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May I Suggest ... The Haudenosaunee: From Owasco through Five Nations

In the preface to his new book "Iroquoia: The Development of a Native World," William Engelbrecht has a reminder for New Yorkers. The Buffalo State anthropology professor states that we cannot fully know the history of what is now New York without an understanding of the peoples who resided there long before European contact.

This "ethnohistoric work" draws upon oral tradition, historical records and archaeology to describe the development and history of the region's indigenous inhabitants over the last millenium. With description and discussion of a wide range of topics - hunting and fishing techniques, spirituality, warfare, artifacts - "Iroquoia" makes for fascinating reading in describing a place that although still of this earth, no longer exists.

Engelbrecht states early on that he has refrained as much as possible from dividing this work into pre- and post-contact spheres. Such distinction might introduce "discontinuities where none may exist in terms of the development of native societies."

Beginning around 900-1000 AD with a people often referred to by historians and anthropologists as the "Owasco," the ancestors of the five original Iroquois nations, the author examines how two particular themes, those of spirituality and warfare, guided Haudenosaunee life. The book is indeed an interesting study of subsistence patterns, the size and movement of villages and other demographic and social factors.

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"Iroquoia" also offers the theory that Iroquois longhouses had defensive and well as residential purposes and asserts that the "arrow sacrifice" ritual came to the Iroquois, along with maize and horticulture, from Mesoamerica.

Today, the six Iroquois nations, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora, continue to reemerge from two centuries of forced obscurity and reclaim their place in society. As they do, books such as Engelbrecht's can be very helpful in educating non-Indians on their Native neighbors.

The volume is published by the Syracuse University Press as the latest volume in a series entitled "The Iroquois and their Neighbors."

Book information: William Engelbrecht, "Iroquoia: The Development of a Native World" (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004). 181 pages, plus bibliography and index.