What Were the Roles of Iroquois Children?

Iroquois girls learned domestic tasks from their mothers, while young boys learned hunting skills from male relatives. Boys and girls had to master a very different set of skills as gender roles in Iroquois society were clearly defined.

Boys learned to hunt many different types of prey. Among these were bear, beaver, elk, muskrats, rabbit, moose and deer. Men used the bow to bring down larger animals and the snare to capture smaller prey. Boys had to learn how to build and properly set snares and become expert marksmen. They also practiced netting and fishing. Men and boys did manual labor as well, in particular the clearing of farmland.

Women, in turn, were responsible for planting. Iroquois staple crops were corn, beans and squash, which young girls learned to tend. Girls assisted their mothers in scraping cobs and storing the corn in bark containers when it was ready. Women and girls gathered chestnuts, walnuts, wild plums, cherries, crab apples and hickory to supplement their diet. The females were also responsible for making clothing. In the cold months, Iroquois women taught their daughters to make leggings, tunics and moccasins, which they decorated with colorful quills, shells, beads and feathers.

Both girls and boys also underwent spiritual training. Iroquois boys went on a vision quest to contact their spirit guide in adolescence.