Onieda - Onondaga Iroquois Eel Weir in Wabash County, Indiana

Onieda - Onondaga Iroquois Eel Weir in Wabash County, Indiana

   As a champion of the theory that the mounds and earthworks were constructed by the ancient Iroquois, this information seems to crystalize the theory. Research credited to Prehistoric Fish weirs in Eastern North America Master's Thesis by allen lutins

Iroquois culture area

Contact-era accounts attest to the use of weirs by the various nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Beauchamp (1900:133) mentions that the Onondagas and Oneidas employed eel weirs (of an indeterminate type) on the Onondaga River at Caughdenoy. He claims that "(e)arly travelers described these," although he provides no references. He may be referring to the account of Dablon, a Jesuit missionary to the Oneida, who wrote in 1670: "Our savages construct their dams and sluices so well, that they catch at the same time the Eels, that descend, and the Salmon, that always ascends" (Brumbach 1986:40). Again, a description of this weir is lacking. Jacques Bruyas, an Iroquois linguist, commented in the mid-19th century that the Iroquois of his time were using stone weirs lined with brush, with box traps set into them (Beauchamp 1905:148).

An 1894 Bureau of American Ethnology report noted at the time that "(s)tone fish weirs yet remain in some New York streams, though many have been destroyed." That report specifically mentioned a stone weir in the Seneca River, and also refers to an account dating nearly 100 years earlier attesting to the existence of stone weirs in the Seneca River. This earlier account noted that they were "V"-shaped, being "well made of field stones of considerable size" (Thomas 1894:549). In 1900, Beauchamp described one of the Seneca River weirs (reported to be near Baldwinsville) as having "three bays of unequal length reaching up to the river as it tended to the north shore. It was built of fieldstone and was about 1,200 feet long." He claimed that the remains of a second weir existed nearby, and that "others are found elsewhere" (Bradley 1987:210).