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St. Regis Colony, or Band

This community is an off-shoot of the Iroquois stock, but not a member of the confederacy. It originated in the efforts commenced about the middle of the 17th century, by the Roman Catholic church of France, to draw the Iroquois into communion with that church. It was, however, but a part of the public policy, which originated in the reign of Louis XV., to colonize the Iroquois country, and wrest it from the power of the British crown. When this effort failed, replete as it was with wars, intrigues and embassies, battles and massacres, which make it the heroic age of our history, the persons who had become enlisted in the ritual observances of this church, were induced to withdraw from the body of the tribes, and settle on the banks of the St. Lawrence, in the area of the present county of St. Lawrence. It was, in effect, a missionary colony. Its members were mostly Mohawks, from Caughnawaga, with some Oneidas, and perhaps a few of the Onondagas, amongst whom there had been Catholic missions and forts established, at early dates. The exertions made to organize this new canton were, politically considered, at direct variance with the colonial policy of New York, and were therefore opposed by the persons entrusted by the crown with Indian affairs, and also by the councils of the confederacy. Those persons who composed it assimilated in faith, and almost as a necessary consequence, they soon did so in politics.1 They went off in small parties, secretly, and after they had become embodied and located, they were regarded, in effect, as foreign Indians and were...

Six Nations Names, Traditions, And Reminiscences

Indian nomenclature almost invariably has a distinct and suggestive meaning, especially in geographical locations, relations, and peculiarities. Only a few of those, which relate to the accompanying maps are supplied. The location of Bill Hill’s cabin, near the foot of the Onondaga reservation, was called Nan-ta-sa-sis, “going partly round a hill”. Tonawanda creek is named from Ta-na-wun-da, meaning “swift water”. Oil spring, on the Allegany map, was Te-car-nohs, “dropping oil”. The Allegany River was O-hee-yo, “the beautiful river”, and the Geneseo was Gen-nis-he-yo, “beautiful valley”. Buffalo was Do-sho-weh, “splitting the fork”, because near Black Rock (a rocky shore) the waters divided, uniting and dividing again at Date-car-sko-sase, “the highest falls”, on the Ne-ah-ga River. The modern Canajoharie was Ga-na-jo-hi-e, “washing the basin”; Chittenango creek, Chu-de-naang, “where the sun shines out”; Oriskany creek, Ole-hisk, “nettles”; Onondaga, O-nun-da-ga-o-no-ga “on the hills”; Cayuga Lake, Gwe-u-gweth, “the lake at the mucky land”; Canandaigua, Ga-nun-da-gwa, “place chosen for a settlement”. The Indian meaning for other names finds expression in recognized English substitutes. Thus, “the place of salt” becomes Salina, and “Constant dawn” becomes Aurora. Personal names were given from peculiarities or sudden fancies, and upon elevation to chieftainship a new name was given. The eloquent Red Jacket, O-te-ti-an-i, “always ready”, became Sa-go-ye-wat-ha, “keeper awake”. So special uses and qualities are supposed resemblances entered into their nomenclature. “It sheds its blush” describes the watermelon. The white ash was the “bow tree”. The corn, bean, squash, strawberry, and maple were classed as “our life supporters”. At present, through adoption of English customs, the names of John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore,...

Industry and Home Life on the Reservations

Farming is the chief employment of the Six Nations Indians, and the products are typical of the varying soils of the different reservations. While more land is under cultivation than heretofore, the barns are mainly old and in had condition. This is largely true of similar buildings upon the adjoining farms of the white people, as farming has not of late netted an amount sufficient for repairs. The Indians, with no cash capital us a rule, have been compelled to lease their lands to the white people for cash rent or work them on shares. The death of influential men left large estates under pecuniary burdens without ready money to develop the land. The general failure to maintain fencing has been partly due to crop failures and scant returns, but in a large degree to the improvidence of the farmers themselves. Men who work their lands and seldom rent them; and who maintain buildings and fences and take fair care of their implements, keep steadily on the advance. In nearly all directions valuable agricultural implements are exposed to the weather, and no economy attends farm work generally. With the exception of Tuscarora, old orchards are on the decline, and more than one-half of the 4,823 apple trees of Cattaraugus are, not in condition, through age and neglect, to bear large crops. A few new orchards have been started, but there is neither Indian labor attainable nor sufficient money realized from crops to hire other labor; neither is there any method by which tillable and arable land can be turned into money. With few exceptions, farming is done under wearing...

Wampum Belts

The Iroquois League had its democratic and republican elements, but the separate national governments were essentially oligarchic. The only semblance of written law was the wampum. It was the duty of the “keeper of the wampums” to store all necessary facts in his memory and associate them with the successive lines and arrangements of the beads so that they could readily be called to mind. At general councils the wampums were produced and solemnly expounded. “Reading the wampums” became therefore a means by which to perpetuate treaties, and the exchange of wampums was an impressive occasion. Both the Canadian and New York divisions of the Six Nations retain as national heirlooms these evidences of the chief facts in their national life. The St. Regis Indians, living on both sides of the St. Lawrence river, have a small collection of wampums, fewer than the Onondagas at Onondaga castle, near Syracuse. The Onondagas retain the custody of the wampums of the Five Nations, and the “keeper of the wampums”, Thomas Webster, of the Snipe tribe, a consistent, thorough pagan, is their interpreter. The “reading of the wampums” to the representatives of the tribes gathered at St. Regis makes a suggestive picture. According to the Narrative of Indian Wars in New England, the original wampum belts of the Iroquois, in which the laws of the league were recorded, “was made of spiral water shells, strung on deerskin strings or sinew and braided into belts or simply united into strings”. Mr. Hubbard describes the wampum as “of two sorts, white and purple”. The white is worked out of the inside of the great...

St. Regis Reservation Map and Occupants, 1890

The St. Regis Indians are the successors of the ancient Mohawks, and reside on their reservation in Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, New York, which is 7.3 miles long upon the south line and about 3 miles wide, except where purchases made by the state of New York in 1824 and.1825, as indicated on the map, modify the shape. The original tract was estimated as the equivalent of 6 miles square, or 23,040 acres, and the present acreage, computed by official reports without survey, is given as 14,640 acres. Four main roads diverge from the village of Hogansburg, and these are fairly well maintained. Nearly all local roads are poor and little more than trails. The country is practically level, and, in the winter teams move almost at random anywhere over the snow or ice. In the summer boats are in general use and the products of Indian industry find a ready market. The St. Regis river is navigable to the point indicated on the map and communication is maintained with towns on both sides of the national boundary several times a week. At Messena, 12 miles westward, at Helena, 6 miles southwest, and at Fort Covington, 9 miles eastward, are railroad connections with mail facilities 6 days in the week. Nearly the entire tract is tillable, and the greater portion has exceptional fertility. The land is slightly rolling, but nowhere hilly. The supply of water is ample, and in portions of the reservation, where swamps or bog prevent tillage, drainage will be necessary before efficient farming can be done. A large tract of this character, containing fully 1,000...

The St. Regis, Successors Of The Mohawks, 1890

St. Regis River, St. Regis parish, at the junction of the river with the St. Lawrence River, St. Regis Island, directly opposite, and St. Regis reservation, in New York, alike perpetuate the memory of Jean. Francois Regis, a French ecclesiastic of good family, who consecrated his life from early youth to the welfare of the laboring classes. He sought an appointment as missionary to the Iroquois Indians of Canada, but was unable to leave home, and died in 1640. The French Jesuits as early as 1675 established a mission among the Caughnawaga, 9 miles above Montreal, and gathered many of the Net York Mohawks under their care. The Oswegatchie settlement had also been established near the present site of Ogdensburg, mainly, according to Abbe Paquet, “to get the Indians away from the corrupting influences of rum and the train of vices to which they were exposed from their vicinity to Montreal”. About the year 1708 an Indian expedition into New England cost many lives, including those of 2 young men, whose parents permitted them to go only on the condition that if they failed to return their places should be made good by captives. This pledge was redeemed by a secret expedition to Groton, Massachusetts, and the capture of 2 brothers of the name of Tarbell, who were adopted in the place of the 2 who fell in the original expedition. They grew to manhood with strongly developed characters and, respectively, married the daughters of Chiefs Sa-kon-en-tsi-ask and At-a-wen-ta. Jealousies arose between them and the Caughnawaga, which the missionaries could not settle, and in 1760 they formed a part...

Treaty of May 31, 1796

At a treaty held at the city of New York, with the Nations or Tribes of Indians, denominating themselves the Seven Nations of Canada; Abraham Ogden, Commissioner, appointed under the authority of the United States, to hold the Treaty; Ohnaweio, alias Goodstream, Teharagwanegen, alias Thomas Williams, two Chiefs of the Caghnawagas; Atiatoharongwan, alias Colonel Lewis Cook, a Chief of the St. Regis Indians, and William Gray, Deputies, authorized to represent these Seven Nations or Tribes of Indians at the Treaty, and Mr. Gray, serving also as Interpreter; Egbert Benson, Richard Varick and James Watson, Agents for the State of New York; William Constable and Daniel M’Cormick, purchasers under Alexander Macomb: The agents for the state, having, in the presence, and with the approbation of the commissioner, proposed to the deputies for the Indians, the compensation hereinafter mentioned, for the extinguishment of their claim to all lands within the state, and the said deputies being willing to accept the same, it is thereupon granted, agreed and concluded between the said deputies and the said agents, as follows: The said deputies do, for and in the name of the said Seven Nations or tribes of Indians, cede, release and quit claim to the people of the state of New-York, forever, all the claim, right, or title of them, the said Seven Nations or tribes of Indians, to lands within the said state: Provided nevertheless, That the tract equal to six miles square, reserved in the sale made by the commissioners of the land-office of the said state, to Alexander Macomb, to be applied to the use of the Indians of the...

Treaty of January 15, 1838

Treaty with the New York Indians as amended by the Senate, and assented to by the several Tribes 1838. Articles of a treaty made and concluded at Buffalo Creek in the State of New York, the fifteenth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight, by Ransom H. Gillet, a commissioner on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, head men and warriors of the several tribes of New York Indians assembled in council witnesseth: Whereas, the six nations of New York Indians not long after the close of the war of the Revolution, became convinced from the rapid increase of the white settlements around, that the time was not far distant when their true interest must lead them to seek a new home among their red brethren in the West: And whereas this subject was agitated in a general council of the Six nations as early as 1810, and resulted in sending a memorial to the President of the United States, inquiring whether the Government would consent to their leaving their habitations and their removing into the neighborhood of their western brethren, and if they could procure a home there, by gift or purchase, whether the Government would acknowledge their title to the lands so obtained in the same manner it had acknowledged it in those from whom they might receive it; and further, whether the existing treaties would, in such a case remain in full force, and their annuities be paid as heretofore: And whereas, with the approbation of the President of the United States, purchases were made...

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