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The edge of the woods

Iroquoia, 1534-1701

Jon Parmenter

Publication Year: 2010

Drawing on archival and published documents in several languages, archeological data, and Iroquois oral traditions, The Edge of the Woods explores the ways in which spatial mobility represented the geographic expression of Iroquois social, political, and economic priorities. By reconstructing the late precolonial Iroquois settlement landscape and the paths of human mobility that constructed and sustained it, Jon Parmenter challenges the persistent association between Iroquois 'locality' and Iroquois 'culture,' and more fully maps the extended terrain of physical presence and social activity that Iroquois people inhabited. Studying patterns of movement through and between the multiple localities in Iroquois space, the book offers a new understanding of Iroquois peoplehood during this period. According to Parmenter, Iroquois identities adapted, and even strengthened, as the very shape of Iroquois homelands changed dramatically during the seventeenth century.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. v-vi

Maps & Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

On March, a delegation of Onondaga headmen visiting Albany met with Robert Livingston, the town clerk and “Secretary to the Indians” who was responsible for translating and recording all “intelligence or propositions” communicated between Native American diplomats and New York authorities. Although this process usually involved Livingston transcribing words spoken aloud, on this day the Onondagas did the writing. Using a red wax...

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pp. xvii-xx

This book began its life as a chapter I planned to add to a revision of my 1999 University of Michigan dissertation on eighteenth-century Iroquois history. Now, one decade later, I am delighted to have the opportunity to thank the many people who helped make it possible. Ian Steele at the University of Western Ontario and John Shy at the University of Michigan provided examples of scholarship and professionalism that continue to motivate and inspire me to the present day. I can never ...


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pp. xxi-xxvi

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pp. xxvii-xlix

At the “Edge of the Woods,” visitors to an Iroquois community are greeted, ritually cleansed and healed, and escorted from the “forest” (the space of warfare, hunting, spirits, and danger) to the “village” (the space of residence, agriculture, security, and peace councils). Originating prior to European intrusion as a component of the Iroquois Condolence ceremony, the “Edge of the Woods” occurs when “clear-minded” people travel to towns mourning the death of a leader. ...

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Ch. 1: On the Journey, 1534-1634

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pp. 3-40

On October 3, 1535, Dieppe navigator Jacques Cartier donned protective armor and departed from his ship anchored in the St. Lawrence River for a formal visit to the Laurentian Iroquois town of Hochelaga. After marching about four and one-half miles, Cartier’s party of twenty-five men met “one of the headmen of the village of Hochelaga, accompanied by several persons, who made signs” directing the French to stop at a “spot near a fire they had lighted...

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Ch. 2: The Edge of the Woods, 1635-1649

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pp. 41-76

On the morning of December 30, 1634, a Mohawk guide led Harmen Meyndertsz Van den Bogaert, the Dutch West India Company’s surgeon at Fort Orange, to the periphery of the Oneida town of Oneyuttehage. After firing a musket shot to announce their arrival, Van den Bogaert and his companions, Jeronimus de la Croix and Willem Tomassen, “confidently went to the castle where the Indians divided into two rows and let us pass in between them through...

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Ch. 3: Requickening, 1650-1666

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pp. 77-126

On November 5, 1655, Onondaga headman Gonaterezon greeted Jesuits Pierre-Joseph-Marie Chaumonot and Claude Dablon three miles distant from the newly established principal Onondaga town. Gonaterezon escorted the missionaries to the edge of the town’s cleared fields, where the “Elders of the country awaited” their arrival. After a meal of “some Squashes cooked in the embers,” an Onondaga “Captain” named Okonchiarennen arose, imposed...

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Ch. 4: Six Songs, 1667-1684

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pp. 127-180

On September 13, 1667, Jesuits Jacques Frémin, Jean Pierron, and Jacques Bruyas approached “the Capital of this whole [Mohawk] country, called Tionnontogouen, which the Iroquois have rebuilt, at a quarter of a league from that which the French burned down last year.” Escorted by “two hundred men, who marched in good order,” the Jesuits “went last, immediately in front of the hoary Heads and the most considerable men of the country. This march was...

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Ch. 5: Over the Forest, Part 1, 1685-1693

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pp. 181-230

On January 16, 1694, Major Peter Schuyler of Albany headed an embassy of Albany officials to the westernmost Mohawk “Castle” of Canajoharie. Schuyler reported that upon his party’s arrival, “all the Sachims and young Indians” gathered to offer an Edge of the Woods welcome, “making a long speech of what had passed in former times.” Yet the Mohawks sounded forlorn about their contemporary circumstances. “We lye amazed and discomfited upon our knees,” Enactments of “Over the Forest,” the fifth stage of the Condolence ceremony, ...

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Ch. 6: Over the Forest, Part 2, 1694-1701

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pp. 231-274

On July 28, 1701, a group of Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga “ambassadors,” accompanied by some other members of their nations “who had come to trade their peltry,” arrived in the Laurentian Iroquois town of Kanatakwente (successor to Kahnawake) prior to their scheduled appearance at a multinational peace treaty hosted by Governor Callières at Montreal. Escorted...

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pp. 275-280

This account of the geography of solidarity constructed in Iroquoia during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has been written in the midst of numerous postcolonial struggles between contemporary Iroquois people and the settler governments of the United States and Canada—all of which stem from starkly contrasting ideas of Iroquois people’s relation to spatial...

Appendix 1: Iroquois Settlements 1600-1701

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pp. 281-288

Appendix 2: Postepidemic Iroquois Demography, 1634-1701

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pp. 289-292


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pp. 293-394


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pp. 395-446


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pp. 447-474

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172145
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870139857

Page Count: 520
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 774285396
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The edge of the woods

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • North America -- Social life and customs.
  • Human geography -- North America -- History.
  • Spatial behavior -- North America -- History.
  • Social mobility -- North America -- History.
  • Iroquois Indians -- Social life and customs.
  • Iroquois Indians -- Social conditions.
  • Social structure -- North America -- History.
  • Power (Social sciences) -- North America -- History.
  • Community life -- North America -- History.
  • North America -- Social conditions.
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