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Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Six Nations

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Atotarho, the First Iroquois Ruler - Plate 70
Atotarho, the First Iroquois Ruler – Plate 70

To animate a kinder feeling between the white people and the Indians, established by a truer knowledge of our civil and domestic life, and of our capabilities for future elevation, is the motive for which this work is founded.

The present Tuscarora Indians, the once powerful and gifted nation, after their expulsion from the South, came North, and were initiated in the confederacy of the Iroquois, and who formerly held under their jurisdiction the largest portion of the Eastern States, now dwell within your bounds, as dependent nations, subject to the guardianship and supervision of a people who displaced their forefathers. Our numbers, the circumstances of our past history and present condition, and more especially the relation in which we stand to the people of the State, suggest many important questions concerning our future destiny.

Being born to an inauspicious fate, which makes us the inheritors of many wrongs, we have been unable, of ourselves, to escape from the complicated difficulties which accelerate our decline. To make worse these adverse influences, the public estimation of the Indian, resting, as it does, upon the imperfect knowledge of their character, and infused, as it ever has been, with the prejudice, is universally unjust.

The time has come in which it is no more than right to cast away all ancient antipathies, all inherited opinions, and to take a nearer view of our social life, condition and wants, and to learn anew your duty concerning the Indians. Nevertheless, the embarrassments that have obstructed our progress, in the obscurity which we have lived, and the prevailing indifference to our welfare, we have gradually overcame many of the evils inherent in our social system, and raised ourselves to a degree of prosperity. Our present condition, if considered in connection with the ordeal through which we have passed, shows that there is the presence of an element in our character which must eventually lead to important results.

As I do not profess that this work is based upon authorities, a question might arise in the breast of some reader, where these materials were derived, or what reliance is to be placed upon its contents. The credibility of a witness is known to depend chiefly upon his means of knowledge. For this reason, I deem it important to state, that I was born and brought up by Tuscarora Indian parents on their Reservation in the Town of Lewiston, N.Y. From my childhood up was naturally inquisitive and delighted in thrilling stories, which led me to frequent the old people of my childhood’s days, and solicited them to relate the old Legends and their Traditions, which they always delighted to do. I have sat by their fireside and heard them, and thus they were instilled upon my young mind. I also owe much of my information to our Chief, John Mt. Pleasant. I have also read much of Indian history, and compared them with our Legends and Traditions.

 


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