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The Indians appeared to regard the breaking up of the council at Big Tree, with great satisfaction. Their joy was unbounded; they made the forest ring with their wild yells, inveighing loudly and insultingly against Mr. Morris, and the commissioners, and assuming such menacing attitudes, as fairly to intimidate those unaccustomed to their rude manners.
To all present but Mr. Morris, the prospect of accomplishing any thing after this seemed utterly hopeless, and it was with some difficulty the commissioners were persuaded to remain, for the purpose of giving him the opportunity of another trial. Yet his hopes of success were so sanguine, as to induce them to tarry a short time longer.
The day after the breaking up of the council, Farmer’s Brother called on Mr. Morris, expressed his regret at what had transpired, and the hope that it might not destroy the interest he had manifested for his nation. “Certainly not,” said Mr. Morris, “you had a right to refuse to sell your lands;” but he added, the treatment he had received from his people at the close of the council, especially in allowing a drunken warrior to menace and insult him; while they were yelling in approbation of his conduct, was uncalled for, and ungenerous. He had not deserved this from them. They had for years had food at his house in Canandaigua, and liquor as much as was for their good, and whenever any of them had been at Philadelphia, his father had treated them with equal kindness and hospitality.
Farmer’s Brother acknowledged that all this was true, and regretted that the council fire had been extinguished so hastily, or they might have had a meeting, to smooth over these difficulties.
“Yes,”said Mr. Morris, “and here is another ground of complaint. Red Jacket assumed the right of covering up the fire. This did not belong to him. For according to your custom, he only who kindles the council fire, has a right to cover it up.”
“That is so,”said Farmer’s Brother.
“Then as I did not cover it up the council fire is still burning.”
After thinking a moment he replied, “Yes:” and appeared to be pleased that it was so, and proposed to have the council convene again.
Mr. Morris signified his pleasure to delay a few days, to give him time to look over his accounts, pay for the provisions that had been consumed, collect his cattle that had not been slaughtered, and arrange other matters preparatory to his leaving the treaty ground.
He had become so well acquainted with Indian customs, that he had resolved upon another expedient, when his negotiations with the sachems had failed.
It is a rule among the Indians that their sachems shall have a right to transact whatever business belongs to their nation, whether relating to their lands, or anything else. But in transactions that concern their lands, if their course is not satisfactory to the women and warriors, they have a right to arrest the proceedings, and take the management into their own hands. The reason they assign for this practice is, that the land belongs to the warriors, because they are the defense and strength of their nation, and to the women, because they are mothers of the warriors. In their polity therefore they recognize head or chief women, whose privilege it is to select a speaker to represent their views.
Mr. Morris determined as a last resort, to refer his case to the chief women and warriors. He accordingly sought and obtained such a meeting.
He made known to them his business, told them of the offer he had made their sachems, portrayed to them in glowing colors, the advantages they would receive from the annuity so large a sum would bring, how it would furnish them with food and clothing, without any anxiety or toil on their part, and that they would thus be relieved of many hardships, which they were now compelled to endure. That the sachems, who were unwilling to sell the land, always had enough to supply their wants. That they could kill game, and feast on the meat, and go to the settlements and sell the skins, and buy them clothing. Hence they did not care to exchange their land for money, that would enable the women to obtain for themselves and children food and clothing, whereas they were now often compelled to go hungry and naked. By selling such a portion of their land as they had no use for, they would have the means of supplying their necessary wants, and of making themselves comfortable. He then displayed before them a large supply of beads, blankets, silver brooches, and various other ornaments, of which the natives were particularly fond, and said he had brought these with the design of making them presents, in the event of a successful treaty. But in as much as the women were not to blame for breaking off the negotiations, he was determined they should have the presents he had intended for them. He accordingly proceeded to distribute among sparkling eyes, and joyous hearts, the beauties and treasures, he had brought for them.
These gifts proved a most powerful addition to his argument, and were the means of giving a favorable turn to their counsels. For several days after this the chiefs, and women, and warriors, could be seen scattered about here and there in small parties, engaged in earnest conversation, which resulted in a renewal of their negotiations.
Mr. Morris was informed that their council fire was still burning, and that their business might proceed, but instead of being carried on by the sachems, would be conducted by the women and warriors.
Cornplanter being the principal war-chief, appeared on this occasion in their behalf.
He said, “They had seen with regret the misconduct of the sachems; that they thought also the action of Mr. Morris was too hasty; but still they were willing the negotiations should be renewed; and hoped they would be conducted with better temper on both sides.”
Mr. Morris offered a few conciliatory remarks in reply; and Farmer’s Brother, on the part of the sachems, represented these proceedings of the women and warriors, as in accordance with the customs of their nation.
The way being thus opened, the negotiations were readily carried forward to a successful termination.
They consented to sell their lands for the sum proposed, which was one hundred thousand dollars, leaving their reservations to be settled, as they could agree.
The simplicity of the Indian character was apparent, in the eagerness with which they desired to know about a Bank: the president having directed that the money they received for their lands, in case they were sold, should be invested for their benefit in stock of the United States Bank; in the name of the president, and his successors in office, as trustees of the Indians; they earnestly inquired, what is a Bank?
Several attempts were made at explanation, when finally they came to understand, that the United States Bank, at Philadelphia, was a large place where their money would be planted, and where it would grow, like corn in the field.
As it was desirable also for them to understand, that the dividends from it might be greater some years than others, this was explained by referring to the idea of planting, as they could know from experience, that some years they would have from the same ground a better crop than others. Hence after this when speaking to Mr. Morris about their money, they would inquire “what kind of a crop they were going to have that year?”
Another point of interest with them, was to ascertain how large a pile, the money they were to receive, would make?
This was shown them by representing the number of kegs of a given size, it would take to hold, and the number of horses that would be necessary to draw it.
These questions being settled, the next point to be agreed upon, was the size of their reservations. Mr. Morris had stipulated, in case their demands were reasonable, no deduction would be made from the price they were to receive. But instead of moderate, very exorbitant claims were presented, growing out of a degree of rivalry between different chiefs.
Their comparative importance would be graduated in a measure by the size of their domain, and the number of people they would thus be enabled to have about them; hence they were individually ambitious of not being out-done, in the size of their reservations.
Red Jacket put in a claim to about one-fourth of the entire tract purchased. Cornplanter desired about as much; and other chiefs were alike ambitious in securing extensive reservations; and they wished to have them marked out by natural boundaries, such as rivers, hills or the course of streams. To all of these demands Mr. Morris was obliged to give a stout and resolute denial, requiring them to fix upon a certain number of square miles, which, in the aggregate, should not be far from three hundred and fifty.
Here also arose difficulties about the size of their respective allotments, which they were unable to settle, so that Mr. Morris was obliged to assume the office of arbiter, and decide these for them, which he accomplished generally to their satisfaction.
In only one instance did he depart from his purpose of not allowing natural boundaries, in describing their reservations. It was in case of Mary Jemison, the White Woman, who lived on the Genesee river, some few miles above Mt. Morris. Her history is one of singular interest, and as belonging to this region, and connected with the circumstances under consideration, a brief notice of this remarkable woman, will not be out of place.
Hers is an instance of the entire change that may be wrought, in the taste and inclination, so that instead of a civilized, a person may prefer an uncultivated state of society. Though descended from the whites, she became so thoroughly Indian in her feelings and habits, that she was regarded as a curiosity, and called by way of distinction the “White Woman.”
She was born on the ocean, while her parents were emigrating from Ireland to this country, about the year 1742 or 3. Her father and mother soon after landing at Philadelphia, removed to a frontier settlement of Pennsylvania, lying on what was called Marsh Creek. During the war between the French and English, she was taken captive with her parents, by a party of Shawnee Indians. On the way, her father and mother were killed. The mother anticipating, from tokens she had observed, what would be their fate, advised her child not to attempt an escape from the Indians, as she most likely would be taken again, and treated worse. But as a course better adapted to promote her welfare, she was told to try and please her captors, adding as her parting counsel, “don’t forget, my daughter, the prayers I have taught you,–repeat them often; be a good child, and may God bless you.”
After this, under various trials she went with the party, until they came to Fort Du Quesne1 . Here she was given to two Indian women, who were of the Seneca nation, and lived eighty miles below, on the Ohio river, at a place called She-nan-jee. With the usual ceremony observed by the Indians on such occasions, she was adopted into their family, and called De-ha-wa-mis. At length under kind treatment she began to feel as one of them. In time she was married to a young chief of the Delaware tribe, with whom she lived happily for several years in the Shawnee country. She became devotedly attached to her Indian husband, who treated her with marked tokens of affection.
After a time she welcomed with the joy of a young mother’s heart, the appearance in her wigwam of a daughter, her first born. The bright morning of her domestic joy was soon overcast with sorrow; she is seen strewing over her little one’s grave, the fallen leaves of autumn. She-nin-jee, her Indian husband once more became a father. Together they gladly embraced a son. Their lonely cabin after this was enlivened and cheered by his childish prattle; nothing now remained to interrupt the joy of the mother, but the absence of the father, whom the season of hunting, took far away from his cherished home. Yet with returning spring these toils are forgotten, as he is surrounded once more with the charms of the domestic fireside. But at length there came a spring whose joyful return, brought not the long wished for She-nin-jee, back to his lonely cabin. Many an evening fire blazed brightly to bid him welcome, yet he did not come. Choice venison had been dried and laid up for him, new skins had been prepared and spread for his couch, and many a silent hour whiled away with thoughts of the absent one, but he came not. His returning comrades brought back the sad news of his death. De-ha-wa-mis mourned long and deeply for the pride of her Indian wigwam. Her own kindred could not have extended to her more genuine sympathy, than did her new relatives by adoption. They kindly offered to take her back, if she desired to go, to her former friends among the whites, or if she chose to remain among them, they promised to give her a home of her own.
A part of her Indian relatives lived in the valley of the Genesee, and this was the occasion of her removal there, from her home on the Ohio. A few years intervened, and she again became the wife of an Indian, the distinguished Seneca warrior Hio-ka-too. She resided with him until his death, at Gardeau, the place where she was living, at the time of her appearance at this treaty. The chiefs desired for her a special reservation. To this Mr. Morris readily assented, in case she would specify a certain number of acres.
She said to him, “I do not know any thing about acres, but I have some improved places;” pointing them out on the ground; “here a patch of potatoes, there, a few beans, and another still, where there’s a little corn.” She wished these might be embraced in her reservation, at the same time giving boundaries, which she thought would include them.
Mr. Morris owing to the lateness of the hour, and the impatience of the commissioners, gave his consent to the boundary named, supposing it might include a hundred or a hundred and fifty acres. But much to his surprise, the tract when surveyed, was found to contain not less than seventeen thousand, nine hundred and twenty-seven acres. This reservation has been variously represented to contain, four thousand, and by others a larger number of acres. Col. Stone makes it thirty thousand. The amount given in the text is that obtained by actual survey of the boundaries in question. They are as follows: “Beginning at the mouth of Steep Hill Creek, thence due east until it strikes the Old Path, thence south until a due west line will intersect with certain steep rocks on the west side of the Genesee river, thence extending due west, due north, and due east, until it strikes the first mentioned bound, enclosing as much land on the west side, as on the east side of the river.”
The survey by Augustus Porter, surveyor, gives it 17,927.
Mary Jemison, the White Woman, had thus secured to her, according to the pledge of the Indians to give her a home, a princely domain, where for years after in primitive simplicity, she planted her beans, potatoes and corn, and maintained, as in former years, the usages of her Indian life.
The most of this tract she afterward sold to John Grey and Henry B. Gibson of Canandaigua; a deed for which was executed bearing date of September 3d, 1823.
She retained for her own use twelve hundred and eighty acres, and received for the balance, the sum of four thousand two hundred and eighty-six dollars, or an annuity of three hundred dollars forever.
The Seneca became gradually dispossessed of their lands in the valley of the Genesee, and in the year 1825, removed to their reservation at Buffalo. At the time of their removal, the White Woman refused to part with the residue of her land, and continued to reside at the place, where she had passed the greater part of her long life, and which was now endeared to her by many associations in the past.
But here she soon found herself surrounded by another race, and as time advanced, she longed to be among the people she had chosen for her kindred, and disposing of her possessions in the Genesee valley, removed to Buffalo in 1831.
She had now upon her the infirmities of age. Long had the parting injunction of her Christian mother passed from memory. The religion as well as habits of the Indian, had become hers. Ninety summers had passed over her head. The missionary had visited her, and had been assured that her faith had long been in accord with that of the red man, and she had no desire to change her religious views.
But ere her last hour came a voice reached her from the distant past. It awakened memories long forgotten. She sent for the missionary. He came and stood by her. She was almost withered away. Her small, shriveled, finely wrinkled face, silvery hair, toothless mouth, the nose almost touching her chin, and her thin, wasted form, indicated the presence of second childhood. The memory of that long lost mother rushed back upon her mind. She cried out in anguish, as well as sincerity of heart, “Oh, God! have mercy upon me!” The prayer of her childhood returned; she instinctively began to say. “Our Father which art in heaven.”
As a child she received the instructions of the missionary, and before departing this life, her soul was lighted up with a cheering hope, based upon a reception of the clear and living truths of Christianity.
No one had sought to disturb the serenity of her advanced life, by intruding upon her the idea that she was a sinner. How came she to be thus exercised? The lessons given in childhood, availed more than sermons, and impressions were then made, which though apparently effaced, still remained to be quickened into life, and bring forth fruit, which cheered the closing days of her singularly eventful history.
With the settlement of the White Woman’s reservation, Mr. Morris regarded the business of the treaty, as about concluded. Yet a new obstacle was presented by the arrival of Young King, a descendant of “Old Smoke,” a renowned chief, held in great veneration among the Seneca. None had ever attained a greater degree of power, or swayed a more commanding influence. The son though not possessing the high endowments of the father, yet when he chose to exert it, commanded an extensive hereditary influence, which carried with it great weight. Having been informed of the proceedings of the council thus far, he expressed his disapproval.
Cornplanter and Farmer’s Brother informed Mr. Morris that the treaty could not be completed contrary to the wishes of Young King; that however unreasonable it might appear to him, for one man to defeat the will of the entire nation, it was a power he received from his birth, and one of which he could not be deprived. Yet after much persuasion, Young King, though not reconciled to the idea of selling their lands, acquiesced; saying–“he would not stand out against the wishes of his nation.”
The signing of the treaty yet remained; and Red Jacket according to the testimony of Mr. Morris, though he had strenuously resisted the sale, desired nevertheless to have his name appear among the chiefs of his nation, whose signatures were appended to the deed executed on the 15th of September, 1797, conveying to Robert Morris of Philadelphia, the title to all their lands west of the Genesee river, not included in their reservations, or previously sold.
From this fact the inference has been derived, that the orator was “insincere” in his opposition to the sales made of his people’s lands. His sincerity though questioned now, was never after this a matter of doubt. If he had been insincere before, the effect of this sale on the destiny of his people, imposed upon him considerations of so grave a nature, as to render the idea of his indifference extremely improbable, and no one after this ever thought of imputing to him such a motive. Yet in all the sales the Seneca made of their land, subsequent to this period, Red Jacket’s name, however much he may have resisted the act, was appended to the deed or instrument of conveyance. The reason he assigned for this, was his desire to have his name go, whether for better or worse, with the destinies of his people. Having exerted all his energies to prevent the sale of their lands, he felt that his duty had been discharged. And when his people decided against him, he regarded the responsibility of the transaction as resting on those who had effected it, and whether he gave or with held his name, it would have no influence in determining the result.
He may have had some pride also in having his name appended to a document, which he knew the white people regarded, as of much importance, and were very careful to preserve.
It is related of him as having transpired at a later period, when Mr. Greig of Canandaigua, acting for the Ogden Company, was holding a council with a view to purchase some of the smaller Indian reservations, lying along the Genesee river, he was opposed step by step, by the persistent efforts of Red Jacket. Yet notwithstanding the opposition, Mr. Greig was successful in securing the extinguishment of their title, to about eighty thousand acres of their land. When the time came for signing the deed, Mr. Greig said to Red Jacket, “As you have been opposed to the sale of the land, you need not have your name attached to the deed.” But he would hear to nothing of the kind, and insisted upon signing it, seeming to take pride in having his name appended to the paper2 .
Afterwards called Fort Pitt, now the site of Pittsburg. ↩
Conversation of the author with the Hon. John Greig of Canandaigua. Some years ago a story illustrating the eloquence of Red Jacket went the rounds of the papers, in which Mr. Greig was represented as arguing a case in opposition to and as being defeated by Red Jacket. Not happening to see it at the time, the author sought for a copy, but learning that its principal statements were fictitious, he relinquished the undertaking. Mr. Greig never argued the case as represented, but took down a speech from the interpreter which he read to the orator, who was much pleased with its correctness and bestowed on him an Indian name, signifying “a ready writer.” ↩