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Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Cayuga tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Cayuga language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Cayuga pictures and links we found suitable for all ages. Photographs are the property of the sources we have credited.
|Yes, the Cayuga tribe was one of the original members of the Iroquois Confederacy. The other member nations were the Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, and Onondaga. Later a sixth tribe, the Tuscarora, joined the confederacy. Today these long-term allies refer to themselves as the Haudenosaunee ("people of the longhouse") or Six Nations.|
|They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Cayuga children like to go hunting and camping with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have cornhusk dolls, toys, and games, such as one game where Cayuga kids tried to throw a dart through a moving hoop. Lacrosse was also a popular sport among Iroquois boys as it was among adult men. Like many Native Americans, Cayuga Indian mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboard carriers on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted.|
Iroquois longhouse sketch
|The Cayuga Indians lived in villages of longhouses, which are large wood-frame buildings covered with sheets of elm bark. Cayuga long houses were up to a hundred feet long, and each one was home to an entire clan (up to 60 people.) Here are some pictures of longhouses like the ones Cayuga Indians used, and a drawing of what a long house looked like on the inside. Today, longhouses are only built for ceremonial purposes. Most Cayugas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.|
Cayuga men wore breechcloths with leggings. Cayuga women wore wraparound skirts with shorter leggings.
Men did not originally wear shirts in the Cayuga culture, but women often wore a poncho-like tunic called an
overdress or kilt.
Cayuga Indian people usually wore deerskin moccasins on their feet.
In colonial times, the Cayugas adapted European costume such as cloth shirts and blouses, decorating
them with fancy beadwork and ribbon applique. Here is a webpage
about traditional Iroquois dress, and some photographs
and links about American Indian clothes in general.
The Cayugas didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Iroquois men wore a gustoweh, which is a traditional feathered cap with a different insignia for each tribe--the Cayuga headdress has one eagle feather trailing behind. Women sometimes wore beaded tiaras. In times of war, Cayuga men often shaved their heads except for a scalplock or a crest down the center of their head (the style known as a roach, or a "Mohawk.") Sometimes they would augment this hairstyle with splayed feathers or artificial roaches made of brightly dyed porcupine and deer hair. Here are some pictures of these different kinds of Native American headdress. Cayuga Indian women only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Otherwise they wore it long and loose or plaited into a long braid. Here is a website with pictures of these Native hair styles. Men sometimes tattoed their faces and bodies with tribal designs, but Cayuga women generally didn't paint or tattoo themselves.
Today, some Cayuga people still wear moccasins or a beaded shirt, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.
|Sometimes--the Cayuga Indians did use elm-bark or dugout canoes for fishing trips, but usually preferred to travel by land. Originally the Cayuga tribe used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) In wintertime, the Cayugas used laced snowshoes and sleds to travel through the snow.|
|The Cayuga tribe were farmers. Cayuga women planted crops of corn, beans, and squash and harvested wild berries and herbs. Cayuga men hunted deer and elk and fished in the rivers and on the shores of Lake Ontario. Cayuga Indian recipes included cornbread, soups, and stews, which they cooked on stone hearths. Here is a website with more information about North American Indian food.|
Iroquois war club
Cayuga hunters used bows and arrows. Cayuga fishermen used spears and fishing poles with bone hooks.
In war, Cayuga men used their bows and arrows or fought with heavy war clubs and shields.
Here is a website with pictures and more information about Iroquois Indian weapons.
Other important tools used by the Cayuga tribe included stone adzes (hand axes for woodworking), flint knives for skinning animals, and wooden hoes for farming. The Cayugas and other Iroquois were skilled woodworkers, steaming wood so that it could be bent to make curved tools. Some Iroquois artisans still make lacrosse sticks this way today.
|The Cayuga tribe was known for their mask carving, which is considered such a sacred art form that non-Iroquois are still not permitted to view many of these masks. Iroquois beadwork and the more demanding porcupine quillwork are more common Cayuga crafts. The Cayuga Indians also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.|
Cayuga water drum
|The two most important Cayuga instruments are drums and flutes. Iroquois drums were often filled with water to give them a distinctive sound different from the drums of other tribes. Most Cayuga Indian music is very rhythmic and consists mostly of drumming and lively singing. Flutes were used to woo women in the Cayuga tribe. A young Cayuga man would play beautiful flute music outside his girlfriend's longhouse at night to show her he was thinking about her.|
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