The First Nations had a well-established military tradition before the arrival of the first Europeans along the Atlantic coast and the St. Lawrence River. The First Nations in the area around the eastern Great Lakes, notably the Iroquois Confederacy (the Five Nations-Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Oneida) and the Huron, had developed sophisticated military tactics.

The Five Nations and Huron warriors fought in disciplined units. After the exchange of arrows that usually preceded a battle, warriors would advance to engage in close combat. They protected themselves with shields and wooden breastplates and armed themselves with war clubs, tomahawks, bows, and arrows. The Iroquois generally constructed a small wooden stockade before any major engagement. In the event that the battle was not decided in their favour, they could retreat to a fortified defensive position. Wooden stockades protected the main settlements of both the Huron and Iroquois.

Using their sophisticated tactics, the Iroquois and Huron had a decided advantage over neighbouring tribes, especially the Algonquin and Montagnais to the north. While the more northerly tribes may have expressed disdain for such methods, they could not deny their effectiveness.


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