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Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Senecas for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Seneca 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 Seneca pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages. Photographs are the property of the sources we have credited.
|Yes, the Seneca nation was one of the original members of the Iroquois League, or Kanonsionni in their own language ("league of clans.") The other member nations were the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Cayuga, and the 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 any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Seneca children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have corn husk dolls, toys, and games, such as one game where kids tried to throw a dart through a moving hoop. Lacrosse was also a popular sport among Seneca boys as it was among adult men. Like many Native Americans, Seneca Indian mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradle board carriers. on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted.|
Iroquois longhouse sketch
|The Seneca Indians lived in villages of longhouses, which were large wood-frame buildings covered with sheets of elm bark. Seneca homes could be a hundred feet long, and an entire clan lived in each one--up to 60 people! Here are some pictures of Iroquois longhouses like the ones Seneca Indians used, and a drawing of what a long house looked like on the inside. Today, longhouses are only used for ceremonial purposes. The Senecas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.|
Seneca men wore breechcloths with leggings. Seneca women wore wraparound skirts with shorter leggings.
Men did not originally wear shirts in Seneca culture, but women often wore a
long tunic called a kilt or overdress.
The Senecas usually wore moccasins on their feet.
In colonial times, the Seneca tribe adapted European costume like cloth shirts and blouses, decorating
them with beadwork and ribbon applique. Here is a webpage
about traditional Iroquois dress, and here are some photographs
and links about American Indian clothes in general.
The Senecas didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Men wore traditional Iroquois headdresses, which were feathered caps with a different insignia for each tribe. (The Seneca headdress has one eagle feather standing straight on top of it.) Seneca women sometimes wore special beaded tiaras. In times of war, Seneca 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 headdresses. Seneca women only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Otherwise they wore it long and loose or plaited into a long braid. Men sometimes decorated their faces and bodies with tribal tattoo designs, but Seneca women generally didn't paint or tattoo themselves.
Today, some Seneca 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 Seneca Indians did use elm-bark or dugout canoes for fishing trips, but usually preferred to travel by land. Originally the Seneca tribe used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.) In wintertime, the Senecas used laced snowshoes and sleds to travel through the snow.|
|The Seneca Indians were farming people. Seneca women planted crops of corn, beans, and squash and harvested wild berries and herbs. Seneca men hunted deer and elk and fished in the rivers and the shores of Lake Ontario. Seneca Indian foods included cornbread, soups, and stews, which they cooked on stone hearths. Here is a website with more information about Indian farms.|
Seneca war club
|Seneca hunters used bows and arrows. Seneca fishermen used spears and fishing poles. Seneca warriors used their bows and arrows or fought with clubs, spears and shields. Here is a website with Native weapon pictures and information. Other Seneca artifacts included stone adzes (hand axes for woodworking), flint knives for skinning animals, and wooden hoes for farming. The Senecas 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.|
Bead and quill work
|The Seneca Indians were known for their false face masks, which are considered such a sacred art form that outsiders are still not permitted to view many of these masks. Native American beadwork and the more demanding porcupine quillwork are more common Seneca crafts. The Senecas 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.|
Iroquois Water Drum
|The two most important Seneca 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 Seneca music is very rhythmic and consists mostly of drumming and lively singing. Flutes were used to woo women in the Seneca tribe. A young Seneca 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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