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Generally, intercultural communication can be termed as the social interaction between different groups of people in relation to the shared knowledge, languages and symbols of behaviors (Kanentiio, 2000). In order to understand this concept of intercultural communication, this study seeks to examine the history of the Iroquois ethnic group in North America.
Importantly, this community comprises five tribes namely; Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, and Seneca hence the name Five Nations (Kanentiio, 2000).
Among these tribes, kinship is usually traced through matrilineal perspective. In this case, senior women had the duty of running family affairs (Kanentiio, 2000). According to the history of this community, women were responsible for family matters and agricultural products while men were held accountable for political and diplomatic matters within the village.
It should be noted that, this community comprised of 5,500 people by the time they encountered the first white explorers on the onset of 17th century. The 1990 census report indicated that, there were 49,038 Iroquois live in America that made this community to be the eighth in the country’s most populated Indigenous American groups (Kanentiio, 2000).
Interestingly, Iroquois constructed their homes in such a way that extended families comprising of 50 people stayed together in bark-covered, 50-150 feet long wooden-framed huts. It has been revealed that, the origin of the name Iroquois is not well known but some people think that it came from the Algonquian word ‘Irinakhoiw’ (Kanentiio, 2000).
On the other hand, no evidence has been provided to indicate where the Iroquois group came from. In this relation, it is believed that since Algonquian people are different in their culture despite the fact that they live on both corridors of Iroquois community; hence the Iroquois must have moved to this area at some time (Kanentiio, 2000).
It should be noted that, one of the significant event of this community’s history is that; in spite of their commonness in culture and language, these five tribes have lived in constant war fare amongst them. In this aspect, the interrelationships of these tribes worsened which made them vulnerable to constant attacks by the Algonquian tribes (Kanentiio, 2000).
On this basis, this period of constant attacks from neighboring community came to an end during the reign of chief Todadaho. According to the Iroquois legends, this chief was a cannibal as he ate from bowls made of his victims’ skulls, his hair contained a knot of snakes, and he could murder with his Medusa-like look (Kanentiio, 2000).
History has it that, the cannibalism practices of chief Todadaho were put to an end by Deganawidah and his disciple Hiawatha when they confronted him with a message of peace. According to history, Todadaho when he was preparing to cook his latest victim saw the face of Deganawidah reproduced in the cooking pot and thought it was his.
The beauty of the face could not be compared with his barbaric and dreadful practice of cannibalism and without more ado he forsook the practice (Kanentiio, 2000). After Todadaho and other Iroquois chiefs were convinced by Deganawidah and his disciple about his good message, they together established an Iroquois Confederacy on the banks of Lake Onondaga in 1400.
In this case, this union was a confederation of nations that helped people share a positive system of values and live in harmony. As a result of this confederation, the Iroquois changed their lifestyles to the extent that when the first white explorers arrived thin community, Iroquois community was a settled agricultural society and more developed as compared with the Algonquians who practiced nomadic culture (Kanentiio, 2000).
Iroquois Historical Relationships with Algonquians and Hurons History has it that, the Iroquois community and the Algonquians lived in constant conflicts where Iroquois because of their internal constant conflicts were always overpowered. According to the Iroquois legends, Chief Todadaho who practiced cannibalism practices helped Iroquois from the miseries of the Algonquians until a confederation was established in the year 1400 (Kanentiio, 2000).
It is of importance to note that, since Iroquois were agriculturalist when they were met by the early white explorers; they used to exchange agricultural goods with Algonquians who were nomadic. On this basis, Algonquians exchanged their fur with Iroquois agricultural products.
Additionally, it has been found that the language of the northern Iroquois was somehow related to Algonquians hence suggesting that there was an intrusion sometime in the past (Kanentiio, 2000).
Further, despite the fact that Huron community had some traces in Iroquoian linguistic family; they lived in great warfare where their relationship was termed as inherited hostility. On this basis, the Iroquois were growing mightily subjugating surrounding tribes which resulted to their crushing Huron confederacy in 1649.
Moreover, Hurons traded with Iroquois where they provided fish and hunted animals in exchange of agricultural products like beans (Kanentiio, 2000).
Historical incidence of Iroquois discrimination Significantly, Iroquois community only experienced discrimination from the colonizers where they were forced to pay taxes, offer food and forced labor in mineral industries and at the same time pearl harvesting.
On this basis, the Iroquois fought the colonizers and became free considering themselves as a sovereign nation in America (Kanentiio, 2000). A point worth noting is that, Iroquois were divided on which side to support where some supported the colonizers while other rebelled.
It is of importance to note that, Iroquois over-ruled other Indian communities and raided them as they are described as great lovers of fight (Kanentiio, 2000).
Common stereotypes about Iroquois community The word stereotype is used to denote the generalizations made about a community where by people attribute a defined set of characteristics to this community. On this basis, the Iroquois community was believed to have a collective responsibility where the whole group was responsible in knowing and doing what was supposed to be done (Kanentiio, 2000).
In support of this, it has been found that each person in this community acted independently but for the group. In this relation, each person was brought up with a sense of self-governing accountability and being autonomous. The idea of autonomous responsibility and doing it for the group was being socialized to children at their early age hence they grew knowing what was expected of them in the society (Kanentiio, 2000).
Additionally, the Seneca people were fanatical to external self-control and stressed individual self-governing. Moreover, these people were unresponsive of pain, hardships and loneliness. On this basis, they had a principle of no guilt where they always approved the accountability of their deeds by doing the correct thing as it was what was expected of them (Kanentiio, 2000).
It is of important to note that, the Iroquois find expression for the feeling of anger, frustration and hatred through rituals. In this case, most of the rituals were from a religious setting that had a lot of attached pious meanings. A good example here is dreams which were considered as linking minds and souls.
In this connection, dreams were taken very carefully in Iroquois community where whatever one dreamt about was taken care of in the effort of avoiding dangers and calamities (Kanentiio, 2000).
Important leaders and heroes of the Iroquois community From the history of the Iroquois community, despite the fact that there was a strong leadership structure; there were no police or formal legal system (Kanentiio, 2000). The role of the leaders was to distribute material goods to the community members to avoid starving of some community members.
One of the most well known Iroquois leaders was Logan among the Mingo people; he was born in Pennsylvania at around 1725 (Kanentiio, 2000). Importantly, he led the community is fighting the white settlers in 1774 after killing family. On the other hand, the Iroquois heroes were chief Todadaho who practiced cannibalism against his victims and delivered his people from constant attracts of Algonquians.
In addition, Deganawidah and his disciple Hiawatha confronted chief Todadaho and convinced him together with other chiefs in this community to establish an Iroquois confederacy in 1350-1600 (Kanentiio, 2000).