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Iroquois Customs

The more you read, and the better you understand Indian history, the more you will be impressed with the injustice which has been done the Iroquois, not only in dispossessing them of their inheritance, but in the estimation which has been made of their character. They have been represented, as seen in the transition state, the most unfavorable possible for judging correctly. In the chapter of National Traits of Character, I have in two or three instances quoted Washington Irving and might again allow his opinions to relieve my own from the charge of partiality. He says, in speaking of this same subject, that “the current opinion of Indian character is too apt to be formed from the miserable hordes which infest the frontiers, and hang on the shirts of settlements. These are too commonly composed of degenerate beings, corrupted and enfeebled by the voice of society, without being benefited by its civilization.” “The proud independence which formed the main pillar of motive virtue has been spoken down, and the whole moral fabric lies in ruins. The spirits are humiliated and debased by a sense of inferiority, and their native courage cowed and daunted by the superior knowledge and power of their enlightened neighbors. Society has advanced upon them like one of a those withering airs that will sometimes breed desolation over a whole region of fertility. It has enervated their strength, multiplied their diseases, and super induced upon their original barbarity the law-vices of artificial life. It has given them a thousand superfluous wants, while it has diminished their means of mere existence. It has driven before it...

Antique Rock Citadel of Kienuka

There has been much said by different writers of aboriginal forts, and fort builders of western New York, in availing themselves of steeps, gulfs, defiles, and other marked localities, in establishing works for security or defense. This trait is, however, in no case more strikingly exemplified than in the curious antique work of Kienuka. The term “Kienuka,” means the stronghold or fort; but the original name of this fort is Gau-strau-yea, which means bark laid down; this has a metaphorical meaning, in the similitude of a freshly peeled slippery elm bark, the size of the fort and laid at the bottom as a flooring, so that if any person or persons go in they must be circumspect, and act according to the laws of the fort, or else they will slip and fall down to their own destruction. The citadel of Kienuka is situated about four miles eastward of the inlet of Niagara gorge at Lewiston, on a natural escarpment of the ridge on the Tuscarora reservation, known at present by the name of the Old Saw Mill. There is quite an interesting tradition connected with the antique fort Gau-strau-yea. At the formation of the confederacy of the Iroquois, there was a virgin selected from a nation which was called Squawkihaws (a remote branch of the Seneca nation), and was ordained a Queen or Peacemaker, who was stationed at this fort to execute her office of peace, her official name was Ge-keah-saw-sa. The fort was built by the Senecas aided by the Squawkihaws, on an eminence on the north side of a steep of perpendicular rocks, which was about...

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