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Tuscarora Immigration

In the year 1846, on the 16th day of May, about forty of the Tuscarora immigrated from the reservation to their new homes in the Indian Territory, and in one year about one-third of them died on account of the sufferings they endured. They were destitute of everything, and the Government was to have sustained them for one year, and to build houses for them, and provide all the necessaries of life, but they failed in fulfilling their promises on account of the misconduct of Dr. A. Hogeboom, the moving agent of the emigration party. By reference to official documents in the Indian department it appears that a petition from a small party of discontented emigrationists at the Tuscarora village, dated March 4th, 1845, was sent to the President of the United States, expressing a desire to remove to the West. It also further appears that a letter had been received by the department from a certain D. G. Garnsey, dated May 8th, 1845, stating that a portion of the Seneca, and others of the Six Nations in western New York, were now ready to remove. The Government, justly fearing that there might be persons so anxious to possess themselves of the moneys appropriated by law for the removal and support of emigrating Indians, as to resort to fraudulent means for the purpose, by letters warned the Indian agent at Buffalo to be on his guard against such imposition. Afterwards, several petitioners from small fragments of the Seneca and other tribes, were prevailed on to sign memorials to the President, asking to be removed, and begging appropriations for that...

Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Six Nations

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...

Iroquois Domestic Duties

In the first place, to women, in every well regulated society, should be committed the management of the families and the business connected with the household concerns, and they should be qualified to exercise a salutary influence within their appropriate sphere. Secondly, as mothers they are responsible for the nursing and rearing of their children and for the proper sustenance of them in early life. They are also responsible for the habits of their children, including cleanliness and general propriety of behavior. A sensible, judicious mother can greatly control her children in these matters; she can make them modest or impertinent, ingenuous or deceitful, fearful or intrepid. The germ of all these traits of character exist in childhood, and a mother can repress or strengthen them. Thirdly, a mother is responsible for the principles her children may entertain in early life, and it is for her to say whether they shall be imbued with sentiments of honesty, industry and morality, or with those of a contrary character fraud, idleness and dishonesty. She is, to a very considerable extent responsible for the temper and disposition of her children. Constitutionally he may be irritable or revengeful, but she may correct or repress these passions and in their places instill better feelings. Lastly, and above all, she is responsible for the religious education of her children. The beginning of wisdom is a reverence for our creator, and obedience to his requirings; and this is within the power of every good mother to inculcate and cherish in the hearts of her children; at the same time it is the most important duty she...

Four Gallant Warriors

The four gallant warriors now made their way to the settlement at Gau-strau-yea (Kienuka). When they arrived, they saw only the eldest people, from about upwards of sixty-five years of age, and the younger children, from about fourteen years of age and under. While they were traveling they saw two boys picking up sticks for firewood. One of them asked the smaller boy where his father was. The bright little fellow spoke promptly and said, “Gone to war.” Before the older boy could divert his attention by touching him, the little fellow finished his answer. This they took to be news, and immediately dispatched one of their numbers home to make the report. When this one made his report to Onea-gah-re-tah-wa, he at once dispatched runners to the other nations of the league to inform them of what had happened to their father, the Seneca nation, and the desecration of their fort. The three that were left after the one was dispatched home, went onto a settlement of the same nation at Gill Creek, above Niagara Falls, where they found the people the same as at Gau-straw-yea. The elders and the youngers only were at home. They also asked a boy there where his father was. He answered: “At Kah-kwah-ka,” which is south of Buffalo. These three spies took pains to get at Kah-kwah-ka in the night. When they got there they found a great multitude gathered, and engaged in the war dance. The spies went right among the multitude without being suspected, because their language was the same as the Squawkihows, and took part in the dances. They...

Friendship of the Tuscarora to the United States

The Tuscarora Indians have for more than a century been a firm friend to the United States. In the Revolutionary war they took an active part for the declaration of independence; many took part, but few were enrolled, consequently, but few that drew pension from the United States. For instance, Nicholas Cusick, a Tuscarora Indian; where shall you look for another instance of friendship, greater than his, towards the distinguished Marquis de Lafayette, or for Christian principle more firm and true than he evinced concerning his pension. In the war of the Revolution he was under command of Lafayette. Many years after peace was concluded, as he was passing through Washington, he accidentally heard the name of his old commander spoken of in the office in which he stopped on business. The moment his ear caught the sound, his eyes brightened, and full of earnestness he asked, “Is he yet alive?” “Yes,” was the reply, “he is alive and looking well and hearty.” With decided emphasis, he said, “I am glad to hear it.” “Then you knew Lafayette, Mr. Cusick?” “Oh, yes;” he answered. “I knew him well, and many a time in battle threw myself between him and the bullets, for I loved him .” On asking him if he had a commission, he said, “Yes; General Washington gave me one, and he was Lieutenant.” This suggested to his friends that he was entitled to a pension, and on looking over the records, the truth of what he said was confirmed, and he received one for several years. Afterwards, congress passed a law making it necessary that each...

Listen to the Great Spirit

“Listen further to what the Great Spirit has been pleased to communicate to us. He has made us, as a race, separate and distinct from the pale faces. It is a great sin to intermarry and intermingle the blood of the two races. Let none be guilty of this transgression. “At one time the four messengers said to Handsomelake, ‘Lest the people should disbelieve you and not repent and forsake their evil ways, we will now disclose to you the house of torment, the dwelling place of the evil-minded.’ Handsomelake was particular in describing to us all that he witnessed, and the course which departed spirits were accustomed to take on leaving the earth. There was a road which led upward; at a certain point it branched; one branch led straight forward to the house of the Great Spirit, and the other turned aside to the house of torment; at the place where the roads separated were stationed two keepers, one representing the good and the other the evil spirit; when a person reached the fork, if wicked, by a motion of the evil keeper, he turned instinctively upon the road which led to the abode of the evil-minded; but if virtuous and good, the other keeper directed him upon the straight road; the latter was not much traveled, while the former was so frequently trodden that no grass could grow in the pathway. It sometimes happens that the keepers have great difficulty in deciding which path the person should take, when the good and bad actions of the individual were nearly balanced. Those sent to the house of...

Iroquois Laws of Descent

At the establishment of the confederacy, fifty sachems were founded and a name assigned to each, by which they are still known, and these names are kept as hereditary from the beginning to the present time. There were also fifty sub-sachems, or war chiefs that is, to every sachem was given a war chief, to stand behind him to do his biddings. These sachem ships were, and are still confined to the five nations; the Tuscarora were admitted into the confederacy without enlarging the framework of the league, by allowing them their own sachems and sub-sachems, or war chiefs, as they inherited from their original nation of North Carolina. But how, it may be asked, is a government so purely popular and so simple and essentially advisory in its character, to be reconciled with the laws of hereditary descent, fixed by the establishment of heraldic devices and bringing its proportion of weak and incompetent minds into office, and with the actual power it exercised and the fame it acquired. To answer this question, and to show how the aristocratic and democratic principles were made to harmonize in the Iroquois government, it will be necessary to go back and examine the laws of descent among the tribes, together with the curious and intricate principles of the clans or tribal bond. Nothing is more fully under the cognizance of observers of the manners and customs of the Indians, than the fact of the entire nation or tribe being separated into distinct clans, each of them distinguished by the name and device of some quadruped, bird, or other object in the animal...

Tuscarora Creation Legend

The Tuscarora tradition opens with the notion that there were originally two worlds, or regions of space, that is an upper and lower world. The upper world was inhabited by beings resembling the human race. And the lower world by monsters, moving on the surface and in the waters, which is in darkness. When the human species were transferred below, and the lower sphere was about to be rendered fit for their residence; the act of their transference is by these ideas, that a female who began to descend into the lower world, which is a region of darkness, waters, and monsters, she was received on the back of a tortoise, where she gave birth to male twins, and there she expired. The shell of this tortoise expanded into a continent, which, in the English language, is called “island,” and is named by the Tuscaroras, Yowahnook. One of the children was called Got-ti-gah-rah-quast, or good mind, the other, Got-ti-gah-rak-senh, or bad mind. These two antagonistical principles were at perpetual variance, it being the law of one to counteract whatever the other did. They were not, however, men, but gods, or existences, through whom the Great Spirit, or “Holder of the Heavens,” carried out his purposes. The first work of Got-ti-gah-rah-quast was to create the sun out of the head of his dead mother, and the moon and stars out of the other parts of her body. The light these gave drove the monsters into the deep waters to hide themselves. He then prepared the surface of the continent and fitted it for human habitation, by making it into creeks,...
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