- In the 17th Century, the Iroquois nation numbered about 12,000 people. That's equivalent to 3 brigades of Napoleon's army which numbered around 250,000 in the 1780s before peaking at 1,100,000 at its height.
- The Iroquois Nation fought with the Huron (another Iroquois tribe).
- The Iroquois practiced what would be considered slave raids if done by the Europeans.
League traditions allowed for the dead to be symbolically replaced through the "Mourning War", raids intended to seize captives to replace lost compatriots and take vengeance on non-members. This tradition was common to native people of the northeast and was quite different from European settlers' notions of combat.
- The Iroquois had no written language. Good luck with scientific discovery under those conditions. Imagine trying to practice the scientific method without writing.
- The Iroquois' government was based on a fairly sophisticated democratic system. There is some debate about whether or not this influenced the American Constitution and other writings, but there is no debate that the Iroquois were a democracy.
- They had limited metalworking technology.
In North America, in the upper Midwest, copper had been beaten into knives, awls, and other tools in the Late Archaic period (around 2000 BC), and since that time it had been used for small tools and ornaments. The use of copper in this region, however, was not true metallurgy, because the metal was hammered from pure deposits rather than smelted from ore.
The Aztecs would be an equally interesting comparative study, although in terms of modern moral sensibilities, they would probably come out as tyrannical beasts. Of course, since my kids' social studies books judge the Europeans of the era using those sensibilities, it only seems fair to sit there with slack-jawed, judgmental horror at the Aztecs.
Update: What I'm thinking I'll look at here is the question, "Could Gregor Mendel have discovered genetics in Iroquois society?" I know it's a strange mix, but it combines several things my daughter is learning and as I research it, I think it provides a revealing thought exercise.
Update 2: Here's the post about Gregor Mendel as an Iroquis.