Discover your family's story.

Enter a grandparent's name to get started.

Start Now

Infant Atotarho of the Onondaga

While I was engaged in taking the census of the Onondagas, at their council house, at the Castle, where a large number of all ages and both sexes were assembled, the interpreter, who spoke English very well, taking advantage of a pause in the business, said to me, pointing to a fine boy who sat on a bench, near a window, “that is our king!” I had, a short time before, requested that this boy should be sent for. His mother had now, unperceived by me, brought him, dressed out in his best clothes, and evinced, by the expression of her eyes and bearing, a conscious pride in bringing him to my notice. And truly, she had every reason to be proud of so finely formed, bright and well-looking a boy. In addition to these advantages, it is to be remembered that descent, amongst the Onondagas and the other Iroquois, is counted by the female, which constituted a further motive of satisfaction and pride to the mother, in showing her pretty Hux-sa-ha, or boy. She made no remark, however, on my noticing him, but sat with modesty and ease near him, but with an eye beaming with too much pride and self-complacence to be concealed. The lad was but three years old, but tall for that age, and offered a fine model of form. I could not help noticing, what had often impressed me in similar instances, that the infusion of European blood, derived from his grandfather by the father’s side, had served to heighten and improve physical development, and fullness and beauty of muscle. His eyes were full,...

The Iroquois Origin

Origin of the continent, of the animal creation, and of the Indian race: the introduction of the two principles of good and evil into the government of the world. Iroquois tradition opens with the notion that there were originally two worlds, or regions of space, namely, an upper and lower world. The upper was inhabited by beings similar to the human race; the lower by monsters, moving in the waters. 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 or reproduction is concentrated in the idea of a female, who began to descend into the lower world, which is depicted as a region of darkness, waters and monsters, She was received on the back of a tortoise, where she gave birth to male twins, and expired. The shell of this tortoise expanded into the continent, which, in their phraseology, is called an a “island;” and is named by the Onondagas, Aonao. One of the infants was called Inigorio, or the Good Mind; the other, Inigohatea, or the Bad Mind. These two antagonistical principles, which are such perfect counterparts of the Ormusd and Ahriman of the Zoroaster, 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 labor of Inigorio was to create the sun out of the head of his dead mother, and the moon and the stars out of other parts...

History and Origin of the Senecas Indians

One of the first traits which strikes an observer on entering the territory of this tribe, is the fact that they are called by a name which is not known in their vocabulary, and which they only recognize from having long been thus designated by others. Identical as it is in its present orthography, with the name of the Roman moralist, it is yet wholly improbable that it had any such origin; it must be regarded as an accidental coincidence of sound in some other Indian tongue. That this tongue is the Mohawk, a people who stood first in position east on the Iroquois borders, is probable, but not certain. The earlier authors spelt it with a k, with the a final, which probably had the usual broad sound. It occurs on a map of 1614, which was brought over from Holland recently, by the historical agent of the State, and has been laid, by that gentleman, before the New York Historical Society, with the proofs of its genuineness thus bringing the use of the word within five years of the voyage of Hudson. The term by which they call themselves is Nundowaga, or the People of the Hill. A name which leads us at once to consider the accounts of their own origin. Various relations of this story have been given, differing in some of their details, but all coinciding in the main events, namely: that they originated and lived on a well known hill, at the head of Canandaigua lake, where they were put in eminent peril of utter destruction by a monstrous serpent, which circled itself...

Iroquois Ancient History

Indians claim to be the offspring of an independent act of creation. The Iroquois name themselves in proud allusion to their supposed supremacy. Tribes on the St. Lawrence and the lakes live in disputes. War with a race of giants called Ronongweca: the fiend Shotrowea, contests with the great Kwiss Kwiss, or Mastodon, the Big Elk, and the Horned Serpent. A meteor falls in the camp. Northern tribes confederate; send an unfortunate embassage to a great chief south, war with him, war with each other, and the country thereby depopulated and left to its original desolation. When we come to draw the minds of the sages and chroniclers of the Iroquois cantons, to the facts of their early history and origin, they treat us with legendary fables, and myths of gods and men, and changes and freaks in elementary matter, which indicate that such ideas, were common to their progenitors, whatever part of the world they occupied. We have adverted to their notions on this head, in the preceding remarks on their cosmogony, tinctured, as it strongly is, with the old Persian philosophy. They deny, as do all the tribes, a foreign origin. They assert, that America, or AONAO, was the place of their origin. They begin by laying down the theory, that they were the peculiar care of the Supernal Power who created all things, and who, as a proof of his care and benevolence of a race whom he had marked by a distinct color, created the continent for their especial use, and placed them upon it. None of the tribes pretend to establish dates, nor have...

Extracts from a Rough Diary of Notes

Such parts only of these notes and memorandums are retained, as have been referred to, as original materials, of which there is some particular fact or statement, which has not been exhausted. Sometimes the note itself was chiefly of a mnemonic character, and designed to recall further particulars entrusted to the memory. Memoranda, New York, July 1. Antiquities of New York Localities to be examined, namely: 1. Pompey, Onondaga. Vestiges of a town, 500 acres. Three circular walls, or elliptical forts, 8 miles apart. These formed a triangle, enclosing the town. 2. Camillus, Onondaga. Two forts. One 3 acres on a high hill. East, a gate, west, spring 10 rods off Shape elliptical. Ditch deep. Wall 10 feet high. Second fort, half a mile distant. Lower ground. Constructed like the other. About half as large. Shells, testacies animals plenty. Fragments, pottery. Pieces of brick. “Other signs” of ancient settlement, found by first settlers. [Clinton.] 3. East Bank Of Seneca River. Six miles south of Cross and Salt Lakes. Forty miles south of Oswego. Discovered 1791, New York Magazine, 1792 with picture writing, on a stone 5 feet by 3½, and 6 inches thick, evidently sepulchral. Two hundred and twenty yards length. Fifty-five yards breadth. Bank and ditch entire. Two apertures middle of parallelogram, one towards the water) other land. Second work, half a mile south. Half-moon. Outwork. Singularity, extremities of the crescent from larger fort. Bank and ditch of both, large old trees. Pottery well burned, red, indented. East, these works traced 18 miles east of Manlius square. 4. Oxford, Chenango County. East banks Chenango River. Great antiquity. North...

Exploit of Hi-a-de-o-ni

The following incident in the verbal annals of Iroquois hardihood and heroism, was related to me by the intelligent Seneca Tetoyoah, (William Jones of Cattaraugus) along with other reminiscences of the ancient Cherokee wars. The Iroquois thought life was well lost, if they could gain glory by it. HI-A-DE-O-NI, said he, was the father of the late chief Young King. He was a Seneca warrior, a man of great prowess, dexterity, and swiftness of foot, and had established his reputation for courage and skill, on many occasions. He resolved, while the Senecas were still living on the Genesee River, to make an incursion alone into the country of the Cherokees. He plumed himself with the idea, that he could distinguish himself in this daring adventure, and he prepared for it, according to the custom of warriors. They never encumber themselves with baggage. He took nothing but his arms, and the meal of a little parched and pounded corn.1 The forest gave him his meat. HI-A-DE-O-NI reached the confines of the Cherokee country in safety and alone. He waited for evening before he entered the precincts of a village. He found the people engaged in a dance. He watched his opportunity, and when one of the dancers went out from the ring into the bushes, he dispatched him with his hatchet. In this way he killed two men that night, in the skirts of the woods, without exciting alarm, and took their scalps and retreated. It was late when he came to a lodge, standing remote from the rest, on his course homeward. Watching here, he saw a young man come out,...

Ethnological Suggestions

Where we have nothing else to rely upon, we may receive the rudest traditions of an Indian nation, although they be regarded as mere historical phenomena, or materials to be considered. Whether such materials are to be credited or disbelieved wholly, or in part, is quite another thing. Our Indians, like some of the ancient nations of Asia, whom they resemble in many points of character, were prone to refer their origin to myths and legends, under which they doubt less, sometimes meant to represent truths, or at least, to express opinions. The Indian tribes, very much like their ancient prototypes of the old world, seemed to have felt a necessity for inventing some story of their origin, where it is sometimes probable there was little or nothing of actual tradition to build it upon. They were manifestly under a kind of self-reproach, to reflect that they had indeed no history; nothing to connect their descent from prior races; and if they have not proved themselves men of much judgment in their attempts to supply the deficiency in their fabrications and allegories, they must often come in, it must be confessed, for no little share of imagination. There appears, throughout the whole race, to be the vestiges of a tradition of the creation and the deluge, two great and striking points in the history of man, which, however he wandered, he would be most likely to remember. They uniformly attribute their origin to a superior and divine power. They do not suppose that they came into existence without the act of this preexisting almighty power, who is called NEO,...

Era of Six Nations Confederation

There is a tradition among portions of the Senecas, that the present confederation took place four years before Hudson sailed up the river bearing his name. This gives A. D. 1605. This question has been examined in its general bearings in a prior paper. All other authorities indicate an earlier date. Chronology finds its most difficult tasks in establishing dates among our aboriginal tribes. Pyrlaus, a missionary at the ancient site of Dionderoga or Fort Hunter, writing between 1742 and 1748, states, as the result of the best conjectures he could form, from information derived from the Mohawks, that the alliance took place “one age, or the length of a man s life, before the white people came into the country.”1 He gives the following as the names of the sachems of the Five Nations, who met and formed the alliance; Toganawita or the Mohawks. Oratschechta or the Oneidas. Tatotarho or the Onondagas. Togahayon or the Cayugas. Ganiatario, for the Senecas Satagaruyes, for the Senecas The name of Thannawage is given as the first proposer of such an alliance. He was an aged Mohawk sachem. It was decided that these names should forever be kept in remembrance by naming a person in each nation, through succeeding generations, after them. Taking 1609, the era of the Dutch discovery, and estimating “a man’s life” by the patriarchal and scriptural rule, we should not at the utmost have a more remote date than 1539,2 as the origin of the confederacy. This would place the event 18 years after the taking of Mexico by Cortes, and 47 years after the first voyage of...

Senecas Embassy of Peace to the Cherokees

In the course of the long and fierce war between the Six Nations and the Cherokees, it happened, said Oliver Silverheels, that eight Senecas determined to go on an embassy of peace. Among them was Little Beard, the elder, and Jack Berry. They met some Cherokees on the confines of the Cherokee territories, to whom they imparted their object. Intelligence of this interview was sent for ward to their village, where the ambassadors were duly received, and after this preliminary reception, they were introduced to the ruling chiefs, and favorably received by the Cherokee council. All but one of the Cherokee chiefs agreed to the terms of peace He also would consent, if, prior to the treaty, the eight Seneca delegates would first consent to go to war against their enemies, situated south of them. [Who their enemies were is not mentioned.] They consented, and set out with a war party. A fight ensued in which the leader of the Senecas, called Awl, was taken prisoner. The other seven escaped. The fate of Awl was decided in the enemies camp, where it was determined that he should be burned at the stake. Preparations were made for this purpose, but as they were about to bind him, he claimed the privilege of a warrior, to sing his death song and recite his exploits by striking the post. Pleased with the spirit of his request, and his noble air and words, his suit was granted, and they put a tomahawk into his hands, that he might go through the ceremony. He began by relating his exploits in the north. He recited...

Vestiges of an Ancient Fort or Place of Defense in Lenox, Madison County

Some years have elapsed since I visited this work,1 and the plough and spade may have further obliterated the lines, then more or less fully apparent. But in the meantime no notice of it has been published. The following outlines denote its extent and character. A. indicates the lines of a picketed work. B. is an extensive plain, covered with wild grass and some shrubbery, which had once been in cultivation. The northern edge of this plain is traversed by a stream, which has worn its bed down in the unconsolidated strata, so as to create quite a deep gorge, C. This stream is joined from the west, by a small run, having its origin in a spring, D. Its channel, at the point of junction, is as deep below the level of the plain as the other.2 The point of junction itself forms a natural horn-work, which covered access to the water. The angle of the plain, thus marked, constituted the point defended. The excavations E. may have once been square. They are now indentations, disclosing carbonaceous matter, as if from the decay of wood. No wood, or coal, however, existed. Their use in this position is not apparent, connected with the designated lines of palisades, unless it be supposed that they were of an older period than the latter, and designate pits, such as the aborigines used in defense. This idea is favored by the ground being a little raised at this point, and so formed that it would have admitted the ancient circular Indian palisade. If such were the case, however, it seems evident that the...
Page 4 of 6123456

Pin It on Pinterest