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Ely Parker was a Seneca Indian of the Wolf Clan. He was born on the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation in 1832. His boyhood name was Hasanoanda ‘Coming to the Front’. Later he was made a chief of his clan and received the title, Do-ne-ho-ga-weh ‘He Holds The Door Open’.
Ely Parker received an academic education and studied law and civil engineering. At Galena, Illinois, while he was employed as an engineer on a government project, he met Ulysses S. Grant. He became a close friend of Grant. This friendship continued till death. Ely Parker took part in the Civil War of the United States. His distinguished service in the Vicksburg Campaign was noticed by General Grant who made him a member of his staff. He rose rapidly in rank, finally becoming Brigadier General. He was Grant’s personal and official Secretary. At General Lee’s surrender it was Parker who wrote the Articles of Capitulation.
In 1869 Ely Parker was appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He held several important positions under the City Government of New York. General Parker was a close friend of Lewis H. Morgan, noted Ethnologist and helped him prepare his book, “League of the Iroquois” first published in 1851. The success of this book was largely due to the help of Parker who, being a chief of his people, knew the laws and customs of the Iroquois and thus was able to give Morgan valuable information, then unknown to white people. Ely Parker was a brother of Nicholas Parker or Gayeh-twa-gah’ a noted Seneca of this time. His sister, Gahano or Caroline Parker was the last woman to bear the title of Peace Queen. Ely Parker always honored and respected the Institutions of the Six Nations and upon many occasions was of service to his people. He once said, “I am of the opinion that no purer and truer democracy, or a more perfect equality of social and political rights ever existed among any people than prevailed among the Iroquois at the time of their discovery by the whites.”
Ely Parker died Aug. 31, 1905. His remains lie buried beside those of Red Jacket, Deerfoot and other famous Senecas in the Forest Lawn Cemetery at Buffalo, N. Y.
From Tonawanda the warriors headed north and west to the Tuscarora Reservation where they visited friends. Leaving Tuscarora the Mohawks headed west to the Niagara River. Following the river to its source they took the ancient Indian trail that led south along the shore of Lake Erie. At Buffalo they visited the grave of the noted Indian orator, Red Jacket.
- See Further: The life of General Ely S. Parker: last grand sachem of the Iroquois and General Grant’s military secretary