Parmenter applies sophisticated modern concepts about geography, space, and organization and the implications of these to the Iroquois nation occupying most of the area to the south and east of today’s Lake Ontario. The Iroquois Native Americans are also known as the Iroquois League or the Five Nations for the five tribes of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas comprising the Iroquois group. They were also united by the same Native American language, though this language is found also outside of the Iroquois.
The Iroquois have attracted previous scholarly attention for their form of government–which has been seen as democratic, and possibly a model for aspects of early American democracy–and for the location, numbers, and alliances which had a role in conflict between France and Britain and its American colonies for control of this Lake Ontario region important for transportation, commerce, and settlement farther west.
The century and a half covered is the period of early French and English exploration and settlement. This is an especially fruitful period for study. The European presence was not strong or numerous enough to break up the Iroquois system; though toward the end the European presence did start to bring changes. For the most part in this period, accounts by European explorers, traders, and settlers in conjunction with official documents of interactions and archaeological findings of later centuries make for a particularly detailed, accurate, and informative study.
The first Europeans encountered an Iroquois social system “possessed [of] centuries of experience with building reciprocal relations between people and communities that extended over spatial distances and that were sustained by frequent human movements for political, ceremonial, and economic purposes.” This work “explains how Iroquois people translated spatial concepts embedded in their traditional philosophy into actions that engaged new challenges and opportunities brought about by early European intrusions on the borders of their homelands” while keeping their core values and cultural cohesion until finally overwhelmed by European development.