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Any of the North American Indian tribes speaking a language of the Iroquoian family and living at the time of European contact in a continuous territory around Lakes Ontario, Huron, and Erie. The name Iroquois is a French derivation of Irinakhoiw, meaning rattlesnakes, their Algonquian enemy's epithet. They call themselves Hodenosaunee, meaning people of the longhouse. The Iroquois were semisedentary, practiced agriculture, palisaded their villages, and lived in longhouses that lodged many families. Women traditionally grew crops of corn and other vegetables, produced most household goods, and, when they became clan elders, had considerable power to determine the makeup of village councils. Men built houses, hunted, fished, and made war, which was ingrained in Iroquois society; war captives were often tortured for days or made permanent slaves. Iroquois religion centred on agricultural festivals. The early 21st-century descendants of the various Iroquois tribes number more than 900,000 individuals.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Iroquois, visit Britannica.com.