The Mohawk tribe, or Mohawk Nation, was one of the founding nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Mohawk were originally called Kanienkeh or Kanienkehaka meaning “People of the Flint”. They resided in northern America in the areas surrounding the Great Lakes and in parts of Canada. After the formation of the Iroquois League, or Confederacy, the Mohawk tribe became known as “the keepers of the eastern door” and were to protect the territory from foreign invasion from that area.
During the 17th century, the Mohawk tribe allied with the Dutch, who in turn helped to arm the Mohawk to fight against tribes who had allied with the French. During the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the Mohawk tribe generally fought against the Americans. The group of Mohawks who were expelled from the U.S. and branded traitors went into Canada in the Montreal area and many fought in the British Army.
Today the Mohawk tribe resides in settlements throughout parts of New York and in Southeastern Canada. Many of today’s Mohawk communities have two types of chiefs. One is the chief elected by the clan matriarchs, which was the traditional form of appointment. The other is the democratically elected chief who deals with the government. They are in many ways rivals and disagree on many matters within the community, none the least of which is gambling. The traditional chiefs worry that gambling will corrupt the Mohawk community, while the elected chiefs view it as a necessity for tribal self-sufficiency and funding. Many present day Mohawks have left their reservations to meld into English-Canadian life.
The traditional hairstyle of the Mohawk warrior was to cut the hair along each side of the head leaving only a strip down the center of the scalp. This is where the modern-day Mohawk hairstyle derived its name.