Adoption as empire building among the Mohawks

This quote from The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire by Francis Jennings, 1984 provides wonderful insight on how tribes managed to maintain their population levels despite war and disease. They believed in adoption. They also believed in torturing to death some of their enemy captives. But adoption was as likely an option for an enemy combatant. Maybe the U.S. should try this method on their enemy combatants instead of torture.

The original conception of the Mohawks was the melting pot – that favorite image of superpatriots everywhere. They would not create an empire but rather become one by incorporating conquered peoples in themselves and literally remolding them into Mohawks through adoption into families and thus “naturalizing” them as full “citizens” of the tribe. This practice never ceased….In 1657 Jesuit Father Paul LeJeune reported that “At Onondaga there are Indians of seven different nations permanently established; and, among the Senecas, of no less than eleven.” (95)


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