There once lived a man who was a great hunter. His generosity was the theme of praise in all the country, for he not only supplied his own family with food, but distributed game among his friends and neighbors, and even called the birds and animals of the forest to partake of his abundance. For this reason he received the appellation of “Protector of Birds and Animals.” He lived a hunter’s life till war broke out between his own and some distant nation, and then he took the war path. He was as brave a warrior as he was a skillful hunter, and slew a great multitude of the enemy, till all were lying dead around him, except one, who was a mighty man of valor , and in an unguarded moment the hunter received a blow from his tomahawk on the head, which felled him to the earth; his enemy then took his scalp and fled. Some of his own party saw what befell him, and supposing him dead left him on the field of battle; but a fox who had wandered this way immediately recognized his benefactor. Sorrowful indeed, was he to find him thus slain, and began to revolve in his mind some means of restoring him to life. “Perhaps,” said he, “some of my friends may know of a medicine by which his wounds may...Read More
Collection: Six Nations and History of the Tuscarora Indians
An Indian hunter went forth to hunt, and as he wandered through the forest he heard a strain of beautiful music far off among the trees. He listened, but could not tell whence it came; he knew it could not be by any human voice, or from any instrument he had ever heard. As it came near it ceased. The next evening he went forth again, but he heard no music, and again, but in van. Then came the Great Spirit to him in a dream and told him to fast, wash himself till he was purified, then he might go forth and would hear again the music. So he purified himself and went again among the dark trees of the forest, and soon his ear caught the sweet strains, as he drew near they became more beautiful; he listened till he learned them and could make the same sweet sound, then he knew that it was a plant with a tall green stem and long tapering leaves. He took his knife and cut the stalk, but ere he had scarcely finished, it healed and was the same as before; he cut it again, and again it healed. Then he knew it would heal diseases, he took it home, dried it by the fire, pulverized it, and applied a few particles of it to a dangerous wound; no sooner...Read More
The two above are the legends concerning the principal medicines used among the Iroquois. The ancient manner of administering them, was to take a small wooden goblet and go to a running stream, dipping toward the way which the stream ran, fill the goblet and return, place it near the fire with some tobacco near it; a prayer is offered while tobacco is thrown upon the fire, that the words may ascend upon the smoke. The medicine is placed on a piece of skin near the goblet, being very finely pulverized, is taken up with a wooden spoon and dusted upon the water in three spots, in the form of a triangle, thus: The medicine man then looks at it critically, if it spreads over the surface of the water and whirls about, it is a sign that the invalid will be healed; if it sinks directly in the places where it was put, there is no hope, the sick person must die and the whole is thrown away. Once in six months there is a great feast made, at the hunting season in fall and spring. On the night of the feast as soon as it is dark, all who are present assemble in one room, where no light or fire is allowed to burn, and placing the medicine near the covered embers, the tobacco by its side,...Read More
In giving the description of the condolence, I have chosen the following writings of Mr. G. S. Riley, of Rochester, to-wit: A grand council of the confederate Iroquois was held October 1, 1845, at the Indian council house, on the Tonawanda reservation, in the county of Genesee. Its proceedings occupied three days. It embraced representatives from all the six nations the Mohawk, the Onondaga, the Seneca, the Oneida, the Cayuga, and the Tuscarora. It is the only one of the kind which has been held for a number of years, and is probably the last which will ever be assembled with a full representation of the confederate nations. The Indians from abroad arrived at the council-grounds, or the immediate vicinity, two days previous, and one of the most interesting spectacles of the occasion was the entry of the different nations upon the domain and hospitality of the Senecas, on whose grounds the council was to be held. The representation of the Mohawks, coming as they did from Canada, was necessarily small. The Onondagas, with acting Todotahhoh, of the confederacy, and his two counselors, made an exceedingly creditable appearance. Nor was the array of the Tuscaroras, in point of numbers, at least, deficient in attractive and improving features. We called upon and were presented to Black Smith, the most influential and authoritative of the Seneca sachems. He is about sixty...Read More
I will now resume the history of the sixth and last family, the Tuscarora On-gwe-hon-wa, that were left at the Neuse river, or Gan-ta-no. Here they increased in numbers, valor and skill, and in all knowledge of the arts necessary in forest life. The country was wide and covered with dense wilderness, large rivers and lakes, which gave shelter to many fierce animals and monsters which beset their pathways and kept them in dread. Now the Evil Spirit also plagued them with monstrous visitations. They were often induced to change their locations; sometimes from fear of enemies and sometimes from epidemics, or some strange visitations. I will now relate a few of the monsters that plagued them: The first enemy that appeared to question their power or disturb their peace was the fearful phenomenon of Ko-nea-rah-yah-neh, or the flying heads. The heads were enveloped in beard and hair, flaming like fire; they were of monstrous size, and shot through the air with the speed of meteors. Human power was not adequate to cope with them. The priests pronounced them a flowing power of some mysterious influence, and it remained with the priests alone to expel them by their magic power. Drum and rattle and enchantments were deemed more effective than arrows or clubs. One evening, after they had been plagued a long time with fearful visitations, the flying head...Read More
Concerning the land allotted to the Tuscarora in Birtie they have leased it several times; and I have selected a few of the laws of North Carolina that are now in force, concerning the Tuscarora in that state, namely: Gabriel Johnson, Esq., Governor. At a general assembly held at New Bern, the fifteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and forty-eight. An Act for ascertaining the bounds of a certain tract of land formerly laid out by treaty to the use of the Tuscarora Indians, so long as they, or any of them, shall occupy and live upon the same, and to prevent any person or persons taking up lands, or settling within the said bounds, by pretense of any purchase or purchases made, or that shall be made, from the said Indians. Article I. Whereas, complaints are made by the Tuscarora Indians, of divers encroachments made by the English on their lands, and it being but just that the ancient inhabitants of this Province shall have and enjoy a quiet and convenient dwelling place in this their native country, wherefore,” Bounds of the Indians’ lands confirmed . Article II. We pray that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by His Excellency Gabriel Johnson, Esquire, Governor, by and with the advice and consent of his majesty’s council, and general assembly...Read More
Atotarho, who by tradition was an Onondaga, is the great embodiment of the Iroquois courage, wisdom and heroism, and he is invested with allegoric traits which exalt him to a kind of superhuman character. Unequalled in war and arts his fame spread abroad, and exalted the Onondaga nation in the highest scale. He was placed at the head of the confederacy, and his name was used after his death as an exemplar of glory and honor. While like that of Caesar, it became perpetuated as the official title of the presiding Sachem of the confederacy. He was a man of energy and renown. And such was the estimation in which he was held in his life time, and the popular veneration for his character after death, that, as above denoted, his name became the distinctive title for the office, and is not yet extinct, although the tribes have no longer war to prosecute or foreign ambassadors to reply to. For more information on Atotarho see: Infant Atotarho of the Onondaga The Onondagas...Read More
About the year 1800, a new religion was introduced among the Six Nations, who alleged to have received a revelation from the Great Spirit, with a commission to preach to them the new doctrine in which he was instructed. This revelation was received in circumstances so remarkable and the precepts which he sought to inculcate, contained in themselves such evidences of wisdom and beneficence, that he was universally received among them, not only as a wise and good man, but as one commissioned by the Great Spirit to become their religious teacher, by the name of Ga-ne-o-di-yo , or “Handsomelake.” This new religion, as it has ever since been called, with all the ancient and new doctrines, was also taught, strenuously, the doctrine of Temperance, which seemed to be the main and ultimate object of his mission, and upon which he chiefly used his influence and eloquence through the remainder of his life. He went from village to village, among the several nations of the Iroquois, and continuing his visits from year to year, preaching the new doctrine with remarkable effect; many abandoned their dissolute habits and became sober and moral men. The wholesome doctrine of sobriety was not preached in vain, even among the Tuscaroras; nevertheless, they did not embrace the ancient and the new faith, nor its ceremonies, but the preaching of this singular person. The influence...Read More
Before the discovery, by Columbus, the Tuscarora consisted of six towns, and they were a powerful nation, numbering over twelve hundred warriors, which, at a ratio according to the rule of estimating, would bring them at about five or six thousand souls. The Tuscarora had many years of enjoyment and peaceful possession of their domain, consisting of six towns on the Roanoke, Neuse, Taw and Pemlico rivers, in the State of North Carolina. And they were also confederated to six other nations, which were the Coree, Mattamuskeet, Nottoway and the Bear River Tribe; the names of the other two nations I have been unable to obtain. My readers will readily see why some writers have it that they consisted in twelve towns, and other writers would have it that they consisted in six towns. The real Tuscarora consisted in six towns; but with the confederate nations, altogether, were known to be in twelve towns, and all these different nations which composed the confederacy went under the name of Tuscarora, the Tuscarora being the most powerful of the several nations. The tradition of the Tuscarora admits of having captured Lawson and his party, and executed some of them to death on account of their encroachments upon their domain; but concerning the massacre of Oct. 2d, 1711, the Tuscarora emphatically deny having taken any part in the affair whatever, officially. The...Read More
“An act concerning the lands formerly occupied by the Tuscarora tribe of Indians lying in Bertie County, on the north side of Roanoke river. “Whereas the Tuscarora Indians have for more than a century been the firm and un-dividing friends of the white people of this country, insomuch that the people of North Carolina not only render to them full and complete Justice, but also to exercise towards them that spirit of generosity which their conduct has merited: Therefore, Article I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that William R. Smith of Halifax, Simon J. Barker, of Martin and William Brittin of Bertie, be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of advertising and selling in manner hereinafter directed, the above named tract of land bounded as follows, to wit: beginning at the mouth of Quitsnoy swamp; running up the swamp 430 poles to a scrubby oak, near the head of said swamp by a great spring; thence north 10 degrees east 850 poles, to a persimmon tree, on Raquis Swamp; thence along the swamp and Pocasin main course north 57 degrees west 2,640 poles, to a hickory on the east side of Falling Run on Deep Creek, and down the various courses of said Run to Roanoke River; then...Read More
“In the town of Cambria, six miles west of Lockport, a Mr. Hammon, who was employed with his boy in hoeing corn, in 1824, observed some bones of a child, exhumed. No farther thought was bestowed upon the subject for a time, for the plain of the Ridge was supposed to have been the site of an Indian village, and this was supposed to be the remains of some child who had been recently buried there. Eli Bruce, hearing of the circumstance, proposed to Mr. Hammon that they should repair to the spot, with suitable instruments, and endeavor to find some relics. The soil was a light loam, which would be dry and preserve bones for centuries without decay. A search enabled them to come to a pit but a slight distance from the surface. The top of the pit was covered with small slabs of the Medina sandstone, and was twenty-four feet square, four and a half feet deep, planes agreeing with the four cardinal points. It was filled with human bones of both sexes and ages. They dug down at one extremity and found the same layers to extend to the bottom, which was the dry loam, and from their calculations, they deduced that at least four thousand souls had perished in one great massacre. In one skull two flint arrow-heads were found, and many had the appearance...Read More
For the earlier part of the history of school operations among the Tuscarora Indians, I can do no better than to give the report of Rev. John Elliot to the Secretary of War, in the year 1832, viz.: “To the Secretary of War : “This will show the operations of the schools from their organization in 1805, to September 30, 1832. “The first school among the Tuscarora was taught by Rev. Mr. Homes, the first missionary. This, according to the best information, was in 1805. What amount has been expended, either from the fund of the society or by the Government, to sustain its operation, I am wholly unable to state. The Indians converted their Council House into one for public worship, and also one for school operations, until 1828, when, with a little assistance from abroad, they completed a convenient chapel, 28 x 38 feet, for public worship. In 1831 they raised and finished a frame school house 24 x 20 feet, at an expense probably of $200. This sum, with the exception of $8, the Indians obtained by contributions among themselves. “We have but one teacher, whose whole time is engrossed in the concerns of the school (Mrs. Elliot and myself are occasionally employed). Her name is Elizabeth Stone, and the compensation she receives is only the means of support, the same that we receive. Ninety scholars...Read More
About the year 1800 a new religion was introduced among the Six Nations, the exponent of which alleged to have received a revelation from the Great Spirit, with a commission to preach to them the new doctrine in which he was instructed. This revelation was received in circumstances so remarkable, and the precepts he sought to inculcate contained in themselves such evidences of wisdom and beneficence that he was universally received among them, not only as a wise and good man, but as one commissioned by the Great Spirit to become their religious teacher. The new religion, as it has ever since been called, embodied all the precepts of the ancient faith, recognized the ancient mode of worship giving it a new sanction of the Great Spirit, and also comprehend such new doctrines as came in aptly, to lengthen out and enlarge the original system without impairing it. Charges of imposture and deception were at first preferred against him, but disbelief of his divine mission gradually subsided, until at the time of his death the whole unchristianized portion of the Six Nations had become firm believers in the new religion, which to the present day has continued to some extent as a prevailing faith. This singular person who was destined to obtain such a spiritual sway over the descendants of the ancient Iroquois was Ga-ne-o-di-yo, or “Handsomelake.” a Seneca...Read More
The Captivity of Mary Jemison tells the story of Mary, taken captive by the Shawnee in 1755 and sold to the Seneca among whom she lived for almost 80 years. The story of Mary is like many other captivity stories, where the young captive is kept alive and sold into another tribe to replace a son or daughter who had died. Mary’s case was not common in the fact that when, after the death of her first husband, she was given a chance of freedom and returning to her white family, she chose instead to remain with the Seneca.Read More
We again hear of the Tuscarora by history, concerning a massacre of the German Flats, N. Y., in November, 1757. A narrative communicated to the author of the Documentary History of New York, vol. 2, page 520, viz: A few days after this massacre and desolation had been perpetrated, Sir William Johnson dispatched Geo. Croghan, Esq., Deputy Agent, with Mr. Montour, the Indian interpreter, to the German Flats, where he understood several of the Oneida and Tuscarora Indians were assembled, in order to call upon them to explain why they had not given more timely notice to the Germans of the designs and approach of the enemy, it having been reported that no intelligence had been given by the Indians until the same morning the attack was made, and as these Indians might naturally be supposed, from their situation and other circumstances, to have had an earlier knowledge of the enemy’s design and march. Before Mr. Croghan could get up to the German Flats the aforesaid Indians were on their road homewards, but he was informed that the Chief Sachem of the Upper Oneida town, with a Tuscarora Sachem (which is supposed to be Solomon Longboard) and another Oneida Indian, were still about four miles from Fort Harkeman, upon which he sent a messenger to acquaint them that he was at the said fort. The aforesaid Indians returned, and...Read More
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