Violence of the Iroquois

This hard fact is what recent essays in the economic interpretation of the Iroquois Confederacy fail to account for. Professor Hunt, for instance treats the Iroquois as if they were Economic Man implementing a business policy with the detachment of Standard Oil organizing a new territory, and he ridicules Parkman’s idea that they had a natural liking for war. But they did. The murderous raiding that we perhaps inaccurately call war, though that is what the Indians called it, was metabolic and interstitial in the Indian way of life. Killing was sport, it obtained religious grace, and it was a way to social and political distinction. It is idle to represent murder and the collection of scalps as a trade device for cornering a market or increasing the markup on goods. Economic Man would not torture and kill the customer nor would economic diplomacy sanction the murder of an ally. The Iroquois did not torture or kill the customer to get his trade but because religious belief and magical antisepsis required it, and because they enjoyed torture and killing. What led the Iroquois to repeatedly make war on the tribes they were trying to bring into a peaceful alliance was not the shortcomings of their political institu576 • Chapter V: Notes tions nor their mistakes in economic theory but the fact that there are stronger motives than the economic one. In a neolithic society which exalts killing the elders may understand the desirability of curbing them temporarily in the interest of prosperity but there are always the young men.