Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

The Ordeal of the Longhouse

The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization

Daniel Richter

Paper: 978-0-8078-4394-9 ($33.95)

Copyright 1992
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians (1993)
  • Ray Allen Billington Prize, Organization of American Historians (1993)
  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title (1994)

Richter examines a wide range of primary documents to survey the responses of the peoples of the Iroquois League—the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras—to the challenges of the European colonialization of North America. He demonstrates that by the early eighteenth century a series of creative adaptations in politics and diplomacy allowed the peoples of the Longhouse to preserve their cultural autonomy in a land now dominated by foreign powers.

About the Author

Daniel K. Richter is the Richard S. Dunn Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, and is


Daniel Richter’s The Ordeal of the Longhouse is a long-needed and rewarding overview of that important first century of Iroquois-white relations. Skillfully organized and written, it offers a rare synthesis of this period of political intrigue and cultural accommodation. Few have so well described the diversity of attitudes and policies that existed between the three competing European powers and their Indian allies and adversaries.

--William A. Starna

Richter breaks through the many myths and clich├ęs surrounding Iroquois life and power in colonial America. To do so, he draws on Dutch, French, and English documents, the work of archaeologists, Iroquois oral traditions, and the methods and insights of cultural anthropology. The result is a thorough, highly informed, subtly nuanced account of the Iroquois people from their pre-contact beginnings to the mid-eighteenth century. The Ordeal of the Longhouse will be invaluable not only to historians of the Iroquois and other Indians but to those with an interest in the imperial, frontier, social, and cultural history of colonial North America.

--Neal Salisbury

Provides the best account yet written of one of the most remarkable stories of any period of America’s history—how the Iroquois peoples conceived of their own unique destiny and thereby shaped both their own lives and those of all with whom they came into contact. A work of exceptional balance and lucidity, the book is both an illuminating example of interdisciplinary analysis and a model of how political history in its broadest sense can be written.

--Richard R. Johnson

This is a detailed, accurate, and convincing study of the Iroquois before 1720.

--William and Mary Quarterly

Richter has made a major contribution to the literature on the Iroquois; it will confirm and enhance his reputation as a leading scholar in the field.

--Journal of American History

The careful research, the wealth of details on sources, and the many insights into Iroquois history in the early colonial period make it an important book for scholars of Native history and colonial American history.

--American Indian Quarterly

An outstanding contribution to the study of Iroquois history and culture and that of cross-cultural relations in North America during the colonial period.

--American Indian Culture and Research Journal

Richter's analysis rests upon impressive documentation, a clear awareness of existing historical literature on the Iroquois, and recent trends in ethnohistorical research. . . . This book succeeded in giving a solid basis for understanding the cultural and economic changes in Indian societies that resulted from the European invasion of America.

--Journal of American Ethnic History