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.
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.
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.
North to Sandy creek, 14 miles from Sackett’s Harbor, near one which covers 50 acres. Fragments of pottery.
West in great numbers.
5. Onondaga Town.
7. Auburn, two forts.
8. Canandaigua, three forts.
9. Between Seneca and Cayuga lakes several.
10. Ridgeway, Genesee:
Several forts and places of burial.
11. Allen S Residence, 1788.
Two miles west.
Deserted Indian village.
Junction of Allen’s creek with Genesee.
Eight miles north of Kanawageas.
Five miles north of Magic Spring.
Ditch eight feet wide.
Six feet deep.
Circular on three sides.
Fourth side, a high bank.
A covered way, near two hundred years old.
Second, half a mile south, on a greater eminence.
But deeper ditch.
More lofty and commanding,
Twenty- six miles west of Kaneawgeas,
Six miles further.
Tegatainedaghgwe, or double-fortified town,
A fort at each end.
First about four acres.
Two miles distant another. Eight acres.
Ditch about first five or six feet deep.
Small stream one side.
Traces of six gates.
Dug way to the water.
Large oaks two hundred years old or more.
Remains of a funeral pile bones.
Mound six feet by twenty thirty diameter – (sixty to ninety.)
13. Path To Buffalo Creek:
14. West or To Na Wanda:
15. On Branch Of The Delaware:
A fort one thousand years old, by trees.
16. South Side Of Erie:
Cattaraugus Creek to Pennsylvania line, fifty miles,
Two to four miles apart some half a mile.
Some contain five acres.
Wall and breast-works of earth.
Appearance of ancient beds of creeks.
[Note the geological change.]
Lake Erie retired from two to five miles.
17. Further South:
A chain of parallel forts.
Two table grounds.
Recession of lake.
All these vestiges denote long periods of time, and probably different eras of occupation. Who preceded the Iroquois? Who preceded their predecessors? Do these vestiges tell the story? How shall we study them? By antiquities; by language by comparison with other races of America, Asia, Africa, Europe.
ALBANY, July 5th. Examine the site of ancient Mohawk residence in 1609, on the island and its vicinity at the mouth of Norman’s Kill. Look for their ancient burial places. Bones, pieces of pottery. and other objects of art may tell something bearing on their history.
Is the Oasis opposite the turnpike gate, the site of their ancient burial-ground? Is this the spot denoted by their name of Tawasentha, or is it to be sought in other places, at the mouth, or up the valley of this stream?
The Mohawk valley appears to have no monumental, or other evidences of its having been occupied by races prior to the Mohawks.
Who were the original race that first set foot in Oneida county? When did the Oneidas come? Where did they originate, and how? They are said to be the youngest of the Six Nations.
L. Hitchcock Esq. says that he was present, when a boy, some forty years ago, when the last executions for witchcraft among the Oneidas took place. The suspected persons were two females. The executioner was Hon Yost. They were dispatched unawares, by the tomahawk.
Sachan, a strong wind, or tempest, was the Oneida name for Col. L. S.
The principal tributary to the Oneida Creek which traverses this rich grazing town, is called after the noted chief, (to adopt the common pronunciation,) Scanado. It means a deer. The old orthography, for this word is Skenandoah.
Mr. Tracy, of Utica, whose authority on this point is good, gives Tegesoken, as the Indian name of Fish creek. It means, between the months.
Cowassalon Creek, i. e., bushes hanging over the water.
Canastota. One pitch pine tree.
Aontagillon. Brook of the pointed rock.
Kunyonskota. White creek (on Dean s patent.)
Kanaghtarageara. Place of washing the penis. This is a dark ravine. This word appears to be Mohawk.
Sa-da-quoit. Smooth pebbles in the bed of the stream creek at New Hartford. All these are in Oneida County.
Ot, Judge J. says, means water in the Oneida tongue.
Otsego, he adds, is from Ot, water, and Sago, hail, welcome, how d’ye do? This I don’t believe. It is not in accordance with the Indian principles of combination.
The Oneidas call a man, Lon gwee.
The Oneidas call a woman, Yon gwee.
The Oneidas call God, Lonee.
The Oneidas call Evil Spirit, Kluneolux.
Some of their words are very musical, as Ostia, a bone; ahta, a shoe; kiowilla, an arrow; awiali, a heart; loainil, a supreme ruler.
The French priests, who filled the orthography of this language with the letter R, committed one of the greatest blunders. There is no sound of R, in the language; by this letter, they constantly represent the sound of L.
Oneida Castle, July
In a conference with Abraham Denne, an aged Oneida, he stated that Brandt was brought up by his (Denne’s) grandfather, at Canajoharie; that he was a bastard, his mother Mohawk, and did not come of a line of chiefs. Says, that Scanado was a tory in the war, not withstanding his high name; that he acted against us at the siege of Fort Stanwix. The anecdote of an Indian firing from a tree, he places, while they were repairing the fort; says that after the man got up, he drew up loaded rifles with a cord; that both Scanado and Brant were present.
Says Scanado was adopted by the nation, when quite young; came from the west; does not know of what tribe, but showed himself smart, and rose to the chieftaincy by his bravery and conduct. Says, that the (syenite) stone on the hill, is the true Oneida stone, and not the white stone at the spring; was so pronounced by Moses Schuyler, son of lion Yost, who knew it forty years ago; that the elevation gave a view of the whole valley, so that they could descry their enemies at a distance by the smoke of their fires; no smoke, he said, without fire. They could notify also, from this elevation, by a beacon fire. The name of the stone is O-ne-a-ta; auk, added, renders it personal, and means an Oneida. The word Oneida is an English corruption of the Indian.
Origin Of The Oneidas
Abraham Schuyler, an Oneida, says that the Oneidas originated in two men, who separated themselves from the Onondagas. They first dwelt at the outlet of Oneida lake. Next removed to the outlet of Oneida creek, on the lake, where they fortified. Williams says he was born there, and is well acquainted with the old fort. They then went to the head of the valley at the Oneida stone, from which they were named. Their fourth remove was to the present site of Oneida Castle, called a skull on a pole, where they lived at the time of the discovery of the country and settlement of the colony by the Dutch (i. e. 1609 to ’14.)
Site of the Oneida Stone, Stockbridge
Asked several Oneidas to pronounce the name for the Oneida stone. They gave it as follows:
The terminal syllable, aug, seems to be a local particle, but carries also with its antecedent to, the idea of life or existence, people or inhabitants.
Onia is a stone. The meaning clearly is, People of the (or who have sprung from the) Place of the Stone.
Adirondak, Jourdain, pronounces Lod-a-lon-dak, putting l’s for r’s and a’s. It means a people who eat trees an expression ironically used for those who eat bark of trees.
For Cherokees, he gives We-au-dah.
For Delawares, Lu-na-to-gun.
What a mass of fog philologists are fighting with, who mistake, as the eminent Vater and Adelung have, in some cases done, the different names of the same tribes of American Indians for different tribes.
Antique Corn Hills
Counted one hundred cortical layers in a black walnut center broke so as to prevent counting the whole number, but by measuring estimated one hundred and forty more. If so, the field was deserted in 1605,
The present proprietor of the farm comprising the Oneida stone, spring, butternut grove, &c. is Job Francis. He first hired the land of Hendrick s widow; afterwards he and Gregg were confirmed by the State.
The white stone at the spring, a carbonate of lime, is not the true Oneida stone.
The Oneida stone is a syenite a boulder.
Abraham Le Fort says, that Ondiaka was the great chronicler of his tribe. He had often heard him speak of the traditions of his father. On his last journey to Oneida he accompanied him. As they passed south by Jamesville and Pompey, Ondiaka told him that in ancient times, and before they fixed down at Onondaga, they lived at these spots. That it was before the Five Nations had confederated; but while they kept up a separate existence, and fought with each other. They kept fighting and moving their villages often. This reduced their numbers, and kept them poor and in fear. When they had experienced much sickness in a place, they thought it best to quit it and seek some new spot where it was hoped they should have better luck. At length they confederated, and then the fortifications were no longer necessary, and fell into disuse. This is the origin, he believes, of these old works, which are not of foreign origin.
Ondiaka told Le Fort that the Onondagas were created by Ha-wa-ne-o, in the country where they lived. That he made this entire “island” HA-WHO-NAO, for the red race, and meant It for them alone, He did not allude to, or acknowledge any migrations from foreign lands.
Their plan, after the confederation was to adopt prisoners and captives, that fragments of tribes who were parted amongst them and thus lost. They used the term We-hait-wa-tsha in a figurative sense, in relation to such tribes. This term means a body cut and quartered and scattered around. So they aimed to scatter their prisoners among the other nations. There is still blood of the Cherokees in Onondaga. A boy of this nation became a chief among the Cherokees.
I called Le Fort’s attention to the residence of the Moravian missionary, Zoeisberger. He said there was no tradition of such residence that the oldest men remembered no such mission; that they were ever strongly opposed to all missionaries after the expulsion of the Jesuits? and he felt, confident no such person, or any person in the character of a preacher, had lived at Onondaga Castle; that there must be some mistake in the matter.
Ondiaka told Le Fort that the Onondagas formerly wandered about, without being long fixed at a place, frequently changing their villages from slight causes, such as sickness,. &c. They were at war with the other Iroquois bands. They were also at war with other tribes. Hence forts were necessary, but after they confederated, such defensive works fell into disuse. They lived in the present areas of De Witt, Lafayette, Pompey and Manlius, along Butternut creek, &c. Here the French visited them y and built a fort, after their confederation.
Ephraim Webster stated that the Indians were never as numerous as appearances led men to think. This appearance of a heavy population happened from their frequent removals, leaving their old villages, which soon assumed the appearance of ancient populous settlements.
He told Jas. Gould, that being once, on a visit to Canada, he became acquainted with a very aged Indian, who, one day, beginning to talk of the Onondaga country, told him that he was born near the old church, near Jamesville, where there was a very populous village. One evening, he said, he stepped out of his lodge, and immediately sank in the earth, and found himself in a large room, surrounded by three hundred witches and wizards. Next morning he went to the council, and told the chiefs of this extraordinary fact. They asked him whether he could not identify them. He said he could. They then accompanied him on a visit to all the lodges, when he pointed out this and that one, who were immediately killed. Before this inquiry ended, and the delusion was stayed, he says that three hundred persons were killed.
Nothing is more distinct or better settled in the existing traditions of the Iroquois, than their wars with the Cherokees. I found this alluded to at Oneida, Onondaga, &c., in the course of their traditions, but have not been able to trace a cause for the war. They seemed to have been deeply and mutually exasperated by perfidy and horrid treachery in the course of these wars, such as the breaking of a peace pledge, and murder of deputies, &c. Their great object was, as soon as young men grew up, to go war against the Cherokees. This long journey was performed without provisions, or any other preparation than bows, clubs, spears and arrows. They relied on the forest for food. Thousands of miles were not sufficient to dampen their ardor, and no time could blot out their hatred. The Oneidas call them We au dah.
Jeremiah Gould went with me to view the twin mounds. They exhibit numerous pits or holes, which made me at once think of the Assenjigun, or hiding pit of the western Indians. Gould, in answer to my inquiry, said that it was a tradition which he did not know how much value it was worth, that the Tuscaroras were brought from the south by the Oneidas, and first settled in this county. They warred against the Onondagas. The latter, to save their corn, buried it in these mounds or hills, then hid by the forest. In one of these excavations, dug into forty years ago, they found a human skull and other bones belonging to the human frame.
James Gould went with me over the stream (Butternut) to show me a mound. It is apparently of geological formation, and not artificial. Its sides were covered with large trees, the stumps of which remain. There was a level space at the top, some four or five paces in diameter, trees and bushes around. The apex, as paced, measures one way 17, the other 12 paces; is elongated. It seemed to have been the site of the prophet s lodge. Near it is the old burying ground, on an elongated ridge, where the graves were ranged in lines.
Webster gives the Indian tradition of this ancient art thus. The women made the kettles. They took clay and tempered it with some siliceous or coarse stone. This they first burnt tho roughly, so as to make it friable, (probably they plunged it while hot into water,) and then pounded it, and mixed it with blood.
Charred corn, &c.
In Ellisburgh is found much charred corn beneath the soil, and numerous remains of occupancy by the natives. Is this the evidence of Col. Van Schaack’s expedition into the Onondaga country during the Revolutionary War? His battle with the Indians, tradition here says, took place near Syracuse. Bones, sup posed to be of this era, were discovered, in ditching the swamp near Cortland House.
Mr. I. Keeler says that he cut a large oak tree, near the site of the old fort, two and a half feet through. In re-cutting it, at his door, a bullet was found, covered by 143 cortical layers. It was still some distance to the center. If this tree was cut in 1810, the bullet was fired in 1667. Consult “Paris Documents,” 1666, treaty with the Onondaga Iroquois.
The Goulds say that the fort was a square, with bastions, and had streets within it. It was set round with cedar pickets, which had been burnt down to the ground. Stumps of them were found by the plough.
Nearly every article belonging to the iron tools of a blacksmith shop have been ploughed up at various times an anvil, horn, vice screw, &c.; Indian axes, a horse shoe, hinges, the strap hinge. A pair of these hangs the wicket gate to his house.
A radius of five to six miles around the old fort would cover all the striking remains of ancient occupancy in the towns of De Witt, Lafayette and Pompey.
Webster told the Goulds that the French who occupied this fort, and had the nucleus of a colony around it, excited the jealousy and ire of the Onondagas by the hostility of some western tribes in their influence. Against these the Onondaga warriors marched. The French then attacked the red men, &c. This led to their expulsion and massacre. All were killed but a priest who lived between the present towns of Salina and Liverpool. He refused to quit peaceably. They then put a chain around a ploughshare, and heating it, hung it about his neck; he was thus, with the symbol of agriculture, tortured to death. His hut was standing when the county was settled.
The attempt to settle western New York by the French was in the age of chivalry, (the 16th century,) and was truly Quixotic.
Pompey and its precincts were regarded by the Indians as the ground of blood, and it brought up to their minds many dark reminiscences, as they passed it. Some twenty years ago, there lived an aged Onondaga, who said that many moons before his father’s days, there came a party of white men from the east in search of silver. From the heights of the Onondaga hills, they descried the white foam of Onondaga Lake, and this was all the semblance they ever found of silver. One of the men died, and was buried on Pompey hill, and his grave was marked by a stone. 1QUERY. Is not this the inscription stone now deposited in the Albany Academy? The others built a fort on the noted ground, about a mile east of Jamesville, where they cultivated the land; but at length the Indians came in the night, and put them all to death. But there was a fearful and bloody strife, in which the Indians fell like leaves before the autumn wind. This spot is the field of blood.
August. See Rev. Mr. Mattoon.
Vestiges of the Cayugas villages orchards old forts. Get a vocabulary of their language from Canada. Get diagram of forts.
Karistagea, or Steeltrap, thought to have been unfairly dealt with at his death. Buried in the road.
Fish Carrier’s Reserve at the bridge. Four miles square.
Red Jacket born on the opposite banks of the lake at Canoga.
Historical reminiscences of Mr. Burnham. Letter stating the first settlements on the Military Tract at Aurora.
Address before the G. O. I. Folly of keeping the society secret.
Horticultural meeting. Dr. Thompson. Mr. Thomas.
Anniversary of Academy. Salem Town.
Intelligence, moral tone, hospitality of the place.
Cars at Cayuga bridge.
Logan was the son of a Cayuga.
Did the Cayugas conquer the Tutelos of Virginia, and adopt the remnant?
Cayugas scattered among the Senecas, in Canada and west of the Mississippi. How many left? What annuities.
Ancient site of the Senecas. Origin of the word Seneca. Is it Indian or not Indian?
Examine old forts said to exist in this area. Are there any vestiges of Indian occupancy at the “Old Castle” at Cashong, Painted Post, Catherinestown, Appletown?
In visiting Fort-hill on the lake, see what vestiges. Another site bearing this name, exists to the north of Blossom’s. What antiquities? What traditions? Ask old residents. Enquire of Senecas west.
Nothing left here of the footprints of the race all covered deep and high with brick and stone. Whole valley of the Genesee worthy examination, in all its length and branches. Wants the means of an antiquarian society to do this.
Truly the Iroquois have had visited upon them the fate with which they visited others. They destroyed and scattered, and have, in turn, been destroyed and scattered. But their crime was the least. They destroyed as heathens, but we as Christians. In any view, the antiquarian interest is the same the moral interest, the same.
The Iroquois had noble hearts. They sighed for fame. They took hold of the tomahawk as the only mode of distinction. They brought up their young men to the war dance. They carefully taught them the arts of war. We have other avenues to distinction. Let us now direct their manly energies to other channels. The hand that drew a bow, can be taught to guide a plough. Civilization has a thousand attractions. The hunter state had but one. The same skill once devoted to war would enable them to shine in the arts of peace.
Why can not their bright men be made sachems of the pen, of the press, of the pulpit, of the lyre?
There are still traces of a mound on Knowlton s farm, a mile from Batavia, up the Tonewanda. Bones and glass beads, have been ploughed out of it. Other traces of former aboriginal occupancy exist in the vicinity, a stone pestle, axes, &c. having been found.
The Indian name of Batavia is Ge-ne-un-dah-sais-ka, meaning mosquito. This was the name by which they knew the late Mr. Ellicott
The Tonewanda falls 40 feet at a single place, within the Indian reservation. It heads on high ground about 40 miles above Batavia. On the theory of the former elevation of lake Erie, Buffalo itself would be the highest ground, between Batavia and the lake, in a direct line. Attica, is perhaps more elevated in that direction.
Name Of Senegas
The Senecas call themselves NUN-DO-WAW-GAW, or people of the hill. The term Seneca is taken from the lake, on the banks of which they formerly lived, and had their castle. It is not a name of Indian origin. They are called NUN-DO-WAW-GAW, from the eminence called Fort-Hill, near Canandaguia Lake. [Ho-ho-ee-yuh, or J. A. Sanford.]
They call the Cherokees O-YAU-DAH, which means a people who live in caves. Their enmity against this people, the tradition of which is so strong and clear, is stated to have originated from the contact of war and hunting parties, in the plains of the southwest. The Senecas affirm that the Cherokees robbed and plundered a Seneca party and took away their skins. Retaliation ensued. Tragic scenes of treachery and surprise followed. The Five Nations took up the matter in all their strength, and raised large and strong war parties, who marched through the country to the Cherokee borders, and fought and plundered the villages, and brought away scalps and prisoners. There are now, (1845) descendants of Cherokees in the third degree, living on the Tonewanda reservation. [Ho-ho-ee-yuh.) Some years ago, a chief of this blood, pure by father and mother, lived among them, who had been carried off captive when a boy. The fact being revealed to him, after he had obtained the chieftaincy, he went south to seek his relations and live and die among them, but he was unable to find them. He came back to the Senecas, and died among them. [Le Fort.]
The most curious trait, of which we know but little, is that respecting Totems.
Asked the chief called Blacksmith, his name in Seneca. He replied, De-o-ne-hoh-gah-wah, that is, a door perforated, or violently broken through, not opened. Says he was born on the Tonawonda reservation, and wishes to die there; will be 60 years old, if he lives till next winter, 1846.
Says the Senecas call the Fort Stanwix or Rome summit, De-o-wain-sta, meaning the place where canoes are carried across the land from stream to stream; that is, a carrying place.
Says, Te-to-yoah, or Wm. Jones of Cattaraugus, can relate valuable Seneca traditions.
He says there are eight Seneca clans; they are the Wolf, Bear, Turtle, Deer, Plover, Beaver, Hawk and Crane. He is of the Wolf clan. This was also Red Jacket’s clan.
These clans may be supposed to have arisen from persons who had greatly distinguished themselves at an early period as founders, or benefactors, or they may have held some such relation to the original nation, as the Curatii and Horatii, in Roman history. It is not only the Iroquois, who ascribed this honor to the clans of the Bear, the Turtle and the Wolf. They are equally honored among most of the Algonquin tribes.
In the town of Cambria, six miles west of Lockport, (1824,) a Mr. Hammon, who was employed with his boy in hoeing corn, observed some bones of a child, exhumed. No farther thought was bestowed upon the subject for some time, for the plain on the ridge was supposed to have been the site of an Indian village, and this was supposed the remains of some child, who had been buried there. Eli Bruce, hearing of the circumstance, proposed to Mr. H. 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, by four and a half in depth the planes agreeing with the four cardinal points. It was filled with human bones of both sexes and all ages. They dug down at one extremity and found the same layers to extend to the bottom, which was the same 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 arrowheads were found, and many had the appearance of having been fractured and cleft open, by a sudden blow. They were piled in regular layers, but with no regard to size or sex. Pieces of pottery were picked up in the pit, and had also been ploughed up in the field adjacent. Traces of a log council house were plainly discernable. For, in an oblong square, the soil was poor, as if it had never been cultivated, till the whites broke it up; and where the logs of the house had decayed, was a strip of rich mould. A maple tree, over the pit, being cut down, two hundred and fifty concentric circles were counted, making the mound to be anterior to as many years. It has been supposed by the villagers that the bones were deposited there before the discovery of America, but the finding of some metal tools with a French stamp, places the date within our period. One hundred and fifty persons a day visited this spot the first season, and carried off the bones. They are now nearly all gone, and the pit ploughed over. Will any antiquarian inform us, if possible, why these bones were placed here! To what tribe do they belong? When did such a massacre occur?
None of the bones of the men were below middle size, but some of them were very large. The teeth were in a perfectly sound state.
Present Means of Living on the Reservation
- Rent of land from twelve shillings to three dollars per acre.
- Sale of timber, firewood, hemlock bark, staves, saw logs.
- Fishing and hunting. Very little now.
- Raise corn, cattle, horses, hogs, some wheat, &c. &c., cut hay. Young men hire themselves out in harvest time.
At Barnegat is an ancient ridge, or narrow raised path, leading from the river some miles, through low grounds; it is an ancient burial ground, on an island, in a swamp.
Bones of the human frame, bone needles, and other ancient re mains, are ploughed up at an ancient station, fort or line, in Shelby.
A human head, petrified, was ploughed up by Carrington, sen., in a field in Alabama, Genesee county, and is now in the possession of Mr. Grant, at Barnegat.
Petrified tortoises are said to be ploughed up in many places.
Opinion of a Chief of the Word Seneca
De-o-ne-ho-ga-wa is the most influential chief of the Tonewandas. He is of the Wolf tribe born on the forks of the Tonewanda, and is 59 years old. Being interrogated as to the Seneca history, he says, that the tradition of the tribe is clear that they lived on the banks of the Seneca and Canandaigua lakes. They were called Nun-do-wau-onuh, or People of the Hill, from an eminence now called Fort Hill, at the head of Canandaigua lake. They are now called, or, rather, call themselves, Nun-do-wau-gau. The inflection onuh, in former times, denoted residence, at a hill; the particle agau, in the latter, is a more enlarged term for locality, corresponding to their present dispersed condition.
The word Seneca, he affirms, is not of Indian origin. While they lived in Ontario, there was a white man called Seneca, who lived on the banks of the lake of that name. Who he was, where he came from, and to what nation he belonged, he does not know. But wherever he originated, he was noted for his bravery, wisdom and strength. He became so proverbial for these noble qualities, that it was usual to say of such, and such a one, among themselves, he is as brave as Seneca, as wise as Seneca, as noble as Seneca. Whether the lake was called after him, or he took his name from the lake, is not known. But the name itself is of European origin. The tribe were eventually called Senecas from their local residence. The idea, he says, was pleasing to them, for they thought themselves the most brave and indomitable of men. Of all the races of the Ongwe-Hon-we, they esteemed themselves the most superior in courage, endurance and enterprise.
He refers to Te-to-yoah of Cattaraugus for further information.
On reference to Te-to-yoah, some time afterwards, he had no tradition on this particular subject. The probability is, that Blacksmith meant only to say, that the name was not Seneca. So far is true. What he says of a great man living on Seneca lake, &c., in older times, is probably a reproduction, in his mind, of an account of Seneca, the moralist, which has been told him, or some Indian from whom he had it, in days by-gone.
As the name of Seneca is one of the earliest we hear, after 1609, it was probably a Mohawk term for that people. It is spelt with a k in old French authors.
The Tuscarora clans are the following:
The Snipe, or Plover.
The Eel. This is not an Iroquois totem.
The Land Tortoise.
They have lost the Falcon, Deer and Crane, perhaps in their disastrous wars of 1713. By this it appears they have lost one clan entirely probably in their defeat on the Taw River, in N. Carolina. Two others of the clans are changed, namely, the Falcon and Deer, for which they have substituted the Land Tortoise and Eel.
Descent is by the chief s mother and her clan, her daughter or nearest kin, to be settled in council. The adoption of chiefs was allowed, where there was failure of descent.
Curious barrow, or mound, on Dr. Scovill’s place to be examined. Two others, near the old mill and orchard. Old fort of Kienuka, to be visited. Get vocabulary of Tuscarora, to compare.
This tribe has gone through a severe ordeal, their history is full of incident. The following list shows their number in North Carolina, and all other Indians of that colony in 1708.
Tuscaroras, living in 15 towns, 1,200 men.
Waccons, in 2 towns, 120
Bear Rivers, 50
Neus, in 2 towns, 15
Poteskeets of Carrituk, 30
Connamox, in 2 towns, 25
Visited James Cusick, the brother of David, the Indian archaeologist, preacher to the Tusks, pictures in the house, old deeds from Carolina.
Sunday. Attended Mr. Rockwood’s meeting, admirable behavior of all, dress well, good singing. W. Chew interprets.
Females, however, adhere to their ancient costume.
Women more pertinacious in their social habits and customs than men.
Tuscaroras raise much wheat, cattle, horses quite in advance of the other tribes in agriculture.
They own the fee simple of about 5,000 acres, besides their reservation, which they purchased from the Holland Company.
This name is Mohawk. It means, according to Mrs. Kerr, the Neck, the term being first applied to the portage, or neck of land, between lakes Erie and Ontario.
Whence this name? The Indian term is Te-ho-so-ro-ro in Mohawk, and De-o-se-o-wa in Seneca. Ellicott writes it Tu-she-way. Others, in other forms. In all, it is admitted to mean the place of the linden, or bass-wood tree.
There is an old story of buffaloes being killed here. Some say a horse was killed by hungry Frenchmen, and palmed off for buffalo meat at the camp. How came a horse here?
A curious bone needle was dug up this year, in some excavations made in Fort Niagara, which is, clearly, of the age prior to the discovery.
Bones and relics must stand for the chronology of American antiquity.
America is the tomb of the red man. All the interest, of its anti-Columbian history, arises from this fact.
By Father Le Moyne’s letter of 1653, [vide Relations,] the war with the nation of the Cat or Eries was then newly broke out. He thanks the Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas and Oneidas, for their union in this war.
On the 9th August 1653, we heard a dismal shout, among the Iroquois, caused by the news, that three of their men had been killed by the Eries.
He condoles with the Seneca nation, on the capture of their great chief, AU-REN-CRA-OS, by the Eries.
He exhorts them to strengthen their “defenses” or forts, to paint their warriors for battle, to be united in council.
He required them never to lay in ambush for the Algonquin or Huron nations, who might be on their way to visit the French.
We learn, from this, that the Eries or Cat nation, were not of the Wyandot or Huron, nor of the Algonquin nations. It would seem that these Eries were not friends of the French, and that by exciting them to this new war, they were shielding their friends, the Algons and Hurons, from the Iroquois club and scalping knife. That they were the same people called the “Neuter Nation,” who occupied the banks of the Niagara, there is but little reason to believe. The Senecas called them Gawgwa or Kah-Kwah.
Cusick states that the Senecas fought against a people, west of the Genesee river, called Squakihaw, i. e. Kah-Kwah, whom they beat, and after a long siege took their principal fort, and put their chief to death. Those who recovered were made vassals and adopted into the tribe.
He states that the banks of the Niagara River were possessed by the Twa-kenkahor, or Missasages, who, in time, gave it up to the Iroquois peaceably. Were not these latter the Neuter Nation?
To discuss the question of the war with the Eries, it is necessary to advert to the geographical position of the parties. The Senecas, in 1653, as appears by French authorities, lived in the area between the Seneca Lake and the Genesee River. The original stock of the Five Nations appears to have entered the area of western New York in its central portions; and, at all events, they extended west of the Genesee, after the Erie war, and possessed the land conquered from the latter.
Mission Station, Buffalo Reservation
Seventy-four Seneca chiefs attended the general council held here. Putting their gross population at 2,500, this gives one chief to every thirty-three souls. This makes them “captains of tens.”
The Seneca language has been somewhat cultivated. Mr. Wright, the missionary, who has mastered the language, has printed a spelling book of 112 pages, also a periodical tract for reading, called the “Mental Elevator.” Both valuable philological data.
The Senecas of this reservation are on the move for Cattaraugus and Alleghany, having sold out, finally, to the Ogden Company. They leave their old homes and cemetery, however, with “longing, lingering looks.”
Here lie the bones of Red Jacket and Mary Jemison.
Curious and interesting reminiscences the Senecas have. Jot down their traditions of all sorts. Can’t separate fiction from fact. They must go together; for often, if the fiction or allegory be pulled up, the fact has no roots to sustain itself.
Kah-Kwahs, Eries, Alleghans, who were they?
Mr. Wright showed me an ancient triturating stone of the Indians, in the circular depressions of which they reduced the siliceous material of their ancient pottery.
The Seneca language has a masculine, feminine and neuter gender. It has also an animate and inanimate gender, making five genders.
It has a general and dual plural.
It abounds in compound descriptive and derivative terms, like the Algonquin.
They count by the decimal mode. There are names for the digits to ten. Twenty is a compound of two and ten, and thirty of three and ten, &c.
The comparison of adjectives is effected by prefixes, not by inflections, or by changes of the words, as in English.
Nouns have adjective inflections as in the Algonquin. Thus o-a-deh is a road, o-a-i-yu a good road. The inflection, in this last word, is from wi-yu, good.
Irving, Cattaraugus Creek
It is a maxim with the Iroquois, that a chief’s skin should be thicker than that of the thorn locust, that it may not be penetrated by the thorns.
Indian speakers never impugn each other’s motives when speaking in public council. In this, they offer an example.
Mr. Strong says. Silversmith of Onondaga has the tradition of the war with the Eries.
Indians In Canada
It is observed by a report of the Canadian Parliament, that the number of Indians now in Canada is 12,000. Of these, 3,301 are residing in Lower Canada, and the remainder 8,862, in Canada West. The number of Indians is stated to be on the increase, partly from the access of births over the deaths, and partly from a numerous immigration of tribes from the United States. This report must be taken with allowances. It is, at best, but an estimate, and in this respect, the Canadians, like ourselves, are apt to over estimate.
The Indian is a man who has certainly some fine points of character; one would think a man of genius could turn him to account. Why then are Indian tales and poems failures? They fail in exciting deep sympathy. We do not feel that he has a heart.
The Indian must be humanized before he can be loved. This is the defect in the attempts of poets and novelists. They do not show the reader that the red man has a feeling, sympathizing heart, and feeling and sympathies like his own, and consequently he is not interested in the tale. It is a tale of a statue, cold, exact, stiff, but without life.
It is not a man with man’s ordinary loves and hopes and hates. Hence the failure of our Yamoydens, and Ontwas and Escatlas and a dozen of poems, which, although having merits, slumber in type and sheepskin, on the bookseller s shelf.
Horts’ Corners, Catt
One seems here, as if he had suddenly been pitched into some of the deep gorges of the Alps, surrounded with cliffs and rocks and woods, in all imaginable wildness.
Cold Spring, Allegany River
Reached the Indian village on the reservation at this place, at 9 clock in the morning.
Indians call the place Te-o-ni-gon-o, or De-o-ni-gon-o, which means Cold Spring.
Locality of the farmer employed by Quakers, at the mouth of a creek, called Tunasassa; means a clear stream with a pebbly bed.
Allegany River they call Oheo, making no difference between it, and the stream after the inlet of the Monongahela.
Gov. Blacksnake absent; other chiefs, with his son Jacob meet in council; business adjusted with readiness.
Allegany River low; very different in its volume of water and appearance from what it was 27 years before, when I descended it, on my way to the West.
Lumbering region; banks lined with shingles, boards, saw logs. Indians act as guides and lumbermen.
Not a favorable location for the improvement of the Senecas. Steal their timber; cheat them in bargains; sell whiskey to them.
Had the imaginative Greeks lived in Allegany County, they would have pictured the Genesee and Allegany Rivers, as two girls, who having shaken hands, parted, the one to skip and leap and run east ward to find the St. Lawrence, and the other to laugh through the Ohio valley, until she gradually melted into the ocean in the gulf of Mexico.
The counties of Cattaraugus, Chautauque and Allegany, and part of Wyoming and Steuben, constitute a kind of Switzerland. The surface of the country resembles a piece of rumpled calico, full of knobs and ridges and vallies, in all possible shapes and directions. It is on the aver age elevated. Innkeepers and farmers encountered on two trips over it, say that there is considerably more moisture in the shape of rain and dews and fogs, than in the Genesee country. It is less valuable for wheat, but good for corn, grass, and raising stock. Nothing can be more picturesque. The hills are often cultivated to their very tops. It is healthy. Such a region is a treasure in a State so level and placid as much of western New York; and had it the means of ready access to markets, and to the Atlantic, it would, in a few years, be spotted with gentlemen’s seats from the seaboard. There are some remark able examples of the east and west, and north and south fissures of rocks (a trait also noted at Auburn,) in these counties. At one place, the fissures are so wide, and the blocks of rock between so large, that the spot is sometimes called City Of Rocks. The rock here is conglomerate, i. e. the bed of the coal formation; a fact which denotes the elevation of the country. It is to be hoped, when this country is further subdivided into counties and towns, that some of the characteristic and descriptive names of the aborigines will be retained.
This bright, busy, thriving place, is a curiosity from the fact, that the Cattaraugus creek, (a river it should be called) splits in exactly, or nearly so, in two parts, the one being in Erie, the other in Catta Raugus. Efforts to get a new county, and a county seat, have here to fore been made. These conflict with similar efforts, to have a county seat located at Irving, at the mouth of the creek.
Mouth Of Cattaraugus
This is a fine natural harbor and port of refuge. Its neglect appears strange, but it is to be attributed to the influence of capitalisis at Silver-Creek, Dunkirk, Barcelona, &c.
Here are vestiges of the Indians old forts, town sites, &c. Time and scrutiny are alone necessary to bring out its antiquities.
The Chief, Capt. Cole. The noted Onondaga Chief, Capt. Cole, died at his residence, among his people, a few days since, aged about seventy-five years. This Indian was well known here, having, for many years, made his home upon the reservation adjoining the city. He took the field, in defense of the country, during the last war, under the late Gen. Porter, who was often heard to speak of his bravery and usefulness, in the various battles along the Niagara frontier.
Cole was of the ” old school” of his race a primitive, unadulterated Indian, equally uncontaminated in mind as in habits, by inter course with the whites. Probity and justice were the leading features of his character; and to direct these he had an intellect which won for him a high control and extended influence among his tribe.
Some years since Cole was selected by our townsman, young Wilgus, as the finest specimen he had ever met, of the race to which he belonged; and he immediately took means to secure him as a sitter. The result was the half length portrait of the Chief which Wilgus executed, and which has been so often seen and admired alike by our citizens and by strangers.
An incident connected with the history of this piece, seems appropriate here, as illustrative of its excellence. When Wilgus left for Porto Rico, where he now is, he took the portrait of Cole with him. It was seen, upon that island, by a gentleman from Amsterdam, who declared it the first piece he had seen which gave him the slightest ideas of the peculiar characteristics of the Indian race; and he be came so interested in the picture that he asked and obtained permission to take it with him, to Europe, for the inspection of his friends. The piece was, by him, carried to Amsterdam, where the admiration of it was universal, and where it would have been retained, at almost any price, had it been for sale. But it was not: the gentleman had promised to return the painting safe to Buffalo; and he has done so, it having arrived here this spring; and it now stands, unostentatiously enough, in the bookstore of the artist s father, upon Main-street.
The Tonewandas at length consent to have their census taken,
Go with Mr. Goodwin to visit Oswaco Lake Gov. Throop’s place Old Dutch Church overlooking the lake, &c.
Extensive vestiges of an elliptical work Curious rectangular fisures of the limestone rock on the Owasco outlet north and south.
The Indian name of the place, as told by an Onondaga chief Osco; first called Hardenburgh’s Corners, finally named after Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village” so that the poet may be said to have had a hand in supplying names for a land to which he once purposed to migrate.
It would have pleased “poor Goldsmith” could he have known that he was the parent of the name for so fine a town a town thriving somewhat on the principle laid down in the concluding lines of the poem
“While self-dependent power can time defy,
As rocks resist the billows and the sky.”
Pity a better name could not have been found for so fine, central, capital a site. The associations are now all wrong. What had Dionysius or Archimedes to do here? It was Atotarho Garangula, Dekanifora, Ontiyaka, and their kindred, who made the place famous. Onondaga would have been a far better appellation. The Indians called the lake and its basin of country together Gan-on-do-a. Salt Point, or the Saline, sounded to me as if, abating syllibants, it might be written Ka-ji-ka-do.
There was a ford in the Mohawk here. It was the site of Fort Schuyler a fort named after Major Schuyler, a man of note and military prowess in the olden time, long before the days of General Philip
Schuyler. Some philological goose, writing from the Canadas, makes Utica an Indian name!
Mouth or the Norman’s Kill, or Tawasentha, Albany.
Mr. Brayton says, that in digging the turnpike road, in ascending Kiddenhook Hill, on the road to Bethlehem, many human bones, supposed to be Indian, were found. They were so numerous that they were put in a box and buried. This ancient burial ground, which I visited, was at a spot where the soil is light and sandy. On the hill, above his house, is a level field, where arrowheads have been found in large numbers.
Mr. B., who has lived here sixteen years, does not know that the isolated high ground, east of the turnpike gate, contains ancient bones has not examined it with that view. Says Mr. Russell, in the neighborhood, has lived there fifty years, and will ask him.
Nothing could be more likely, than that this oasis on the low land should have served as the cemetery for the Mohawks, who inhabited the island, where the Dutch first landed and built a fort in 1614.
The occupancy of this island by the Indians could never have been any thing but a summer residence for it is subject to be inundated every year by the breaking up of the river. This was probably the cause why the Dutch almost immediately abandoned it, and went a little higher, to the main land, where Albany now stands. The city,, however, such are the present signs of its wealth and progress, has extended down quite half way to the parallel of the original site of “Het Casteel” under Christians, and should these signs continue, within twenty years South Pearl-street will present lines of compact dwellings and stores to the bridge over the Tawasentha, and Kiddenhook be adorned with country seats.
Whatever else can be done for the red race, it is yet my opinion, that nothing would be as permanently beneficial, in their exaltation and preservation, as their admission to the rights and immunities of citizens.
At a council of the Six Nations of Indians, held upon the Tonawanda Reservation, on Wednesday, Oct. 1st, there were present the Mohawks, Onondagas and Senecas, confederate brothers on the one part, and the Oneidas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras, brothers on the other part.
The Masters of the grand ceremonies were Deatgahdos, Hahsant (Onondagas) and Oahgwashah, (Cayuga.) The speakers were Hahsauthat, (Onondaga,) Shosheowaah, (Seneca,) and Oaghwashah, (Cayuga.)
After the grand ceremonies were performed, the following were appointed Grand Sachems, Sachems and Chiefs.
Desha-go-gaah-neh was appointed Grand Sachem, in place of Ga-noh-gaith-da-wih, deceased.
Ga-noh-la-dah-laoh was appointed Grand Sachem, in place of Gah-no-gaih, deceased.
Deyawa-dah-oh was appointed Grand Sachem in place of Ganyo-daiyuh, deposed.
The above are Seneca Indians.
Of the Onondagas O-jih-ja-do-gah was appointed Grand Sachem in place of Hononiwedoh, (Col. Silversmith, an Onondaga resident among the Senecas) deposed.
So-dye-a-dolik was appointed Chief of the Onondagas, in place of Sha-go-ga-eh, (Button George,) deposed.
Deyushahkda was appointed Sachem of the Tuscaroras, and Ga-yah-jih-go-wa was appointed a Chief as runner for De-yus-hahkdo. Buff. Pilot. W.
Sketches Of An Indian Council
A grand council of the confederate Iroquois was held last week, at the Indian Council House on the Tonawanda Reservation, in the county of Genesee. Its proceedings occupied three days closing on the 3d instant. It embraced representatives from all the Six Nations the Mohawk, the Onondaga, the Seneca; and 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 all the confederate nations.
With the expectation that the council would commence on Tues day, two or three of us had left Rochester so as to arrive at the Council House Monday evening; but owing to some unsettled preliminaries, it had been postponed till Wednesday. The Indians from abroad, however, had arrived at the Council Grounds, or in their immediate vicinity, on Monday; 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 ground the council was to be held. The representation of Mohawks, coming as they did, from Canada, was necessarily small. The Onondagas, with the acting Tod-o-dah-hoh of the confederacy, and his two counselors, made an exceedingly creditable appearance. Nor was the array of Tuscaroras, in point of numbers at least, deficient in attractive and imposing features.
Monday evening we called upon and were presented to Blacksmith, the most influential and authoritative of the Seneca sachems. He is about 60 years old is somewhat portly, is easy enough in his manners, and is well disposed and even kindly towards all who convince him that they have no sinister designs in coming among his people.
Jemmy Johnson is the Great High Priest of the confederacy. Though now 69 years old, he is yet an erect, fine looking, and energetic Indian, and is both hospitable and intelligent. He is in possession of the medal presented by Washington to Red Jacket in 1792, which, among other things of interest, he showed us.
It would be incompatible with the present purpose to describe all the interesting men who there assembled, among whom were Capt. Frost, Messrs. Le Fort, Hill, John Jacket, Dr. Wilson and others. We spent most of Tuesday, and indeed much of the time during the other days of the week in conversation with the chiefs and most intelligent Indians of the different nations, and gleaned from them much information of the highest interest in relation to the organization, government and laws, religion, customs of the people, and characteristics of the great men, of the old and once powerful confederacy. It is a singular fact, that the peculiar government and national characteristics of the Iroquois is a most interesting field for research and inquiry, which has never been very thoroughly, if at all, investigated, although the historic events which marked the proud career of the confederacy, have been perseveringly sought and treasured up in the writings of Stone, Schoolcraft, Hosmer, Yates and others.
Many of the Indians speak English readily; but with the aid and interpretations of Mr. Ely S. Parker, a young Seneca of no ordinary degree of attainment, in both scholarship and general intelligence, and who, with Le Fort, the Onondaga, is well versed in old Iroquois matters, we had no difficulty in conversing with any and all we chose to.
About midday on Wednesday, the council commenced. The ceremonies with which it was opened and conducted were certainly unique almost indescribable; and as its proceedings were in the Seneca tongue, they were in a great measure unintelligible, and in fact profoundly mysterious to the pale faces. One of the chief objects for which the council had been convoked, as has been heretofore editorially stated in the American, was to fill two vacancies in the sachemships of the Senecas, which had been made by the death of the former incumbents; and preceding the installation of the candidates for the succession, there was a general and dolorous lament for the deceased sachems, the utterance of which, together with the repetition of the laws of the confederacy the installation of the new-sachems the impeachment and deposition of three unfaithful sachems the elevation of others in their stead, and the performance of the various ceremonies attendant upon these proceedings, consumed the principal part of the afternoon.
At the setting of the sun, a bountiful repast, consisting of an innumerable number of rather formidable looking chunks of boiled fresh beef, and an abundance of bread and succotash, was brought into the council house. The manner of saying grace on this occasion was indeed peculiar. A kettle being brought, hot and smoking from the fire, and placed in the center of the council house, there proceeded from a single person, in a high shrill key, a prolonged and monotonous sound, resembling that of the syllable wah or yoh. This was immediately followed by a response from the whole multitude, uttering in a low and profoundly guttural but protracted tone, the syllable whe or swe and this concluded grace! It was impossible not to be somewhat mirthfully affected at the first hearing of grace said in this novel manner. It is, however, pleasurable to reflect that the Indian recognizes the duty of rendering thanks to the Divine Being in some formal way, for the bounties and enjoyments which He bestows; and were an Indian to attend a public feast among his pale faced brethren, he would be affected, perhaps to a greater degree of marvel, at witnessing a total neglect of this ceremony, than we were at his singular way of performing it.
After supper, commenced the dances. All day Tuesday, and on Wednesday, up to the time that the places of the deceased sachems had been filled, every thing like undue joyfulness had been restrained. This was required by the respect customarily due to the distinguished dead. But now, the bereaved sachemships being again filled, all were to give utterance to gladness and joy. A short speech from Capt. Frost, introductory to the enjoyments of the evening, was received with acclamatory approbation; and soon eighty or ninety of these sons and daughters of the forest the old men and the young, the maidens and matrons were engaged in the dance. It was indeed a rare sight.
Only two varieties of dancing were introduced the first evening the trotting dance and the fish dance. The figures of either are exceedingly simple, and but slightly different from each other. In the first named, the dancers all move round a circle, in a single file, and keeping time in a sort of trotting step to an Indian song of yo-ho-ha, or yo-ho-ha-ha-ho, as sung by the leaders, or occasionally by all con joined. In the other, there is the same movement in single file round a circle, but every two persons, a man and a woman, or two men, face each other, the one moving forward, the other backward, and all keeping step to the music of the singers, who are now, however, aided by a couple of tortoise or turtle shell rattles, or an aboriginal drum. At regular intervals, there is a sort of cadence in the music, during which a change of position by all the couples takes place, the one who had been moving backward taking the place of the one moving forward, when all again move onward, one-half of the whole, of course, being obliged to follow on by advancing backwards I
One peculiarity in Indian dancing would probably strongly com mend itself to that class among pale faced beaux and belles denominated the bashful; though perhaps it would not suit others as well. The men, or a number of them, usually begin the dance alone; and the women, or each of them, selecting the one with whom she would like to dance, presents herself at his side as he approaches, and is immediately received into the circle. Consequently, the young Indian beau knows nothing of the tact required to handsomely invite and gallantly lead a lady to the dance; and the young Indian maiden, unannoyed by obnoxious offers, at her own convenience, gracefully presents her personage to the one she designs to favor, and thus quietly engages herself in the dance. And moreover, while an Indian beau is not necessarily obliged to exhibit any gallantry as towards a belle, till she has herself manifested her own good pleasure in the matter, so, therefore, the belle cannot indulge herself in vascillant flirtations with any considerable number of beaux, without being at once detected!
On Thursday the religious ceremonies commenced; and the council from the time it assembled, which was about 11 o clock, A. M., till 3 or 4 o clock, P. M., gave the most serious attention to the preaching of Jemmy Johnson, the Great High Priest, and the second in the succession under the new revelation. Though there are some evangelical believers among the Indians, the greater portion of them cherish the religion of their fathers. This, as they say, has been somewhat changed by the new revelation, which the Great Spirit made to one of their prophets about 47 yeas ago, and which, as they also believe, was approved by Washington. The profound regard and veneration which the Indian has ever retained towards the name and memory of Washington, is most interesting evidence of his universally appreciated worth; and the fact that the red men regard him not merely as one of the best, but as the very best man that ever has existed, or that will ever exist, is beautifully illustrated in a singular credence which they maintain even to this day, viz: that Washington is the only white man who has ever entered Heaven, and is the only one who will enter there, till the end of the world.
Among the Senecas, public religious exercises take place but once a year. At these times, Jemmy Johnson preaches hour after hour, for three clays; and then rests from any public discharge of ecclesiastical offices the remaining 362 days of the year. On this, an unusual occasion, he restricted himself to a few hours in each of the last two days of the council. We were told by young Parker, who took notes of his preaching, that his subject matter on Thursday abounded with good teachings, enforced by appropriate and happy illustrations and striking imagery. After he had finished, the council took a short respite, Soon, however, a company of warriors ready and eager to engage in the celebrated “corn dance,” made their appearance. They were differently attired. While some were completely enveloped in a closely fitting and gaudy colored garb; others, though perhaps without intending it, had made wonderfully close approaches to an imitation of the costume said to have been so fashionable in many parts of the State of Georgia during the last hot summer, and which is also said to have consisted simply of a shirt collar and a pair of spurs. But in truth, these warriors, with shoulders and limbs in a state of nudity, with faces be streaked with paints, with jingling trinkets dangling at their knees, and with feathered war-caps waving above them, presented a truly picturesque and romantic appearance. When the center of the council house had been cleared, and the musicians with the shell rattles had taken their places, the dance commenced; and for an hour and a half, perhaps two hours, it proceeded with surprising spirit and energy. Almost every posture of which the human frame is susceptible, without absolutely making the feet to be upper most, and the head for once, to assume the place of the understanding, was exhibited. Some of the attitudes of the dancers, were really imposing, and the dance as a whole, could be got up and conducted only by Indians! The women in the performance of the corn dance are quite by themselves keeping time to the beat of the shells, and gliding along sideways, without scarcely lifting their feet from the floor.
It would probably be well, if the Indian every where, could be inclined to refrain at least from the more grotesque and boisterous peculiarities of this dance. The influence of these cannot be productive of any good; and it is questionable whether it will be possible, so long as they are retained, to assimilate them to any greater degree of civilization or to more refined methods of living and enjoyment, than they now possess. The same may be said of certain characteristics of the still more vandalic war dance. This, however, was not introduced at the council.
A part of the proceedings of Friday the last day of the council, bore resemblance to those of the preceding day. Jemmy Johnson resumed his preaching; at the close of which the corn dance was again per formed, though with far more spirit and enthusiasm than at the first. Double the numbers that then appeared all hardy and sinewy men, attired in original and fantastic style, among whom was one of the chiefs of the confederacy, together with 40 or 50 women of the different nations now engaged and for two hours persevered in the performance of the various, complicated and fatiguing movements of this dance. The appearance of the dusky throng, with its increased numbers, and, of course proportionably increased resources for the production of shrill whoops and noisy stamping, and for the exhibition of striking attitudes and rampant motions, was altogether strange, wonderful and seemingly super-human.
After the dance had ceased, another kind of “sport,” a well con tested foot race, claimed attention. In the evening, after another sup per in the Council House, the more social dances, the trotting, the fish and one in which the women alone participated, were resumed. The fish dance seemed to be the favorite; and being invited to join it by one of the chiefs, we at once accepted the invitation, and followed in mirthful chase of pleasure, with a hundred forest children. Occasionally the dances are characterized with ebullitions of merriment and flashes of real fun; but generally a singular sobriety and decorum are observed. Frequently, when gazing at a throng of 60 or perhaps an hundred dancers, we have been scarcely able to decide which was the most remarkable, the staid and imperturbable gravity of the old men and women, or the complete absence of levity and frolic someness in the young.
The social dances of the evening with occasional speeches from the Sachems and Chiefs, were the final and concluding ceremonies of this singular but interesting affair. Saturday morning witnessed the separation of the various nations, and the departure of each to their respective homes.
The writer would like to have said a word or two in relation to the present condition and prospects of the Indians, but the original design in regard to both the topics and brevity of this writing having been already greatly transcended, it must be deferred. The once powerful confederacy of the Six Nations, occupying in its palmy days the greater portion of New York State, now number only a little over 3,000. 23,753, vide preceding census. Even this remnant will soon be gone. In view of this, as well as of the known fact that the Indian race is every where gradually diminishing in number, the writer cannot close without invoking for this unfortunate people, renewed kindliness and sympathy and benevolent attention. It is true, that with some few exceptions, they possess habits and characteristics which render them difficult to approach; but still, they are only what the Creator of us all has made them. And, let it be remembered, it must be a large measure of kindliness and benevolence, that will repay the injustice and wrong that have been inflicted upon them. R. S. G.
Rochester, Oct. 7, 1845.
Footnotes: [ + ]
|1.||↩||QUERY. Is not this the inscription stone now deposited in the Albany Academy?|
|2.||↩||3,753, vide preceding census.|