What Are the Beliefs of the Iroquois?


Quick Answer

The Iroquois of the Northeast United States believed in three classes of the supernatural: spirits, ghosts of the dead, and the gods. The group also believed in a Great Spirit, who had an evil counterpart in the world.

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Full Answer

The spirits of the Iroquois were thought to go to the afterlife upon their deaths. However, this afterlife was very different than what the Whites imagined to be a "happy hunting ground." Iroquois people actually believed that spirits did not eat so there would be no use for hunting in the afterlife. Ghosts of the tribe did remain interested in the tribe though and were believed to attend the wintertime feasts and raiding parties.

The Iroquois of upper New York joined the ideas of mourning and war with their belief of a spiritual power that animated all things. When a tribe member would die, they would hold "Requickening" ceremonies in order to make sure that the duties of the deceased were passed on to a successor. Often in the lower social classes of society, the person replacing the deceased was actually a captive taken during battle. Sometimes the grieving parties felt that more needed to be done to assuage their grief so would call for a raid in order to take more captives. When the captives were brought back, they were divided between the elder women of the grieving families who would decide whether to adopt or execute them.

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