2) Calusa v. Iroquois: Trading Rituals

Another aspect that may have differed between the Calusa and Iroquois was their way of trading and the rituals that might have been involved. Much of the trading a tribe was able to partake in was determined by their location. For instance, a tribe in Kentucky might not be able to trade with sea shells since they are not close to any oceans. The same concept can be applied when considering the Calusa and Iroquois Indians.

The Calusa Indians were located in current day, “southern end of the Florida peninsula” (Dormer, pg. 7). Because of their closeness to the water the Calusa Indians were easily able to gather things such as seashells, fish, and other coastal items that north-eastern tribes did not have easy access to (MacMahon, pg. 80). While trading was used as a way to gain necessities, it was also seen as important ritual among the Calusa Indians when considering social relationships (MacMahon, pg. 82). Marriages often required some sort of gift exchange. The giver of the biggest gift was believed to demonstrate the greatest amount of power (MacMahon, pg. 82). Not only was trading and exchanging important in social relationships, it was seen as very important in regards to political rituals as well.

Negotiations and diplomatic occasions among the Calusa Indians often had some sort of trade, or exchange, involved. Goods were also used to pay tribute, in some instances, to the cacique (MacMahon, pg. 82). This was of great importance because it ties back into the importance placed on the cacique (or chief) of the Calusa. As discussed in Calusa v. Iroquois: Leadership and Family Units the strongest family unit would take over the smaller units. This was solidified by marriages between the victorious cacique and the sister of the defeated leader. Another way to solidify the incorporation of a new family unit to the tribe was through tributes given to the cacique by the defeated people. These tributes could include, “foods, mats, hides, feathers, plunder from shipwrecks, and sometimes captive people” (MacMahon, pg. 82).

Much like the Calusa, the Iroquois tribes also placed a great amount of importance on trade. However their manner of trade differed slightly. In regards to trades involved with sealing alliances, the major sources were actually little shells called wampum. These shells were often fashioned together in the form of belts, bands, or even just strings of them put together (Becker, pg. 1). According to Marshal Becker, the larger the belt, the more important the alliance or trade was (pg. 1). The use of pipes was another common ritual involved in councils among the Iroquois (Wonderley, pg. 214). According to Anthony Wonderley the act of smoking together brought a sense of peace to those at a council so it was, quite understandably, a very important ritual (pg. 215).

In this instance the Calusa and Iroquois Indians did not differ as greatly. They each placed great importance on trading and rituals, but they still varied slightly. The Calusa believed that the “greatest giver” was the most powerful, while the Iroquois believed that the giver of the largest wampum belt was most powerful. Both Indian groups also had specific rituals involved in marriages (the Calusa and their gift exchange) or councils (the Iroquois and their smoking ritual). Regardless, both placed a great amount of importance on trading.


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