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The Wars of the Five Nations – Indian Wars

Although the confederacy known as the Five Nations were the allies of the English in the war against the French, and joined them in many of their principal expeditions, their history deserves a separate notice, as they afford us a complete example of what the Indians of North America were capable of. Their great reputation as warriors, and their wisdom in council, have been so often alluded to by those interested in the history of the Indians, that we shall be pardoned for giving a somewhat extended description of their confederacy, and an account of their wars. The Five Nations, by their geographical position, formed a sort of barrier between the French possessions in the northwest, and the middle colonies of the English. The confederacy is said to have originated in remote antiquity; and, as the name implies, comprehended five Indian tribes, of which, the Mohawks were the most powerful, and the most celebrated. These tribes were united on terms of the strictest equality, in a perpetual league, offensive and defensive. The principles of their alliance and government display much more refinement than might have been expected of “savages.” Each nation had its own separate republican constitution, in which rank and authority were only attainable by the union of age and merit, and enjoyed during the public will. Each nation was divided into three tribes, distinguished by the names, the Tortoise, the Bear, and the Wolf. The confederacy had adopted the Roman policy of increasing their strength by absorbing the conquered tribes; and the effect was the same in both cases, though, in the latter, it was on a...

The Adirondacks

The Iroquois were not always the same fierce, rapacious and blood-thirsty people which they are now familiarly known to have been, but were once engrossed in the peaceful pursuits of the husbandman. Colden graphically relates the circumstances which led them in a measure to forsake that occupation, and involved them in a war with the Adirondacks, in which they were engaged when the French first settled Canada. We quote: “The Adirondacks formerly lived three hundred miles above Trois Rivers, where now the Utawawas are situated; at that time they employed themselves wholly in hunting, and the Five Nations made planting of corn their business. By this means they became useful to each other, by exchanging corn for venison. The Adirondacks, however, valued themselves, as delighting in a more manly employment, and despised the Five Nations, in following business, which they thought only fit for women. But it once happened that the game failed the Adirondacks, which made them desire some of the young men of the Five Nations to assist them in hunting. These young men soon became much more expert in hunting, and able to endure fatigue, than the Adirondacks expected or desired; in short they became jealous of them, and, one night, murdered all the young men they had with them. The Five Nations complained to the chiefs of the Adirondacks of the inhumanity of this action; but they contented themselves with blaming the murderers, and ordered them to make some small presents to the relatives of the murdered persons,1 without being apprehensive of the resentment of the Five Nations; for they looked upon them as men...

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