Iroquois, Slavery, Women, Fur Trade


The article attempts to demonstrate that although there was an increased trade in war captives and slaves among the Great Lakes Iroquois during the late 17th and early 18th century, and they were indeed bartered with European fur traders, this did not necessarily equate to a significant change in the cultural customs of exchange or the social status of slaves within Iroquois societies. In particular, the article examines the role of female slaves and their perceived roles as prostitutes by the fur traders they encountered. It illustrates the fact that, according to traditional Iroquois perceptions, the culturally significant role of females and the deeply embedded social customs around the practice of slavery, meant that many of these women simply wouldn’t have seen their position as socially shameful or degraded, nor their actions as prostitution. When we analyze the competing cultural viewpoints between the Iroquois and fur traders, we see that the definition of prostitution and the negative stigma attached to it was contingent upon Eurocentric preconceptions held by the traders, and that there was little to no pre contact antecedent with which traditional Iroquois cultures could identify.[2] Further, the article demonstrates that that the long standing practice of formal adoption of slaves into Iroquoian society, especially women, was a fundamental deterrent from the sexual exploitation the traders believed was so prevalent.

Cover Page Footnote

[1]Anderson, Karen. “Exchange and Subordination: Montagnais-Naskapi and Huron Women, 1600- 1650.” Signs, Vol. 11. No.1 (Autumn, 1985): 48-62. [2]Grey Whaley, “Complete Liberty?: Gender, Sexuality, Race, and Social change on the Lower Columbia River,” Ethnohistory, vol.54, no. 4, (fall, 2007): 670.

First Page


Last Page