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Monument to Kaniatario, Handsome Lake, at Onondago Reservation

In 1735 at the Seneca Indian Town of Conawagus on the Genesee River there was born an Indian boy who was later to become one of the greatest Indian Prophets and teachers of recent historical date. This Seneca was later given the office of a chief of the Turtle Clan with the title of Kaniatario or Handsome Lake. As a young man Handsome Lake was everything but a religious teacher. He was a habitual drinker of the white man’s fire water and more than once returned from the towns of the invader under the influence of the white man’s curse. At this time, in spite of the promises of the United States Government to keep the fur traders from bringing rum into Indian towns and in spite of the warnings of the Confederate Chiefs to these same traders, rum was circulated freely among the Iroquois. The Senecas, who had lost most of their country and who were becoming more and more surrounded by the whites, sought to forget their troubles by drinking rum. Under such conditions Handsome Lake lived. Finally, after years of drinking, Handsome Lake became very ill, so ill that for four years he lay an invalid, not able to rise from his bed. At the end of the fourth year he walked from his cabin and fell to the earth, seemingly dead. His daughter immediately told his other relatives of his death. His body was dressed in his ceremonial clothes and he was prepared for burial. When his relatives gathered for the death ceremony he surprised everyone by sitting up, as his followers say, “Came to...

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