Who are the Huron Indians?

Britt Archer

Imagine how you would feel if someone told you that you looked like a wild boar and you will understand why the group known as the Huron Indians prefer the name Wyandot. The name Huron originates from the French and refers to the bristled Mohawk-style haircut worn by some of the men in the Huron Indian tribes. While you would be hard-pressed to differentiate between a member of the Native American tribes from any other person today, they must have been quite a sight to the explorers of the Americas.

The Huron used canoes to trade, fish, and conduct warfare along the waterways of the Great Lakes region.
The Huron used canoes to trade, fish, and conduct warfare along the waterways of the Great Lakes region.

Originally hailing from the St. Lawrence Valley in Quebec, Canada, the Huron Indian tribes of today are scattered across the Midwest portion of the United States and Canada. Many Native Americans of the Huron tribe chose to relocate to Ohio and Michigan after being pushed out by rival Indian nations. Still others were forced to relocate to areas like Kansas and Oklahoma as part of the United States government's Indian removal initiative in the 19th century.

There are three distinct communities comprised of Huron Indians. Two are located in Kansas and Oklahoma in the United States, and the third is located in Quebec, Canada. In the U.S., these communities are referred to as tribes. Such a community in Canada is called a First Nation. Each group is allocated a specific tract of land, called a reservation, which falls under the legal jurisdiction of the Indians living there. They are politically autonomous with their own police forces and governments.

Native American tribes in modern times live similarly to others in modern culture, but Huron Indians of the past had a very different societal structure. Wyandot men were charged with bringing home food from the hunt and waging war on enemies while women were given the task of making sure domestic matters ran smoothly. While the men were in charge of politics in the Indian tribes, the women made all the decisions of the family and were accorded voting rights in the community.

Modern Huron Indians live in dwellings similar to other people — homes, apartment buildings and trailers. Huron Indians of the past lived in villages surrounded by reinforced walls, comprised of longhouses. Longhouses were up to 150 feet (45.7 m) long and housed as many as 60 people. Today, the traditional structures are used for ceremonial purposes.

The Wyandot Indian culture was focused on trade. The Hurons acted as middlemen for many of the eastern U.S. Indian nations. While they were normally a peaceable people, the Huron Indians fought frequently with the Iroquois Indian Nations. Men and women filled their time with hunting and farming, travel and storytelling and arts and crafts such as pottery and weaving.

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