The Seneca Indian Tribe of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy first settled here in the early 1600s. Later, one of the tribe's leaders, Chief Cornplanter, was awarded land by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in what is now downtown Oil City. Later, local prospectors purchased it and built a blast furnace, mill and foundry.
Pennsylvania's one surviving Indian community lived until 1964 on the Cornplanter Tract in Warren County, northwest Pennsylvania. In that year the newly constructed Kinzua Dam was shut, flooding the Allegheny Reservoir and submerging the community's physical remains.
The Cornplanter Tract was not an Indian reservation. It was a grant of land made in 1791 to Cornplanter, a chief of the Seneca Nation, and to his heirs by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Through this gift, the government of Pennsylvania expressed its gratitude to Cornplanter for his Indian diplomacy in the early years of American independence.
Cornplanter's people knew him as Kaintwakon, meaning "by what one plants." The white people knew him also as John Abeel (rendered also as Obail) and by other names. He was born to his Seneca Indian mother about 1750 at Ganawagus, near Avon, New York. The Wolf Clan to which she belonged was a ranking Indian family. Among its members were several prominent Indian leaders, Kiasutha, Handsome Lake, Red Jacket, and Governor Blacksnake, all principals in the drama of Indian-white relations which spanned the remainder of the century after 1755. Ultimately, this drama would determine whether this country, especially that part west of the Allegheny Mountains, would be French or English, European or Indian.
About 1784, Cornplanter assumed -rather, had thrust upon him-his principal's role. This role derived from his leading position among the Iroquois of the upper Allegheny and Genesee rivers, a position which he had gradually assumed from his maternal uncle, Kiasutha. Cornplanter was only half Indian. His father was John Abeel, of a prominent Albany Dutch family. Abeel had gone into the Indian country in western New York to trade as early, possibly, as 1744-he was 22 that year-and he would spend the rest of his active life as a trader there. His special passport among hostile Indians was his ability as a gunsmith. French, Dutch, or British saw to it that the Indians had plenty of arms, and the Indians welcomed white men who could repair them.
Cornplanter was the child of a temporary union, common then between whites and Indians. In Iroquois society the "nationality" of the mother determined that of her children. Cornplanter was reared as an Indian and an Indian he remained. It is hard to believe that one who had so many contacts with whites never spoke their language, but it apparently is true.
At some time in the dim past the New York Iroquois, anxious to end warfare and maintain the peace, had organized themselves into a unique confederation known to our history as the League of the Iroquois. Easternmost of the Iroquois were the Mohawks, on the river of that name; west of them were the Oneidas, the Onondagas, and the Cayugas, each "nation" associated with a lake now named for it. Farthest west were the Senecas. These original League members were joined by the Tuscaroras, who began to move into Oneida country from the South about 1720. The Tuscaroras were admitted to "associate membership," so that thereafter the League of Five Nations was often called the Six Nations.
Cornplanter emerged from the Revolution a principal war chief of the Senecas. After the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, he learned that the British, despite their promises, had neglected the interests of their Indian allies and in effect had abandoned them to the former colonists. From that time on he cast his lot with the United States, believing that his people's wisest course lay in cooperating with the new nation and making thereby the best possible terms with it. He helped the whites because he regarded this as the only way to help the Indians.
Once the struggle with Britain was concluded, hardy pioneers began to push to the west and establish a new frontier. Especially attractive were the rich lands of the Genesee country in New York and the adjoining part of northwest Pennsylvania; large land companies had plans for settlement. These had been the prized hunting grounds of the Six Nations and their sylvan home for generation upon generation. The once powerful confederacy had yet to feel any weakening of its power, and its chieftains were still inclined to view themselves as lords of the wilderness.
History records that the man who faced this issue in the most statesmanlike way was Cornplanter, chief of the Senecas. Less farsighted leaders among his people, such as Red Jacket, his kinsman, sought to lead them into a policy of senseless and stubborn opposition, which could have had but one outcome-the annihilation of the Iroquois. Cornplanter foresaw this and envisioned another solution-the use of peaceful bargaining in an effort to save his people, and to preserve for them a small portion of the lands over which they once held complete dominion. Such a policy was not an easy one to adopt, for the whites were grasping and unappreciative, and the authorities at New York and Philadelphia could not always enforce treaties with the Indians. It was a policy of subservience and was pursued at a terrible cost in pride and self-respect, but Cornplanter saw that it was the only policy which could preserve the remnants of the Six Nations from extinction.
Thus it is that the history of Indian relations during the years from 1784 to the turn of the century is filled with the record of the influence of Chief Cornplanter, son of a white trader and a highborn Seneca woman. It was the hand of this powerful war chief of the Senecas, now using the arts of peace, which was so much in evidence behind the scenes in concluding the treaties of Fort Stanwix in 1784 and Fort Harmar in 1789. These provided a settlement of land problems and Indian relations. The possibility of trouble remained, however. During 1790 and 1791, Cornplanter earned the gratitude of Pennsylvania by his heroic effort to check the development of a threatening alliance between eastern and Ohio Indians.
The following year President Washington sent Cornplanter to cultivate peace and friendship with the Indians of Ohio and Michigan. Conferences with them on the Ohio and at Painted Post in New York ended in failure. Major General Anthony Wayne's bloody defeat of the Indians in the Battle of Fallen Timbers near Toledo, Ohio, August, 1794, finally convinced the western tribes to end their resistance. Cornplanter, however, was successful in keeping the Iroquois from joining the rebels.
On his numerous visits to New York, Albany, and Philadelphia, he discussed religion and education with those who were concerned about his people. During his long stay in Philadelphia in the winter of 1790, he attended Quaker meetings with some regularity. The following year he asked the Quakers to accept his oldest son Henry and two other boys for schooling in Philadelphia, to which they agreed. He also asked the Society of Friends for a Seneca mission:
We wish our children to be taught the same principles by which your fathers were guided. Brothers! We have too little wisdom among us, and we cannot teach our children what we see their situation requires them to know. We wish them to be taught to read and write, and such other things as you teach your children, especially the love of peace.
In 1798 the Quakers accepted Cornplanter's invitation to teach his people. He encouraged schools and missions. The Quakers made no attempt to convert, but instead devoted themselves to morals, education, and improved agricultural techniques. With their guidance, his community became a model, with roads, good houses, fences, plowed fields, and more cattle than could well be wintered. Cornplanter strongly opposed liquor and he was supported in this by his half-brother Handsome Lake, who in 1799 became a religious reformer and a prophet to the Iroquois people. To an extent, the Quakers complemented and influenced Handsome Lake's "new religion."
After 1812, however, Cornplanter became disillusioned with the Americans. Their increasingly shabby treatment of his people confirmed for him the earlier warning of Handsome Lake that Indian salvation demanded a turning away from white ways and a return to the best Indian tradition. In remorse over his part in assimilating his people to the culture of the white man, Cornplanter burned his military uniform, broke his sword, and destroyed his medals; he closed the schools and dismissed the missionaries. Yet, despite this, he retained his affection for the Quakers, who now settled at Tunesassa, near the Allegany Reservation in New York state. He died at home on the Cornplanter Tract on February 18, 1836.
Cornplanter's descendants and other Indians continued to live on the tract. The community had its own school and its Presbyterian Church. Eventually, however, the population dwindled as residents moved to the adjacent, larger, and related Allegany Reservation of New York. Residence became largely seasonal and in late 1964 the last inhabitant left, permitting Kinzua Dam to be closed and the reservoir to be flooded. The Cornplanter Indians would no longer call Pennsylvania their home.
At the turn of the century, half of all Indians in the US were
considered "full-bloods." By 1990 estimates are that only 20% percent are "full-blood". A third of all recognized Indians in the US are the quarter-blood cut off point. Cherokee demographer Russell Thorton estimates that, given continued imposition of purely racial definitions, Native Americans, as a whole, will have disappered by the year 2080.
Blood quantum can lead in only one general direction and that is
down. Once a lineage goes below 100 percent, no matter how many times offspring remarry with "full-blood" spouses, it can't ever be restored back to 100 percent. With blood quantum requirement of 50% mathematically, Native Americans are all just two generations away from extinction.
Which one of the Iroquois Tribes are you Debbie? There are six tribes making up the Iroquois Six Nations. It was the first American Democracy.
Six Nations included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, was last to join.
The Six Nations Confederacy was and is likened to a longhouse
by John Kahionhes Fadden
Images of the Six Nations are identified by the style of hat they're wearing located about the six smokeholes.
Story About Chief Cornplanter
Related by Emily Tallchief
great, great granddaughter
“Now these stories are true and came to Solomon Obail from Cornplanter, and Solomon, my father, told me.”
“The Cornplanter reservation Senecas often traveled by canoes down the Allegany river to Pittsburgh. On a certain occasion Cornplanter went with a party of canoeists down the Allegany to Pittsburgh. While on his journey one of the paddlers sang Woine’owi as he paddled. Now as he sang the party was startled by a voice that called from the cliff above, ‘Halt ye!’ The paddlers grounded the canoe and Cornplanter went ashore, where, ascending the cliff, he found a number of Indians gathered about a tree to which a white man was bound. ’So now, Cornplanter,’ said the chief of the band, ’I have called you to kill this man. You may now do as you please with him and we will be satisfied.’ Cornplanter drew forth his long hunting knife and feeling of its sharp edge said, ’So I may do as I wish. Truly then I shall do so.’ So saying he rushed toward the man with upraised knife and brought it down with a flourish. The man was not injured but instead stepped out from the tree free, for Cornplanter’s knife had severed the thongs. ’now,’ said Cornplanter, after some conversation with the man, ’I will hire a guide to take this man back to his home in Philadelphia.’ A warrior accepted the commission and guided the prisoner safely back to his home where he found him to be a man of prominence, a chief among his people.”
“So I say this,” added Mrs. Tallchief, “to show that my grandfather was a good man, just and kind. Because of these qualities he became influential.”
Exerpt from 'The Code of Handsome Lake, The Seneca Prophet.' by A.C. Parker
OVERVIEW: Written by Kanatiiosh
The Seneca call themselves Onondowahgah, which means the People of the Great Hill. The name refers to the Seneca's belief that they emerged into this world from under South Hill, which is located near Canandaigua Lake in what is now New York State.
The Onondowahgah are one of the original Five Nations to accept the Peacemaker's message and joined together with the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, and Cayuga to form the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which is also know as the Iroquois Confederacy. Haudenosaunee translates to mean (People of the Longhouse), which refers to the type of homes built by the Haudenosaunee.
In the picture (above), the artist (Kahionhes) depicts the Onondowahgah by showing a man wearing a gustoweh (feathered hat) containing a single eagle feather placed next to a big hill to represent that the Seneca are known as the People of the Great Hill. When reading the Aiionwatha (Hiawatha) Belt, looking northward, the first square on the left-hand side represents the Seneca Nation. The square on the far right-hand side represents the Mohawk Nation. However, if you read the Aiionwatha belt looking southward, then the opposite would be true.
The Hiawatha belt represents the founding of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. When the Peacemaker came to the warring Five Nations, he carried with him the message of Kaianeraserakowa (the Great Law of Peace). The Peacemaker came to the Haudenosaunee with his message of Skennen (Peace), Kariwiio (The Good Word), and Kasatensera (strength), which contains the principles of peace, equality, respect, love, and justice. The Peacemaker envisioned the uniting of these Nations in peace as one extended Longhouse with each Nation having their own hearth fire. In other words, each Nation would have a shared sovereignty in the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the responsibility to protect the Peace, the Natural World, and the Future Generations to come, while retaining the sovereignty over their own Nations. The joining together of the Five Nations is perhaps the oldest example of nations uniting under a single form of government and spirituality. Interestingly, the Haudenosaunee draw no distinction between what is political and what is spiritual, for our spiritual leaders are also the political leaders.
The Seneca are known as the Elder Brothers, which has significance when the Grand Council of Chiefs, composed of all fifty chiefs of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, meet to discuss matters of importance to the entire Confederacy. The Seneca are also known as the Keepers of the Western Door. In the picture (above), the man is wearing a gustoweh, which is a feathered hat. One can identify the Nation that the wearer is from by the number of eagle feathers and the position that these feathers are worn on the gustoweh.
Onondowahgah men wear one eagle feather on their gustowehs, like the Cayuga. However, there is a major difference in the way the feather is worn. The Seneca wear their eagle feather in an upright position, whereas, the Cayuga wear, in their gustoweh, their eagle feather in an downward tilted position. If the man were a chief of the Onondowahgah Nation, he would wear attached to his feathered hat deer antlers that symbolize his authority as one of the eight chiefs of the Seneca Nation. One of the many jobs of the Clan Mothers, who are the female leaders, is to raise (to bring forth) a new chief from her clan, when one passes on or is removed. The Clan Mothers have the authority to dehorn (impeach), which is done by the removal of the deer antlers off the gustoweh of a chief who is not doing his duty to the people properly.
The Onondowahgah have eight clans. The eight clans are Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Beaver, Snipe, Heron, Deer, and Hawk. The Haudenosaunee are matrilineal, which means that the clans are passed down from one's mother. In other words, if your Mother is of the Bear clan, then you are of the Bear. If your father is of the Wolf clan, but your mother has no clan then you would have no clan, even though your father has a clan, because clans are passed on from mother to sons and daughters. Some mistakenly think that when a man marries a women he becomes her clan, this is untrue. If you are born with a clan, that clan remains yours through out your life.
Mohawk * Oneida * Onondaga * Cayuga * Seneca * Tuscarora
The Iroquois, or as we prefer to call ourselves, the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), used materials for clothing found in our natural environment. Traditionally the Haudenosaunee used furs obtained from the woodland animals, hides of elk and deer, corn husks, and they also wove plant and tree fibers to produce articles of clothing. What I find very interesting about Haudenosaunee clothing, is that even though in modern day we have incorporated calico and other fabrics into our clothing, the style and the symbolic decorations of our regalia remains the same as it did since time immemorial. Therefore, when you see our women's regalia made from calico and broad cloth, if you could make you mind's eye think of it as being made from deerskin you would be stepping back in time to when no stores existed in which to buy such materials. This is not to say that we no longer use traditional materials to create our regalia because we still do, but one should understand that Native American culture is dynamic, for it is a living culture where adaptation and inherence to tradition is necessary for life to continue. In this article, I will describe and explain the Haudenosaunee regalia of our men and women from head to foot.
Haudenosaunee Men's Regalia
In describing Haudenosaunee regalia, let me begin with the headwear. Many people mistakenly think that all Native American Indians wore plains style war bonnets, which is untrue. This myth began in the early part of the 1900's to the 1950's when photographers wanted Iroquois people to wear war bonnets when posing for pictures because they thought it looked more "Indian", which has lead to old pictures of Iroquois people in war bonnets. I even have a picture of my great uncle wearing one. However, the Haudenosaunee have their own type of feathered headwear, which is quite beautiful, called in the Mohawk language, a Kastoweh (gah sto wha).
Kastoweh (Feathered Hat)
The Kastoweh has a frame that is made from 3 black ash splints. One splint wraps around the head. The second splint runs from north to south and it is bowed to fit over and around the top of the head, and the third splint runs from east to west and is also bowed, then both strips are secured to the splint that runs around the head by sinew. This makes a wonderful frame. Sometimes the top of the splint frame is covered with deer skin or today by cloth. On the outside of the headband, it was traditionally decorated with Haudenosaunee symbols, usually made with porcupine quills, or wampum beads. In later years a band of silver was designed and attached. When glass beads were introduced some kastoweh bands were beaded. Today one might see any of the aforementioned bands attached to the Haudenosaunee feathered hat. The Haudenosaunee also wore fur headdresses, as well as deer hair roaches.
Shirts, Sashes, and Bibs
Haudenosaunee men traditionally wore fringed shirts made from deerskin. In the summer months men would often not wear a shirt, but would wear a finger-woven sash that went over the right shoulder and was attached to the waist. These sashes were woven from plant materials sometimes elm, or basswood fibers were used, as well as nettle fibers. Sashes can were made of deerskin and decorated with clan motifs or other Haudenosaunee symbols made with porcupine quills, wampum beads, or glass beads. Sometimes the silver brooches are attached to create a very beautiful design. In recent times, the Haudenosaunee have added the use of cloth (broadcloth and calico are some of the favorite types) and ribbons to make shirts.
Haudenosaunee men's regalia can also consist of a leather, wool, or cloth neck pieces, which is known as a bib. These bibs are elaborately decorated with either quill, or beadwork. While I am mentioning belts and sashes, I should mention that wampum belts were also worn as sashes, and that deer toes were worn around the knees, which made noise, much like bells do.
Kilts, Leggings and Breech-Cloth
Kilts were traditionally made from leather and the edges fringed and decorated with porcupine quill-work. Kilts are secured around the waist by a sash. Today kilts can be made from cloth, usually wool in red or black is preferred. Also worn with a kilt, or breech cloth are leather, wool, or broadcloth leggings that are either attached by separate ties to a sash--or threaded through a sash or leather belt.Leggings are often worn so that the seam faces the outside of the leg. This allows the fringes, if made from leather to face outward from the body. Sometimes the seam is left so that it faces towards the front, if made from cloth, and is left open a few inches at the bottom of the legging. Either way, the bottom of the legging and along the seam is decorated with very fine work. Traditionally porcupine quills were used, but working with quills is becoming a dying art, today small white glass beads are used that creates such fine work that it looks like lace work. A breech cloth can be made from leather or cloth. Breech cloths can be made in two different styles. In one style, the breech-cloth is made from a single long piece of deerskin or cloth that is 2 yards long and 10 o 12 inches wide, which is long enough to hang in the back and front and pass between the legs. The breech- cloth is secured to the waist by a sash, or leather belt. Today some people make breech cloths by taking two panels of cloth or leather and attaching them to a sash or belt, which is then secured around the waist. With this method, the cloth does not pass between the legs, so shorts must me worn because there is no covering of one's private areas. Both types of cloths are decorated. If leather, the fringe would hang down in front and back and the front and back panels would be decorated with quill or bead work. If made from cloth, wool, or broadcloth, the front and back edges are beaded. The front and back of the breech cloth is also beaded with Haudenosaunee symbols or clan animal.
The Haudenosaunee moccasin is made from strong leather, like deer or elk. Both men and women wear the same style moccasin. The Haudenosaunee moccasin is not a tall moccasin although it has a cuff that when folded up made be two to three inches wide--this leather is folded down to make a cuff. This cuff is decorated with porcupine quill work. Often times bead work is done on a separate piece of fabric like velvet and then it is attached to the cuff. This is done so that when the moccasin wears out the beading and easily be taken off and reattached to a new pair of moccasins. The front top of the moccasin consists of a long u shaped vamp. This vamp is also decorated in the same manner as the cuff. Sometimes porcupine guard hairs are gathered and made into tassels, which are then sewn unto the cuff of the moccasin. These Haudenosaunee moccasins are very beautiful. Interestingly, the Haudenosaunee used a small bone that is found near the ankle joint of the deer was made into a needle, which was used as a needle to sew with. Also sinew was taken from the deer to be used as thread--along with twisted elm bark fibers. Haudenosaunee women's headwear is said to resemble a tiara because of its shape. These headbands are very strikingly beautiful. To create the headband cloth, either velvet, wool, or broadcloth is beaded onto a stiffer backing. Then the beaded cloth is attached to either leather or cloth. These layers are sewn together. Edging the top with glass seed beads completes the headband. Haudenosaunee use the smallest white seed beads when decorating their regalia. The beading is so exquisite that many people say the finished work looks like fine lacework. Often times the designs used when beading are taken from Haudenosaunee cosmology, clan symbols, or woodland designs of flowers, vines, and leaves.
Haudenosaunee women wear dresses made of deerskin, which are decorated with Haudenosaunee designs using porcupine quills or beading. Also silver brooches are used to decorate women's dresses. Today the Haudenosaunee have incorporated cloth, like wool, broadcloth, and calico into the materials used to make the dress, but the styles remains the same as it did from time immemorial. One type of women's regalia is the overdress, which is fitted at the waist and flares out. The bottom edge of this dress is left with an open upside down V shape, and is beaded. The neck portion of the dress may have a collar, which is beaded, or it may have a rounded neck. If the dress has a rounded neck, then a beaded collar is usually worn to add beauty to the top of the dress. Sometimes women wear sashes or leather belts around their waists, which looks very nice.
Skirts & Leggings
With the overdress a skirt and leggings are always worn. The skirt can be made of deerskin, or cloth. Today many women's skirts are made from broadcloth or wool, and are elegantly beaded along the bottom border and edge. The skirt fits around the waist and is long enough to come mid way between the knee and ankle. Legging can be made from leather, or cloth. Most leggings today are made from cloth, broadcloth, or wool. Leggings are tied just above the knee and must be long enough to just touch the top of the moccasin. The legging is made so that at the bottom edge is an inverted V shape that is worn facing the center of the ankle. The bottom boarder and edge of the legging is decorated with beading and sometimes ribbons. The moccasins are the same for both men and women. The Haudenosaunee made footwear out of braided cornhusks that both men and women wear.
Too long to copy and paste...here is the link.
The Great Binding Law
GAYANASHAGOWA1. I am Dekanawidah and with the Five Nations' Confederate Lords I plant the Tree of Great Peace. I plant it in your territory, Adodarhoh, and the Onondaga Nation, in the territory of you who are Firekeepers. I name the tree the Tree of the Great Long Leaves. Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feathery down of the globe thistle as seats for you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords. We place you upon those seats, spread soft with the feathery down of the globe thistle, there beneath the shade of the spreading branches of the Tree of Peace. There shall you sit and watch the Council Fire of the Confederacy of the Five Nations, and all the affairs of the Five Nations shall be transacted at this place before you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin Lords, by the Confederate Lords of the Five Nations. 2. Roots have spread out from the Tree of the Great Peace, one to the north, one to the east, one to the south and one to the west. The name of these roots is The Great White Roots and their nature is Peace and Strength. If any man or any nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace and make known their disposition to the Lords of the Confederacy, they may trace the Roots to the Tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the Confederate Council, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves. We place at the top of the Tree of the Long Leaves an Eagle who is able to see afar. If he sees in the distance any evil approaching or any danger threatening he will at once warn the people of the Confederacy. 3. To you Adodarhoh, the Onondaga cousin Lords, I and the other Confederate Lords have entrusted the caretaking and the watching of the Five Nations Council Fire. When there is any business to be transacted and the Confederate Council is not in session, a messenger shall be dispatched either to Adodarhoh, Hononwirehtonh or Skanawatih, Fire Keepers, or to their War Chiefs with a full statement of the case desired to be considered. Then shall Adodarhoh call his cousin (associate) Lords together and consider whether or not the case is of sufficient importance to demand the attention of the Confederate Council. If so, Adodarhoh shall dispatch messengers to summon all the Confederate Lords to assemble beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves. When the Lords are assembled the Council Fire shall be kindled, but not with chestnut wood, and Adodarhoh shall formally open the Council.
Iroquois Creation Myth
Before the world was fully formed, there were two worlds: that of the sky, and the lower, darker world. The lower world had only water, and water creatures. A woman fell from the cloud world, and she was pregnant with twins; one good and one bad. Two swans saw her falling and decided to break her fall. She was too heavy for them, however, and so the Great Turtle offered to hold her. The water creatures wanted to save her from the waters, and so decided to get some earth from the bottom of the sea for her. First the Beaver dived down for some earth, but the sea was too deep, and when he came back up, he died from trying. The otter then tried, and died the same way. Finally, the frog tried, and when he came back up, he also died. However, he had managed to get some earth, and the Great Turtle put it on his back, where it grew to form the Earth we know today.
The woman was in the final stages of pregnancy, and the bad twin wanted to be born through his mother's side, or her arm. The good twin tried to stop him, but didn't succeed. Both twins were born, and their mother died in the process. Some stories say their grandmother came down from the cloud land to raise them; others say the twins didn't need to be raised by anyone.
The good twin* didn't like living in the dark, and so decided to make some light for the world. He took his mother's head, and made it into the sun, and made the rest of her body into the moon. Then he made more light, called the stars. He also created rivers and animals, and eventually, created people out of the dust. He called these people Ea-gwe-howe, or "real people". He caused rain to fall to make the land fertile, and able to support the people.
Meanwhile, the bad twin didn't like what his brother was doing, since he liked the world better the way it was. As his brother was creating the world, he went around the island making high cliffs, waterfalls,and poisonous reptiles. Once, the good twin made all the rivers run downstream so everyone could always paddle with the current, but the bad twin made half of them run backward. The bad twin tried to lock up all the animals, but the good twin freed the animals from the cave they were in.
Not surprisingly, eventually the two twins came at odds with one another. The bad twin challenged his brother to a fight, and the winner would get to rule the universe. The good twin told his brother that he could be killed by being beaten with rushes and reeds. The bad twin claimed he could be killed by being beaten by deer horns. The fight lasted for two days, with trees and mountains being uprooted. Eventually, the good twin won, and as his brother died, the bad twin said that he would have equal rulership over the afterlife. The good twin repaired the Earth from their fight, and went to live with the people he had created.
*Several names are given for the twins:
For the good twin: Tsenta; Tharonhiawagon (Tuscarora); Enigorio (Mohawk).
For the bad twin: Taweskare; Tawiscaron (Tuscarora); Onondaga (Seneca).
The Clerk's Office of the Seneca Nation Of Indians welcomes genealogy inquiries. However, because such research is very time consuming, we feel it is reasonable to charge a fee of $50.00 for this service (however, the service is free to enrolled Senecas.) Please adhere to the following quidelines when submitting your formal request for a genealogy search:
Submit your request to:
THE SENECA NATION OF INDIANS
PO Box 231
Salamanca, NY 14779
In your request, include ONLY the pertinent data of the individual(s) for whom you are searching, such as: full name, maiden name, (if applicable) birth date and/or death date. If possible, please submit it in a "family tree" format. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU INCLUDE A RETURN ADDRESS.
Enclose the $50.00 fee (U.S. Funds) along with your request. Certified Check, Bank Check, or Money Orders only. No personal checks.
Please be aware that the tribal census records of the Seneca Nation Of Indians DO NOT date prior to 1858. Therefore, we are unable to assist you with searches prior to that year. Also, enrollment/membership in the Seneca Nation Of Indians is based on MATRILINEAL descent. In other words, the mother must be an enrolled member in order for the children to be enrolled. Keep in mind that our census records list ONLY members. If an enrolled Seneca man married a non-Seneca woman, the names of the wife and the resulting non-enrolled children DO NOT APPEAR in our records.
As an additional point of information, too often we receive inquiries from individuals who erroneously believe they descend from the "Iroquois Tribe". Please note that "Iroquois" is a non-Native term which is used collectively to represent six aboriginal nations which united to form a confederacy, a.k.a. "The Iroquois Confederacy". These six aboriginal nations are: The Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora. Each is a separate political and geographical entity with its own government, land base, and membership.
Allegany Indian Reservation (AIR) - The AIR is located along the Allegheny River from the Pennsylvania border upriver to Vandalia, New York, and is located entirely within Cattaraugus County. The AIR originally included 30,469 acres of land surrounding the Allegheny, of which some 10,000 acres were inundated by the Kinzua Reservoir when the Army Corps of Engineers built the Kinzua Dam in 1964. This reservation also includes the City of Salamanca.
Cattaraugus Indian Reservation (CIR) - The CIR is located along the Cattaraugus Creek, from Gowanda, New York, downstream to the shore of Lake Erie. The CIR is comprised of some 21,618 acres in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties.
Oil Springs Indian Reservation (OSIR) - The OSIR is located on the border of Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties near Cuba, New York. The OSIR is made up of one square mile of land that includes access to Cuba Lake. Although the OSIR has no permanent Seneca residents, there are SNI and privately owned enterprises operating on the reservation.
The spring is located near the spillway end of Cuba Lake on the Oil Spring Indian Reservation. This is the site of the famed spring described by the Franciscan Missionary Joseph DeLa Roch D'Allion in 1627, the first recorded mention of oil on the North American Continent. In 1927, the New York State Oil Producers Association sponsored the dedication of a monument at the site describing the history of the oil industry in North America.
The Seneca Nation is one of the "older brothers" of the Iroquois Confederacy and are known as the "People of the Great Mountain" and are "Keepers of the Western Door".
The Seneca's originally lived between the Genesee River and Canandaigua Lake in what is now, Western New York State.
The Seneca's have eight clans, Turtle, Bear, Wolf, Snipe, Hawk, Heron, Beaver and Deer.
The Seneca words are pronounced by Bill Crouse, Hawk Clan, Allegheny Seneca.
April 21, 1869: Donehogawa (Ely Samuel Parker) is appointed as the first Indian to be Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Donehogawa, a Seneca Iroquois, was trained as a lawyer and a civil engineer. Unable to find work in the white world, Donehogawa contacts his old friend Ulysses Grant. Grant makes him an aide, and they work together through much of the Civil War. Because of his excellent penmanship, Donehogawa draws up the surrender papers for Lee to sign at Appomattox. Promoted to Brigadier General, Ely Parker worked to settle many conflicts between whites and Indians. After Grant becomes President, he will be appointed as Indian Commissioner on this date.
ELY SAMUEL PARKER (1828-95), a Seneca, was not Red Jacket's grandson, even though you often see that in print. Ely's mother was Elizabeth Johnson (c1800-1862) of the wolf clan. Her mother was the sister of Jemmy Johnson, another famous chief at Tonawanda (1774-1856) and the chosen successor to Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet. Jemmy and his sister were the children of Red Jacket's sister. All of them were also members of the wolf clan, which means that Ely was Red Jacket's great-grandnephew. In Seneca tradition, however, granduncles (peers of your grandparents or great grandparents) are called "grandfathers". Therein lies the confusion.
Ely became a condoled chief in 1852 upon the death of John Blacksmith (chief of the wolf clan at Tonawanda). In the Haudenosaunee (6 Nations, Iroquois) world, there are 50 chiefs, each having their own (condoled) name. When one chief dies, another one is chosen by the clan mothers and is given the condoled name. So when Ely was chosen chief of the wolf clan at Tonawanda, he was given the name Donehogawa--the name John Blacksmith held before him. That name is still used at Tonawanda today. Ely's Seneca name was Ha sa no an da, meaning "leading name". He took the name Ely (as he said, rhymes with "free-ly") after a well known Baptist minister/teacher in the area. Parker was a name given by a British soldier (named Parker) to the family, as an honor for treating him so well when he was a captive during the Revolutionary War.
Ely's military career: he was in the militia prior to the Civil War. He was appointed assistant adjutant-general with rank of captain in June 1863; commissioned first lieutenant, US Cavalry in 1866 (he resigned in 1869); brevitted brigadier-general of volunteers, Apr 9 1865; and captain, major, lieutenant-colonel and brigadier-general, US Army on March 2, 1867.(this is all according to Arthur Parker.) At the age of 14, Ely was first sent to Washington, DC as a messenger/ representative for the Tonawanda Senecas who were trying to fight the fraudulent 1842 Compromise Treaty of Buffalo Creek. In that treaty (and in its predecessor, the 1838 Buffalo Creek Treaty), the Tonawanda Senecas lost all of their lands in Western New York. Ely remained a representative and advocate until 1857 when the Senecas were able to buy back part of that land.
Parker became Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, not because of his efforts in the Civil War, but because of his friendship with General Ulysses S. Grant. Because of his association with him, Parker had the "ear" of many politicians in Washington both during and after the war who were wrestling with the "Indian Problem". Grant appointed him commissioner in 1868. (Grant appointed many of his former Civil War staff to important positions after he was elected president). Parker was the first Native American to hold a federal office. It was Ely Parker's ideas that were associated with the Grant administration's "Peace Plan" which abolished the treaty system and advocated "assimilate, educate and Christianize". He also stated that if you wanted the Indians to remain peaceful, the government had to deliver what it had promised when they had made treaties with them. (This is why, he thought, the treaty system should be abolished. It just didn't work, and it made the Native Peoples in the US angry, unsettled, and distrustful of the US government). In 1871, Parker resigned that commission after being tried for fraud by the US Senate (he was exonerated).
Ely died on August 30, 1895 from complications from diabetes. He was buried first at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Conn, where he, his wife and his daughter lived. Parker was reburied in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, NY on January 20, 1897 near the graves of several other Senecas, including Red Jacket.
Credits: I would like to thank Jare Cardinal, historian and manager, Community Relations at the Rochester Museum & Science Center in Rochester, N.Y. for help in improving this page. I would also like to recommend two books: WARRIOR IN TWO CAMPS: ELY S. PARKER UNION GENERAL AND SENECA CHIEF (Syracuse University Press, 1989), by William H. Armstrong; and THE LIFE OF GENERAL ELY S. PARKER (Buffalo Historical Society, 1919), by Arthur C. Parker.
>From Jordan Dill's website at http://www.dickshovel.com/ToShout.html
... comments from Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Ely Parker (Donehogawa, Seneca Chief), 1869:
...a treaty involves the idea of a compact between two or more sovereign powers, each possessing sufficient authority and force to compel a compliance with the obligations incurred. The Indian tribes of the United States are not sovereign nations, capable of making treaties, as none of them have an organized government of such inherent strength as would secure a faithful obedience of its people in the observance of compacts of this character. They are held to be wards of the government, and the only title the law [Wasichu's law] concedes to them to the lands they occupy or claim is a mere possessory one. But, because treaties have been made with them, generally for the extinguishment of their supposed absolute title to land inhabited by them, or over which they roam, they have become falsely impressed with the notion of national independence. It is time that this idea should be dispelled, and the government cease the cruel farce of thus dealing with its helpless and ignorant wards. Many good men, looking at this matter only from a Christian point of view, will perhaps say that the poor Indian has been greatly wronged and ill treated; that this whole country was once his, of which he has been despoiled, and that he has been driven from place to place until he has hardly left to him a spot to lay his head. This indeed may be philanthropic and humane, but the stern letter of the law admits of no such conclusion, and great injury has been done by the government by deluding this people into the belief of their being independent sovereignties, while they were at the same time dependents and wards. As civilization advances and their possessions of land are required for settlement, such legislation should be granted to them as a wise, liberal, and just government ought to extend to subjects holding their dependent relation.(Cohen)
Small wonder Donehogawa was appointed commissioner!
Fantastic website for the order of Native American history on a day by day basis!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
The original homeland of the Iroquois was in upstate New York between the Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls. Through conquest and migration, they gained control of most of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. At its maximum in 1680, their empire extended west from the north shore of Chesapeake Bay through Kentucky to the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers; then north following the Illinois River to the south end of Lake Michigan; east across all of lower Michigan, southern Ontario and adjacent parts of southwestern Quebec; and finally south through northern New England west of the Connecticut River through the Hudson and upper Delaware Valleys across Pennsylvania back to the Chesapeake. With two exceptions - the Mingo occupation of the upper Ohio Valley and the Caughnawaga migration to the upper St. Lawrence - the Iroquois did not, for the most part, physically occupy this vast area but remained in their upstate New York villages.
During the hundred years preceding the American Revolution, wars with French-allied Algonquin and British colonial settlement forced them back within their original boundaries once again. Their decision to side with the British during the Revolutionary War was a disaster for the Iroquois. The American invasion of their homeland in 1779 drove many of the Iroquois into southern Ontario where they have remained. With large Iroquois communities already located along the upper St. Lawrence in Quebec at the time, roughly half of the Iroquois population has since lived in Canada. This includes most of the Mohawk along with representative groups from the other tribes. Although most Iroquois reserves are in southern Ontario and Quebec, one small group (Michel's band) settled in Alberta during the 1800s as part of the fur trade.
In the United States, much of the Iroquois homeland was surrendered to New York land speculators in a series of treaties following the Revolutionary War. Despite this, most Seneca, Tuscarora, and Onondaga avoided removal during the 1830s and have remained in New York. There are also sizeable groups of Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Caughnawaga still in the state. Most of the Oneida, however, relocated in 1838 to a reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Cayuga sold their New York lands in 1807 and moved west to join the Mingo relatives (Seneca of Sandusky) in Ohio. In 1831 this combined group ceded their Ohio reserve to the United States and relocated to the Indian Territory. A few New York Seneca moved to Kansas at this time but, after the Civil War, joined the others in northeast Oklahoma to become the modern Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.Population
Considering their impact on history, it is amazing how few Iroquois there were in 1600 - probably less than 20,000 for all five tribes. Their inland location protected them somewhat from the initial European epidemics, but these had reached them by 1650 and, combined with warfare, cut their population to about half of its original number. However, unlike other native populations which continued to drop, the Iroquois, through the massive adoption of conquored Iroquian-speaking enemies (at least 7,000 Huron, and similar numbers of Neutrals, Susquehannock, Tionontati, and Erie), actually increased and reached their maximum number in 1660, about 25,000. Absorption of this many outsiders was not without major problems - not the least of which was the Iroquois became a minority within their own confederacy.
For the moment, the Iroquois talent for diplomacy and political unity kept things under control, but forces which would destroy them had been set in motion. On the positive side, the adoptions gave the Iroquois a claim to the lands of their former enemies beyond mere "right of conquest." Mass adoption, however, was not extended to non-Iroquian speaking tribes, and from this point the Iroquois population dropped. Despite the incorporation of 1,500 Tuscarora in 1722 as a sixth member of the League, the Iroquois numbered only 12,000 in 1768. By the end of the Revolutionary War, they were less than 8,000. From that point there has been a slow recovery followed by a recent surge as renewed native pride has prompted many to reclaim their heritage. The 1940 census listed only 17,000 Iroquois in both New York and Canada, but current figures approach 70,000 at about 20 settlements and 8 reservations in New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Ontario, and Quebec.
Approximately 30,000 of these live in the United States. Of 3,500 Cayuga, 3,000 are in Canada as part of the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. The 500 in the United States live mostly on the Seneca Reservations in western New York. There are also Cayuga among the 2,500 member Seneca-Cayuga tribe in northeastern Oklahoma - descendents of the Mingo of Ohio. The Oneida were once one of the smaller Iroquois tribes but currently number more than 16,000. The largest group (almost 11,000) lives on or near their 2,200 acre reservation west of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Another 700 still live near Oneida, New York, but since their 32 acre reserve is so small, many are forced to live with the nearby Onondaga. Ontario has 4,600 Oneida split between the 2,800 Oneida of the Thames near London and the Grand River Reserve with the Six Nations.
1,600 Onondaga still live in New York, mainly on a 7,300 acre reservation just south of Syracuse. Another 600 are at the Grand River Reserve in Ontario which has members from all six Iroquois tribes. This includes 200 Tuscarora, but the majority (1,200) live on the Tuscarora Reservation (5,000 acres) near Niagara Falls, New York. The Seneca were once the largest tribe of the Iroquois League - the number of their warriors equal to the other four tribes combined. Their current enrollment stands at 9,100, 1,100 of whom are in Ontario at Grand River. There are four Seneca Reserves in western New York: Allegheny, Cattaraugus, Oil Springs, and Tonawanda (total 60,000 acres). There was once a fifth Seneca reservation, but only 100 of the original 9,000 acres of the Cornplanter grant in northern Pennsylvania remain after it was flooded by a dam project in the 1960s. The Seneca, however, are the only Native American tribe to own an American city - Salamanca, New York.
The Mohawk are the largest group of Iroquois with more than 35,000 members. Some estimates of pre-contact Mohawk population range as high as 17,000 although half this is probably closer to the truth. War and epidemic took a terrible toll, and by 1691 the Mohawk had less than 800 people. A large group of Caughnawaga live in Brooklyn (ironworkers), but the only American Mohawk reservation is at St. Regis on the New York-Quebec border with 7,700 members. Straddling the border as the Akwesasne reserve, the Canadian part has a population of 5,700. Almost 12,000 Mohawk live in Ontario as Six Nations of the Grand River, Watha Mohawk Nation, and the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte at Tyendenaga (Deseronto) on the north shore of Lake Ontario west of Kingston. The remainder of the Canadian Mohawk live in Quebec near Montreal: 8,200 at Kahnawake (Caughnawaga); and 1,800 at Oka (Kanesatake, Lac des Deaux Montagnes).Names
Iroquois is an easily recognized name, but like the names of many tribes, it was given them by their enemies. The Algonquin called them the Iroqu (Irinakhoiw) "rattlesnakes." After the French added the Gallic suffix "-ois" to this insult, the name became Iroquois. The Iroquois call themselves Haudenosaunee meaning "people of the long house." Other names: Canton Indians; Confederate Indians; Ehressaronon (Huron); Five Nations; Massawomeck (Powhatan); Matchenawtowaig (Ottawa "bad snakes"); Mengue (French); Mingo, Minqua, Mingwe (Delaware); Nadowa, Nadowaig, Nautowa (Ojibwe "adders"); and after 1722, the Six Nations.Language
Iroquian - Northern. The languages of individual tribes were closely related and, although not identical, mutually intelligible. The greatest similarities existed between the Mohawk and Oneida and the Cayuga and Seneca.Sub-Nations Five
Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca. After 1722 the Tuscarora were added to the League as a sixth, but non-voting, member.Villages
New York State unless otherwise noted. A number indicates more than one village of the same name, while a tribal name shows a mixed population.Cayuga
Gweugwehono. Translated variously as "people of Oiogouen; where the boats were taken out; people at the landing; or people of the mucky land." Also referred to as "those of the great pipe."Names
Chondote, Gandasetaigon (ONT), Ganogeh, Gayagaanhe, Gewauga, Goiogouen, Kawauka, Kente (ONT), Kiohero (Thiohero, Tiohero), Neodakheat, Oiogouen (Jesuit mission of St. Joseph), Oneniote, Onnontare (Onotare) (Jesuit mission of St. Rene), Owego, and SkannayutenateMohawk
Kahniankehaka (Ganiengehaka) "people of the flint." Spoken of within the League as the "keepers of the eastern door."Names
Agnier (French), Agnierrhonon (Huron), Maqua (Abenaki and Dutch), Mohowaanuck (Narragansett "man eaters")Villages
Canajoharie, Canastigaone, Canienga, Caughnawaga (ONT and NY-2), Churchtononeda, Kanagaro, Kowogoconnughariegugharie, Nowadaga, Onekagoncka, Onoalagona, Oquaga, Osquake, Saratoga, Schaunactada (Schenectady), Schoharie, Teatontaloga (Jesuit mission of Ste. Marie), Tewanondadon, Tionnontoguen, and UnadillaOneida
Onayotekaono (Onyotaaka) "people of the standing stone"Names
Awegen, Cahunghage, Canowaroghere, Canowdowsa, Chittenango, Cowassalon, Ganadoga, Hostayuntwa, Oneida (Upper Castle), Opolopong (PA), Oriska, Ossewingo, Ostogeron, Schoherage, Sevege, (Tuscarora), Solocka (PA), Tegasoke, Teseroken, Tetosweken, Tkanetota, and Tolungowon (WI).
Onundagaono "people of the hills; place on the hill; people on the mountain." The "keepers of the fire" and "wampum keepers."Names
Ahaouet, Deseroken, Gadoquat, Gannentaha, Gistwiahna, Kanadaseagea (Canandaigua), Kanatakowa, Onondaga, Onondaghara, Onondahgegahgeh, Onontatacet, Otiahanague, Teionontatases, Tgasunto, Touenho, and Tueadasso.Seneca
Nundawaono "great hill people." The "keepers of the western door."Names
Senecars, Sonnontoerrhonon (Huron)Villages
Buckaloon (PA), Canadasaga, Caneadea, Catherine's Town, Cattaraugus, Chemung, Cheronderoga, Condawhaw, Connewango (2-PA), Cussewago (PA), Dayoitgao, Deonundagae, Deyodeshot, Deyohnegano (2), Deyonongdadagana, Dyosyowan (PA), Gaandowanang, Gadaho, Gahato, Gahayanduk, Ganagweh, Ganawagus, Ganeasos, Ganedontwan, Ganos, Ganosgagong, Gaonsagaon, Gaousge, Gaskosada, Gathtsegwarohare, Geneseo, Gistaquat, Gwaugweh, Honeoye, Jennesedaga (PA), Joneadih, Kahesarahera, Kanaghsaws, Kannassarago, Kashong (Cashong), Kaskonchiagon, Kaygen, Keinthe (ONT), Little Beard's Town, Middle Town, New Chemung, Newtown, Nondas, Oatka, Old Chemung, Onnahee (Onaghee), Onoghsadago, Onondarka, Owaiski, Skahasegao, Skoiyase, Sonojowauga, Tekisedaneyout, Tioniongarunte, Tonawanda, Totiakton, Yorkjough, and Yoroonwago (PA)Tuscarora
"shirt wearing people." Not an original member of the Iroquois League, the Tuscarora joined as a non-voting member in 1722 after they had been forced to leave North Carolina in 1714 after a war with the English colonists.Names
Akotaskaroren (Mohawk), Aniskalall (Cherokee), Ataskalolen (Oneida), Tewohomomy (Keewahomomy) (Saponi)Villages
The name comes from "Minqua," a Delaware word meaning treacherous used for the Susquehannock and other Iroquian-speaking tribes. The Mingo were groups of independent Iroquois - mixed Seneca and Cayuga hunters with a heavy percentage of descendents of Neutrals, Huron, and Erie who had been adopted by the Iroquois during the 1650s. They settled in Ohio and western Pennsylvania in the early 1700s and formed mixed villages with the Delaware and Shawnee who arrived later.Names
Cowskin Seneca, Neosho Seneca, Ohio Iroquois, and Seneca of SanduskyVillages
Logstown (Chininqué) (Delaware-Shawnee-PA), Mingo Town (OH), Pluggy's Town (OH), Sawcunk (Saukunk) (Delaware-Shawnee-PA), Sewickley (Shawnee-Delaware-PA), Scoutash's Town (Shawnee-OH), Seneca Town (OH), Sonnontio (Delaware-Shawnee-OH), Wakatomica (Shawnee-OH), Wasps (OH), White Mingo Town, and Yellow Creek (OH)Caughnawaga (Praying Indians of Quebec)
Collectively, the Iroquois (mostly Mohawk but with sizeable numbers of Oneida, Onondaga, and Cayuga) who, after being converted to Christianity by French Jesuits, separated from the Iroquois League after 1667 and settled along the St. Lawrence River near Montreal.Sub-Tribes
Bay Quinte, Caughnawaga (Caughnawena, Conewaga, Coghnawagee, Kahnawake, Sault St. Louis for the Mohawks). La Montagne, La Prairie, Oka (Kanesatake, Lac des Deaux Montagnes, Lake of the Two Mountains, Scawendadey, Scenodidi), Oswegatchie (La Presentation mission), Sault au Recollet, St. Francois Xavier des prés, St. Jerome, and St. Regis (Akwesasne)Pennsylvania Mixed Iroquois-Delaware Villages
Chinklacamoose (Seneca), Goshgoshunk (Seneca-3), Hickorytown (Munsee), Jedakne, John's Town (Munsee), Kickenapawling, Kittaning (Attigué) (Caughnawaga), Kushkuski (Kuskuski), Lawunkhannek (Seneca), Loyalhannon, Mahusquechikoken (Munsee-Seneca), Nescopeck (Shawnee), Ostonwackin (Cayuga-Oneida), Shamokin (Shawnee-Tutelo), Shenango (3), Sheshequin (Seneca), Skenandowa, Tioga, Venango (Seneca-Shawnee-Wyandot-Ottawa), Wyalusing (Munsee), and Wyoming (Munsee-Shawnee-Mahican-Nanticoke)Ohio Mixed Iroquois-Delaware Villages
Coshocton (Koshachkink) (Munsee-Delaware-Shawnee-Seneca), New Town (Newtown) (1-NY and 3-OH), and Tullihas (Caughnawaga-Mahican-OH)Unspecified Villages
Adjouquay, Anpuaqun, Aratumquat, Chemegaide, Churamuk, Codocararen, Cokanuk, Conaquanosshan, Conihunta, Connosomothdian, Conoytown (Conoy-PA), Coreorgonel (Tutelo), Cowawago, Ganadoga (ONT), Ganagarahhare (PA), Ganeraske (ONT), Ganneious (ONT), Glasswanoge, Indian Point, Janundat (OH), Jonondes, Juniata, Juraken (2-PA), Kahendohon, Kanatiochitiage, Kanesadageh, Kannawalohalla, Karaken, Karhationni, Karhawenradonh, Kayehkwarageh, Manckatawangum (PA), Matchasaung (PA), Mohanet (PA), Newtychanning (PA), Ohrekionni, Onaweron, Onkwe Iyede, Oskanwaserenhon, Otseningo (Delaware), Otskwirakeron, Ousagwentera, Runonvea, Schohorage (PA), Sconassi (PA), Sittawingo (PA), Swahadowri, Taiaiagon (ONT), Tohoguse's Town (PA), Tonihata (ONT), Tuskokogie, Wakerhon, Wauteghe, and Youcham
Simply put, the Iroquois were the most important native group in North American history. Culturally, however, there was little to distinguish them from their Iroquian-speaking neighbors. All had matrilineal social structures - the women owned all property and determined kinship. The individual Iroquois tribes were divided into three clans, turtle, bear, and wolf - each headed by the clan mother. The Seneca were like the Huron tribes and had eight (the five additional being the crane, snipe, hawk, beaver, and deer). After marriage, a man moved into his wife's longhouse, and their children became members of her clan. Iroquois villages were generally fortified and large. The distinctive, communal longhouses of the different clans could be over 200' in length and were built about a framework covered with elm bark, the Iroquois' material of choice for all manner of things. Villages were permanent in the sense they were moved only for defensive purposes or when the soil became exhausted (about every twenty years).
Agriculture provided most of the Iroquois diet. Corn, beans, and squash were known as "deohako" or "life supporters." Their importance to the Iroquois was clearly demonstrated by the six annual agricultural festivals held with prayers of gratitude for their harvests. The women owned and tended the fields under the supervision of the clan mother. Men usually left the village in the fall for the annual hunt and returned about midwinter. Spring was fishing season. Other than clearing fields and building villages, the primary occupation of the men was warfare. Warriors wore their hair in a distinctive scalplock (Mohawk of course), although other styles became common later. While the men carefully removed all facial and body hair, women wore theirs long. Tattoos were common for both sexes. Torture and ritual cannibalism were some of the ugly traits of the Iroquois, but these were shared with several other tribes east of the Mississippi. The False Face society was an Iroquois healing group which utilized grotesque wooden masks to frighten the evil spirts believed to cause illness.
It was the Iroquois political system, however, that made them unique, and because of it, they dominated the first 200-years of colonial history in both Canada and the United States. Strangely enough, there were never that many of them, and the enemies they defeated in war were often twice their size. Although much has been made of their Dutch firearms, the Iroquois prevailed because of their unity, sense of purpose, and superior political organization. Since the Iroquois League was formed prior to any contact, it owed nothing to European influence. Proper credit is seldom given, but the reverse was actually true. Rather than learning political sophistication from Europeans, Europeans learned from the Iroquois, and the League, with its elaborate system of checks, balances,, and supreme law, almost certainly influenced the American Articles of Confederation and Constitution.
The Iroquois were farmers whose leaders were chosen by their women - rather unusual for warlike conquerors. Founded to maintain peace and resolve disputes between its members, the League's primary law was the Kainerekowa, the Great Law of Peace which simply stated Iroquois should not kill each other. The League's organization was prescribed by a written constitution based on 114 wampums and reinforced by a funeral rite known as the "Condolence" - shared mourning at the passing of sachems from the member tribes. The council was composed of 50 male sachems known variously as lords, or peace chiefs. Each tribe's representation was set: Onondaga 14; Cayuga 10; Oneida 9; Mohawk 9; and Seneca 8. Nominated by the tribal clan mothers (who had almost complete power in their selection), Iroquois sachemships were usually held for life, although they could be removed for misconduct or incompetence. The emblem of their office was the deer antler head dress, and guided by an all-male council, the sachems ruled in times of peace. War chiefs were chosen on the basis of birth, experience, and ability, but exercised power only during war.
The central authority of the Iroquois League was limited leaving each tribe free to pursue its own interests. By 1660, however, the Iroquois found it necessary to present a united front to Europeans, and the original freedom of its members had to be curtailed somewhat. In practice, the Mohawk and Oneida formed one faction in the council and the Seneca and Cayuga the other. The League's principal sachem (Tadodaho) was always an Onondaga, and as "keepers of the council fire" with 14 sachems (well out of proportion to their population), they represented compromise. This role was crucial since all decisions of the council had to be unanimous, one of the League's weaknesses. There was also a "pecking order" among members reflected by the eloquent ritual language of League debate. Mohawk, Onondaga, and Seneca were addressed as "elder brothers" or "uncles," while Oneida, Cayuga, and Tuscarora were "younger brothers" or "nephews."
In this form, the Iroquois used a combination of military prowess and skilled diplomacy to conquer an empire. Until their internal unity finally failed them during the American Revolution, the Iroquois dealt with European powers as an equal. The League was a remarkable achievement, but it also had flaws, the most apparent was its inability to find a satisfactory means to share political power with its new members. As mentioned, the Iroquois incorporated thousands of non-league Iroquian peoples during the 1650s. Political power was retained by the original Iroquois to such an extent that the adoptees remained second-class citizens. The resulting dissatisfaction eventually led to the Mingo separating and moving to Ohio to free themselves from League control. Others found refuge with the French at Caughnawaga and other Jesuit missions along the St. Lawrence.
The League's massive adoptions also explains why it was so relentless in its pursuit of the remnants of defeated enemies. So long as one small band remained free, the Iroquois were in danger of an insurrection from within. Perhaps because they considered themselves "Ongwi Honwi" (superior people), the Iroquois never offered wholesale adoption to the non-Iroquian speaking peoples who came under their control. Instead they offered membership in the "Covenant Chain," a terminology first suggested by the Dutch at a treaty signed with the Mohawk in 1618. By 1677 the Iroquois had extended this form of limited membership to the Mahican and Delaware and later would offer it to other Algonquin and Siouan tribes. Essentially, the Covenant Chain was a trade and military alliance which gave the Iroquois the authority to represent its members with Europeans, but there was no vote or direct representation in the League council, Worse yet, the Iroquois were often arrogant and placed their own interests first. A system of "half-kings" created to represent the Ohio tribes in the 1740s never really corrected this problem.
A list of all noteworthy Iroquois would be too long to be included here. The Seneca chief, Eli Parker (Donehogawa) was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs during the Grant Administration. Educated as a lawyer, he was admitted to the bar but not allowed to practice in New York. He served on Grant's staff during the Civil War and is believed to have written the terms of Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Catherine Tekawitha, the Lily of the Mohawk (1656-80) has reached the final stage before recognition as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The Mohawk have gained fame as structural ironworkers. Hired as laborers in 1896 during the construction of the Dominion Bridge at Montreal, they showed no fear of height and have since been involved in the construction of every major bridge and skyscraper. 35 Mohawk were among the 96 killed in 1907 when a bridge being built across the St. Lawrence at Quebec collapsed.
Archeological evidence indicates the Iroquois had lived in upstate New York for a long time before the Europeans arrived. Longhouse construction dates to at least 1100 A.D. The maize agriculture was introduced in the 14th century prompting a population surge and other changes. By 1350 villages had become larger and fortified due to increased warfare, and ritual cannibalism began around 1400. The Onondaga were the first of the Iroquois tribes that can be positively identified in New York and seems to have begun after the merger of two villages sometime between 1450 and 1475. The origin of the other four tribes is not as certain. According to Iroquois tradition, they were once a single tribe in the St. Lawrence Valley subject to Algonquin-speaking Adirondack who had taught them agriculture. To escape Algonquin domination, the Iroquois say they left the St. Lawrence and moved south to New York where they split into opposing tribes.
The exact date of this migration is uncertain. When Jacques Cartier first explored the St. Lawrence in 1535, there were Iroquoian-speaking peoples living in at least eleven villages between Stadacona (Quebec) and Hochelaga (Montreal). Hochelaga was a large fortified village with large corn fields and a population over 3,000. It was still there during Cartier's second visit (1541-42), but when the French returned to the area in 1603, Hochelaga and the other Iroquois villages on the St. Lawrence had disappeared. In their place were Montagnais and Algonkin. For lack of a better term, these Iroquian people have been called the Laurentian Iroquois, but their exact relationship to other Iroquian groups has never been established. Both the Huron and Mohawk traditions claim them as their own. Linguistic evidence tends to support the Huron, but it is quite possible the Laurentian Iroquois may have been part of the Mohawk.
Equally confused is the exact date of the founding of the Iroquois League. Some estimates put this as far back as 900 A.D., but the general consensus is sometime around 1570. There is no question, however, that all of the Iroquoian confederacies (Neutrals, Susquehannock, Huron, and Iroquois) were established prior to European contact. Nor is there any dispute over why this occurred. Although still threatened by the Adirondack after moving to upstate New York, the greatest danger for the Iroquois was themselves. Relationships between the tribes had deteriorated into constant war, blood feuds, and revenge killings. In danger of self-destruction, the Iroquois were saved by the sudden appearance of a Huron holyman known as the "Peacemaker." Deganawida (Two River Currents Flowing Together) received a vision from the Creator of peace and cooperation among all Iroquois. Apparently he was hindered by either a language or speech difficulty, but Deganawida eventually won the support of Hiawatha (Ayawentha - He Makes Rivers), an Onondaga who had become a Mohawk war chief.
With considerable effort, they were able to convince the other Iroquois tribes to end their fighting and join together in a league. Legend tells that Deganawida blotted out the sun to convince the reluctant. A solar eclipse visible in upstate New York occurred in 1451 suggesting another possible date for these events. The formation of the League ended the warfare between its members bringing the Iroquois a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. It also brought political unity and military power, and unfortunately, Deganawida's "Great Peace" extended only to the Iroquois themselves. For outsiders it was a military alliance and the "Great War" against any people with whom the Iroquois had a dispute, and during the first 130 years of the League's existence, there were very few tribes who managed to avoid a dispute with the Iroquois.
The Iroquois were only required to maintain peace with each other, the individual members of the League were free to pursue their own interests, and at first, the Iroquois functioned as two alliances: the Seneca, Cayuga, and, to a lesser extent, the Onondaga combined as the western Iroquois; while the Mohawk and Oneida united in the east. Despite this division, the Iroquois still possessed a unity and purpose which their enemies could not match. During a 50-year war beginning sometime around 1570, the eastern Iroquois drove the Algonquin from the Adirondack Mountains and the upper St. Lawrence River - a possible explanation of the movement of the Pequot and Mohegan into southern New England just after 1600. There were also skirmishes with the powerful Mahican Confederacy to the south over the wampum trade, and most likely because they were Adirondack or Mahican allies, the Pocumtuc in western New England were attacked by the Mohawk in 1606. After establishing a settlement at Quebec, the French reached west to the vicinity of Montreal in 1609. What they found there was a war zone where it was possible to travel along the St. Lawrence for days without seeing another human being. The Algonkin and Montagnais were so harassed by Mohawk war parties that they usually remained well-clear of the river.
The French only wanted to trade for fur. Their potential trading partners, however, wanted help fighting the Mohawk which trapped the French into winning their loyalty by jumping into someone else's war. It must have seemed a trivial at the time, but it proved a fateful decision. In July, 1609 Samuel de Champlain accompanied a Huron, Montagnais, and Algonkin war party which moved south along the shores of Lake Champlain. When they encountered Mohawk warriors, a battle followed during which French guns broke the massed Mohawk formation killing several war chiefs. The following year, Champlain joined another attack against a Mohawk fort on the Richelieu River. Although the Mohawk soon discarded mass formations, wooden body armor, and countered French firearms by falling to the ground just before they discharged, they were driven from the St. Lawrence after 1610. The Algonkin and Montagnais took control of the area and its fur trade for the next twenty years. Meanwhile, the French pushed west to the Huron villages and, in a similar error in 1615, participated in an attack on the Onondaga.
During the years following, the French paid dearly for their intervention. Iroquois hostility prevented them from using Lake Ontario and forced a detour through the Ottawa River Valley to reach the western Great Lakes. For the moment, however, the Iroquois needed guns and steel weapons to protect themselves, but these were available only through a fur trade controlled by their enemies. In 1610 Dutch traders arrived in the Hudson Valley of New York, and the Iroquois had solved a part of their problem. Still pressed from the north by the Huron, Algonkin, and Montagnais, the Mohawk in 1615 were also fighting their traditional Susquehannock rivals to the south. Suspecting the French were behind this, the Dutch helped the Mohawk against the Susquehannock. This attached the Mohawk to the Dutch, but there were problems. Located on the Hudson, the Mahican blocked Mohawk access to Dutch traders unless tribute was paid to cross their territory.
This unhappy arrangement did not sit well with the Mohawk and periodically erupted into war. Since this affected their fur trade, the Dutch arranged a truce in 1613. Four years later, renewed fighting between the Mohawk and Mahican forced the closure of Fort Nassau near Albany until another peace was made in 1618. Meanwhile, the Dutch demand for fur had created competition for previously-shared hunting territory, and Mohawk encroachment had led to fighting and subjugation of some the northern groups of Munsee Delaware during 1615. How long the Dutch could have "kept the lid on" this situation is questionable. The Mohawk were acting as middlemen for other Iroquois and had even greater ambitions. In 1624 the Dutch built a new post at Fort Orange which was actually closer to the the Mohawk. Unfortunately, they also tried to take some of the St. Lawrence fur trade from the French by using Mahican middlemen to open trade with the Algonkin.
Trade with their enemies was too much for the Mohawk, and in 1624 they attacked the Mahican in a war the Dutch could not stop. Fighting continued for the next four years with the Mahican calling in their Pocumtuc and Sokoki (Western Abenaki) allies. The Dutch at first tended to favor the Mahican. Dutch soldiers from Fort Orange joined a Mahican war party in 1626. A Mohawk ambush resulted in several dead Dutchmen, but rather than retaliate, the Dutch decided to remain neutral. By 1628 the Mohawk had defeated the Mahican and driven them east of the Hudson River. Under the terms of peace, the Mahican were forced to pay tribute in wampum, or at least share their profits from wampum trade with the Delaware on Long Island. The Dutch accepted the Mohawk victory and made them their principal ally and trading partner. The Iroquois homeland occupied a very strategic position - sitting between the Dutch in the Hudson Valley and furs of the Great Lakes. Already able to force the French to stay well north, the Iroquois were ready to try to dominate the French trade on the St. Lawrence.
The result was the Beaver Wars - 70 years of violent intertribal warfare for control of the European fur trade. Largely forgotten today, the Beaver Wars were one of the critical events in North America history. With the Mahican defeated and subject, the Mohawk in 1629 continued the war against the Mahican's Sokoki and Pennacook allies. This may have continued for some time if not for the actions of third European power, Great Britain, which had begun colonizing New England in 1620. During a war in Europe between Britain and France, English privateers under Sir David Kirke captured Quebec in 1629. Without French support, the Algonkin and Montagnais were vulnerable, and after concluding a truce with the Sokoki, the Mohawk took advantage by destroying the Algonkin-Montagnais village at Trois Rivieres. By late 1630 the Algonkin and Montagnais desperately needed help against the Mohawk. For three long years none came until the Treaty of St. Germaine en Laye restored Quebec to France in 1632.
By the time the French returned to the St. Lawrence that year, the Iroquois (with uninterrupted trade with the Dutch) had reversed their earlier losses and were dangerously close to gaining control of the upper St. Lawrence and southern Ontario. The Iroquois had exhausted most of the beaver in their homeland (they never had that many to begin with). If they were to continue trade for the European goods on which they become dependent, they desperately needed to find new hunting territory. As large Iroquois war parties ranged freely through southern Ontario and the Ottawa Valley, the French tried to restore the balance of power in the region by selling firearms to their trading partners for "hunting." For obvious reasons, the Europeans at first had avoided trading firearms to the natives, although they were pretty free with steel knives and hatchets. With growing competition in the fur trade, however, their reluctance rapidly gave way.
Initially, the French took the precaution of restricting guns to Christian converts and limiting the amount of ammunition to preclude any use against themselves. Even a limited supply was sufficient at the time to allow the Huron, Algonkin, and Montagnais to counter the Iroquois, while the French rebuilt their fur trade. The firearms and steel weapons, however, soon found their way into the hands of the tribes for which the Huron acted as a middleman, and as the number of beaver dwindled in the eastern Great Lakes, Neutral, Tionontati, and Ottawa warriors used them to seize territory from Algonquin and Siouan tribes in lower Michigan and the Ohio Valley. The Beaver Wars spread westward during the 1630s and 40s. The Iroquois were Dutch allies. Because of this and past hostility, the French continued to avoid them. Despite a limited trade agreement concluded with the Mohawk in 1627, they concentrated their efforts on trade with the Huron who had strong trading ties to the western Great Lakes.
Stymied by Huron military power, the Iroquois wanted their permission to hunt in the prime beaver territory to the north and west of their homeland so they could maintain their trade with the Dutch. At the very least, the Iroquois needed the Huron to cooperate and trade some of their furs with them - something the two rival confederations had done for many years before arrival of the French and Dutch. Resorting to diplomacy, the League sent its requests to the Huron council. The Huron, however, sensed their growing advantage and refused. After the Huron killed an Iroquois hunting party in disputed territory, all-out war erupted. Although the Huron and their allies outnumbered them more than two to one, Iroquois war parties moved into southern Ontario trying to cut the Huron link through the Ottawa Valley to French traders at Quebec. Some French settlements along the St. Lawrence were also attacked in 1633, but these were never the main target. For the most part, the Iroquois shrewdly tried to keep the French neutral, while they eliminated their native allies.
A peace arranged with Algonkin in 1634 failed almost immediately when the Algonkin renewed efforts to open trade with the Dutch in the Hudson Valley. Two separate Iroquois offensives during 1636 and 1637 drove the Algonkin deep into the upper Ottawa Valley and forced the Montagnais to retreat east towards Quebec. Smallpox from New England in 1634 slowed the Mohawk offensive, but the Seneca inflicted a major defeat on the Huron the following year. Between 1637 and 1641, the Huron paid a horrendous price for European contact and fur trade when a series of epidemics swept through their villages. When these ended, the Huron had lost many experienced leaders and almost half their population which seriously weakened their ability to defend themselves against the Iroquois. When the French had begun to provide firearms to the Huron and Algonkin, the Dutch had kept pace in supplying them to the Iroquois. The resulting arms race had remained on a relatively low level until the Swedes established a colony on the lower Delaware River in 1638.
To compensate for their late start in the fur trade, the Swedes placed few restrictions on the amount of firearms they sold to the Susquehannock. Suddenly confronted by a well-armed enemy to the south in Pennsylvania, the Iroquois turned to the Dutch for more and better firearms. Already angry the Swedes had settled on territory claimed by themselves and taken over their trade, the Dutch provided additional guns and ammunition and in the process gave the Iroquois a definite arms advantage over the Huron. The first victim of this new armament was not the Huron, but the small Iroquian-speaking Wenro tribe of western New York. Abandoned by their Erie and Neutral allies, they were overrun by the Iroquois in 1639. Resistance continued until 1643, but the surviving Wenro were finally forced to seek refuge with the Huron and Neutrals. The major change came in 1640, when the other newcomers to the fur trade, New England traders from Boston, tried to break the Dutch trade monopoly with the Mohawk by selling them firearms.
Although this sale would have violated British law, the Dutch started selling the Iroquois all the guns and powder they wanted. The level of violence in the Beaver Wars escalated dramatically, with the Iroquois, now even better armed than the French, holding a clear advantage in firepower. Despite this the Huron won two major victories against the Iroquois in 1640 and 1641. but within a year, the Mohawk and Oneida had driven the last groups of Algonkin and Montagnais from the upper St. Lawrence. The French responded by building forts, but these proved inadequate to protect even their own settlements which were coming under attack. The founding of Montreal at the mouth of the Ottawa River in 1642 shortened the distance the Huron had to travel to trade, but the French were vulnerable to attack in this new location. The Iroquois easily compensated during 1642 and 1643 by moving large war parties into the Ottawa Valley to attack the French and Huron trying to move furs to Montreal.
As if the French did not have enough trouble, a long-standing hostility between the Montagnais and Sokoki (Western Abenaki) had erupted into war in 1642 when the Montagnais attempted to keep the Sokoki from trading directly with the French at Quebec. Since the Mohawk were already at war with the Montagnais, the Sokoki put aside past differences and formed an alliance with the Mohawk. This also brought the Mahican (Mohawk allies since 1628) into the fighting, and in 1645 a combined Mohawk, Sokoki, and Mahican war party raided the main Montagnais village near Sillery, Quebec. The Dutch in 1640 had also begun providing large quantities of firearms to the Mahican. By 1642 both the Mohawk and Mahican were using these weapons to demand tribute from the Munsee and Wappinger Delaware on the lower Hudson. To escape this harassment, the Wiechquaeskeck (Wappinger) moved south during the winter of 1642-43 to Manhattan Island and the Tappan and Hackensack villages at Pavonia (Jersey City) for what they thought was the protection of the Dutch settlements.
The Dutch, however, became alarmed and in February, 1643 made a surprise attack on the Wiechquaeskeck village killing more than 100 of them. The Pavonia Massacre ignited the Wappinger War (Governor Kieft's War) (1643-45). The fighting spread to include Munsee in New Jersey and Unami (Delaware) and Metoac of western Long Island, and the Dutch were forced to call upon the Mahican and Mohawk for help. After signing a formal treaty of alliance with the Dutch that year, the Mohawk and Mahican set to work. By the time a peace was finally signed at Fort Orange in the summer of 1645, more than 1,600 Wappinger, Munsee, and Metoac had been killed, and the Mohawk and Mahican had gained control of the wampum trade of western Long Island. Munsee resentment continued to smolder during the final 20 years of Dutch rule, but the Mohawk stood ready to crush an uprising. Violence finally came when five Munsee tribes combined to fight the new Dutch settlements in the Esopus Valley. The Mohawk attacked the Munsee villages killing hundreds, and when the Esopus War (1660-64) ended, the Munsee had been conquered and made subject to the Iroquois.
For the French, 1644 was an especially grim year. The Atontrataronnon (Algonkin) were driven from the Ottawa River and forced to seek refuge with the Huron, and three large Huron canoe flotillas transporting fur to Montreal were captured by the Iroquois. The fur trade on the St. Lawrence had come to almost a complete halt, so the French were ready to listen when the Iroquois proposed a truce. The peace treaty signed in 1645 allowed the French to resume the fur trade, and the Mohawk, who had suffered heavy losses from war and epidemic, got the release of their warriors being held prisoner by the French. However, the treaty failed to solve the main cause of the war. The Iroquois expected peace would bring a resumption of their earlier trade with the Huron. Instead, the Huron ignored Iroquois overtures for trade and sent 60 canoe-loads of fur to Montreal in 1645 followed by 80 loads in 1646. After two years of increasingly-strained diplomacy failed to change this, all hell broke loose.
While their diplomats took great care to reassure the French and keep them neutral, the Iroquois destroyed the Arendaronon Huron villages in 1647 and cut the trade route to Montreal. Very few furs got through that year. In 1648 a massive 250-man Huron canoe flotilla fought its way past the Iroquois blockade on the Ottawa River and reached Quebec, but during their absence, the Iroquois destroyed the Huron mission-village of St. Joseph torturing and killing its Jesuit missionary. This scattered the Attigneenongnahac Huron. Sensing a complete Iroquois victory, the Dutch provided 400 high-quality flintlocks and unlimited ammunition on credit. The final blow came during two days in March, 1649. In coordinated attacks, 2,000 Mohawk and Seneca warriors stuck the Huron mission-villages of St. Ignace and St. Louis. Hundreds of Huron were killed or captured, while two more French Jesuits were tortured to death. Huron resistance abruptly collapsed, and the survivors scattered and fled to be destroyed or captured.
The Iroquois, however, were not about to just let the Huron go. After 20 years of war and epidemic, they had paid a high price for victory. Down to less than 1,000 warriors, the League had decided on massive adoptions to refill their ranks. The "Great Pursuit" began the following December when the Iroquois went after the Attignawantan Huron who had taken refuge with the Tionontati. The main Tionontati village was overrun, and less than 1,000 Tionontati and Huron managed to escape to a temporary refuge on Mackinac Island near Sault Ste. Marie (Upper Michigan). The Iroquois followed, and by 1651 the Huron and Tionontati refugees (who together would become the Wyandot) were forced to relocate farther west to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The following spring the Nipissing suffered the same fate (survivors fled north to the Ojibwe), and the last groups of Algonkin abandoned the upper Ottawa Valley and disappeared into safety of the northern forests with the Cree for the next twenty years.
Meanwhile, the Tahonaenrat Huron had moved southwest among the villages of the Neutrals. Throughout the many wars between Iroquois and Huron, the Neutrals had refused to take sides. Huron and Iroquois war parties passed through their homeland to attack each other, but the Neutrals remained neutral - hence their name. Perhaps alarmed by the sudden Iroquois victory over the Huron, they made no effort to prevent the Tahonaenrat from continuing to make war on the Iroquois. After not-so diplomatic requests for the Neutrals to surrender their "guests" were ignored, the Iroquois attacked them in 1650. For the first year of the war, the Neutrals had the support of the Susquehannock who had been Huron allies before 1648. However, this ended in 1651 when the Mohawk and Oneida attacked the Susquehanna. The main Neutral fort of Kinuka fell to the Seneca that year, and the other Neutrals either surrendered or were overrun.
The Tahonaenrat surrendered enmass and were incorporated into the Seneca, but large groups of Neutrals and Huron fled south to the Erie. Their reception was less than cordial, but they were allowed to stay in a status of semi-slavery. The "Great Pursuit" continued, and the Iroquois demanded the Erie turn the refugees over to them. Relations between the Iroquois and Erie apparently had never been friendly, and reinforced with hundreds of new warriors, the Erie flatly refused. The matter simmered for two years with growing violence. In 1653 an Erie raid into the Iroquois homeland killed a Seneca sachem. A last minute conference was held to avoid war, but in the course of a heated argument, an Erie warrior murdered an Onondaga, and Iroquois retaliated by killing all 30 of the Erie representatives. After this, peace was impossible, and the western Iroquois prepared for war. However, having great respect for the Erie as warriors, they first took the precaution of arranging a peace with the French.
When the Huron were overrun in 1649, the French fur trade empire collapsed. The Jesuits had been killed, their native trading partners and allies destroyed or scattered, and the flow of fur stopped. The French still encouraged the natives to come to Montreal for trade, but very few tried with the Iroquois controlling the Ottawa River. The offer of peace did not include the Mohawk and Oneida, but the French grabbed at a chance to end hostilities with the other three Iroquois tribes. With the French pacified and the Mohawk and Oneida keeping the only possible ally, the Susquehannock, from giving any aid, the Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga were free to deal with the Erie. Their initial caution proved justified. Without firearms, the Erie held out for three years until resistance ended in 1656. The survivors were incorporated into the Iroquois.
At this point, no power in North America could have stood against the Iroquois League, even the Europeans. However, rather than choosing to confront the Europeans, the Iroquois decided to deal with them as equals and use their firearms and trade goods to their own advantage. To this end, it should be noted the Iroquois never tried to eliminate one European power for the benefit of another. Instead, they attempted to maintain a working relationship with each one, even the French. Rather than being a Dutch ally, the Iroquois were in business for themselves to dominate the fur trade with the Europeans and set about creating an empire for this purpose. Details of how they did this have been mostly lost, since no European was present to record what happened. Oral traditions provide only partial answers, but archeological evidence indicates the western Great Lakes and Ohio Valley were rather heavily populated before contact. The first French explorers in the area during the 1660s and 70s, however, found few residents and many refugees.
About 1390, today's State of New York became the stronghold of five powerful Indian tribes. They were later joined by another great tribe, the Tuscaroras from the south. Eventually the Iroquois, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas joined together to form the great Iroquois Nation. In 1715, the Tuscaroras were accepted into the Iroquois Nation.
The Five Nations
Long, long ago, one of the Spirits of the Sky World came down and looked at the earth. As he travelled over it, he found it beautiful, and so he created people to live on it. Before returning to the sky, he gave them names, called the people all together, and spoke his parting words:
"To the Mohawks, I give corn," he said. "To the patient Oneidas, I give the nuts and the fruit of many trees. To the industrious Senecas, I give beans. To the friendly Cayugas, I give the roots of plants to be eaten. To the wise and eloquent Onondagas, I give grapes and squashes to eat and tobacco to smoke at the camp fires."
Many other things he told the new people. Then he wrapped himself in a bright cloud and went like a swift arrow to the Sun. There his return caused his Brother Sky Spirits to rejoice.
The Six Nations
Long, long ago, in the great past, there were no people on the earth. All of it was covered by deep water. Birds, flying, filled the air, and many huge monsters possessed the waters.
One day the birds saw a beautiful woman falling from the sky. Immediately the huge ducks held a council.
"How can we prevent her from falling into the water?" they asked.
After some discussion, they decided to spread out their wings and thus break the force of her fall. Each duck spread out its wings until it touched the wings of other ducks. So the beautiful woman reached them safely.
Then the monsters of the deep held a council, to decide how they could protect the beautiful being from the terror of the waters. One after another, the monsters decided that they were not able to protect her, that only Giant Tortoise was big enough to bear her weight. He volunteered, and she was gently placed upon his back. Giant Tortoise magically increased in size and soon became a large island.
After a time, the Celestial Woman gave birth to twin boys. One of them was the Spirit of Good. He made all the good things on the earth and caused the corn, the fruits, and the tobacco to grow.
The other twin was the Spirit of Evil. He created the weeds and also the worms and the bugs and all the other creatures that do evil to the good animals and birds.
All the time, Giant Tortoise continued to stretch himself. And so the world became larger and larger. Sometimes Giant Tortoise moved himself in such a way as to make the earth quake.
After many, many years had passed by, the Sky-Holder, whom Indians called Ta-rhu-hia-wah-ku, decided to create some people. He wanted them to surpass all others in beauty, strength, and bravery. So from the bosom of the island where they had been living on moles, the Sky-Holder brought forth six pairs of people.
The first pair were left near a great river, now called the Mohawk. So they are called the Mohawk Indians. The second pair were told to move their home beside a large stone. Their descendants have been called the Oneidas. Many of them lived on the south side of Oneida Lake and others in the valleys of Oneida Creek. A third pair were left on a high hill and have always been called the Onondagas.
The fourth pair became the parents of the Cayugas, and the fifth pair the parents of the Senecas. Both were placed in some part of what is now known as the State of New York. But the Tuscaroras were taken up the Roanoke River into what is now known as North Carolina. There the Sky-Holder made his home while he taught these people and their descendants many useful arts and crafts.
The Tuscaroras claim that his presence with them made them superior to the other Iroquois nations. But each of the other five will tell you, "Ours was the favoured tribe with whom Sky- Holder made his home while he was on the earth."
The Onondagas say, "We have the council fire. That means that we are the chosen people."
As the years passed by, the numerous Iroquois families became scattered over the state, and also in what is now Pennsylvania, the Middle West and southeastern Canada. Some lived in areas where bear was their principal game. So these people were called the Bear Clan. Others lived where beavers were plentiful. So they were called the Beaver Clan. For similar reasons, the Deer, Wolf, Snipe and Tortoise clans received their names.
(Cross-post from Charlotte's original post)
From: American Indian Medicine, by Virgil J. Vogel, c. 1970. ISBN 0-8061-2293-5
The Seneca Indians discovered oil in America, and it is appropriate that Edwin Drake's firm which drilled the first well in western Pennsylvania in 1859 was called the "Seneca Oil Company." Charlevoix mentioned the oil springs of western New York in 1721, reporting that "the Indians make use of its water to mitigate all kinds of pains." Zeisberger wrote that Indians scooped the oil from the top of pools and used it "as a medicine in all sorts of cases for external application, thus for toothache, headache, swelling, rheumatism, strained joints. Some also take it internally and it appears to have hurt no one in this way."
In 1750, Peter Kalm was sufficiently interested in reports of oil obtained from the Seneca Indians to visit a white man who possessed some of it, and related that "the genetleman who had it in a bottle related that nothing was better for wounds than this. If a little were applied to the sore, it would heal within a short time, which he had experienced on many journeys." Dr. Colden reported that thirty-seven casks and thirty barrels of oil were shipped from the port of New York between November of 1761 and February of 1762.
Loskiel classed "fossil oil" as one of the favorite medicines of the Indians. Besides its use in external complaints of all sorts, he reported that it would burn in a lamp and that the Indians sold it to white people at four guineas a quart. In 1792 Tobia Hirte published a short leaflet on the medicinal uses of Seneca oil.
Thaddeus Mason Harris, a New England clergyman, traveling in western PA in 1803, reported that "Seneca Indian Oil" was held in high repurte in that vicinity as a medicine, being regarded as an "infallible specific" for childblains and rheumatism. In 1807, "Seneca Oil" collected from Oil Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny, was sold at $1.50 to $2.00 a gallon.
III. The Haudenosaunee And The Founding Fathers
One must step back in time to see the influence that the great Haudenosaunee orators, like Canassatego and Tiyanoga (Hendrick), had on shaping the ideas of democracy developed by many of the founding fathers; especially, the influence that the Haudenosaunee had on Benjamin Franklin. The colonists had many opportunities to be influenced by the Haudenosaunee, and what the colonists saw in the native way of life was a freedom that they only knew in theory:
[N]ative societies became a counterpoint to the European order, in the view of the transplanted Europeans, including some of the United State's most influential founders, as they became more dissatisfied with the status quo. They found in existing native polities, the values that the seminal European documents of the time celebrated in theoretical abstraction -- life, liberty, happiness, and a model of government by consensus, under natural rights, with relative equality of property. (14)
Colonists, such as William Johnson, Conrad Weiser, Cadwallader Colden, and Benjamin Franklin not only sat in on the treaty council meetings of the Haudenosaunee, they also participated and became quite knowledgeable in native customs and in the intricacies of the Iroquois Confederacy. (15) For example, Sir William Johnson, an Englishmen, had a very close relationship with Tiyanoga (Hendrick) a Mohawk Wolf Clan chief. Johnson's relationship with Tiyanoga and other Haudenosaunee was very important, for it kept the Haudenosaunee allies of the English until France was expelled from the continent in 1763. The Haudenosaunee during this period "mixed and mingled freely, sitting in each other's councils, and living each others lives." (15) During this time Franklin wrote, " English Colonial society had trouble maintaining its hold on many men once they had tasted Indian life." (16)
As a matter of fact Johnson was so accepted, and, the society so commingled with the Haudenosaunee way of life, that he is said to have fathered one hundred Mohawk children. However, some feel the number to be actually eight children, who by Haudenosaunee law, being a matrilineal society, were considered to be Mohawk, for they had clans. Tiyanoga's relationship with Johnson was so influential and beneficial to the alliance with the Haudenosaunee and English; and his heroism, philosophy, military, and political contributions at the Albany Congress was so important, it has been said that Tiyanoga (Hendrick) "should be considered one of the founders of the United States."(17) In the next section, Canassatego's influence will be discussed.
1. Canassatego's Influence On The Founding Fathers
Canassatego was a chief for the Onondaga Nation. Canassatego was well thought of by many of the English colonists. He was said to have great charisma, a booming voice and to be a master of "logical argument, and adroit negotiation." (18) It was during the 1744 Treaty Council that Canassatego, dismayed by the disorganization of the English colonists, suggested that the colonist unite on a Haudenosaunee model. Canassatego said to the colonial commissioners:
Our wise forefathers established union and amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable. This has given us great weight and authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy and by your observing the same methods our wise forefathers have taken you will acquire much strength and power; therefore, whatever befalls you, do not fall out with one another. (19)
Canassatego wanted the colonies to form a union so that the Haudenosaunee could deal with the colonies in a more efficient manner. He was concerned with the unscrupulous traders who were taking advantage of the native peoples, and he wanted to stop their illegal taking and encroachment on treaty retained lands. (20) The Haudenosaunee orators were quite fluent in English, but they often pretended not to understand in an attempt to gain insight as to what some of the colonists were really thinking. These are just a few of the many incidents in which the colonists had a chance to be influenced by the great Haudenosaunee orators. In the proceeding section, the Haudenosaunee influence on Benjamin Franklin will be further discussed.
2. Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was very good friends with Conrad Weiser who was adopted by the Mohawks. The Great Law of Peace, the Iroquois Constitution, contains in provisions "Wampums 78 through 82", for adoptions. In order for Weiser to have been adopted by the Mohawk Nation, he must have been greatly respected amongst the Haudenosaunee, for the process of adoption is quite complex and must be approved by the chiefs of the Nation and confirmed in consensus by the people of the nation. Interestingly, the adoption laws of the Great law of Peace allowed for freedom of religion when the Haudenosaunee adopted into the Confederacy another nation.
Weiser had won the esteem of the Haudenosaunee and not only attended the treaty council meetings, he also was a recorder, for he wrote down each attendee and their accounts. Weiser then provided Franklin with these numerous treaty council accounts, in all, which Franklin then published because the "[i]nterest in treaty accounts was high enough by 1736 for a Philadelphia printer ... to begin publication and distribution of them."(21) Through the publishing of these treaty accounts and his first- hand participation, Franklin became quite knowledgeable in the Great Law of Peace.
Not only were Franklin and his cohorts knowledgeable in the tenets of the Great Law of Peace, they also adopted the Great Law of Peace's procedures and protocol. For example, "the Pennsylvania commissioners (including Franklin) presented the assembled Indians with a wampum belt, which portrayed the union between the Iroquois and the colonists."(22) Therefore, Franklin was being consistent with Iroquois custom in offering a wampum (recording) belt to bind their agreement. In the preceding section, the incidents in which the Haudenosaunee have influenced the colonialists has been examined. The proceeding section will illustrate some of the similarities between the Great Law of Peace and the Constitution of the United States.
Link to a book...
The Iroquoian system,
expressed through its constitution, "The Great Law of Peace,"
rested on assumptions foreign to the monarchies of Europe: it
regarded leaders as servants of the people, rather than their
masters, and made provisions for the leaders' impeachment for
errant behavior. The Iroquois' law and custom upheld freedom of
expression in political and religious matters, and it forbade the
unauthorized entry of homes. It provided for political
participation by women and the relatively equitable distribution
of wealth. These distinctly democratic tendencies sound familiar
in light of subsequent American political history -- yet few
people today (other than American Indians and students of their
heritage) know that a republic existed on our soil before anyone
here had ever heard of John Locke, or Cato, the Magna Charta,
Rousseau, Franklin, or Jefferson.
Contact with Indians and their ways of ordering life left a
definite imprint on Franklin and others who were seeking, during
the prerevolutionary period, alternatives to a European order
against which revolution would be made. To Jefferson, as well as
Franklin, the Indians had what the colonists wanted: societies
free of oppression and class stratification. The Iroquois and
other Indian nations fired the imaginations of the revolution's
architects. As Henry Steele Commager has written, America acted
the Enlightenment as European radicals dreamed it. Extensive,
intimate contact with Indian nations was a major reason for this
American Indians visited Europe before the Pilgrims landed at
Plymouth Rock. Squanto, a Wampanoag, one of several Indians
kidnapped from their native land (the immigrants called it New
England), visited England during 1614 and returned home in time to
meet the somewhat bewildered Pilgrims, who arrived during the fall
of 1620, unprepared for winter on a continent that, to them, was
as new as it was forbidding. It was Squanto who surprised the
Pilgrims by greeting them in English and who helped the new
immigrants survive that first winter, a season that produced the
first Thanksgiving. At that first feast, Indians provided the
Europeans with turkey, one of the best-remembered examples of
cultural interchange in United States popular history. For his
role in acculturating these English subjects to a new land,
Squanto has been called a Pilgrim father.
This is how my line goes, my Irish ggg? grandfather married Tanacharisson's daughter and through the years we have added Shawnee, Chickasaw and the lastest from the Forresters is Cherokee. Tyant Forrester is my ggrandfather.
Tanacharisson, an Oneida chief, was born about 1700 near Buffalo New York. He was born into the Catawba tribe, and captured as a young boy. He was raised as a Seneca near the eastern shore of Lake Erie.
Tanacharisson was known as Half King. This name was more a position than a title. As a half-king, he was given the power by the Iroquois Grand Council to conduct diplomacy with local tribes and to act as spokesman for them with non-Indians. He held councils with several officials including Conrad Weiser, George Groghan, and George Washington. In late 1753, Tahacharisson was a member of an expedition led by George Washington to the fort at Le Boeuf in the Ohio Valley, with Christopher Gist as guide. He was a valued ally of the English in the French and Indian War, fighting with Washington in the Battle of Great Meadows in 1754.
Tanacharisson died on John Harris's farm at Paxtang, Pennsylvania (near present-day Harrisburg), of pneumonia on October 4, 1754.
"Politically, there was nothing in the Empires and kingdoms of
Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to parallel the
democratic constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy, with its
provisions for initiative, referendum and recall, and its suffrage
for women as well as for men." Comment by Felix Cohen.
When the Iroquois Confederacy was formed, no Europeans were
present with clocks and a system for telling time before and after
the birth of Christ. Since ideas, unlike artifacts, cannot be
carbon dated or otherwise fixed in unrecorded time, the exact date
that the Senecas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Mohawks, and Cayugas stopped
battling one another and formed a federal union will never be
known. It is known, however, that around 1714 the Tuscaroras, a
kindred Indian nation, moved northward from what is presently the
Carolinas to become the sixth national member of the confederacy.
A wide range of estimates exist for the founding date of the
confederacy. Iroquoian sources, using oral history and
recollections of family ancestries (the traditional methods for
marking time through history), have fixed the origin date at
between 1000 and 1400 A.D.; Euro-American historians have tended
to place the origin of the Iroquois league at about 1450.
By an Iroquois account, Cartier made his first appearance
among the Iroquois during the life of the thirty-third presiding
chief of the league. The presiding chief (Atotarho was the name of
the office) held a lifetime appointment unless he was impeached
for violating the Great Law of Peace. The Iroquois who use this
method of tracing the league's origin place the date at between
1000 and 1100. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca, used Iroquoian recall
of family lines and lifespans to estimate the founding date at
1390. Paul A. W. Wallace, a student of the Iroquois who has
written extensively about them, estimated the founding date of the
league at 1450. This is only a sample of the attempts that have
been made to solve an unsolvable riddle.
At whatever date the confederacy was formed, it came at the
end of several generations of bloody and divisive warfare between
the five nations that joined the league. According to the
Iroquois' traditional account, the idea of a federal union was
introduced through Deganwidah, a Huron who lived in what is now
eastern Ontario. Deganwidah was unsuited himself to propose the
idea not only because of his non-Iroquoian ancestry, but also
because he stuttered so badly that he could scarcely talk. He
would have had the utmost difficulty in presenting his idea to
societies where oratory was prized. And writing, aside from the
pictographs of the wampum belts, was not used.
Deganwidah, wandering from tribe to tribe trying to figure
ways to realize his dream of ending war among them all, met
Hiawatha, who agreed to speak for him. Hiawatha (a man far removed
from Longfellow's poetic creation) undertook long negotiations
with leaders of the warring Indian nations and, in the end,
produced a peace along the lines of Deganwidah's vision.
This peace was procured, and maintained, through the
constitution of the league, the Great Law of Peace (untranslated:
Kaianerekowa). The story of the Great Law's creation is no less
rich in history and allegory than the stories of cultural origin
handed down by European peoples, and is only briefly summarized
The Great Law of Peace was not written in English until about
1880 when Seth Newhouse, a Mohawk, transcribed it. By this time,
many of the traditional sachems of the league, worried that the
wampum belts that contained the Great Law's provisions might be
lost or stolen, sought a version written in English. One such
translation was compiled by Arthur C. Parker. In recent years, the
text of the Great Law has been published in several editions by
Akwesasne Notes, a journal for "native and natural peoples"
published on the Mohawk Nation. The substance of all these written
translations is similar, although wording varies at some points.
Red Jacket was born in 1750 in upper New York State near Conaga, Seneca County, New York. His father was a Cayuga. His mother was a Seneca of the Wolf Clan. At age 10, he was given the name Otetiani or "always ready." At manhood, he was called Sagoyewatha (Sa-Go-Ye-Wat-Ha) which means "he keeps them awake," and he became chief of the Seneca tribe. Red Jacket was a Pine Tree chief who outshone the hereditary chiefs and he dominated tribal and village society.
As a reformed drunkard, Red Jacket advocated social harmony through temperance. The name "Red Jacket" was given to him by the British soldiers who gave him a "red coat," when he fought with the British against the colonies. Red Jacket had a great intellect and was a great orator.
In a discourse about Amerindian tolerance for the differences of others, Ronald Wright, in "Stolen Continents", relates Seneca Chief Red Jacket's response to the efforts of a White preacher to convert his people to Christianity:
"In a scene reminiscent of the debate between Franciscans and Aztec priests nearly 300 hundred years before, the formidable Red Jacket rose to reply. His answer is one of the best ever given to Christianity's claims. Which mentality, he makes one wonder, is the more primitive: that which believes itself to have a patent on truth or that which pleads for cultural diversity, for tolerance, for mutual respect?"
"Brother ... listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun. The Great Spirit had made it for the use of Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver. Their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread.... If we had some disputes about our hunting ground, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found friends and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them, granted their request; and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison in return.
"The white people, Brother, had now found our country. Tidings were carried back, and more came amongst us. Yet we did not fear them. We took them to be friends. They called us brothers. We believed them, and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers had greatly increased. They wanted more land; they wanted our country. Our eyes were opened, and our minds became uneasy. Wars took place. Indians were hired to fight against Indians, and many of our people were destroyed. They also brought liquor amongst us. It was strong and powerful, and has slain thousands.
"Brother, our seats were once large and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us.
"Brother, continue to listen. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind, and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We ... only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?
"Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it?...
"Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favours we receive; to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.
"Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but he has made a great difference between his white and red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs.... Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion?...
"Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own."
The tolerance shown by Chief Red Jacket for different views was also a trait deeply imbedded in Mi'kmaq society. It was well reflected in the method the Nation had devised to resolve disputes, whereby disputing parties were brought together for mediation and reconciliation by community members, who would then assist them to reach an agreement based on justice and fairness. When struck, the final agreement would address all major concerns of the individuals, groups or governments involved. After the opposing parties accepted an agreement, it was understood, and supported by the will of the people, that they would live by its provisions.
Date: Saturday, September 10, 2005 - 5:54:52 AM
Elder's Meditation of the Day September 10
"One of the first things Seneca children
learned was that they might create their
own world, their own environment, by
visualizing actions and desires in prayer.
The Senecas believed that everything that
made life important came from within.
Prayer assisted in developing a guideline
toward discipline and self control."
--Twylah Nitcsh, SENECA
All permanent and lasting change starts first on
the inside and works its way out. Having constant
prayer and Creator directed visions helps
us to live in harmony. This is the best way to
grow strong and become a Warrior. No matter
what is going on outside of ourselves, it is our
projection that makes it so. It is our projections
that even give it any meaning. Another way is
each day to turn our life and our will over to the
care of the Great Spirit. Then He will show us
His desire for us. When we are in alignment to
His desire, we become very joyful and very happy.
take care of me
today and tell
me what I can
do for You
today. Give me
the discipline to
talk to You
whenever I am
in doubt or
fear. Let me
come to You if I
You are my
c.1735-1836. Cornplanter (Kaiiontwa'kon, "By What One Plants") was born at Canawagus on the Genesee River in present-day New York State around 1740. His father was an Albany trader named John Abeel or O'Bail, and Cornplanter was known to the English as John O'Bail or Captain O'Bail. His half brother Handsome Lake was an Iroquois Confederacy chief, as was a nephew who was known as Blacksnake or Governor Blacksnake.
During the American Revolution, Cornplanter was chosen at a gathering of warriors (along with the respected Seneca war chief Old Smoke) to lead the Iroquois warriors in support of the British. Cornplanter had at first vigorously opposed Iroquois participation in the war on either side and had admonished his warriors against fighting, stating, according to Governor Blacksnake, "war is war Death is the Death a fight is a hard business." Governor Blacksnake also stated that at the end of this speech Joseph Brant, the war chief of the Mohawk Valley Mohawks, who had earlier traveled to England to cement his ties to the Crown, accused Cornplanter of cowardice. Cornplanter eventually led fighters against the Americans throughout the course of the war.
Cornplanter was second in command of the Indian fighters at the Battle of Wyoming in June 1778. More than 300 Americans were killed in this action (and fewer than ten Indians and Rangers) while eight forts and a thousand dwellings were destroyed. On August 2, 1780, Cornplanter, Brant, Old Smoke, and the Cayuga war chief Fish Carrier led about four hundred Indians and Tories on a scorched-earth campaign against the Canajoharie District in the Mohawk Valley. Approximately fifty to sixty prisoners were taken, while two forts and fifty-three houses were destroyed. Among the houses burned was that of John Abeel, who was captured and then recognized as Cornplanter's father. Cornplanter apologized intensely for burning his father's home and offered to take his father home to the Seneca country or, if he preferred, to send him back to his white family. Abeel chose the latter.
In October 1780, Cornplanter was among the leaders in a series of attacks on forts and settlements in the Schoharie Valley in what is now eastern New York State. This action was in response to the Clinton-Sullivan campaign of the previous year that had resulted in the destruction of two hundred Iroquois houses and an estimated 150,000 bushels of grain in addition to some forty Iroquois dead and more than sixty captured. The counterattack prompted New York Governor George Clinton to comment that New York's western frontier was now at Schenectady.
At the end of the Revolutionary War Cornplanter organized and led a delegation to Fort Stanwix, where in 1783 a treaty was negotiated between the United States and the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. While embraced by the United States, the treaty made such sweeping concessions of Iroquois land that, when presented to the government of the Confederacy, it was deemed unacceptable. The Six Nations Grand Council never ratified it. In a speech delivered to President Washington at Philadelphia, Cornplanter stated: "When our chiefs returned from the treaty at Fort Stanwix, and laid before our council what had been done there, our nation was surprised to hear how great a country you had compelled them to give up to you, without your paying to us any thing for it.... We asked each other, what have we done to deserve such severe chastisement?" Cornplanter participated in a series of treaties in 1784, 1789, 1794, 1797, and 1802, all of which ceded large areas of Seneca territory to non-Indians. Because of these cessions he became extremely unpopular among his own people and at one point stated "[t]he great God, and not man, has preserved the Cornplanter from the hands of his own nation."
In 1790 Cornplanter and several other Seneca chiefs met with George Washington to protest the terms of the Fort Stanwix Treaty, stating "you demand from us a great country, as the price of that peace which you had offered us; as if our want of strength had destroyed our rights.... Were the terms dictated to us by your commissioners reasonable and just?" The Senecas went on to say that there was no reason why further land cessions should be expected.
Cornplanter subsequently became a faithful ally of the new United States and was probably influential in persuading George Washington to adopt treaty making as the preferred method of dealing with Indian tribes while urging fair and honest treatment of the Indians generally. Congress passed the 1790 Non-Intercourse Act with the intention of upholding President Washington's promises that the federal government would protect Indian lands against fraud and theft.
He was living on this "Cornplanter Grant" in June of 1799 when his half brother Handsome Lake, who was living in the same house, arose from a coma and announced he had experienced a vision. The two men continued to live there until 1803 when a dispute with Handsome Lake sent the latter to Coldspring on the Allegheny Reservation, where he embarked on his lifelong mission to revive the ancient ways and values while adapting to the new world of the reservation. Cornplanter continued to live on his Pennsylvania grant for the rest of his life.
The Iroquois Today
Altogether, there were over 50,000 Iroquois in the United States in 1990. Some 17,000 Mohawk and over 11,000 Oneida live in the United States, in addition to around 10,000 people of Seneca or mixed Seneca-Cayuga heritage. Close to 10,000 Mohawk live in Canada, many on the St. Regis and the Six Nations reserves in Ontario and the Caughnawaga Reserve in Quebec. Many Cayuga, who were strong allies of the British, also live on the Six Nations Reserve, which is open to all members of the confederacy. Most of the remaining Iroquois, except for the Oneida of Wisconsin and the Seneca-Cayuga of Oklahoma, are in New York; the Onondoga reservation there is still the capital of the Iroquois Confederacy. Large numbers of Iroquois in the United States live in urban areas rather than on reservations. Many Mohawk and Oneida work as structural steelworkers, and the Oneida opened a large gambling casino near Syracuse, N.Y., in 1993. In recent years the Iroquois nations have pursued land claims in New York in the federal courts, with mixed results. Most Iroquois are either Christians or followers of Handsome Lake, a Seneca prophet of the 18th cent. who was influenced by the Quakers.
The Cycle of Thanksgiving
After Sonkwaiatison left the earth and returned to the Sky World, the people began to express their thankfulness for the Creation. With the annual cycle established by the changing seasons, the growing of crops and the ritual order brought forth by the 12th boy, the Ongwehonweh began to celebrate the gifts of the creation through a series of rituals.
The Haudenosaunee follow a calendar of ceremonial festivals that are celebrated in the Longhouse. It is through these festivals that an annual rhythm is established and the cycle of life has a natural flow to it. These festivals follow the changes in the seasons and the ripening of the crops. While the actual sequence may vary from longhouse to longhouse, the annual cycle would typically include the following:
Midwinter (Jan-Feb) - Ganaha'owi - "Stirring the Ashes" to renew all of the rituals and medicine societies at the time of the winter solstice.
All Night Dance (March)- Ohkiweh to honor the deceased.
Maple Dance (March) - Hadichisto'ndas - "Putting In Syrup" to give thanks to the sweet water as it begins to flow, signalling the return of the lifegiving season.
Thunder Dance (April) - To acknowledge the arrival of the Thunderers, Our Grandfathers, from their annual trip west and the bringing of rain.
Seed Blessing or Planting Dance (May)- Ganeha'ongwededwa'ye - "Our Seeds Be Bet" to give thanks to the sustainers of life - the Three Sisters - Corn (22 types), Beans (10 types) and Squash (5 types).
Moon Dance (May) - To give thanks to Grandmother Moon and the female forces of life as spring approaches.
Sun Dance (May) - To give thanks to the sun for warming the earth so the plants will grow.
Strawberry Dance (June) - Wainodayo - To celebrate the ripening of the strawberry, which is a medicine to renew the spirit.
Green Bean Dance (July) - Wainodetgowaso - To give thanks for the first of the Three Sisters to share her gift of life with the people.
Green Corn Dance (Aug-Sept) - Honondekwes - To give thanks for the ripening of the corn and squash.
Harvest Dance (Oct) - Doyonunneoquana deohoka - "We put our substance away" to celebrate the successful harvest and acknowledge the end of the growing season.
SAVAGERY TO "CIVILIZATION"
THE INDIAN WOMEN: We whom you pity as drudges
reached centuries ago the goal that you are now nearing
The use of Indian women to provide an exemplar of feminist liberty continued into the nineteenth century. On May 16, 1914, only six years before the first national election in which women had the vote, Puck printed a line drawing of a group of Indian women observing Susan B. Anthony, Anne Howard Shaw and Elizabeth Cady Stanton leading a parade of women. A verse under the print read:
"Savagery to Civilization"
We, the women of the Iroquois
Own the Land, the Lodge, the Children
Ours is the right to adoption, life or death;
Ours is the right to raise up and depose chiefs;
Ours is the right to representation in all councils;
Ours is the right to make and abrogate treaties;
Ours is the supervision over domestic and foreign policies;
Ours is the trusteeship of tribal property;
Our lives are valued again as high as man's.
"Savagery to Civilization"
Chief Cornplanter's Dream
Lewis Henry Morgan, in his League of The Iroquois, tells a story of Chief Cornplanter of the Seneca Iroquois who late in his life in 1819 dreamed that she should give up his office of chief, and resigned the position. According to Morgan, Cornplanter first walked for three days from house to house telling his dream to the people of his dream and seeking their interpretations until he found the one that he felt was right. One Iroquois told him that his dream indicated that his name was now Onono, the Iroquois word for cold, associated with winter and endings. This meant therefore that his chieftainship should end, and a new successor should take his place. He was also guided to remove all possessions of white man from his home in order to retain the good will of the Great Spirit.
Cornplanter felt this interpretation and guidance was correct, and he burned up the gifts he had received from Washington, Adams and Jefferson. He then chose an old friend as his successor, and sent him a tomahawk and a belt of wantum to announce his resignation and to honor the new chief. He was at peace with his decision, and content to follow the dictates of his dreams and make choices which brought him into further harmony with the Great Spirit and his tribe.
Jesse Cornplanter, descendant of Cornplanter, the famous Seneca chief, making a ceremonial mask, Tonawanda Community House, Tonawanda, New York. Photographed by Helen Post, 1940.
The story above was told by Sachem Cornplanter to William W. Canfield. So was the story below.
The Turtle Clan