What was the role of men in the Iroquois League?

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While Iroquois women tended to the longhouses and were responsible for collecting and making food, the men were traditionally warriors, defending their people from attacks. As the source below explains, men prepared for warfare through activities such as lacrosse (now a popular sport in the United States and elsewhere). In addition, men carried on trade with other tribes. They became important as middlemen in the fur trade between the western tribes and European settlers, including the Dutch and English, until the supply of pelts dried up.

In addition, the men hunted deer to feed their tribe. In the spring, they fished. Though women were responsible for collecting the beans, squash, and corn that the tribe grew, the men cleared and planted the crops (see the source below). Men served on the Iroquois Confederacy as sachems or representatives from the tribes, but women were responsible for selecting the people who served.

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The Iroquois League, or Iroquois Confederation, was a union of five (and later six) Iroquois tribes in North America prior to and during European colonization of the continent. As the League represented many tribes and a great number of people, it was ruled by a Grand Council comprised of about fifty representatives from across Iroquois territory. These representatives were called sachems, and they were chosen by their clan mother. 

In the Iroquois League, only men could be sachems, although they were chosen by matriarchs. The sachems made decisions for the League through the exclusive right of voting. Numerous advisers called Pine Trees assisted the sachems. Pine Trees could be men or women, but they were not allowed to vote—that right was reserved only for the male representatives. 

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