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August 23, 2006

George O'Connor, Journey into Mohawk Country


Sometimes while doing research for Journey into Mohawk Country I was frustrated to find that there was simply no information that existed on a topic. A case in point was the subject of Mohawk armor.

In the journals of Harmen van den Bogaert that serve as the text for Mohawk Country, there is a major episode where the three Dutch explorers are witness to a mock battle between two groups of the Mohawk, some of whom wear the aforementioned armor. This armor, made of woven twigs and cords, was discarded by the Iroquois as a group soon after their initial encounters with Europeans (as it was unfortunately not bulletproof) and, to the best of my knowledge, no examples survive.

Furthermore, no picture or drawing of Mohawk armor exists, only a few written descriptions. The closest I could find to a depiction of Mohawk armor were two rather poorly drawn early seventeenth century woodcuts of Huron armor (my sketch of one of them accompanies this text). The Huron were the Mohawk’s neighbors (and longtime enemies) to the north, and shared many similar customs, as well as a similar language. Lacking any other source to go on, I drew the Mohawk warriors wearing Huronesque armor. Maybe it’s close to what they actually wore, maybe it’s not. It goes to show how quickly things changed for the Native Americans after first contact. No one thought to record what their armor looked like and then it was gone forever.


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