The name Erie is a shortened form of Erielhonan, a word which means ‘long tail’ in the language of the Iroquois. This is in reference to the mountain lion which roamed the domain of these people. The Erie, in fact, spoke a derivation of the Iroquois language which was, apparently similar to that of the Huron. The Erie managed to elude contact with the white man. Apart from one brief encounter, the French were not able to reach them. Neither were the Dutch or the Swedish, although they did hear about them from other tribes. Information about their culture and living conditions has, therefore been passed on to historians through second hand accounts from members of other tribes, most notably the Huron.

From them we learn that the Erie lived in scattered villages which were stockaded for protection. Their homes were the traditional long house that could house several families. They were, like most of the surrounding tribes, farmers and hunters. The main crops were corn, beans and squash. Following the harvest they would embark on the winter hunt. During this time they would live in winter camps. Like many of the eastern tribes the Erie were the traditional enemies of the Iroquois. They were, apparently, fearsome warriors.