The first human settlement of the area that is now New York probably occurred about 10,500 bc, after glaciers that had covered the region retreated. Archaeological sites from Staten Island to Lake Champlain indicate that the Paleo-Indians, who hunted mammoths and other prehistoric animals, existed until about 8000 bc. They gave way to the Archaic culture, lasting until about 1000 bc, whose people depended on deer, elk, birds and plants from the woodlands they inhabited. After that, the Northeast culture developed, and at some point hunting and gathering was replaced by agriculture as the main source of food. Sometime after ad 1000, two major Native American language groups emerged in New York, the Algonquian and the Iroquoian. For several centuries the dominant group was the Algonquian-speaking tribes, including the Mahican, Delaware, and Wappinger, who lived in the southeast section of New York and up the Hudson River valley to Lake Champlain.
The Algonquian tribes were primarily farmers who raised corn, squash, and beans, but they also caught fish, hunted game, and gathered berries, nuts, and roots.
Historians and archaeologists disagree on whether the Iroquois developed in the New York-Great Lakes region or migrated there from the mid-Mississippi Valley. Five of the tribes—the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca—united in about 1570 to form the Iroquois Confederacy, known as the Five Nations. From their base in central New York the Iroquois extended their domain, and during the 17th century they subdued almost all the tribes in a vast region extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the St. Lawrence River to the Tennessee River.
Sometime in the early 1700s, the Tuscarora, an Iroquoian tribe that had migrated to New York from North Carolina, were formally admitted to the confederacy, and the name of the league was changed to the Six Nations.
The Iroquois, like the Algonquian people, had an agricultural economy, based mainly on corn. Families lived together in large bark-covered dwellings called longhouses. Each community was governed by a ruling council and a village chief.
The entire confederacy was run by a fairly democratic common council of delegates, elected by members of various tribes. The league as a whole had no single leader, and decisions were usually made by a unanimous vote of the council.
Powerful in their relations with other tribes, the Iroquois began coveting guns, whiskey, and other provisions after they came in contact with Europeans. To gain these goods, the Iroquois traded beaver and other furs, first with the Dutch, then with the English. After the Iroquois wiped out the beaver in their original lands, they looked for new supplies, often attempting to conquer new tribes and territories.
In the 18th century, the Iroquois often ceded land to the British and French for provisions or political concessions. The Iroquois Confederacy continued to play a central role in American history until after the American Revolution (1775-1783). Counties with legislatures may also have an elected executive. Most towns with more than 10,000 people are governed by a town board consisting of a supervisor and several council members. "New York" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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