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The Susquehannock were once one of the most
formidable tribes of the mid-Atlantic region at the time of European
contact. They dominated the area between the Potomac River in North
Virginia and southern New York State.
Little is known about them, since they lived some
distance inland, and Europeans did not often visit their villages
before they had been destroyed by epidemic and wars with the
Iroquois in 1675.
The Susquehannock have been called noble and
heroic. They have also been described as aggressive, warlike,
imperialistic, and bitter enemies of the Iroquois. They may also
have warred with the Mahican from the central Hudson Valley.
When he first met the Susquehannock in 1608,
Captain John Smith was especially impressed with their size, deep
voices, and the variety of their weapons. Their height must have
been exceptional, because the Swedes also commented on it thirty
The constant warfare between Iroquian-speaking
tribes gave the Susquehannock a military advantage over their more
peaceful Algonquin neighbours to the east and south. Using canoes
for transport, Susquehannock war parties routinely attacked the
Delaware tribes along the Delaware River and travelled down the
Susquehanna where they terrorised the Nanticoke, Conoy, and Powhatan
living on Chesapeake Bay.
They lived in a number of large, fortified villages
(perhaps as many as twenty) which stretched along the Susquehanna
River and its branches. They were allies and trading partners of the
Erie in North Ohio and the Huron and Neutrals of southern Ontario.