groups in the same locations in 1608 — but the exact tribal identity of any of these groups has been debated.

Iroquoian tribes were also well-known in the south by this time. From the time of the first English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia (1607), numerous 17th century accounts describe a powerful people known to the Powhatan Confederacy as the Massawomeck, and to the French as the Antouhonoron, who came from the north, beyond the Susquehannocks. These “Massawomeck” / “Antouhonoron” have often been identified with the Iroquois proper, but other Iroquoian candidates include the Erie tribe, who were finally destroyed by the Iroquois in 1654. It is certain that the Five Nations acquired political control of most of Virginia west of the fall line over the years 1670-1710, which they continued to claim until they began selling this area to their British allies in 1722.

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