Susquehannock Culture

Published on September 14, 2012 by Carol

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Susquehannock

Susquehannock Location

Susquehanna River and its branches from the north end of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland across Pennsylvania into southern New York.

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Population

The original number is uncertain, since Europeans seldom visited their villages. The best guesses of their population are somewhere between 5,000 to 7,000 in 1600 in at least five tribal groups. By 1700 there were only 300 Susquehannock. Their rapid decline continued until the last 20 were massacred by a mob of colonists in 1763. There are, however, known descendents among the Iroquois and Delaware. The famous Oneida sachem during the American Revolution, Skenandoa, was of Susquehanna descent as was Logan, a Mingo chief in Ohio. Another possibility is some Susquehannock are believed to have joined the Meherrin (North Carolina) during the 1670s. The Meherrin were later absorbed by the Tuscarora and migrated as a part of them to New York in 1722. Currently, there should be Susquehannock blood among the members of the Delaware, Tuscarora, Oneida, and Oklahoma Seneca.

Names

Susquehannock appears to have been an Algonquin name meaning the “people of the Muddy River” (Susquehanna). Whatever name they used for themselves and their confederacy (if indeed there ever was one) has been lost. There are several other different names for Susquehannock which were commonly used by early Europeans. The French called them Andaste from their Huron name Andastoerrhonon. The Dutch and Swedes used the Delaware name of Minqua meaning “stealthy” or “treacherous.” Eventually, they made a distinction between White Minqua (Susquehannock) and the Black Minqua who lived farther to the west and were probably part of the Erie. Variations of these were: Andastaka, Andasto, Atrakwer, Gandatogué, Mengwe, Menquay, Mincku, and Minque. The English colonists in Virginia and Maryland called them the Susquehannock, but Pennsylvanians during the 1700s preferred Conestoga derived from Kanastoge (place of the immersed pole), the name of their last village in Pennsylvania. The Powhatan in northern Virginia may have called them the Pocoughtaonack or Bocootawwanauke. Although it is likely these peoples were Susquehannock, their precise identity is uncertain.

Language

Iroquian – reportedly similar to Huron.

Sub-Tribes

The Susquehannock appear to have been a confederacy of at least five tribes with more than 20 villages. Unfortunately, the names of individual tribes and villages have been lost. Names associated with the Susquehannock are:

Akhrakuaeronon (Atrakwaeronnon), Akwinoshioni, Atquanachuke, Attaock, Carantouan, Cepowig, Junita (Ihonado), Kaiquariegehaga, Ohongeoguena (Ohongeeoquena), Oscalui, Quadroque, Sasquesahanough, Sconondihago (Seconondihago or Skonedidehaga), Serosquacke, Takoulguehronnon, Tehaque, Tesinigh, Unquehiett, Usququhaga, Utchowig, Wyoming, and Wysox.

Culture

Almost completely forgotten today, the Susquehannock were one of the most formidable tribes of mid-Atlantic region at the time of European contact and dominated the large region between the Potomac River in northern Virginia to southern New York. Little is known about them, since they lived some distance inland from the coast, and Europeans did not often visit their villages before they had been destroyed by epidemic and wars with the Iroquois in 1675. The Susquehannock have been called noble and heroic. They have also been described as aggressive, warlike, imperialistic, and bitter enemies of the Iroquois. They may also have warred with the Mahican from the central Hudson Valley. When he first met the Susquehannock in 1608, Captain John Smith was especially impressed with their size, deep voices, and the variety of their weapons. Their height must have been exceptional, because the Swedes also commented on it thirty years later. The constant warfare between Iroquian-speaking tribes gave the Susquehannock a military advantage over their more peaceful Algonquin neighbors to the east and south. Using canoes for transport, Susquehannock war parties routinely attacked the Delaware tribes along the Delaware River and travelled down the Susquehanna where they terrorized the Nanticoke, Conoy, and Powhatan living on Chesapeake Bay.

The Susquehannock lived in a number of large, fortified villages (perhaps as many as 20) that stretched along the Susquehanna River and its branches across Pennsylvania into southern New York. How far west their territory extended on the western fork of the Susquehanna and the Juanita Rivers is unclear. It was, however, far enough that they were allies and trading partners of the Erie in northern Ohio and the Huron and Neutrals of southern Ontario. Little is known about their political and social organization, but it can be safely assumed that it was similar to the Iroquois who lived just north of them in upstate New York. There would have been several individual tribes. Clans were almost certainly matrilineal (descent traced through the mother), and Turtle, Fox, and Wolf have been mentioned as possible names. Like other Iroquian tribes, the Susquehannock farmed extensively. In the spring, they planted maize, beans, and squash in the fields near their villages. After this was finished, many groups moved south for the summer to temporary sites on Chesapeake Bay to fish and gather shellfish returning in the fall to harvest their crops and hunt.

Source: Dickshovel

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