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One night I was driving down highway 20 through the Niagara peninsula's escarpment country, searching for something to listen to on the radio, when I found an unrecognized FM station playing different music. It seemed like an unusual mix of folk, rock and instrumental music, but with a bit slower pace and, maybe, underneath it all a note of sadness. I continued to wonder what I was listening to until a man's voice came on - "Hello Six Nations, this is CKRZ, your station, 100.3, all Indian radio."
The Six Nations reservation is on the Grand River in southern Ontario. I had fished as a boy and teenager across the river from the reservation, not knowing that the entire river had once belonged to the Iroquois, the reason for their road blockade in 2006 because of a housing development on land they claim.
I got a copy of Dean R. Snow's 'Iroquois' to learn more about these interesting people. The Six Nations are basically Iroquois who fought on the side of the British during the American Revolution, then were invited by the British to move across the border. Believing themselves no longer welcome in the new republic, they accepted and were given the Grand River's lands. Other Iroquois remained in New York state.
Like the Zulus in Southern Africa, the Iroquois dominated eastern North America until they were checked by confrontation with European civilization. But unlike the Zulus, they had been well equipped with guns and had two hundred years of experience fighting the French. It was disease that felled them, reducing their population to about 20% and removing most of their leaders. Otherwise, the five nation league of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca, on land that would become upper New York State, might they may well have held their own when that land was invaded. They might have changed the history of North America.
There is so much about the Iroquois that is unique. For example, when they look into the past they focus on the previous seven generations, and when they look into the future they think of the next seven generations. Snow takes their history up to 1994 and says, on the last page, "The Iroquois are in the throes of reinventing themselves again, a tradition that is itself seven times seven generations old."
The Iroquois are still part of North America's ongoing story and this must be one of the best books about them.