Each family consisted of a woman, her daughters or sisters, and their husbands and children. In the longhouse, the women had influence on the male leaders. Women were guardians of the family and of village traditions. They also had a long list of duties:
- cooking, sewing and tanning leather
- child care
- cleaning out cooking fires and hearths
- gathering food
- making baskets and pots
- weaving mats and fishing nets
- caring for families and guests.
Farming was the most important of their labours. Using small wooden spades, the women planted and tended the crops, scared off birds and rodents, harvested the crops, and burned the remaining stalks to nourish the soil.
Wendat men aspired to be brave warriors, good hunters and fishermen, and clever traders. They also tried to earn reputations for generosity, good advice and good speech making. The men of each village took care of:
- clearing new fields
- fishing and storing the fish
- making stone and wooden utensils and tools
- repairing the village structures
- making canoes, pipes, snowshoes and sleds
- peace negotiations with the outside world.
Huron Wendat men and women worked hard to acquire goods, and shared with others of the longhouse, village, clan tribe and confederacy. In several early accounts, European visitors made special note of Huron-Wendat generosity to the French and to other First Nations people.
Marriages and children
Huron-Wendat marriages were monogamous and could be terminated by either partner. This was rare if children were involved. When a woman became pregnant, it was normal for each man she had lived with to claim the child as his. The choice was up to the mother. Pregnant women faced some restrictions. They were never to be within sight of game, for fear the animal would get away. They were never to set foot in the house of a sick person, because it was believed that the sickness would get worse.
Newborn babies were named after they had their ears pierced. Wrapped in furs, the babies were carried in cradleboards filled with soft, warm down from bullrushes. A child was breast-fed up to the age of two or three years. Older babies were also fed soups and chewed meats. Children were well-liked and well taken care of by everyone.
With their great sense of dignity, the Huron Wendat felt it was wrong to coerce or publicly humiliate anyone, especially a child. Physical punishment was never used as discipline.
There was little formal training for children, but they learned skills from their games. Girls helped their mothers with their work. Boys were expected to be hardy, brave and self-reliant. From an early age, boys would cut and burn themselves, to prepare for future tests of their courage and manhood.