Erie [key], indigenous people of North America of the Iroquoian branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In the Iroquoian language the word erie means “long tail” (i.e., cat), and, therefore, the Erie were referred to as the Cat Nation. In the 17th cent. they inhabited the region E and SE of Lake Erie in the present states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. They then numbered some 14,000. Although they were sedentary farmers of the Eastern Woodlands area, they exhibited some Southeastern cultural traits, such as the use of poisoned arrows and the building of palisaded villages. They were traditional enemies of the Iroquois Confederacy, and in 1656, after one of the most relentless and destructive Indian wars, the Erie were almost exterminated by the Iroquois. The surviving captives were either adopted or enslaved by the confederacy.
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