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Wyandot Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people in search of Wyandot Indian information for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Wyandot website for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Wyandot pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




  Wyandot Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Wyandot"? What does it mean?
Wyandot is pronounced "WHY-an-dot." It comes from their tribal name, Wendat, which means "peninsula people." Some Wyandot people in Oklahoma use the spelling Wyandotte instead.

Are the Wyandots and Hurons the same people?
Yes. Huron was the French name for the Wyandot tribe. It means "wild boar" in French. The French thought that the Mohawk haircuts of the Huron warriors looked like the bristles on a wild boar's neck.

Are the Wyandots Iroquois people?
No. The Wyandot language is related to the Iroquois languages, but the Wyandots have never been part of the Iroquois Confederacy. In fact, they were usually enemies of the Iroquois.

Where do the Wyandots live?
The Wyandots are original residents of the St. Lawrence Valley in Quebec. Some Wyandot people still live there today, in the Huron-Wendat First Nation. Many other Wyandots fled to Ohio and Michigan after a defeat by the Iroquois. Most of their descendants were forced to move to Kansas and Oklahoma along with other US tribes during the Indian Removals of the 1800's. Here is a map showing Wyandot and other Indian migrations.

How is the Wyandot Indian nation organized?
There are two Wyandot communities in the United States--one in Oklahoma and one in Kansas--and a third community in Quebec, Canada. A Wyandot community is known as a tribe in the US and a First Nation in Canada. Each Wyandot tribe or First Nation lives on its own reservation or reserve, which is land that belongs to the tribe and is legally under their control.

In the past, the Wyandots had a political confederacy, similar to the Iroquois Confederacy. The Wendat or Huron Confederacy was governed by a council of chiefs, one from each Wyandot band. Today, the three Wyandot tribes are politically independent. Each one has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country.

What language do the Wyandots speak?
Wyandot people in the United States speak English today, and in Canada, most Hurons speak French. In the past, they spoke their native Huron-Wendat language. The last fluent Huron-Wendat speakers died in the 1960's, but there are still Wyandot elders who remember some of the language, and today some young people are trying to learn Huron-Wendat again. If you'd like to learn a few easy Wyandot words, kweh (pronounced kway) is a friendly greeting and tizameh (pronounced tih-zhuh-may) means "thank you." You can see a Huron-Wendat picture glossary here.

What was Wyandot culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is the homepage of the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, where you can learn about the Wyandot people past and present.

How do Wyandot Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Wyandot 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 colonial children. But they did have corn husk dolls, toys, and games to play, such as snowsnake, where kids tried to glide a game piece furthest across the snow. Lacrosse was a popular sport among Wyandot teenagers as it was among adult men. Like many Native Americans, Wyandot mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Wyandot tribe?
Like their distant cousins the Iroquois, the Wyandots had an even division of power between men and women. Wyandot men were in charge of hunting, war, and diplomacy. Wyandot women were in charge of farming, property, and family. Men made political decisions for the tribe, and women made decisions for the clans. Only men could be chiefs, but only women could vote on who got to be the chief.

Today, traditional Wyandot gender roles have diminished. Wyandot women can be council members too... and Wyandot men get to vote!

What were Wyandot homes like in the past?
The Wyandot Indians lived in villages of longhouses, which were large wood-frame houses covered with sheets of bark. One Wyandot house could be 150 feet long, and an entire clan lived in it--up to 60 people! Many Wyandot villages had palisades (reinforced walls) around them for protection. Here are some pictures of long houses like the ones Huron Indians used, and a drawing of what a longhouse looked like on the inside. Today, longhouses are only used for ceremonial purposes. Wyandot families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Wyandot clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Wyandot men wore breechcloths and leggings. In winter they would also wear deerskin tunics. Wyandot women wore wraparound skirts with poncho-style blouses or deerskin dresses with removable sleeves. The Wyandots wore moccasins on their feet. Here are some more photographs and links about Indian clothing in general.

The Wyandots didn't wear Native American warbonnet headdresses like the Sioux. Wyandot chiefs sometimes wore a special feathered cap. Wyandot women usually wore their hair in one long braid. Some Wyandot men wore their hair long too, but others shaved their heads in the Mohawk style. Some warriors even made this hairstyle more impressive by adding a brightly colored porcupine roach. Wyandot men painted their faces and bodies and sometimes wore tribal tattoos, but women didn't paint or tattoo themselves.

Today, Wyandot people wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear roaches in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Wyandot transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Wyandot Indians used birchbark canoes to travel along the St. Lawrence River. Here is a website with pictures of American Indian canoes. Over land, the Wyandots used dogs as pack animals. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe. Today, of course, Wyandot people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Wyandot food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Wyandot were farming people. Wyandot women harvested corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Wyandot men hunted deer, wild turkeys, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers. Wyandot recipes included cornbread, soups, and stews. Here is a website with more information about Native American Indian food.

What were Wyandot weapons and tools like in the past?
Wyandot hunters used bows and arrows to shoot game. Wyandot fishermen used spears, fishing poles, and large nets. In war, Wyandot men fired arrows or fought with war clubs and spears. Here is a website of pictures and information about Native American weapons.

What are Wyandot arts and crafts like?
Traditional Wyandot art included pottery, weaving, and beadwork. Like other eastern tribes, the Wyandots 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.

What other Native Americans did the Wyandot tribe interact with?
The Wyandots were important traders who controlled many of the northern trade routes. Almost all of the eastern Algonquian tribes, such as the Abenaki, Mohican, and Wampanoag tribes, used the Wyandots as middlemen. They fought frequently with the powerful Iroquois Confederacy, especially the Seneca tribe. But when they weren't at war, the Wyandots traded with the Iroquois tribes too.

What kinds of stories do the Wyandots tell?
There are lots of traditional Wyandot legends and fairy tales. Story-telling is very important to the Wyandot Indian culture. Here is a Wyandot legend about the creation of the world. Here's a website where you can read more about Wyandot mythology.

What about Wyandot religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Huron religion or this site about Native American spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
North American Indians Today: Huron is a good look at Wyandot life past and present. Older readers can learn more about Huron history in Huron: Indians of North America or The Huron: Farmers of the North. You may also enjoy Wyandot Folklore, which is a nice collection of Huron-Wendat legends. Or you can browse through our reading list of recommended American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Wyandot Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Wyandots

Wyandot Indian Tribe
An overview of the Wyandot people, their language and history.

Wyandot Language Resources
Wyandot language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Wyandot Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Wyandot people past and present.

Wyandot Words
Wyandot Indian vocabulary lists.



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